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"We Have Always Been Here" by Victoria Hawthorne

We are very excited to bring you a brand new guest article today! Victoria Hawthorne tells us all about the representation in her newly released book, The Darkest Night, a historical novel which doesn't only feature sapphics, but also a main character living with Perthes disease. Below, Victoria shares her own experience with the rare hip condition, and how important it is to include both disability and queerness in fiction.

Read more about the story and grab your copy here!


The first time I remember encountering sapphic romance in a historical fiction novel was in Fingersmith by Sarah Walters. ‘What a surprise,’ you may be thinking, ‘another gay awakening thanks to Sarah Walters’, but it wasn’t just that. It was the realisation that (despite Queen Victoria’s refusal to believe otherwise) queer women have always existed. It was a realisation that maybe, just maybe, there wasn’t actually something wrong with me. That there was a place for me in the world, and that I deserved happiness just as much as anyone else.

It’s much the same for disabled representation in fiction. As with queer characters, often their stories are ones full of sadness and suffering, with misguided (or sometimes downright offensive) character arcs. I wanted The Darkest Night to be different. I wanted to show us as we really are, our lives as a whole, not just our trauma.

Selina has Perthes disease, a rare hip condition whereby the blood supply to the femoral head is disrupted, causing the bone to deteriorate. Although Selina was born before Perthes was officially discovered, and so does not benefit from a diagnosis as an adult in 1912, when the story begins, I was diagnosed in the 1990s and had a similar treatment plan to Selina. She wears a brace, or caliper, and uses a wheelchair when needed, whereas I didn’t, but I gave her some of the same exercises I still do to this day to strengthen my hip and encourage greater mobility. Perthes disease primarily affects children, but I am still and will always be affected by the condition. I will never be ‘cured’, not even with a hip replacement (which I hope is very far down the line!), and so I have to live with the effects for the rest of my life. I am fortunate to be able to access the healthcare I need and have a good support system in place, though that wasn’t always the case. Similarly (though for different reasons), while Selina’s story starts in a place of darkness, it isn’t the drive to overcome her disability that changes her narrative: it’s the introduction of Elspeth, her nurse, then friend, then lover. As with many authors, there’s a piece of me in all of my books, but Selina is a particularly special character. She’s strong and feisty and stubborn as hell, but as the story progresses, she learns to accept help when needed and when it comes from the right place. She truly comes into herself once she starts living alongside her disability.

Elspeth doesn’t always get it right – she’s fallible, like the rest of us, and doesn’t have the benefit of living in an age of easily accessible information – and, when first confronted with her romantic feelings for Selina, she shies away from them. As the daughter of a minister, she has conflicting emotions that she has to work through, as well as the very real possibility of having to face judgement from others. Although there is danger lurking around the corner, I wanted Selina and Elspeth’s relationship to be largely accepted by the people who love them. Selina’s father, Dr Alastair Reid, doesn’t bat an eyelid when faced with his daughter’s blossoming relationship with Elspeth. Although somewhat a man of his time, Selina’s health and happiness is of the utmost importance to Alastair, as it should be. Like Elspeth, my own family don’t always get it right, but one thing that will stay with me is how my mum and sister reacted when I came out to them. ‘Are you happy?’ they asked. ‘Yes,’ I said. And that was that.

Queer joy is something to be treasured, and I love finding it in the past as much as the present. I love reading about LGBTQ+ love stories, particularly those which are, for the most part, full of happiness. I recently read about Sir Ewan Forbes (who, coincidentally, was born in 1912, the year The Darkest Night begins, and died in 1991, the year I was born), a Baron in Aberdeenshire who was also a trans man. Ewan’s mother realised he was a boy when he was six years old, and he, with her support, transitioned both socially and medically, over several decades. After formally changing his gender, he married his housekeeper, and appeared to live his best life in the local area I also now call home. This is the simplified version, of course, and while no life, queer or otherwise, is entirely without difficulty, this is precisely the kind of LGBTQ+ joy I love to see in real life and to represent in my books.

Witches are another theme in The Darkest Night, with Fife being the epicentre of the Scottish witch hunts in the 16th and 17th centuries, and something I heard or read a lot during the course of my research was that those accused were ‘just folk’. I can’t help but apply that to both disabled and queer people too. We’re just folk, loving and being loved for who we are, living our lives as best we can, just like anyone else. We laugh, we cry, we argue, we annoy people, we sing (badly, in my case), we enjoy and share and sometimes burn meals, we buy gifts, we do the laundry and the hoovering, we go to work and drop our kids off at school, we complain about the traffic and the weather. And we watch TV and movies and read books and so we need to see ourselves represented there, just like everyone else does. We have always been here, and we will always be.

Victoria Hawthorne is the pseudonym of bestselling psychological suspense author Vikki Patis. Her debut historical suspense novel, The House at Helygen, was published by Quercus in April 2022, and later became a bestseller on Amazon. The Darkest Night will be published in 2024.

She also writes psychological suspense with a gothic twist. Return to Blackwater House was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2022 and she is currently working on another.

After being diagnosed with Perthes disease as a child, and fibromyalgia and coeliac disease as an adult, Victoria tries to raise awareness of living with a chronic illness through her fiction. She lives in Scotland with her wife, two wild golden retrievers, and an even wilder cat.


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