Nancy Jardine – new historical novel alert!

Today I’m happy to share news of a new historical novel from author Nancy Jardine. She’s visiting my blog to talk about her new release and other bookish things.

Introducing Agricola’s Bane by Nancy Jardine

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Nancy, why did you write this particular story?

Essentially, the next part of my clan adventures needed told!

Agricola’s Bane is Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series which charts the adventures of my Celtic Brigantes clan who originate in the hillfort of Garrigill (modern day Yorkshire/ England). Book 1 begins in AD 71 when the legions of Ancient Rome descend on Brigante territory, bent on subduing them to the will of Rome. By Book 4, we have moved on to AD 84 and the action is in Caledonia (modern day Aberdeenshire/ Scotland).

In Agricola’s Bane, Enya of Garrigill sets out from her Caledon ‘safe place’ to search for her brother and cousin who have not been seen since the Battle at Beinn na Ciche (end of Book 3). Ancient Roman historians would call this the Battle of Mons Graupius as was named by the Roman writer Cornelius Tacitus. It’s a dangerous choice for Enya to make since the tribal territories are seething with the legions of the Ancient Roman General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola as they make more and more temporary camps all the way to what is now the ‘Moray Coast’.

In my series, one family member may be a main character in one book, yet play a minor role in another book – though unless they have been killed off by a Roman gladius, the characters all hover in the background of Book4. It’s not quite a historical saga, but sort of…

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Do you have a favourite scene or character in Agricola’s Bane?

When young Enya (14 summers old) sets out to find her brother, she’s accompanied by two other warriors. Feargus of Monymusk is of similar age but Nith of Tarras is older (20) and a surrogate foster-brother. Having found a trail that looks like it will lead to her brother Ruoridh, they need to cross a fast flowing river. Feargus can’t swim and has to be dragged across as he also fears the river goddess Caela’s retribution. It’s thought by historians that the ancient Celts were deeply superstitious, as were the ancient Romans, and their religious adherence permeated every aspect of their day. They have only just revived poor Feargus when they have to flee from an attack by Roman auxiliaries. Though the Romans are on the far bank, one of their javelins spears Feargus thigh. Enya and Nith have to remove the spear tip before Feargus can hobble off with them to safety. This is just one of the more highly charged scenes in the story when there’s interaction with the Roman enemies.

What was your process in writing your latest novel? Did you outline? Did you write multiple drafts?

Very good questions! I originally made a brief outline plan but since the book development came in fits and starts, over many months, new outlines were made along the way. As the series progressed, I increased the amount of main characters so Agricola’s Bane has 5 povs. There’s Enya and Nith who have the lion’s share. Then there’s General Agricola who gives the Roman perspective, though he occupies a lesser role. And lastly there are short sections in Ruoridh and Beathan’s povs. Beathan and Agricola will be main characters in Book 5, so I wanted to introduce them in Book 4.

It’s taken me a few years to complete Agricola’s Bane for all sorts of reasons which include; less time to write than for previous books; writing and publishing another novel in between; doing lots of courses and heavy research on Roman Scotland. The list should also contain that after I started it, I had a period of writer’s block when I didn’t like how it was going and set it aside many times.

There have been chunks removed so it’s very hard to say how many drafts but certainly a lot more than one!

What novels would you recommend to readers – old and/or new reads qualify?

I’m relatively easily pleased as a reader and often love best the last book I’ve read (unless it’s been an awful one but that rarely happens). I sometimes dip back to my classics favourites like Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Rings, and various Charles Dickens. Newer books sometimes make an impact depending on my mood when reading. I mostly enjoy historical fiction and mysteries but do read other genres. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed heaps of Crooked Cat Books like Nicola Slade’s The House at Ladywell and The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard. Katharine Johnson’s The Silence was also a fabulous read of 2018.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 2.53.32 PMAnd any non-fiction recommendations?

I’m pretty one track minded at present and steeped in the history of Roman Britain/ Roman Scotland since I do author presentations/talks on the subject in my home area of Aberdeenshire. If anyone is interested in Scottish history in general, I recommend the books of Alistair Moffat. The Sea Kingdoms was engrossing for the ‘Dark Ages’ and made me want to zoom forward and write about Pictish ‘Scotland’.

(Oh! Great. I’m putting this on my xmas list right now)

 

And finally (and really my favourite question…) What’s the best piece of advice you have for other writers?

Get comfortable with the amount of time you can find for your writing and don’t stress if things don’t come naturally. When I wasn’t managing to add more to my manuscript – mainly for domestic reasons and because life intrudes – I consoled myself by writing blog articles and doing interviews. It is still writing, though different. Marketing is a necessity but not the easiest of tasks and I’d again say don’t get stressed because the more books you have published the harder it is to market them all.

About Nancy and where to find her…

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Nancy Jardine writes contemporary mysteries; historical fiction and time-travel historical adventure. Her current historical focus is Roman Scotland, an engrossing pre-history era because her research depends highly on keeping abreast of recent archaeological findings.

A member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland and the Historical Novel Society, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.

She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband but life is never quiet or boring since her young grandchildren are her next-door neighbours. She regularly child minds them, those days being cherished and laughter filled.

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

Website: www.nancyjardineauthor.com/

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

 

Introducing Montbel by Angela Wren

Today I have an interview to share with author Angela Wren. Montbel is the third in her detective series set in France and featuring Jacques Forêt. Here’s the story:

CoverArtA clear-cut case? 

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.

When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

Thanks for joining me, Angela. First up, why did you write this story?

Montbel is the third story in my Jacques Forêt series of cosy crime novels set in south-central France.  When I planned the series I knew at the outset what the crime would be and what challenges my central characters would have to face.  So, way back in 2007/08 I knew I was going to write this story no matter what.  However, what I didn’t know, until I started my detailed planning for the novel, was that an incident, which occurred when I was in France 10 years ago, would pop into my head and inspire me to create one of the supporting characters.  That decision meant I then needed to do some research because the central theme of the book would reach much further back in time than I first envisaged.

Talk about a favourite scene or character in your novel.

As much as I love writing my central character, Jacques Forêt, he isn’t my favourite character.  Little Pierre Mancelle is – just don’t tell Jacques!  At the outset, with my 4-book timeline all done I had thought that I wouldn’t need Pierre until book 3.  I did my detailed planning for the book 1 – Messandrierre – and he still didn’t feature.  But as I was writing the first book Pierre kept running onto the page.  And when I edited him out of one scene he just popped up in a later scene.  Eventually, I went back to my timeline and gave him a proper role in all four books.

My favourite scene in Montbel for Pierre is in the chapter entitled ‘thursday, june 16th.  He’s with his parents at an event in Mende and he has something on his mind.  This particular scene came into my head almost fully formed as I was writing it and it remained pretty much as it was from first draft, other than bits and pieces of tweaking for the wording as I was editing.

It’s a favourite scene because it shows Pierre in a different light.  He’s recently changed schools and that hasn’t been easy for him.  His family is on the brink of a massive change and he doesn’t quite know how to handle that.  When Jacques notices his mood and tries to engage him in conversation, Pierre does what all kids do.  He skirts around the problem, then drops out the killer question and then moves onto something completely different, leaving Jacques nonplussed.  The scene, I hope, provides a little light relief from the building tension surrounding Jacques’ murder investigation, which is the central plot.

Describe your process in writing this book. (e.g. did you outline? Did you choose one pov and stick to it? What did you add? How many drafts did you write? How long did it take?

I’m quite scientific in some respects.  I had my timeline for all four books and to supplement that I drew up a chapter/scene plan for Montbel.  I use a spreadsheet to do this and on there I note down, characters involved, point of view, location and questions I want to be raised in a reader’s mind for each scene.  At the completion of this I usually have all the key scenes for the principle plotline.  Then I make some notes about the sub-plots and they usually remain in that form.  Then I think on it for a bit and then, having got my opening paragraph clear in my head I start writing.  I kind of keep on going after that as I write through my characters.

Every so often I stop and go back and crosscheck where I am with my plan.  Sometimes my characters take me off plan and then I need to decide whether I will stick with that or not.  If I need to edit at that point then I will before I continue writing.

Overall I think Montbel took me about 9 months to write.  Unfortunately I’m not able to write full-time as I work in a theatre, so my writing has to be scheduled in whenever I have a spare morning, afternoon or evening.  But I am getting very good at sticking to my scheduled writing time each week.

Can you share some book love? Please recommend at least one but no more than three novels you have read and loved.

lostWow, that’s a really tough question, there are so many that I could tell you about.  OK, I think I will choose The Lost Girl by D H Lawrence, Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy and By Gaslight by Steven Price.  The first two I’ve read and re-read several times.  The third one I read whilst in France recently and I know I will read it again – the narrative voice was so captivating.

Is there a work of non-fiction that you would like to share?

Edith Eger’s The Choice.  A moving and thought-provoking memoir written in stunningly beautiful prose.  Another book that I know I will read again.

What is the best piece of advice you have for other writers?

Never give up.

THIS IS MY FAVOURITE ANSWER!!! SO TRUE!

About Angela:

AngelaWrenAuthorPicHaving followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Find out about, follow Angela and buy her books here:

Amazon : AngelaWren

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

New book alert! – Costa del Churros

Today I’m welcoming Isabella May who has a new book coming out soon with Crooked Cat Books…

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Muchas gracias for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my brand new novel with Crooked Cat Books! COSTA DEL CHURROS will launch on September 19th and is another romantic comedy which fuses all things foodie, travel and spirituality. I’m keeping my fingers (and paws!) crossed that it’ll have as good a reception as its predecessors…

Why write about Spain?
My first two books, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar centred much of their activity around the quirky and mystical town of Glastonbury, UK.  But in actual fact I live in Spain nowadays and much as I relished the opportunity to write about the place where I spent my childhood through to late twenties, it was high time for a change of scene – as well as to prove to myself that I am not a One Trick Pony. Or should that be Cat?

Is Costa del Churros based on a fictional or real part of Spain?
Yes, Costa del Churros refers to the Costa del Sol, here in the gigantic province of Andalusia, where I live. I have traveled all over the country, but nowhere seems to make, eat or embrace churros (fried donut strips, often eaten dipped in a thick, velvety chocolate sauce and/or sprinkled liberally with sugar) with the aplomb of the people in this region. The churros play a central role throughout the book, used as a code word that brings four – very different – women together for flamenco lessons with their highly exuberant teacher, Carmen.

Here’s the blurb:

The rain in Spain doesn’t mainly fall on the plain…

Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.

Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town’s flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers?

One thing’s for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again.

Are these four women based on people you know?
bit of body textNot per se!
But Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina are definitely a beautiful fusion of some of the kaleidoscopically colourful characters I have met here over the past seven years. I wanted to paint a truthful picture of expat life in Spain (and quite possibly this will extend to other areas of The Mediterranean too). It’s all too easy to assume that a life in the sun is all soaking up its rays, sand, sea and sangria, but in actual fact, we take ourselves wherever we go! There’s absolutely no running away from your problems when you are home from home, be they romantic, financial, self-esteem based, or all of the above. Often, as soon as the novelty of the new lifestyle wears off, those issues are only exacerbated…
I thought it would make for an interesting (and comical) read to throw four women from four completely different backgrounds together, to add a little magic (a la Carmen) and to watch the fireworks – from a very safe distance.

Tell us a bit about Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera…
Well, she was a joy to write.
And I think all of us could do with a Carmen in our lives. Not only is she a talented flamenco teacher, but she has watched the way Franco’s repression of the female has gnawed away at her mother, and at the lives of countless women around her. So Carmen’s mission is one of empowerment. And she’s particularly passionate about encouraging women to have their cake and eat it. Truly, I’d love for nothing more than to click my fingers and magic her up every time I witness a female friend or family member declare in a café/restaurant/gelateria ‘Oh! I really shouldn’t indulge… I’ll start the diet again next week!’
For Carmen is the antidote to any and all of that prescribed female behaviour, an advocate for positive body image on beaches and sun-loungers the length of the coast. She’s a breath of fresh air injecting a much-needed confidence boost to all four of the main characters in the story.

If your tummy has started to rumble… here’s that all important Universal Amazon buying link: mybook.to/costadelchurros

You can find out about Isabella May’s other books, and follow her quirky cake and cocktail posts at these places:

www.isabellamayauthor.com

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/

Instagram – @isabella_may_author
downloadIsabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic.

Cake, cocktail, and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s ‘rules’.

Costa del Churros is her third novel.

Introducing Alex Macbeth and The Red Die

The body of a man with a red die in his pocket is washed ashore near a quiet village on the coast of the Indian Ocean in southern Africa. But what looked initially like a corpse that came in with the tide soon turns out to be a murder case that will lead Comandante Felisberto and his team to the edge of danger and despair as they uncover a trail leading up to the highest echelons of power in their country.

Can Felisberto and his ‘motley crew of rural investigators’ solve the case – and survive?

OOOH! Alex Macbeth’s debut novel, THE RED DIE, sounds right up my reading alley and so, while I wait for my pre-order copy to land on my kindle this weekend, I jumped at the chance to ask Alex some questions about this gripping new story, set in Mozambique.

Alex, how did you come to write this particular novel?

Alex_smallI was sat in a police station in Mozambique because somebody had stolen my motorbike. Despite the curious situation, I was overwhelmed by some of the challenges the officers faced; there were no aspirins in the district, yet hundreds of crimes. A total of six officers policed a town of more than 130,000 people. The force’s only car often ran out of petrol and the local police force had no forensic department.

I think in Europe we have a stereotype of African policemen as corrupt and malicious figures, but I realised that the challenges of being a detective in an African village are huge and often under-appreciated. So I was inspired to create a rural African hero, a shrewd, ‘hardboiled’ detective who despite his limited resources is determined to fight crime. The quirky setting grew on me and with research the story became my debut novel, THE RED DIE.

Do you have a favorite scene or character in your novel?

I have to say, there are several I enjoyed writing, although the scene in which my protagonist, Comandante Felisberto, jumps out of an exploding plane without knowing whether his parachute works is one of my favourites.

I also enjoy writing dialogue a lot so the interrogation scenes, which usually come with a twist, are also among some of the scenes that I enjoy re-reading the most.

What was your process in writing THE RED DIE? How long did it take?

THE RED DIE took five years to write and went through at least twelve drafts.  As the plot developed, I had to do more and more research. Subsequent drafts helped shape some of the details that contribute to the sense of place (Mozambique), the characters, their relationships (e.g the grumpy and technophobe old-school detective and his technology-obsessed deputy) – and also plot twists.

26221053_10155867073520761_3564073603336382054_oI wanted to create a detective who was both tough but sensitive, just but hard. I tried to take what I could from Chandler’s hardboiled detectives and combine it with the attempt to rectify moral hazard that is so present in Nordic Noir. And I set it in Mozambique, in the small district where my family have lived for the last fifteen years.

The story is told from three points of view. The main story follows Comandante Felisberto, the investigating detective. The secondary story features Tomlinson, a British zoologist in Mozambique. Podolski, a dodgy British banker in London, makes the odd appearance too.

I always think the books author’s read tell me a lot about them and their books. Can you recommend some three novels you have read and loved?

THE WINTER QUEEN – Boris Akunin

THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN – Sjowall & Wahloo

WIZARD OF THE CROW – Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Hmm, Alex. You have chosen 3 books I have never heard of! Thank you! I’m excited to check them out.

And finally, what is the best piece of advice you have for other writers?

Gosh, that’s tough. I guess the best advice is keep writing and believe in your voice, even if at times others, or even you, don’t like it. It takes time to find a voice we feel comfortable with as writers. Meanwhile, read as much as you can! Others have already shown the way to write great stories, we just need to catch up on how to do it.

Alex Macbeth’s debut novel, THE RED DIE, is available on Amazon in the UK & the US

To know more, find Alex on twitter, facebook and at his website.

 

Interview with Sarah Perry

I am lucky enough to sometimes have the chance to ask other novelists questions about their work for the Historical Novel Society and write up feature articles. There’s always something more in the Q&A that I can’t work into the articles though. So here’s a chance to read the whole conversation.

Talking about The Essex Serpent with Sarah Perry

essexHow would you set the scene of the historical context and ‘world’ of The Essex Serpent for someone thinking about reading it?

I have been in the habit of calling it a “modern Victorian Gothic novel” – all of which sounds slightly contradictory! But this is in order to try and convey that although this is a novel set in the 19th century, and influenced by the forms and traditions of Gothic fiction, it very much aims to foreground everything which was modern and urgent about that period: scientific progress and debates, political and social upheaval, the early development of feminism, and so on. And while it has a Gothic sensibility, perhaps especially in the depictions of the eerie Essex countryside and the fear of an unknown best, it does not resort to maidens in nightgowns, and cruel villainous counts. I wanted to challenge and interrogate what readers might expect from a neo-Victorian Gothic novel.

 

Although there might be said to be one main story – Cora’s – lots of other characters have important journeys: I’m thinking of Luke, Francis, Martha and Naomi. Did all these interwoven lives arrive in your head at one time or, if not, how did they develop?

Four of the main characters came to me almost instantly – in fact, during the car journey after I had first seen the road-sign which led to the discovery of the legend of the Essex Serpent! I thought first of Cora, and then – wanting to find an emotional and scientific ‘foil’ to her, thought of Will, the vicar. I then thought of Cora’s son, I think perhaps because I wanted to explore childhood and especially how “different” children would have been seen prior to a time of diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders. Luke came next: I have always been very interested in the development of medical and surgical science, and I instantly had in mind this very daring, even rather dangerous intellect who prized his scientific work above everything else, but could never be immune to his emotions.

Other characters seemed to join the cast as I went: Martha, for example, was inspired by some of my research into Victorian friendships between women, and by the lives of extraordinary Victorian women like Eleanor Marx who were so active in politics. I conceived of Stella as a riposte to the old novel trope that a man may be tempted by other women because his own wife is a bit of a shrew – I wanted her to be a loving and vital presence, not a plot device.

 

How important is symbolism in the novel? Is there one monster, or several?

It’s crucial – and there are as many serpents as there are characters. I wanted each to be haunted not by the serpent itself, but rather what the serpent represents. For example, the schoolgirls and Naomi in particular respond to it with a kind of anxiety that I think is very rooted in their youth: it’s almost a phallic symbol, like a version of the “worm” that enters the rose and makes it sick in Blake’s poem. One of Aldwinter’s parishioners thinks of it as a visitation that marks the end times and the judgment of God, while Stella thinks of it as something that she must placate if she is to preserve the village. For Cora, of course, it is the symbol of her desire to find rational explanations in a world which is confusing and full of change.

serpent

Can you talk about the relationships in the novel between the natural and spiritual worlds?

I am particularly fascinated in where we draw the line between what is natural, and what is supernatural or spiritual. There are many things in the natural world which, even when we know perfectly well what laws of physics and biology have created it, still fill us with a sense of wonder. I am especially interested in the “sublime”, which is a key component of the Gothic and something which, according to the essayist Burke, is a sensation which moves us beyond merely experiencing a sense of beauty (such as when we look at a flower in the spring) into a transport of awe, and wonder, and even terror. Most people who see the Northern Lights, for example, are aware that it’s an effect of electrically charged particles in the atmosphere, but are still awestruck by it and perhaps moved to think about their own place in the world, and mortality, and what might lie beyond all those things we can explain. So for example Cora, when she first walks in the Essex countryside, is profoundly moved by what is actually a fairly ordinary scene of woodland in winter, because she has been trapped unhappily in London for so long – so the rainy woods seem to her to represent her innocence, and a promise of a better future. That she first encounters Will in this context and not, for example, in a neat and tidy room in her London house, is really important, I think.

 

Do you have a favourite scene and/or character?

Speaking of the natural and the sublime – my favourite scene is the one in which Cora and Will encounter the Fata Morgana. I became obsessed with this optical illusion – you can see videos of it on YouTube, and it really came to signify for me nature at its most strange and marvelous: an intersection between the natural and the magical worlds. Shortly after I wrote that scene, I took a day off writing to go to one of the very large and beautiful Norfolk beaches where I live, and I saw a Fata Morgana illusion myself. It wasn’t a ship, but resembled great black tower-blocks being built far out to sea, and it was just as strange and magical as I had hoped. My favourite character is Dr Garrett, the Imp. I used to find myself weeping as I wrote some of his scenes: he is the character who most clearly lives on with me.

 

How do you feel about the reception of The Essex Serpent? It’s nominated for several literary awards in the UK and about to be released in the US. I’m thinking this is an exciting time for you!

It’s been a really astonishing time for the book and for me, to the extent that I am not sure that it’s really sunk in quite yet! Every author dreams of their work finding an audience – or at any rate, I certainly do! – but I had never for a moment imagined that it would reach so many people. What has moved me most of all is finding people from Essex coming to events, or writing to me, and thanking me for capturing something about that part of the world which they hadn’t seen written about before. Essex is famously something of a joke in the UK, and not a place that people associate with romantic landscapes, or myths, or earthquakes, so my fellow Essex folk have been really delighted, which has perhaps been the very best thing about it.

 

Lovers or rich and original language will be drawn to The Essex Serpent. Can you talk about your influences as a writer? (Something about Cora put me in mind of The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles and the scene in the school made me think of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible – or am I off-base making connections like that?)

I am thrilled and flattered by those connections: thank you so much!

I had a very unusual upbringing which I think did much to contribute to my writing style, and even to the themes which are present in my work. My parents were members of a very old-fashioned Strict Baptist chapel, and much of the contemporary world was frowned upon. So I was brought up reading, memorizing and reciting the King James Bible, and singing Victorian hymns, and reading things like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. We didn’t have a television in the house, or any pop music, and I wasn’t allowed to attend parties or to go to the cinema; but I was surrounded by classic literature and classical music. I read Jane Eyre when I was eight, and my father bought me a copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles when I was ten, and I think all of those influences (the King James Bible most of all!) have created a prose style which is, or so they tell me, quite unusual coming from a young-ish writer in the 21st century! Certainly my style isn’t something which is contrived: it comes as it does, and although at one point I rather resented it and wished I wrote in a more modern style, I have come to accept my own “voice”.

 

What are you writing next?

sarah perryI am currently working on a Gothic novel which is set in contemporary Prague, where I was fortunate enough to live as a UNESCO writer-in-residence last year. It is entailing rather a lot of research into various rather harrowing historical events, and I look back fondly on writing The Essex Serpent as having been a far more pleasurable experience!

Meet the blogger: “History the Interesting Bits”

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-11-17-53-amToday I’m beginning a series of interviews with history bloggers – a great source for writers and history lovers in general. I’m delighted to start with Sharon Connolly who writes one of my absolutely favourite history blogs, History The Interesting Bits! Sharon has a great eye for an interesting story and I particularly like her mini biographies.

I’ll let Sharon introduce herself…

sharonI have been fascinated by history for over 30 years now. I have studied history academically and just for fun – I’ve even worked as a tour guide at historical sites. I’m now having great fun, passing on my love of the past to my 11-year-old son, who is a Horrible Histories fanatic. He is a fantastic research assistant and loves exploring historic sites with me. I started writing my blog in January 2015 and in March this year signed a contract with Amberley to write my first book, Heroines of the Medieval World, which will hopefully be in the shops next year.

When did you start your blog and what was your motivation? How did you pick its name? I had always wanted to write, but never really had the courage, until my husband gave me the blog as a Christmas present in 2014. I’d had the name for years – I always said I would write a book called History the Interesting Bits (I still might), so it was the ideal name for the blog.

Has your blog turned out the way you anticipated? I love researching and writing for the blog, especially writing about the less known characters from history. I never expected many people to read it – it was just my chance to write about what I loved. But the response has been incredible and it’s so nice when someone sends me a message, saying ‘Wow! That was really interesting’. I spend the rest of the day smiling from ear to ear.

What is your best blog-related moment? There are 2, really. For me, personally, I think it has to be the moment I clicked ‘publish’ on my first post – and then getting comments from people saying how much they enjoyed reading it. I had had no expectations that anyone would read what I wrote, it was just the chance for me to write and to realise that other people found it interesting was quite a revelation to me. The second moment was when I published my son’s homework, Diary of Charles II and everyone was so kind and encouraging to him. He spent an hour after getting home from school, reading the comments everyone had left.

What’s your favourite post? My article about Nicholaa de la Haye. She was the castellan of Lincoln Castle and I’d never heard of her until I visited Lincoln last year. She was an incredible woman, incredibly independent in a time when women weren’t allowed to be. She was the reason I started looking into Medieval women and realised there was so much more to them than being obedient to their husbands and having babies.

How to you pick what to write about? Most of my articles tend to follow on from each other, in a way. Every time I research one person, 2 or 3 other interesting people pop up. So I keep a list of people I would like to find out more about and they invariably turn into articles.

Do you have a schedule for posting and/or a favourite social media platform? I try to post something every week, but now I’m writing the book, that is often an unrealistic aim. So, my target now is once every 2 weeks, and sometimes I’ll put a book review in between articles – they take less research. As for social media, I use Twitter and Facebook. I’m still trying to get a handle on Twitter, but I love Facebook and find it a fantastic way to connect with people – it’s a great way to get feedback and encouragement, and I have learnt so much from so many people, about writing and about history. I have a Facebook page for the blog, from where I share all my posts, and then I post the articles in relevant groups, where I hope people will find them interesting.

What are your go-to sources for research? My books, mainly. I have been collecting history books since I was a kid and have piles of them at the side of my desk; I have books on everything from ancient Greece to the Vietnam War – and most eras in between. I also love the internet – British History Online, the pipe rolls of Henry III and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography are all at my fingertips. It’s amazing!

Do you have other writing projects you are involved in? I have done a chapter on Tudor women in Lincolnshire for a book that will hopefully be out next year, and I’m in the process of writing Heroines of the Medieval World for Amberley. The book has been a steep learning curve, but I’m enjoying the process and can’t wait to hold the finished product in my hands. The hardest part is deciding who to leave out to keep the book within the 110,000-word limit. There’s so many incredible medieval women who deserve to have their story told.

If you could go back in time and be one historical character or live in one era which would it be? I don’t think I could pick one. I’d love to spend a week in each; to see the siege of Troy, Cleopatra, Boudicca’s rebellion, the Wars of the Roses…. If I had to pick one, I suppose I would choose King Arthur – just to see if he was real.

muralPhoto credit: Wojciech Pudło

Are you a historical fiction fan? If yes, what/who do you love to read? If not, why not?! I love historical fiction, ever since reading Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels as a teenager. I can’t get enough of it. I love historical action, rather than romance, and it has to be historically accurate as possible, otherwise I just get irritated at the inaccuracies. These days I still love Bernard Cornwell, and am grateful that he releases a new book every October, just before my birthday. I also love Derek Birks, Anna Belfrage, Michael Jecks, Glynne Iliffe, Paul Collard…. The list is endless. There’s so many fantastic writers out there these days.

I can’t recommend Sharon’s blog highly enough and I only wish my 11 year old was as interested in my writing as Sharon’s is!!

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