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  • Gina Dale brings Yorkshire team together for Viking Wolf cover shoot

    Gina Dale brings Yorkshire team together for Viking Wolf cover shoot

    Ben Glynn was transformed into Viking warrior for Gina’s latest release, Viking Wolf, thanks to a Todmorden photographer, a hair stylist from Hebden Bridge and a saddlery in Sowerby Bridge.

    Viking Wolf is about the Vikings in Yorkshire during the late 9th and early 10th centuries.

    The book’s cover is a result of a collaboration between several West Yorkshire businesses who all came together, under Gina’s creative direction, to transform Todmorden-based Ben Glynn into a majestic Viking warrior upon his noble steed – despite Ben being a novice rider.

    Gina Dale commented: “My first novel trilogy was about the life of a celebrated 19th century artist, Carolus Duran, and there were plenty of pictures to choose from for cover shots and other promotional purposes but for Viking Wolf, and the subsequent books in the series I’m now planning, I needed to create some new imagery and relished the challenge of creating a real life Viking to be photographed, rather than an illustration or purchased image. Of course, there was the added challenge of arranging this in 2020 and ensuring everything was within COVID restrictions, just to make things even more interesting.”

    Gina commissioned photographer Katie Amos, of http://www.equineshoot.com in Todmorden, as they had previously worked together on a number of projects and knew each other through the local equestrian community, and it was Katie who recommended Ben Glynn to be the star of the shoot.

    “Katie said she knew of a local man who fitted the brief I’d set. We were looking for someone who had traditional Viking-like appearance – tall and blonde with rugged charm – and we knew that Ben had very limited riding experience but other than that he fitted the brief to perfection and he readily agreed to be the model.”

    Gina quickly sourced a Viking costume and commissioned Kaye Volante from Zeitgeist salon in Hebden Bridge to do the hair styling.

    “Kaye was the perfect choice for the shoot as she’s used to dressing hair for special occasions and she took on the challenge of recreating the Viking warrior hairstyle on Ben after we had a meeting and a practice beforehand. 

    “I had a bridle specially made for the shoot and commissioned Tim at Ryburn Leather in Sowerby Bridge – a local saddlery – to produce one. The horse, Sorrento, was local too belonging to a friend of Katie Amos and stabled at Shaw Farm Equestrian Centre.”

    On the day

    “I then had to find a date to suit everybody and settled on 2 November.  The other problem was that Covid lockdown 2 was imminent and time was running out.  The costume hire was for a week, so I ensured I had it by Friday because I needed to ensure it fit Ben before the shoot.  It needed some nappy pins to keep his voluminous pantaloons up, but it was well worth the effort.  We only had a 2-hour window booked at 11.00 am at the equestrian venue and getting his hair done would take at least two hours preparation with no time for adjusting his costume.

    The weather had taken a turn for the worse and heavy rain fell that weekend.  Katie and I had already planned to take Ben up on to the moors after the shoot to take photos of him alone.  There was no way we could risk him on horseback outdoors.  The ground was saturated and muddy and in fact the river Calder overflowed within a mile of the venue and the road was closed early on and delayed Kaye getting to Ben and me on the morning of the shoot.  This delayed the start of the shoot by an hour and caused palpitations for both Katie and me.  However, all my nightmares had been on how Sorrento would react with all the faffing about with costume changes and standing still.  To his eternal credit he was an absolute star.  He took everything in his stride like a true professional and we managed to get all the indoor shots done in an hour.  We then drove up to the moors where it had now stopped raining but there was intermittent showers and a dull grey sky.

    Katie took over 400 photos in total and I was bog eyed trying to edit the best of each position but eventually whittled it down to 30.  My aim was to have the horse and rider on this cover, but the pictures of Ben taken on the moors with the atmospheric wind and rain gave me plenty of scope for the next book’s cover as well.

    I was delighted we were able to put a team together of local people to do this shoot at relatively short notice and with a pandemic increasing in voracity daily. The cost of doing my own shoot was a fraction of what some authors pay for their covers and it was a memorable day when everyone worked together to produce something which, in my opinion was worthy of the story I had to tell set in my birthplace of Yorkshire. 

    On the way back from the shoot Ben had to collect some keys from the pub he works in and so I dropped him off in the centre of Hebden Bridge in full costume with the sword at his side.  I was fascinated to see that only two people looked startled to see a Viking striding through the village square at 2.00 pm on a Monday afternoon.   Hebden Bridge has a long history of TV and film shootings taking place all over the area.  Even walkers on the moors when we were doing the outdoor shots did not bat an eyelid at seeing a Viking waving a sword and shield on a hill top. Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax, Gentleman Jack have all been shot in this area, but this was the first Viking shoot I am aware of.  It also says a lot about the eclectic mix of Yorkshire people who take everything in their stride and just get on with life.

    Katie Amos commented: “This was a great photo shoot to work on and, although my main area of work is in equestrian photography there were a number of other challenges for Gina’s shoot that I really enjoyed – not least finding a horse who I knew would be suitable for a novice rider. I really enjoy working with Gina – I love her creativity and ideas and her flexibility to adapt to changes really helps to get the best out of everyone involved.”

    Kaye Volante added: “I loved working with Gina, Katie and Ben on this shoot – from the practice run to the final photo shoot day. When I got the brief from Gina I did research to closely replicate the style specified and check it would be possible – a few extra pieces of hair were added to Ben’s to make it look even more authentic. I specialise in precision cutting, occasion style and designing new looks so I was really pleased to get a commission that combines my specialities and played to my strengths as a stylist. And it was great to work with a local team – Gina was really clear on what she wanted but was happy to take advice too and that’s what makes a great client for me.”

    Ben Glynn concluded: “I was surprised and very pleased to be approached by Katie Amos for the Viking Wolf shoot – I’ve never done anything like this before but I’m really open minded about trying new experiences and it sounded like an exciting thing to do. Gina, Katie and Kaye were a great team to work with – very supportive but also really clear on what they needed me to do to get the right images. I loved being part of this team and my friends and family have found it quite amusing that I’m now immortalised as a Viking on a book cover – with potentially more features to come.”

    Viking Wolf is out now and available to buy on Amazon.

  • Interview with Georges Feydeau

    Like many writers of historical fiction, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to meet the people in my novels and what questions I’d ask them if I could. Well, thanks to a bit of imagination and more than a dash of artistic licence, here’s an interview with Georges Feydeau – the bon vivant, writer, actor and ‘King of Vaudeville’ who married Carolus-Duran’s eldest daughter Marie-Ann. I found him fascinating to research, so I hope you enjoy finding out a little more about him…

  • Pen Portrait of Feydeau

    Drama Unfolds, the third book in the Brushstrokes Trilogy is set in the late 19th century. It’s embedded in the history of the time and the lives of Marie Ann – eldest daughter of celebrated artist Carolus-Duran – and her actor husband Georges Feydeau, this is a tale of love, loss, espionage – and women thriving in adversity. Feydeau was a complex and often troubled character – completely fascinating to research and write about. This audio extract tells you a little about him, and you can now read more in Drama Unfolds…

  • Equestrian portrait of Mademoiselle Croizette by Duran

    Equestrian portrait of Mademoiselle Croizette by Duran
  • Memorable dresses worn by Marie, wife of Carolus-Duran

    Memorable dresses worn by Marie, wife of Carolus-Duran

    A selection of dresses, worn by Marie, designed by Charles Worth.

  • Extract from Brushstrokes, chapter one

    Charles could not believe his luck. He had not exactly been looking forward to a week’s work painting portraits of what he had assumed would be two spoilt, aristocratic French children. One of the reasons he had accepted the commission was that a ball was being held in honour of Henri’s 21st birthday and he had hoped to pick up some more work from the influential guests attending. He was totally taken aback by the beauty of Marie; she had the most beautiful face he had ever seen. It was perfectly symmetrical, which was so unusual as most people have asymmetric faces.

    Her bright blue eyes and perfect complexion combined with her thick auburn hair and her slender figure was just an artist’s dream of perfection personified. He realised he would have to be extremely careful not to alert Marie herself, or her family, to his profound interest in her.He was careful to chat amicably to her parents and Henri over lunch and did not direct any questions at Marie. He could tell she was studying him surreptitiously but she carefully averted her eyes when he looked at her.

    Monsieur Croizette suggested that he and Henri might show Charles around the estate and the area, to find a suitable place for Charles to paint Henri. Marie addressed her father, ‘Papa, may I join you on your ride as I could do with some fresh air as I didn’t get out yesterday due to the inclement weather?’ Her father smiled and replied, ‘Provided your studies are all up to date I don’t see why not… and you can be ready within the hour?’

    Charles knew instantly that Marie had engineered this on purpose but from her father’s response it was obvious she was the favoured child, which meant he must be even more careful. Marie excused herself from the table and left to get changed.