Writing blog

Books and terrorism

A post a little off my normal historical reading and writing beat…

First, a little background. Between 1991 and 1998 and again between 2004 and 2008, Chris and I lived in south Manchester – in Heaton Moor, Sale and Bramhall to be be precise. Maddie (now 12) was born at Stepping Hill in Stockport. And with friends and family still living there we were so saddened by the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert – at a venue we have loved going to, and one that on that night was full of kids around Maddie’s age.

It’s not the act of terror that I want to focus on however, but the response to it. As far as I can tell from the other side of the Atlantic, the people of Manchester’s response has been wonderful: not just ‘keeping calm and carrying on’, but actively choosing to be optimistic and openhearted, instead of frightened, angry and afraid. This has made a great impression on me, particularly because I’ve just read and reviewed an amazing novel on this very topic.

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A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi tells the story of Rez, an American teen whose parents were immigrants from Iran. It is wonderfully written and very hard to read – especially if you have teenage kids like we do. My full review for Bookbrowse is here:

Review of A Good Country

And here is the link to the Beyond the Book article that goes with it about terrorism in the US:

Where do terrorists in the US come from?

Without giving the game the away, A Good Country starts with a likeable sixteen year old, Rez, who seems to have a bright future. His family have a very comfortable life in California and Rez’s grades are great. But this is the world of the Boston Bombing. And it is the impact that that event, and another fictional terrorist atrocity in a local shopping mall, and how they play into Rez’s isolation and rejection of his future in America, that really stand out for me. In the wake of these events, Rez sees white, middle-class Americans – neighbours and school friends – turn away from him, or glare at him with suspicion because of his Iranian heritage. He is pushed away by the world he has grown up believing he was part of, and he reaches out instead for a sense of belonging and brotherhood with other sons and daughters of immigrants. Through this, Raj falls prey to extremist ideology, the dark side of the internet and promises of a false future.

A Good Country is one of those books that you read with a sense of watching a train wreck that you can do nothing to stop. But although there were many reasons for Rez’s choices, I did feel that the way he was treated after the terrorist acts could have and should have been different. I hope that for young men of immigrant families in Manchester, it will be.

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i love manchester

 

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.

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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!

Wednesday with Writers: Enthralling, highly Sensory 17th c. France Scandal, Poisoners, Prisoners, Fortune-tellers, & More in Kate Braithwaite’s historical fiction THE CHARLATAN.

Sharing an interview about Charlatan. Lots about the research.

Leslie Lindsay

By Leslie Lindsay

Kate Braithwaite’s CHARLATAN is brimming with intrigue, power, mystique. There’s more. 

Scandal. Panic. Fortune tellers. Scheming woman. Love affairs. Prisoners in dungeons. 

It’s dark, intricate plotting, well-developed characters will pull you in and not let you go even when you’re taken on a bumpy journey in a royal carriage down rutted roads to the execution pyre. You’ll feel the heat, your nose will singe with the scent of burning flesh and hair; you’ll hear the guttural screams and wonder how human nature could be so cruel.

Not being a huge French history connoisseur, I found Kate Braithwaite’s historical depth impressive, her writing highly sensory
(there was a time I had to sit the book down it ‘got’ to me so much), and the braiding of two plot lines impeccable.

perf6.000x9.000.inddThe story centers around Athenais, King Louis XIV’s glamorous mistress and mother to seven of his children. Athenais…

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Meet the blogger: “History of Royal Women”

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One of my favourite history blogs is History of Royal Women, a great site with features on royal women around the globe (and a series on royal mistresses that I really must get my act together and write something about Madame de Montespan for!) I was very happy to have the chance to ask the blog’s creator, Moniek Blok, some questions.

I’ll let Moniek introduce herself…

12316566_10153774177894106_3988294007764851369_nMy name is Moniek Bloks. I am 28 years old and I live in the Netherlands. My blog is about historical royal women (as the name might suggest!) and their amazing stories.

When did you start your blog and what was your motivation? How did you pick its name?

I registered the domain name in October 2013 and the first post appeared in November. I tried to pick a name that was general enough to fit a lot of people but still spoke to people. Conveniently, this domain name was also available.

Has your blog turned out the way you anticipated?

Better actually! People around me are often surprised when I tell them how many Facebook likes or visitors I get. I currently have about 66k Facebook likes and I get around 40k unique visitors per month on the site itself.

What is your best blog-related moment?

I guess that would be when I first got sent a book for review. For me it meant that people were taking me seriously!

What’s your favourite post?

I don’t really have a specific favourite post, but I really like the series I did on Queen Mary I. It really changed my view of her.

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How to you pick what to write about?

I usually pick up stories while reading and I put everything in a draft in my editorial calendar on WordPress so I don’t forget!

Do you have a schedule for posting and/or a favourite social media platform?

Right now I am posting three times a week, while Amy (one of my contributors) has a series that posts once a week. I am thinking about going up to four times a week as I have so many ideas. I think my favourite social media platform is my Facebook page, but I really dislike the mobile app that goes with it!

What are your go-to sources for research?

I buy A LOT of second hand books and I like to torment my local library with my ILL (interlibrary loans) requests as they don’t have many history books.

Do you have other writing projects you are involved in?

I also write news stories for Royal Central and I just finished the first draft of my historical novel. My own novel is about Margaret, the Maid of Norway who actually existed and was (although it’s disputed) Queen of Scots. Unfortunately she didn’t survive the journey to Scotland (she was a Norwegian princess through her father) in real life. In my novel she survives the journey and together with her grandfather’s widow we follow her life. I’ve actually just begun writing the sequel which is about her eldest daughter Maud, who is married to the King of France at the age of 12.

If you could go back in time and be one Royal Woman or live in one era which would it be?

I think the Tudor era would be most fun!

Are you a historical fiction fan? If yes, what/who do you love to read? If not, why not?!

I have not read much historical fiction but I recently received Katherine of Aragon, the True Queen by Alison Weir for review and I really loved that!

Here are Moniek’s social media links:

Facebook

Twitter

Youtube

Thanks Moniek and Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to lots more of your posts 🙂

Meet the blogger: “Party Like 1660”

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Today I’m continuing to showcase the history blogs I read/love/admire by interviewing the writer behind Party Like 1660, a site devoted to all things Louis XIV written by Aurora Von Goeth.

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I’ll let Aurora introduce herself…

I am Aurora, a German 17th century historian with a passion for the time of Louis XIV, his court, its occupants and etiquette. Hopefully soon published author, orange tea drinker and mother of cats.

When did you start your blog and what was your motivation? How did you pick its name?
I started Party Like 1660 at the end of last year, so it is relatively new. My motivation for creating it was my love for French history, especially everything Louis XIV – something I have been fascinated with since my teen days. Over the years I collected a bit of knowledge about his court, something I used to call useless knowledge, since I had no place to share it. I always had the longing to share this knowledge, but was not quite sure how I should do it. I might also have been a little insecure. By the end of last year, Party Like 1660 was born and my first post was about Louis XIV being beaten up by his little brother Philippe.
The name for my blog dates back to a old picture sharing one I used to run years ago, but do not have anymore, and I thought it was the perfect name for what I had in mind with this history blog. The 1660’s were certainly the fun years during the Sun King’s reign, with plenty of festivities and gossip. The first ever garden party in Versailles was held in the 1660’s and it lasted a week.

Has your blog turned out the way you anticipated?
I anticipated and still anticipate for this blog to be a bit of a encyclopedia on the court of Louis XIV: something that features short biographies of the people who lived there,  articles on important events, court gossip, a easy guide on 17th century etiquette, which is one of my favourite topics, and place to share little known but very interesting happenings. After a bit less than a year of blogging, we are well on the way of getting somewhere and the resonance is quite satisfying.

What is your best blog-related moment?
My best blog related moment or moments are the kind comments and messages I receive for my reviews of the BBC Two series Versailles. In them I invite my readers to have a closer look at the history behind the show and explain what we see on screen in a historical context.

What’s your favourite post?
There are several that I like much, like the Versailles reviews or Louis XIV’s morning routine, but my favourite is the one about Philippe de Lorraine also know as the Chevalier de Lorraine. It was the first “larger” thing I wrote, already before the blog was born, and currently it is the most detailed article on the internet about him, of which I am a little proud. He is one of my favourite historical persons as well and very interesting. Information about him is quite sparse too. I guess that is another reason why it is my fave post.

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How to you pick what to write about?
It is pretty much always random. I have a little self created calendar of important dates, thus I write about those when they come up, but mostly I pick the topics randomly. There are many things I want to write about in the future, like Nicolas Fouquet and Vaux-le-Vicomte or how one of Louis’ mistresses chased after the Queen’s carriage.  Some topics I wrote about so far have been suggested or influenced by my lovely Twitter followers. For example “The Last Days Of Louis XIV”, in this case my followers wished for day-today updates instead of one long post on the matter.

Do you have a schedule for posting and/or a favourite social media platform?
I do not have a schedule and post whenever I find time.  Twitter, clearly. I love Twitter because it is quite simple to use and you can meet great people there.

What are your go-to sources for research?
My collections of books, both in English and German, various diaries, like the one of Dangeau. It is brilliant. Also the archives of Chateau de Versailles and Gallica of the Bibliothèque nationale de France along with the letters of the time.

Do you have other writing projects you are involved in?
Yes. My first book, which I made together with Jules Harper, is nearly finished. It is a short biography of Louis XIV, that also covers topics that aren’t too well known, like various health issues. Another book is in planning: it will be a collection of court anecdotes, and after it perhaps a short biography about Versailles or Louis XIV’s brother Philippe.

If you could go back in time and be one historical character or live in one era which would it be?
If I could go back in time, I certainly would be a mignon. Those were the closer friends of Philippe de France. I would live in Saint-Cloud, the little sister of Versailles, and be merry.  If I could travel back in time for commercial use, I would probably be some kind of tour guide that helps 21th century people to survive court life by teaching the who-is-who and etiquette.

Are you a historical fiction fan? If yes, what/who do you love to read? If not, why not?!
I don’t read much historical fiction. I never really did. There are some great stories out there, but I am a rather critical reader, especially when the work is French history related. I pay attention to details nobody else would probably notice, which is a bit of a kill joy for myself. On the other hand, it is rather great for helping authors of historical fiction, something I do as well, with their work. Sometimes the devil is really in the detail.

Reading that last answer makes me even happier (relieved!) that Aurora liked my novel Charlatan, calling it “a captivating tale”. Thank you again for reading it Aurora 🙂

 

10 top tips for attending a bookfair

In the last month I have been to two bookfairs to sell my novel, Charlatan: the Collingswood Bookfair in New Jersey and the Hockessin Art & Book Fair. Both times I went with members of my local writing group, the Write Group of Kennett Square, PA. As a debut author, I was pretty nervous and not sure what to expect. So here are my top ten tips for surviving and maybe even enjoying selling books.

  1. Be prepared to set your alarm. In the case of Collingswood, the fair opened to the public at 10am but we were there at…7.30am. I wasn’t sure why: until I realised lots of other people were there too. Arriving early (but far from the first) meant that we got a good space for our two tables. This fair was supposed to be outside (in which case we would have needed a canopy and some way of tethering it to concrete…) but bad weather forced everything inside. Here’s my view for the day… and yes, that is a cardboard cut-out of the Pope!

2. Don’t go alone. I’m pretty sure I would have struggled to go to either event on my own. In fact I might not have even known about them. This is just one of the many reasons why finding other writers is one of the best things you can do. Writing might be a solitary act, but if your writing is going to be read, then having writing friends who know what writing/drafting/editing/getting published/marketing is all about is essential. Plus it was a lot less lonely sitting there with these lovelies and we could mind each others stock, talk up each others books and help share the costs of the table.

From left to right… Ed, Maryellen and Aurora.

3. Work out how to STAND out. I was a bit on the last minute with this. The day before we went to Collingswood it occurred to me that my small pile of books was not really going to look like much on a table. Thankfully, this light bulb moment happened while I was out buying tablecloths (for our folding tables – my contribution because I don’t own a folding table) and within minutes I had my hands on a suitcase which I was able to deck out like this…

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4. Be able to describe your book: So I thought I was done with elevator pitches and the like when I signed my publishing contract but no, that was naive. I’m not trying to sell to agents etc any more but it felt eerily familiar, having maybe not even a minute to try and get over what my book was about to people who stopped and took a look at my novel. Work out what you will say in advance. Practice it. Grit your teeth and sell your book. Selling might not come naturally to you, but at least at a book fair you can guess that probably eighty percent of other people there to sell, feel exactly as anxious as you do.

5. Set expectations low: On my way out of Collingswood, at about 4pm, I overheard a couple of other writers discussing their sales as they packed their car. One asked the other how many books he’d sold. His answer? 3. But he also quickly added that he felt that this was a reasonable number given how others around had done. Depending on how you are published and what you have paid for each book you are selling, that can mean many different things in terms of money earned. What it does mean though, is that the book fair pathways are not paved in gold. Far from it.

6. But be ready to make change. In my case I sold 6 books at each fair. That may not sound like much but when you describe your book to someone and they are prepared to put their hand in their pockets and pay you for it – that’s a pretty good feeling 🙂 Both times people paid a mixture of cash, check and card. I don’t have the gadget that does that on your phone so thank you Aurora Cannon, for facilitating that for me! The gadget can be obtained free from Paypal – something else to add to the list of things I have learned in the last month or so. Also, think about your price. I sold my book for $5 less than the price on Amazon and made that a selling point.

7. Take bookmarks. Or at least take something you can give away. I love my bookmark which is a good thing since I’ve got a stack of them. I’ve also seen postcards and business cards, free magazines, pens, mugs, you name it. I can see very clearly how easy it might be to slip into a rabbit hole of costly self-promotion. But having something to hand out when someone doesn’t buy your book (and also when they do) is useful and hopefully does help spread the word that your book exists. Here are some examples that I picked up on a mooch around the fair…

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8. Smile: Okay so selling doesn’t always come naturally to writers – at least not to me. I’ve only ever had one sales job and that was in a really tacky jewelers in the centre of Manchester where much of the merchandise fell to bits in my hands when I held it out for customers to look at it. At least my book won’t fall to pieces – thank you Fireship Press! But my point is that although this selling of books is tiring and tiresome… it is also kind of exciting to put your book in the hands of someone else. Even if your book is not selling on the day, keep smiling and be proud to be behind the table with a finished product. It’s a big achievement.

9. Snack: With all the stuff you need to remember – books, display items, giveaways, table coverings, chairs (very important!!) and cash to name a few – it is easy to forget that you will need to eat and drink. My day at Collingwood was LONG! Hockessin was nearly as long. I needed water and I needed snacks. All that smiling takes energy 😉

10. Socialise: So I didn’t make my fortune at Collingwood or Hockessin but I did have a very nice time! I spent the whole day with my local writing friends and feel better and stronger friends with them for having done so. I also met other people and shopped too! I’m particularly pleased with this:

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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!!

Links:

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Find it on Goodreads…

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Charlatan by Kate Braithwaite

Charlatan

by Kate Braithwaite

Giveaway ends October 14, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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I’m excited to have just listed my first ever giveaway on Goodreads. I was very easy to set up (well, okay, it didn’t work the first time but I probably pressed the wrong button) and it has started today. I’m fascinated to see how it goes. I’ve entered plenty of Goodreads Giveaways myself but I’ve not won one yet!

 

Struwwelpeter!

I’m just in the process of reviewing Rose Tremain’s new novel The Gustav Sonata for Bookbrowse and one of the things I loved in it were the references to Heinrich Hoffman’s 1840’s children’s classic Struwwelpeter – also known in English as Shockheaded Peter.

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It’s the most wonderfully bold illustrations and ten gruesome tales about the consequences in store for children who are dirty, rude or unkind –  all delivered in jaunty rhyming couplets. Some of these naughty young people get off relatively lightly. Johnny Head-in-air, for example, only ends up soaked and without his red writing book. Fidgety Philip rocks back on his chair and falls, pulling the tablecloth with all that is on it on top of himself.

Augustus Who Would Not Have Any Soup on the other hand, dies after only five days. Now we are talking. I can think of a certain child in my house that I should have read that one to.

We did have a copy of this book in the house when I was growing up and the two I really remember (pictures & story) are, not surprisingly, the most horrible.

Here is the key moment in The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb (not prizes for guessing what his behavioural issue was!):

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Oooh. Who could look at that great, long, red-legg’d scissor-man and not feel anxious? And look at the blood dripping. Snip! Snap! Snip! Gives me the shivers even now.

The same is true of my other ‘favourite’, “The Dreadful Story about Harriet and the Matches”. What a title! You can already guess what’s to come which makes it all the more enticing! Here’s the illustration that says it all:

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Don’t you just love the cats? They cry when she dies. It’s very sad.

Come to think of it, my brother never really did like lighting matches…

Recommended reading for all parents and overconfident children.