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 Anne O'Brien to Sunday Brunch
Welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Anne. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?
The perfect brunch for me: thick Greek yoghurt, mixed berries, and a sprinkle of granola, followed by granary toast and honey.
Would you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?
English Breakfast Tea please. I'll enjoy the alcohol later in the day!
Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?
Around the kitchen table. Kitchens are lovely intimate spaces for conversation.
Shall we have music playing in the background, and if so do you have a favourite piece of music?
Something without words that will not interfere with the chat. Pachelbel's canon perhaps, which is so soothingly baroque, which I often play when I am writing.
Which of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?
At present I am writing about Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, and his wife Joan de Geneville. Perhaps they could join us. And what an uneasy couple they would make. We would have to be very patient. Mortimer was one of the villains of medieval history, plotting against King Edward II and becoming involved in what must have been a sexual liaison with Queen Isabella. His marriage to Joan began as one of great compatibility but this was all destroyed as Joan was imprisoned for his rebellion, and he betrayed her. I would love to hear what they had to say to each other, particularly Joan's thoughts on the infidelity of her husband who was to pay the penalty for his rebellion in a traitor's death.
Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?
Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan
Here are two stories separated by the vicious intrigue of post war years in Italy, where relationships are not what they seem, but held together by the discovery of a fifteenth century painting. A tale of two dynamic women; of love and loss and betrayal, set in Rome and the surrounding countryside, all marvellously atmospheric, where the present day heroine must face the shadows in her own life if she is to achieve happiness.
I admit to being a constant fan of Elizabeth Buchan and thoroughly enjoyed this book over Christmas when I was taking a break from writing.
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 am a reader, a gardener and a visitor of churches and museums. Covid had put a crimp in the last one and winter hampers gardening apart from leaf collecting and tidying up, so reading is great pleasure. For Christmas I was given a splendid book. Dragons Heroes Myths & Magic: the Medieval Art of Storytelling. Beautifully written and magnificently illustrated, it is published by the British Library. It is a large book so needs a comfortable chair and a lap, a book to savour on a cold night with a cup of tea or a glass of wine. A perfect book of quests and journeys, heroes and heroines, villains, crime and murder, and of course love. I have not yet found the time to do it justice, but now with the New Year and cold weather I will.
Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?
Inspiration comes to me from the vast spread of the Plantagenet years. So many fantastic stories, so many women lurking in the shadows, women who barely step onto our historical stage. I still have a list of those whom I would like to investigate. The men are vivid also, either heroes or villains, or those who demand both our admiration and our condemnation. The Pastons are unusual since they had comparatively little connection with the Royal Court, but as female protagonists they cannot be bettered.
Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?
I have one room in my house put aside as an office/study with all my reference books and my PC so that I can close the door and concentrate. I don't mind winter or summer writing, but in winter I am not affected by guilt that I should be doing something urgent in my garden. Lockdown has been a trial though...
When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?
I don't write well under pressure of deadlines so I have to be disciplined and limit the distractions. The best way for me is to start writing early before breakfast to give me a head start. It is all in the mind, so if I feel that I have achieved something good at the beginning of the day, I can tackle the rest with ease and confidence.
Give us four essential items that a writer needs?
A laptop or PC - obviously essential.
Background music to suit the time of day or the subject to be written about.
A notebook and pen for all those essential notes, ideas, chapter headings and 'To Do' lists for quick reference. I carry them around with me. How often do ideas strike just as I am about to go to bed?
A kettle and a mug/tea bags ( all one item of course)
What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?
My latest novel is The Royal Game, bringing the marvellous letter-writing Paston family in Norfolk to life. What a remarkable group of women they were, playing a full, and sometimes contentious, role alongside their menfolk in their bid to rise from peasant to gentry in the 15th century against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses. My next novel is the sequel to The Royal Game which left a number of loose ends for the Paston women which demand to be tied up. The sequel also introduces a number of new dramatic and heart-breaking issues for them to face. But through it all the Paston women remain strong and wilful although not always as successful as we might like them to be. This will be published in 2022.
The Royal Game
King Henry IV’s grip on the crown hangs by a thread as the Wars of the Roses tear England apart. Everyone must choose between the Yorkists or the Lancastrians. And from the ashes of war, the House of Paston begins its rise to power.
Lead by three visionary women, the Pastons are a family of humble peasant beginnings who rely upon cunning and good fortune in order to survive.
Their ability to plot and scheme sees them overcome imprisonment, violence and betrayal, to eventually secure a castle and a place at the heart of the court as rightful members of the Royal Family. But success breeds jealousy and brings them dangerous enemies…
An story of intrigue, of courage, and of resilience, A Royal Game charts the rise of three remarkable women from poverty to the very heart of the Royal Family during a time of war.
Anne, where can we follow you on social media?
More about Anne O'Brien
Sunday Times Bestselling author Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Masters in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history, before becoming an international writer of historical fiction
Today she lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire. The area provides endless inspiration for her novels about the forgotten women of medieval history.
Thank you, Anne, for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.
Thank you for the invitation Jo. I enjoyed the opportunity.
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So interesting! Especially the comment about background music while writing. I play background music while reading. Terri in Kirkland, WAReplyDelete
Thanks you for commenting, I'm glad you enjoyed Anne's Sunday Brunch and that music works for you. I too listen to music when I am reading.Delete