I have loved history ever since I was a little girl. I adored reading Jane Austen’s novels, and Jean Plaidy was a special favourite, too. My interest in the world Jane Austen lived in gave me the idea for writing Regency Cheshire. Although I grew up in Lancashire, Cheshire has been my home county for many years and I love exploring its historic sites.
A visit to a museum sparked my initial research into child workers. There was a display on child pin-makers in Victorian times: I was horrified to learn that Warrington children began making pins when they were only five years old. I began looking into contemporary reports on child workers, and discovered that they were employed in lots of different industries.
The internet has revolutionised the way I research my non-fiction books. I always begin by reading as much as I can on the period I’m writing about, but the internet makes it much easier to find out what’s already been written, and which archives have the original records and materials I need.
However, there is no substitute for visiting a place you are writing about. If you can see and hear the clatter of cotton machinery, or feel the heat from a furnace and watch the sparks fly as a craftsman forges a chain, it really helps to recreate the past. And bringing the past to life is what I hope I’ve achieved for my readers.
– Sue Wilkes
The Children History Forgot is out now in hardback.