A working woman’s struggle to survive in mid-Victorian England is the subject of the second book in Joanne Clague’s Sheffield Sagas series.

‘The Girl At Change Alley’, set in Sheffield in 1867 at the height of a long-running and violent campaign known as the Outrages, was published today (Thursday).

Historical fiction writer and former journalist Joanne told Island Life: ‘The story is about a working woman’s struggle to survive in mid-Victorian England.

‘Readers of “The Ragged Valley”, which was my debut novel and came out in June this year, will recognise her straightaway, and although every book in the series can be read as a standalone story, it’s been a real pleasure to revisit some of the characters from the first book and see how they’re getting on.’

‘The Girl at Change Alley’ tells the story of Louisa Leigh, a former maid-of-all-work, who is forced into prostitution and desperate for money to escape.

She befriends Ginny Hinchcliffe, a young widow who will do whatever it takes to break free from a life of servitude to her in-laws. The two women become entangled with Joe Crookes, henchman to the man responsible for the Outrages.

Joanne, who lives in Laxey with her family, said: ‘It’s impossible not to get attached to the characters and like anybody I do have my favourites.

‘Aside from the joy of revisiting characters and introducing new ones to the sagas, what I’ve really enjoyed is highlighting some of the town’s history.’

Joanne’s stories focus on important events in the history of Sheffield.

‘The Ragged Valley’ is set in the context of the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864, which saw hundreds of residents die and many more homes lost, when the Dale Dyke Dam broke as its reservoir was being filled for the first time.

And the historical background to ‘The Girl at Change Alley’ is the violent and long running campaign known as the Outrages, where murder was done in the name of a rogue union leader.

Joanne, who was born and bred in Sheffield, said she had enjoyed learning about its history, admitting she hadn’t heard of the Great Sheffield Flood. And she said she had found it fascinating to discover the background to the Outrages too.

‘Reading from the period helps with research,’ Joanne said.

‘For this novel I was able to get my hands on the proceedings of the commission of inquiry into the Outrages which was an invaluable tool.

‘I think having been raised in the area of Sheffield I write about helps too, right down to being familiar with the topography.

‘And my trips home to see my family mainly feature visits to museums and cemeteries now, which must be lovely for them.’

Asked how she works best, Joanne said: ‘I think like a lot of writers there’s a certain amount of planning and a lot of going with the flow.

‘It’s surprising sometimes where the characters lead you.

‘I usually know how the story will end, so it’s then a question of where to start.’

Former Isle of Man Newspapers reporter Joanne worked for 30 years in print, radio and broadcast journalism in the island.

‘I write best first thing in the morning with plenty of coffee, although the word count will vary hugely,’ she said.

‘I’m not one of those writers who can bash out 2,000 words a day, though I wish I was! I can write anywhere, and like a bit of background noise. I think that comes from spending my working life in newsrooms.’

Joanne is now working on book three of the series, which is due to be released in spring next year. All she would say is that some of the characters from the first two books will be returning.

‘It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I’m loving every minute,’ she said.

‘The Girl at Change Alley’ is published by Canelo and has a RRP of £8.99 or £1.99 on ebook.

• Joanne will be signing copies of ‘The Girl at Change Alley’ at the Bridge bookshop, in Parliament Street, Ramsey, on Saturday at 11am.