Do tell us about your latest novel The Lost Duchess
That's right, but there's no need to read Mistress of the Sea first to enjoy the story. The Lost Duchess is a stand alone book, though one of the characters (KitDoonan) also appears in my first novel. Both are epic romantic Elizabethan adventures.
The story follows Emme Fifield, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, and Kit Doonan, a handsome mariner with a troubled past, into the heart of the mystery surrounding the 'Lost Colony of Roanoke'. For anyone unfamiliar with that enigmatic episode in history, it concerns the very first attempt to found a permanent English colony in America. The project was pioneered by Sir Walter Raleigh, and the whole colony of over a hundred men women and children disappeared leaving only a few tantalising clues as to their fate. I won't reveal how the story provides a few possible answers to the questions that have puzzled historians for hundreds of years, or how the relationship ends which deepens between Emme and Kit, despite their disparity and the dark secrets they keep from one another, but I will say that at the heart of the novel is both a high-tension love story and an action-packed adventure with a thriller pace and lots of twists. I hope it will take the reader back to a time when America was a vast unknown wilderness and men and women risked everything to begin their lives afresh in a land that promised much and presented both beauty and terrible danger.
I outline very carefully on the basis of historical fact, but within each scene, and in the context of the overall story arc, the characters will usually take over. So, when the writing is going well, I hear them speaking and see the action unfold within my mind's eye as if I'm watching a film. In a strange way I feel as if I'm not doing anything at all except watching and jotting down what's happening in front of me. Those jottings then become the story. But in the early stages planning is all for me, and I like to work this way because I can get early inputs from those I work closely with - my agent and editor - rather than write a whole book and then possibly have to make major changes. I find their first stage feedback very helpful. My outlines are very detailed, about 10 pages long, and they'll have a summary of the historical accounts interspersed with the story as I envisage it based on this framework. Essentially the story fills in the gaps and brings the history to life - eventually the story becomes central and the history is simply the context.
You have set this book in the New World - how important is location to your story?
|The Elizabeth at Roanoke|
I like to write in my 'study' which is actually the dining room of the old farmhouse where I live now in Dorset. I have to confess I've taken this over, and the dining table is completely covered with my reference material and notepads! Sitting here I have a lovely view of the fields fronting our house - it's a view that helps free up my thinking!
|This one is especially for Jaffa...|
I have a long list of favourite authors. Some of those who have been profoundly influential, in no particular order, are: Rose Tremain, Hilary Mantel, Bernard Cornwell, Robert Graves, Louis de Bernieres, Stef Penney, Sebastian Barry, Tracy Chevalier, Barbara Ewing, Sebastian Faulks, Gore Vidal, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Barry Unsworth, Philippa Gregory, Suzannah Dunn, Ian McEwan... I'm afraid I could just keep on going with this, but as you can see my tastes are eclectic and straddle literary and commercial fiction.
Thank you so much for this interview and your interest in my work, it's been a huge pleasure to talk with you.
A little more about me and my writing can be found here:
Jenny has very kindly offered a giveaway copy of her book The Lost Duchess to one lucky winner
**This giveaway is open Internationally**