Summer’s Secret Marigold by Kirsty Ferry – a new novel featuring John Doman Turner

Over the years, deaf British painter and former Camden Town Group member John Doman Turner has appeared in many novels. Firstly as Max Meyer in Esther Freud’s ‘The Sea House‘ (2004) inspired by the written correspondence between Spencer Gore and John Doman Turner from 1908 – 1913, where Turner learnt how to draw and paint. Secondly, Turner appears in John Malcolm’s ‘Rogues Gallery‘ (2005).

In 2021, author Kirsty Ferry wrote a novel titled ‘Summer’s Secret Marigold‘ and in it features John Doman Turner.

We were fascinated to find out more and managed to track down Kirsty on Twitter.

Kirsty was happy to do an interview with us…

Kirsty Ferry

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

I live in the north east of England with my husband and son. My day job is at a local university, but I’m also a writer and have had several books and articles published over the last few years. I love doing research for my books, and most of them are dual timeline or timeslip with added ghosts and mysteries –  but I also write in several different genres, including romantic comedies and contemporary romances for my publisher Choc Lit.

Can you tell us about the book? What inspired you to include John Doman Turner?

The book John appears in is called Summer’s Secret Marigold. The book is the fourth in my Pencradoc series, which is set, in the modern day, in an arts centre in Cornwall. The historical timelines follow members of the Pencradoc family, and this one is the story of Lady Elsie Pencradoc. It’s set in the early 1900s, and Elsie is a bit of an Edwardian rebel. Despite her social status, she works for the Slade, is a talented artist and usually horrifies society. Basically, whatever was unacceptable for an Edwardian Lady to do, Elsie probably does! She was a brilliant character and readers were desperate to find out her story – she first appeared as a precocious eight year old in Lily’s Secret, and it’s been great following her story. I chose to add John as, when I was doing some research as to who Elsie might have met and worked with at the Slade during her time there, his name cropped up. I located the Camden Group of artists, and they caught my imagination. I’d read lots about the Bloomsbury Group, and Rupert Brookes’ Neo-Pagans, and previously written about the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood and Dame Laura Knight’s Lamorna Cove group, and this was a new set of people I could fictionalise! My fictionalised characters may be way off how the real people were, but to be honest I’ve never really warmed to Walter Sickert, who was one of the people around at that time and the Camden Group met in his studio. I just wanted to create a sort of balance to Sickert, who I felt was a bit of a misogynist and rather elitist, by limiting his group to only 16 men – who I presume he hand-picked! John seemed lovely, to be honest. The fact he kept trying and trying to be a good artist with Spencer Gore’s quite critical feedback made me feel a bit sorry for him – he was paying for the privilege after all. I was glad to see that it hadn’t put him off, and the fact he was deaf as well, and someone earning his own living unlike some of the richer men, were more barriers he would have had to overcome. In my book, he sort of flits in and out, but Elsie likes what she sees and respects him – and I suspect that until we know more about him as a man, that’s all we can do with him for the moment.

What research did you carry out to learn more about the artist?

Wikipedia is always a good place to start – I checked the Slade listing and the famous artists at the time, and found him that way. I followed the Google rabbit hole and landed on your website and the Wikipedia entry your father had written. I did try to do a bit more digging myself, but as you know John is pretty difficult to pin down. It’s a shame – if I had found anything extra, I was going to drop you a line to tell you as I could see how passionate you both were about him!

There have been various references to Turner in the following books, Esther Freud’s ‘The Sea House’ and John Malcolm’s ‘Rogues Gallery’. Why do you think so many authors write about Turner in their novels?

I’ve just bought a copy of The Sea House as I’m intrigued to see how she portrays him. I think with writing about him, it’s as I said earlier – he’s a fascinating person and quite secretive in a way. Because there is so little about him, it’s sort of easier to make up something to fit your novel. I fictionalised Lizzie Siddal and Dante Gabriel Rossetti quite extensively in The Girl in the Painting – and oddly that was easy to do as well because there was so much information about them! But I had to be careful that my storyline fitted the facts, and they didn’t always come out as perfect people – which of course they weren’t, anyway. But I tried to be sympathetic to them, based on what I knew, as I’d studied quite a lot about Lizzie for my Master’s degree and she did have a bit of a bad rap, and was very much in Rossetti’s shadow. John is quite intriguing though, and I’d like to know more about him if anything ever comes out. I hope he was a nice chap!

Where do people go if they want a copy of the book?

It’s available on Amazon as a paperback and on all the ebook sites as – well – an ebook. It’s also available for order from Waterstones, WH Smiths and all good bookshops. The Amazon buying link is here, and that includes the audio version. The link to my other books through my publisher is here, if you are interested in reading the other books in the Pencradoc series and seeing if anything else appeals to you.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just started working on a book based on a minor character from another series, but I have some edits to look forward to for a novel which is due out in the summer from the Ruby Fiction arm of Choc Lit. That book is a contemporary romantic comedy, but it still has an artistic slant to it, as many of my books do.

It was a delight to hear from Kirsty! Please support her by purchasing a copy of her book ‘Summers Secret Marigold’, which is out now.

One comment

  1. Thank you so much for having me on the blog. It was a pleasure to revisit John and talk about him a bit more!

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