TUSSAUD: Belinda Lyons-Lee on writing fiction based on fact

I am delighted to welcome Belinda Lyons-Lee to discuss the inspiration for her debut gothic historical fiction novel Tussaud

Plus, thanks to publisher Transit Lounge, I have two ebook copies to giveaway to lucky readers in Australia or New Zealand.

Tussaud by Belinda Lyons-Lee, Interview

Belinda Lyons-Lee on her inspiration for TUSSAUD

I’ve been writing seriously for over 15 years, had short stories and articles published in that time, had an agent and came close to getting a middle grade and a young adult novel I had written published. However ‘Tussaud’, my adult historical fiction novel, has proven the breakthrough.

‘Tussaud’ began with an idea for a middle-grade fiction story about a young boy in 19th century London who was the apprentice to a wax sculptor but I didn’t actually know when wax sculptures were first made. I began researching online and up came Madame Tussauds wax museum. Once I started reading about Marie Tussaud’s life and the early figures she made, I was utterly transfixed. I read about her sentence of execution as she was accused of being a royalist in the French Revolution because she had wax figures of royalty in her windows and then how she had her own head shaved in readiness to meet the guillotine. Fortunately, she was given a reprieve at the last moment on the condition that she make wax death masks of notable people executed for the revolutionaries to use as trophies.

I wondered what it would do to a woman, to her insides, to her psyche, to survive that kind of trauma? I suspect that this sort of experience would be so visceral, impacting all of the senses in all kinds of horrible ways but yet somehow Marie Tussaud not only survived this but used these experiences to build a thriving business, even after her partnership with a somewhat dubious real-life stage magician all went horribly wrong.

This partnership intrigued me and so I followed the trail further and read about how this magician, Philidor had worked with Marie for some time in England putting on shows. When I read that Marie had her first premises in Baker Street, I then came across a controversy that had happened in the same building called the Baker Street Bazaar. A woman, Mrs Druce, claimed that the tenant who operated the Bazaar was actually the 5th Duke of Portland, William Cavendish who was living a dual identity for his own advantage. This all came together for me in my mind and the story of ‘Tussaud’ was born.

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Tussaud Book Cover & ReviewTussaud Book Synopsis

Paris, 1810. Haunted by the French Revolution, Marie Tussaud has locked herself away in her shop with the death masks she was forced to make to avoid the guillotine. Philidor, a famous magician, offers her the chance to accompany him to London to assist in creating a wax automaton that will bring them both money and success.

Following a disastrous performance on their opening night in which the wax on their prized spectacle melts, the eccentric Duke, William Cavendish, invites them to his rambling estate, Welbeck, where he suggests they take up residence, use his underground ballroom for a new show and in return create a private commission for him: a wax automaton in the likeness of Elanor, a beautiful girl who mysteriously disappeared from the estate when he was a child.

In this delicious novel of twists and turns, Welbeck, with its locked doors and rooms, is full of secrets and no-one is who they seem. There is the seductive aura of Shelley, Dickens and Du Maurier in Tussaud. Marie must fight for survival in a world dominated by male advantage and power in a mesmerising story filled with wisdom about human behaviour and motivations.

‘Thrilling, eerie, fun, and psychologically compelling, Tussaud cleverly blurs the line between history and the fantastical to create a Gothic delight of mysterious mansions, grimy London streets, stage magicians, wax-work automatons, secrets and subterfuges. MARY SHELLEY would be proud.’ – H.G. Parry, author of The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep

‘Lies, treasons and twists will lure and enthral the reader. At the heart of Tussaud a mysterious automaton challenges the limits of its physical body, craving for a conscience. The reader is in for  wondrous ride as Belinda Lyons-Lee poignantly captures  Marie Tussaud’s proud self-denial,  her struggle to achieve independence in a world dominated  by con-artists, and her rare talent to create the most perfect illusion of life.’ – Mariano Tomatis, Italian writer and magician

(Transit Lounge Publishing, April 2021)

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Drama, Thriller


I have long been drawn to fiction born from seeds of historical fact. Add to this a feisty female lead, some seriously shifty secondary characters and a London mansion shrouded in mystery, and it is hard not to be intrigued.

Am enjoying this read right now – check back soon for my review!

Get your copy of Tussaud from:

Amazon Booktopia AU TransitLounge
OR listen to the audiobook FREE with Audible’s Trial (check eligibility)

More gothic historical fiction:
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier  /  The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr  /  The Quick by Lauren Owen  /  Poet’s Cottage by Josephine Pennicott  /  The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

About the Author, Belinda Lyons-Lee

Belinda Lyons-Lee was born in Geelong, Australia and still lives in the region with her husband and son. She has degrees in youth work, education, writing and literature. Belinda has been teaching English and creative writing in high schools for nearly twenty years and the nineteenth century has been an obsession of hers for even longer. Belinda has had various articles published that explore writing, vocation, mental health and creativity. Tussaud is her debut novel. Check out her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Tussaud Giveaway - Gothic historical fictionTussaud eBook Giveaway

Thanks to Transit Lounge Publishing we have 2x ebook copies of Tussaud by Belinda Lyons-Lee to giveaway. Entry restricted to Australian or New Zealand readers and close midnight 26 April 2021.

See entry form below. Ensure you scroll to the bottom of this form and press submit to register your entry. You can improve your chance of winning by:

The lucky winners will be randomly selected and announced on our Facebook Page.

SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED – See winners announcement.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.