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The Wonder Girls Rebel: Spark 1 - The Villain

Updated: Mar 13

In each of the Wonder Girls books. I've included bite-sized chunks of the history that sparked the story. I'm not a historian. I gave up history as soon as I could and I blame the boring history teachers of the 1970s. If I'd known how many brilliant stories there are out there from times past, who knows where I'd be now?

With the final instalment of my girls' story safely with the proofreader, here's the first spark...

In 2019, in spite of him probably being the biggest liar in British politics, Boris Johnson won the 2019 General Election and I blamed the newspapers.

Seeing commuters on the Tube at rush hour, each with their copy of the Evening Standard, reading the same version of the news, with the same editorial slant, makes me think of mind control devices. Such as in this episode of Doctor Who - The Age of Steel, the second in a two parter starring the Cybermen.

David Tennant as Doctor Who
"Human race, for such an intelligent lot you aren't half susceptible. Give anyone a chance to take control and you submit."

Science fiction perhaps, and I don't think anyone's sneakily done that sort of thing to headphones yet. But we are all susceptible to persuasion, especially when our critical faculties are at their weakest, after a day at work say?

So I decided that my villain was going to be a Nazi sympathising newspaper baron. And in the 1930s, it wasn't hard to find an example...

photo of Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere
Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere

By the 1930’s, Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere owned multiple newspapers including The Daily Mail and The Daily Mirror. He was incredibly rich. His fortune, even in 1922, amounted to £780 million, the equivalent of about £54 billion today. He was obsessed with his money, fearing its loss and regularly demanding that his staff check the state of his stocks and shares to make sure that his extreme wealth was still intact.

He despised democracy, firmly believing that only those in the upper classes, like himself, had the right to rule Britain. An enthusiast for fascism, he considered it a mistake to give the working classes and, indeed, women, the vote and he used his newspapers to spread those beliefs. Sadly he lost two of his three sons in the First World War, which possibly contributed to his desire, to maintain a peace with Germany as Hitler took power.

In 1934 he wrote his most famous editorial, headlined ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’, where he expressed his support for Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. Though he withdrew this support, following Blackshirt violence at a rally later that year, Viscount Rothermere did not waiver in his admiration for Hitler and the Nazis, however. He frequently either visited Hitler in Germany or socialized with Von Ribbentrop, the Nazi ambassador, in London, throughout the 1930s.

After war was declared in 1939, Rothermere’s pro-nazi views, became deeply unpopular. Another press baron, and minister for aircraft production, Lord Beaverbrook sent Rothermere to America, supposedly to inspect the aircraft industry there. Viscount Rothermere never returned to Britain, dying on holiday in Bermuda in 1940.

In The Wonder Girls Rebel, I've tried to explore aspects of the power and responsibility of the press. Not too deeply, it's supposed to be a fun adventure after all. But my baddie is modelled on Rothemere. In Rebel, I thought of the the villain first. After all, without one there is no story. And complicated villains are the best - they all think they're doing the right thing, which for them, justifies the most terrible acts. I had fun thinking up my villain's backstory. I made mine suffer the same terrible tragedy as Rothermere – losing children to war. It's not enough to make the villain do bad things you have to know why. Though my villain probably takes his response to tragedy a lot further than Viscount Rotheremere!

Do you have a favourite fictional villain? My top ten would have to include, Marvel's Thanos, it's that square jawline and Hans Gruber from Diehard. Though Gruber is up there possibly because he was played by the wonderful Alan Rickman. I hope Malcolm Taggart ticks the right boxes in 'Rebel'.

If you'd like a signed copy of The Wonder Girls Rebel, as soon as its available, you can preorder here and every book preordered wins a chance to win a lovely book bag, hand made by me. ( I'll draw a winner at 50 orders.)

My first 'bookselling craft fair' is on Saturday 23rd March in The Design Chapel on Southampton Common. I won't quite have Rebel by then but I'm hoping to collect some more great reader stories and sell a few books 1 and 2 anyway!

Thanks for reading - hope you'll join me again for Spark 2 and the marvellous woman who inspired my new lead character!

Ooh and check out my 'Cindy Press' digital store, where you can buy eBooks directly from me! The digital copy of The Wonder Girls Rebel will be published her first. If you haven't already, grab a copy of The Naming of Florrie, a Wonder Girls short story set in 1935, introducing story threads resolved in books 2 and 3.

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