I hope visitors to my site here on WordPress like the new book-covers and the fresh over-all look my very good friend Carol has worked so hard to create.
This time, in renewing the About Me page, I thought I’d try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions. The obvious one to begin with is what made me start writing – and the answer is that same thought that I suspect has occurred to nearly everyone at some time or another. You know the one. You’re reading something dreadful and think ‘I could do better than that.’ (Please don’t ask me what that particular book was – I honestly can’t remember!) But the thought stuck with the result that I decided to find out if I actually could write a book … and so Lucifer’s Champion was born. Born, I should add, but not published – at least not then. That happened later – by which time poor Lucifer had been through so many incarnations it was neither fish nor fowl. As I’ve said many times, it will not be making a re-appearance in e-format.
But to resume … writing is a sort of bug; the kind that, once you’ve caught it, is quite hard to shake off. So I put Lucifer to one side, got an agent and started a new book – The Marigold Chain – and this time, I got lucky and it was picked up by Fontana paperbacks.
Next came A Splendid Defiance – the first of my Civil War novels and possibly, still, the one dearest to my heart. I love the seventeenth century and Banbury made the perfect backdrop – a town full of Puritans and a castle held for four years and through an epic fourteen-week siege by the Cavaliers. It was a wonderful opportunity to tell the true story of just one English castle and the real men who defended it. Young Sir William Compton has become such an old friend that I actually own a portrait of him.
Then a change of pace with The Parfit Knight and The Mesalliance. Why the mid-Georgians rather than the Regency, you might ask. I could be flippant and say I’ve a fondness for men with long hair … which would be true but isn’t by any means the whole story. I find the period more robust and less constrained; and the fashions in general – but particularly for the men – were much more flamboyant and, in my opinion, sexier.
But, having written Defiance, a return to the civil war was almost inevitable. This time, however, came a struggle to construct and write something a lot more complex; and the result was The Black Madonna – the book everyone knows was supposed to be the first of a quartet but which, for a very long time, remained the first of only two. Perhaps it was naive of me to think I could fit the entire period – 1639 to 1660 into five books but that’s hindsight talking. Garland of Straw, thanks to the political complexities and eventually the trial and execution of Charles l, was even more of a challenge. Some readers find it too much one where, for others, it’s a firm favourite. The problem with writing a sequence of novels covering a period of over twenty years is that I can only work with the military and political realities of the time in question. The history is not a choice; it exists and can only be re-told. My task as a novelist is merely to use it as best I can in the story I set against it.
So … why did I stop? There were a number of reasons. Some personal and some professional; but the main reason was that I’d stopped enjoying it. Writing had become a fight, not a pleasure … and one doesn’t do well what one doesn’t enjoy. The book that finally, just a year ago, became The King’s Falcon was about 30% written when I realised that I didn’t know where it was going and had absolutely no desire in finding out.
So I stopped writing and did other things. My husband and I founded and ran a very successful amateur theatre group; I worked for an accountant; I learned salsa dancing; from time to time, I even wrote a few pages of this or that, all of which ended up in the cupboard. Then my husband bought me a thing I’d always sworn I didn’t want. He bought me a Kindle.
And that, my friends, is how and why my back-catalogue gradually became available in e-format … and the sole reason why I blew the dust off The King’s Falcon, re-worked everything I’d already done, re-vamped the plot and wrote on to the end. The only part of the book that survived more or less intact from the original draft was the Worcester campaign; everything else changed direction.
And The Player? Well, that was written to fulfill a different sort of challenge but also, for fun and relaxation away from serious historical research. Also, in the last year I’ve released all the titles in paperback for those readers who prefer an actual book and am delighted with the quality of the finished product.
Finally, as most readers are well-aware, I’m currently writing the 4th book in the Roundheads & Cavaliers series – known in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion here at home as The Eden Project. I promised to do it in less than twenty years. Maybe next spring?