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December Girl is inspired by two true stories. The first is an eviction that took place at Dowth in 1880 and was the subject of an academic thesis by Slane native Gareth Yore. Yore, published his essay of the newspaper coverage of the case in a journal of local stories and it was this journal that Nicola stumbled across, while researching ideas for a novel. Try as she might, she couldn’t shake the true story of a family evicted wrongfully at the hands of a jealous neighbour.

 

Nicola took this story and created a fictional family, based on the original Elcock family who lived at Dowth. She added in the Brabazons, a landed gentry family who own the land where the fictional Thomas family live. She used Townley Hall House and Dowth Hall, as inspiration for an imagined country mansion, home to the Brabazons.

 

In December Girl, Molly has her baby Oliver taken from a pram outside a shop. This story is also inspired by a true baby kidnapping in 1960s Dublin where a childless woman stole a baby as her own and brought her to Belfast to live. The child was eventually returned to her true parents, but the woman managed to keep up the deception for a number of years.

 

December Girl explores themes of family bond, love and revenge and touches on darker themes of homelessness, prostitution and exploitation. It will appeal to readers who like family sagas, upmarket fiction, historical fiction and TV dramas such as Downton Abbey.

 

The Nanny at Number 43 was inspired by a number of true stories. The opening of the novel, where two babies are found buried in a suitcase in a garden in Dublin, was taken from a true story of a similar case in late 19th century Drogheda, where a baby was found tucked in suitcase under a bed.

Nicola carried out extensive research into the issue of infanticide and found that it was a common occurrence throughout 19th century Ireland.

The advert placed by William D. Thomas, who hires The Nanny at Number 43, was taken from the Drogheda Conservative newspaper direct, from an issue in January 1880.

The inspiration for the Nanny herself came from two main sources – Mary Ann Cotton, known as the Dark Angel, a Victorian serial killer who poisoned a string of husbands and their children for inheritance and Amelia Dyer, another Victorian serial killer who took in unwanted babies and children and murdered them. It is thought that she may have killed up to 400 children.

 

Finally, the character of Betty, who has a bird’s eye view of the happenings at Number 43 and an important role to play in the story was inspired by a chance encounter Nicola believes she had with a ghostly figure across the road from 43 Laurence Street. It was this woman who originally gave Nicola the idea to set her fiction in 19th century Drogheda and she hopes her spirit is carried right through the book.