The name Fingersmith is not me trying to get high above my station in life, or punching above my weight. It is not me having tickets on myself, or likening my writing to Sarah Waters. The real reason I decided to call myself Fingersmith when I first posted online is very simple. Just like me.
Ever since I’d been a nipper, I read voraciously, spending all my pocket money on second hand books from Stockport market. I think the bloke on the market stall used to let me have them cheap because he felt sorry for me. For that I thank him as I was never much of a haggler. He introduced me to Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Daphne du Maurier to name but a few. Reading was always a part of my life. My mum used to read the classics to us – a tradition handed down from her mother doing the same to her – something you would never have believed if you had ever stepped inside my childhood home. Pandemonium seemed like a chill out room.
It was never a surprise to anyone who knew me that I would one day want to study English literature. I was never without a book in my hand or one very close by. So, off to uni I went, after someone peeled my fingers from my mum’s dressing gown.
Three years I spent reading books whilst working on my degree, then another one doing a post graduate degree in teaching. By the time I had slogged through four years of reading books selected by others, and then having to read more to substantiate that initial reading, I have to admit – I hated the sight of books. Ripping them apart, over analysing them, trying to see what the writer intended when he said the ‘blinds were drawn’ had, I thought, killed the only thing I truly loved, killed part of my childhood. To be honest, I felt a sense of emptiness. Insert sad face here.
Then it happened. A snow day from work. One of those days that are pure heaven to both kids and teachers alike.
I remember the thickness of the snow as I walked into Norwich, remember stopping at a street vendor to purchase hot porridge. It was magical. White topped white, and buildings and roads I knew well appeared breathtakingly different.
As if by some invisible string, I was pulled into a bookshop (probably to get into the warm) and found myself looking at the new releases section. A book caught my eye, the title intriguing. Fingersmith. I remember opening the book just to see what on earth a ‘fingersmith’ was but I ended up peeling it open at the first chapter.
Just reading that first paragraph made me fall in love all over again. It was as if my heart suddenly filled with all the emotion I had locked away for far too long and allowed me accept reading back into my life.
That was it. Love in all her printed glory.
When I got home, I devoured the novel from cover to cover only to turn back to the beginning and read it all over again as soon as I’d finished it the first time.
So, when I wrote Hearts and Flowers Border and had to think of a name, it was obvious that I had to do two things. One. Promote the book I still love so much. Two. Know that every time I sign my name ‘Fingersmith’ I will remember that if it wasn’t for that novel, I probably would never have written a story in the first place.
Come to think of it, being called by the title, or author, of my previous best loved book doesn’t sound as appealing. The pseudonym The Tenant of Wildfell Hall or Anne Bronte hasn’t got the same ring to it has it?