On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo
🍴I'm delighted to welcome, author, Maggie Richell-Davies to our Sunday Brunch today🍴
🍴Good morning, Maggie. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday lunch?
For nearly two years I lived in a remote pueblo on the Peruvian coast and would waylay local women (their thick black hair braided around their heads like licorice ropes) transporting their husbands’ catches from shore to market using straws threaded through the gills. I taught myself to filet a whole lenguado, similar to Dover sole, in order to make ceviche, a South American dish of white fish ‘cooked’ in a marinade of lime juice, then strained and mixed with chopped red onions tomatoes, green chillies and avocado. Delicious! Jaffa might like to share it with us, as long as we pick the chillies out for him.
🍴Would you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?
The proper accompaniment to ceviche would be a pisco sour cocktail, made with Peruvian grape brandy, sugar syrup, lime juice and whipped egg white, though that might have us all under the table. Better stick to every writer’s favourite fuel: caffeine.
🍴Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?
Since the kitchen table is a place for confidences - whether to let off steam about an unappreciative boss, reveal the agony of a broken love affair, or discuss research that you hope will make your next book in a page-turner – that has to be any writer’s favoured spot.
🍴Shall we have music playing the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy?
The tenor, Aled Jones, has recorded a medieval classic: Did You Not Hear My Lady, Go Down the Garden Singing, which tells of unrequited love in the days when marriages for the nobility were for dynastic reasons and the idea of Courtly Love was born. The poignant words melt my heart and if there is a tender scene to be written, never fail to put me in the mood.
🍴Which of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?
I would be too over-awed to conjure up Jane Austen, George Elliott or Charlotte Bronte (or even the very much alive Hilary Mantel), but would love the opportunity to meet contemporary historical novelist Sara Collins, whose magnificent The Confessions of Frannie Langton I have recently devoured: a cliff-hanging story that begins on a plantation in Jamaica and ends in a trial for murder at London’s Old Bailey.
🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?
I was bereft at finishing Andrew Miller’s Now We Shall Be Entirely Free. I never wanted it to end, despite being unable to put it down until I discovered the truth. His protagonist is a cavalryman, returning from the Peninsula war and suffering what we would recognise as post-traumatic stress. The young man has witnessed something that should never have happened. Something the authorities intend to pretend did not happen. As a man with a conscience, he is a worthy hero and one who encounters a heroine with faint echoes of Lizzie Bennett. Andrew Miller handles prose like poetry and his book is one I heartily recommend.
🍴When you are writing, do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for – yet?
I would rather starve than give up books, though if I have a deadline I ration myself to half an hour in bed before lights out. Fortunately, my husband is as enthusiastic a reader as I am. Any day now I will be heading to Waterstones to treat myself to Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet. Jaffa will not be surprised to learn that when Maggie was struggling to write a difficult scene in the book about the death of Shakespeare’s son, she apparently hid herself away in her children’s Wendy House, accompanied only by her indispensable cat, in order to get it absolutely right.
🍴What’s the oldest book on your bookshelf?
A dog-eared copy of Black Beauty was included in the book box that accompanied me to Africa and South America as the young bride of an civil engineer working for the United Nations – and still brought a tear to my eye last year, when I read it for the umpteenth time. To teach young people compassion for animals is perhaps the finest writerly accomplishment.
🍴Where do you find inspiration for your novels?
This usually happens when I am confronted by a historic injustice and can’t get it out of my head.
🍴Have you a favourite place to settle down to write, and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?
To remove myself from the distraction of domestic chores, I find the wonderful coffee shops of Tunbridge Wells the perfect place to create fictional worlds. Much of The Servant was written (or re-written) in Taste Well in Royal Victoria Place, The Cake Shed in the historic Pantiles, or the Porcupine Pantry at our local stately home, Penshurst Place. I can write equally freely in winter or summer, though not so well in heatwaves.
🍴Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs:
· A supply of small notebooks to keep in pocket or handbag, the bedside drawer, the glove compartment of the car, or beside the sofa. Because, if you fail to jot that phrase or idea down, it will vanish.
· A sense of humour, for when the persistence inevitably flags.
· A cat. Reading one’s work out loud is the most helpful thing any writer can do, yet doing so to one’s nearest and dearest makes them nervous: might honesty banish them to the spare room? Reading aloud to oneself feels foolish. But reading to a cat is perfect. While a dog would merely look reproachful about not getting a walk, a feline companion will fold its elbows comfortably under its chest and regard you with an inscrutable expression until you have finished. Which will make you question anything that is a little too purple, and confident about passages that feel just right. My own cat, Gizzie, is perfect at this and loves nothing better than being near a book.
🍴What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?
My debut novel, The Servant, published this spring, was inspired by a visit to London’s Foundling Museum, which displays heart-breaking scraps of lace and ribbon that desperate women left as tokens in the hope that they might, one day, be able to reclaim their precious child. In particular, there was a tiny square of silk with my own initials embroidered on it in red silk that tugged at my heart. What tears must have been shed during its creation?
My current work-in-progress doesn’t yet have a title, but has been inspired by a shocking fact that I discovered last year about the death penalty for women in eighteenth-century England.
Maggie, where can we follow you on social media?
Born on the north-east coast of England, Maggie lived in Peru, Africa and the United States while married to her first husband, a civil engineer who worked for the United Nations.
She has a first class honours degree from the Open University and won the Historical Writers’ Association 2020 Unpublished Novel award this spring with her debut thriller, The Servant, plus a publishing contract from Sharpe Books.
Thanks so much, Maggie, for joining us for Sunday Brunch
It's been great fun
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