Monday 4 November 2013

My author spotlight falls on Jenny Barden....

I am delighted to welcome 



Jenny ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo. 
Do tell us about your latest novel The Lost Duchess

The Lost Duchess is a sequel to Mistress of the Sea:

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.

What can you tell us about the story that won’t give too much away?

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. 

Do you outline the plot first, or do you let the story go wherever it takes you?

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?

Location is crucial. I love exotic and unfamiliar settings, and I really enjoy writing stories that take the reader on a journey. In a way all novels involve an element of this since they take the reader out of their own life and into another fictional world, but my novels, at least so far, have involved long sea voyages and confrontation with the risks associated with such journeys in the past. They've also taken the reader to places that were once wild, savage and little explored. I love that. Researching the settings for my novels is an aspect of the job that I absolutely adore. I relished going to Roanoke Island, in the region known as Virginia in the sixteenth century, now North Carolina, finding locations as close as possible to those where the Lost Colonists would have tried to build their homes and encountered the native Algonquian Indians. I enjoyed poking around the Outer Banks - the outer barrier islands - and travelling all around the vast lagoon now known as the Pamlico Sound, taking pictures of cypress swamp and white sand islands, snakes and butterflies, and anything that might help me imagine the settings for the story. The New World, and Virginia in particular, was viewed as another Eden by many Elizabethans enthralled by the glowing reports brought back by the first explorers. This was a wonderful setting for a story - I was following a man and a woman into a garden of delights, only for them to discover that all was not quite as idyllic as first believed. 

The Elizabeth at Roanoke

Do you have a special place to do your writing?

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...

Which authors inspire you?

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.

Can you tell us what you are writing next?

Next will be another epic Elizabethan romantic adventure, this time based on the threat of invasion by the Spanish Armada, but it's in the very early outline stages at the moment. Hopefully I'll have more to say about this in a few months' time!...

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**

Jenny ~ thank you so much  for spending time with us. Jaffa and I have loved having you visit our blog. We wish you continued success with your writing career.
Come back and see us again soon



  1. Thank you for your kind interest (and I'm really glad that it's shared by both Jaffa and Parsnip my Bengal cat!)

    1. It was a real pleasure to host this interview with you Jenny.

      Thank you for spending time with us :)

      Love to Parsnip from Jaffa x

  2. Intriguing synopsis - a good introduction to an author I haven't read yet ..

    1. Welcome Diane. I am so pleased that you enjoyed this interview with Jenny. Thanks for visiting our blog.

  3. So glad you're intrigued, Diane!

  4. This sounds like a book I would love. I do like historical romance but never know what to go for so rely on good reviews, which is what I've found here. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Clare - thanks for visiting and taking the time to read Jenny's interview. :)

    2. ** Well done Clare on winning a copy of Jenny's lovely book **


Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffareadstoo appreciates your interest.