'I treated myself to a vintage outfit!' Jacqueline Wilson on time travelling to the 20s for her new book

Published on: 09 May 2019 Author: Anna McKerrow

Jacqueline Wilson is back with her brilliant new book Dancing the Charleston, about a girl catapulted into a fabulous life in London. We caught up with Jacqueline to find out why the 1920s intrigue her so much...

The front cover of Dancing the Charleston and Jacqueline Wilson

What inspired you to write a book set in the 1920s?

I've always been interested in the 1920s because it was such an age of extremes, and an enormous contrast to the previous Edwardian age. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the research. I even treated myself to a vintage 1920s outfit!

The book features Mona's aunt, who is a dressmaker. Did you have to do any particular research about what a seamstress would make and do in that period?

I found a scrapbook kept by a dressmaker of that period, and I studied all the fashions current at that time. My grandmother was trained as a milliner and made all her own clothes, and she used to tell me lots of stories when I visited her as a little girl.

Working class girls feature strongly in your work - in this book, Mona lives a modest life with her aunt within a lavish estate. What did you want to show with regard to the differences of class and wealth between Mona and the Somerset family at that time in history?

I've always been fascinated by the way very different sorts of people live together and exploit each other. You can read so many stories about the wealthy upper classes, and yet the servants who made their lives comfortable are rarely mentioned.

The Somerset Estate is a grand house and there is a lot of wonderful detail in the book about rich, delicious food and exciting balls that Mona gets swept into. You also depict a very heady 1920s London in the book. What was your favourite part of the book to write in terms of description?

It's hard to choose my favourite! I loved making up the costumes for the Sea Creatures Ball, I pored over old 1920s catalogues for the trip to Harrods, and I loved peering at the Exhibition pamphlets and maps and imagining the itinerary for Mona and the Somersets.

I think children like identifying with the main character and imagining themselves in their position. They like lots of emotion and humour and surprises in the story.

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