I originally come from a small town in Hampshire, England called Alton. Now I live in a village in Warwickshire. Both of places are significant to me because of their literary heritage. Both Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell lived and wrote only miles from Alton and George Eliot lived in the town next to where I live now. We have pubs named after her and a statue in the centre of town, she she’s still a big presence in the area.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It varied constantly. Most passionately, I wanted to be an archaeologist but, honestly, I think I would have struggled getting my nails dirty! Historical fiction is a nice clean way of enjoying history. I also wanted to be a lawyer, a journalist, an actress, a policewoman. All sorts!
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is called ‘The Angel’s Assassin.’ It is a medieval romance and is set in England during a baronial revolt in 1088. It was created out of a need to explore the idea of an anti-hero. Nicholas, the hero, is essentially a bad person and Annabel, my heroine, is the complete opposite. I loved how they interacted together; her sweet personality completely threw him off course. It was a battle to justify his being bad, and to document the change from bad to good, but I hope I nailed it.
Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
I always have short stories in the works. I have a series of medieval shorts called the ‘One Knight’ series in which couples come together in the space of one night (of course!). I plan on adding a few more to that though I’ve only got an inkling of an idea there.
My latest full length story is in the works, though I am only at the very beginning so I can’t say too much about it but it has two very sexy brothers in it and it explores the idea of love building when there’s a communication barrier. It will be set shortly after the Black Death.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Trying to keep things fresh can be difficult. When it comes to sexy scenes, there’s only so many ways you can describe certain things! I also struggle accepting negative feedback. I wear my heart on my sleeve and am not very thick skinned so inevitably it hurts when someone doesn’t enjoy my work. I know not everyone will, but it doesn’t stop it being painful.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Keep writing. You can get very bogged down with the marketing side of things but at the end of the day, the more great work you have out there, the more likely it is that people will read you.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I get burnt out but not really ‘blocked’. I was suffering with it today actually. Most of the time I normally open a new page and write a random scene, something that I enjoy, but today I wrote a short story that was absolutely nothing to do with my current book. It did help though and I think I’ll wake up tomorrow, ready to tackle it again. I know people say take a break, but I struggle to do that, so the best way for me is to just keep writing and see what comes out.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Elizabeth Gaskell is the one I can name. Her portrayal of Victorian England captures perfectly the humanity alongside the grittiness of life. She was an ardent observer of people and it comes across in her writing. I also love tons of romance authors, but I couldn’t name them as I devour romance.
What books have most influenced your life?
Certainly ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘North and South’ by Elizabeth Gaskell. They both have strong female leads that sit comfortably within their time. I think it made me realise that you can be strong and confident without shouting it from the rooftops. Just by being secure in yourself and the knowledge of what you’re doing can bring you far more satisfaction and contentment than trying to be the woman who has it all.
How did you deal with rejection letters?
With a shrug. A publisher’s opinion weighs far less heavily on me than a readers opinion. Praise from a reader means far more to me.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A pen and a notepad beside your bed, because you will get great ideas at 2am in the morning!
Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
I write battle scenes in some of my books and obviously medieval warfare was not pretty. I do try and convey some of the brutality of that time but not to the extent that it would turn your stomach. I will never write about medieval torture. I tried researching it once and it made me feel physically sick.
With erotic content, honestly, I’m comfortable with writing about most things. Strongly erotic scenes don’t have a place in my stories and they contain what I refer to as ‘sensual erotica’. It’s more about love making and the coming together of two soul mates, but I do like to make it as sexy and sensual as possible. I don’t think I would discount writing more explicit erotica one day but not as part of my historical collection.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
I don’t think I’ve done anything overly weird. I’ve studied sword fighting for some of my battle scenes and I like to re-enact it in my living room sometimes! I did visit Warwick Castle not long ago and they tried to rope me into helping launch the trebuchet. This meant standing in a giant wheel and running on it like a hamster! I declined as I’d just ascended the 500+ steps to the top of the castle and my legs were still shaking. I probably should have done it but I think I may have collapsed in the wheel, so I was content on just watching.