Interview: Jackson Marsh

Jackson Marsh is an award-winning author, composer and lyricist. His novels mix bromance, history and facts with thrilling plots, and mainly revolve around gay characters. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Greece.

Your 27th book, the Larkspur Legacy, came out in March. What was the inspiration for the story?

To be honest, my inspiration for ‘Legacy’ was the work of Dan Brown, and the way he makes fiction out of facts and possibilities. The action of the book, both emotional and adventurous, was drawn from the 17 books leading up to it. I wanted a grand finale that involved most of the many characters met throughout both series, and one that ended with a plausible twist. All the clues are there in the previous books and the histories and lives of the characters, and the journeys they take, clues they solve, and places they visit are all real. Much in the style of Dan Brown, throughout both series, I mix fact with fiction, and what happens in ‘Legacy’ is perfectly possible.

The Larkspur Legacy is the last book in my Victorian mystery series, The Larkspur Mysteries, and was the culmination of two series, the first being The Clearwater Mysteries. The journey towards ‘Legacy’ started in book one of Clearwater, ‘Deviant Desire’, set at the time of the East End Ripper (1888, London). From that book grew an ongoing series with characters developing as the Clearwater world grew from ten mystery, romance and bromance stories (and a prequel) to the start of the Larkspur series.

Larkspur Hall is the country home of Lord Clearwater where he opened an academy for gifted young men; men who have survived the streets, been rent boys, or who are gay, as we’d now say. Each has a special talent, so the books involve mysteries surrounding chemistry, navigation, numbers, archaeology, spiritualism and other Victorian-time themes. However, the series needed a finale.

How do you select the names of your characters?

Some come to me out of the blue, while others, I sit and ponder. The title of my protagonist, Lord Clearwater came out of the blue, but then I checked it wasn’t an existing title, because he is The Viscount Clearwater of Larkspur and Riverside, both of which are made up names, Larkspur being set around Bodmin, in Cornwall, and Riverside being an imagined version of Kensington and Chelsea in London.

I think it’s important to consider your characters’ names, and for Lord Clearwater, I gave him the Christian name, Archer, because of his father. The previous (nasty) viscount was mad about the Battle of Agincourt, hence, he called one son Crispin because he was born on 25th October, which is not only St Crispin’s Day, but also the day the famous battle was fought in 1415, and the other, Archer, because the battle was won by bowmen. Character names should be drawn from the world around them; people are usually named by their parents, so you need to consider who, where and when those parents were before naming a character.

Surnames are also important to consider. For example, Archer’s best friend, unrequited love, and butler, Thomas Payne, is named Payne because he comes from a rural background on Romney Marsh in Kent, where the name is (and was then) prevalent.

To other characters I give unusual names, a) because they are more memorable to readers, b) they can say something about the character, c) they just seem to fit the character, and d) they can be amusing plays on words, for me, if not for anyone else. Some examples:

Mrs Killhaddock runs a tea shop and café.
Dalston Blaze, whose name came from a badly written entry in the ledger when he was rescued from a fire (in Dalston, East London) and taken to the Hackney workhouse. He was entered as ‘Child from the Dalston blaze,’ and the name stuck.
Henry Hope. Not an unusual name, but when he meets the love of his future life, Edward, Edward is about to jump from a bridge, and Henry says, ‘I can only offer you my name’ as a way of talking him down. His love’s name is Edward Hyde, and I took the pair’s names as a play on Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde, because they are both scientists.

Which author would you most like to meet?

If it were possible, I would like to meet Bram Stoker, maybe around 1900, and it has nothing to do with vampires. Stoker was my inspiration for writing, having read Dracula when I was eleven, I was, and still am, drawn to his use of diaries, messages and reports in compiling that novel, and I have used the technique in several of the Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries. The form makes the story so much more believable and real. I would thank him for that, and tell him that, although he may not see much come of Dracula in his lifetime, what he has created will inspire millions of writers, filmmakers, playwrights and other artists for the rest of time. I think he’d like to hear that.

I’d also like to talk to him about the Lyceum Theatre, because theatre is another love of my life. What I wouldn’t tell him, perhaps, is that he appears in some of the Clearwater books, because he is a great friend of Lord Clearwater, whom he knows from the Garrick Club. He’s not alone. Also appearing in the stories are Henry Irving, Guilbert and Sullivan, and other notables of the time; all, I should add, treated favourably by the author.

What is your ideal writing space?

I am sitting in it as I write this. My husband and I rent a house on a Greek island where we have lived for 21 years. This house has two spare rooms we use as offices. In mine, I have a corner computer desk where I type, and my father’s old writing desk which is inlaid with leather and is a reproduction of a Victorian study desk. I have a soft leather captain’s chair, my books, my old school trunk, and my other sentimentals around me, and a view of the sea. It is also quiet, as I have to have silence when I write. What makes this space even more special is that my husband pops in now and then and leaves me cups of tea (silently).

Aside from books, what can you not resist buying?

Thanks to Bram Stoker, when I was eleven, I also began building Aurora figure kits; models based on the classic Universal horror films like Dracula, Frankenstein and the rest. I built all those I could while at the modelling club at my prep school, and later, rather tragically, shot them to pieces with my brother’s air rifle. Maybe it was a lifetime of guilt, but more probably nostalgia, that returned me to building them when I was in my 50s. I now buy the remakes (I can’t afford the originals, if I could ever find them), and that sees me through the Greek winters when it’s cold and stormy. I have now built eight, and have another waiting for winter.

The Larkspur Legacy blurb
‘Lord Clearwater, the Larkspur Academy has forged a bond among its men that will last long after they have left us and made their own way in the world. You are to be commended for the enterprise, but you should not be surprised by it. Barbary Fleet, December 1891
Henry Hope lies in a coma, and Lord Clearwater’s hunt for his mother’s secret treasure is on hold. But when a new clue comes to light, Clearwater and the academy men resume their greatest adventure. It is also to be their most dangerous.
With murderous enemies behind, the unknown ahead, and a warrant out for Clearwater’s arrest, no-one is safe. Loyalties and friendships are tested as the men face harrowing confrontations, a war of attrition in the national newspapers, storms, gunfights and death.
Will love and friendship be enough to secure the lives and futures of Lord Clearwater and his crew? Can they solve the riddles in time, and will anyone ever know the meaning of the seemingly unlockable riddle? Behind four points ’neath gifted crook, the light awaits for those who look…
The Larkspur Legacy follows on directly from ‘Starting with Secrets’ and is the culmination of both the Clearwater and Larkspur mystery series. It is not necessary to have read the Clearwater Mysteries, but to get the best from this ‘end of season finale,’ you’re advised to read both, the Larkspur Mysteries in particular, and to read them in order.
With themes of friendship, bromance, male love and revenge, the story combines historical fact with fiction. As with all of Jackson Marsh’s mysteries, the novel contains humour, love and action, while offering the reader the chance to solve the clues with the cast of disparate, well-drawn characters.
“This is a book that could have been written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dan Brown.” Amazon.
Buy Larkspur Legacy

Larkspur Series link
Clearwater series link

Jackson Marsh links



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