Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Diana Reviews: "Earl of Shadows: A moving historical novel about two brothers in 18th century England", by Jacqueline Reiter

Two brothers are locked in a life-long struggle to fulfil their destinies.

John and William are the elder and younger sons of 18th century political giant William Pitt. The father is a man of great principle and a great orator. Twice Prime Minister, he accepts the title Earl of Chatham in recognition of his services to the British nation. But his death on the floor of the House of Lords deals a devastating blow to the family.

Forced to forego his military career, John inherits the title and a debt-ridden estate. William inherits the gilded tongue that will make him the brilliant rising star. John sees the problem looming, but the little brother cannot succeed without the big brother’s support. At the most critical moment John runs away from his responsibilities and his brother. It proves to be a fatal mistake.

Can John ever make amends and find forgiveness? Or will he continue to hold onto a pain that has almost become part of himself? Can he escape the long shadow of destiny?

This incredible novel charts the life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, from just before the death of his father, 'Pitt the Elder' in 1778, to 1806.

The author easily and confidently introduces the protagonist of the story; John Pitt, elder son and heir of William Pitt the Elder  and the other main players immediately seem to come alive in Dr Jacqueline Reiter'scapable hands, letting the reader know key details without ever feeling they are being taught or reading a lecture. Immediately the reader is made to understand that whilst he is the eldest, John Pitt is very much the underdog in his family.

He appears as a empathetic and warm man, not really geared for the life that birth has chosen for him. His empathy for his ailing father during Pitt the Elders last, disastrous political speech, is movingly  portrayed and then John's sudden shock, his realisation, that he is the one in charge sets the scene for his struggle to be Lord Chatham for the rest of his life. After his father's death, we feel John's despair, pain and bitterness as the life he has envisioned for himself turns to clay, causing a rift between him and his brother, Pitt the Younger. Throughout the book the love / hate relationship between the siblings in realistically and vividly described, the reader feeling in turn for John and William, often being able to see both sides and empathise with them both but realising just how deep their emotional bond is.

The narrative flows easily and conversation is realistic and it is not long before I became rather infatuated with John - (what was that Dr. Reiter? That I must join the queue??) This, to me, is a true test of a character, if I can actually develop real feelings for them. The easy flowing narrative, however, belies the depth of the story and the enormous amount of detail that it contains.

The first part of the book is set during the period of the American war, the machinations of which which were very well explained without tedium, allowing the reader to get a grasp of the necessary details without being bogged down with trivia. I never thought that I would find 18th century politics fascinating and easily understood, but being such a natural part of the plot, I 'soaked them up' and found them an enjoyable part of the book.

The wedding night of John and his bride Mary, is so beautifully described, without smuttiness or unnecessary detail, but with a tenderness and love that is movingly and touchingly described. To say that I felt I was there, makes me sound like some sort of voyeur! but I genuinely got the impression that I was witnessing their act of love.

Everything in the book is so meticulously researched that things as diverse as setting a broken leg,the political situation in Ireland, the inside of the Downing Street house, the ministrations for a serious fever ... all have their place in the narrative and the reader can be confident that the information that is being read is correct.

Such are the emotions the book raised in me, that when John is 'demoted, disgraced, destroyed', I cried so much that I was unable to read any more that day. (I also had a very strong desire to physically harm Dundas, but that is another matter!)

As I know from personal experience, the emotions brought about by John's alienation from his brother are truthfully, painfully and vividly told...

"William set his lips, but the anger in his face melted into fear as John took a step towards the door. ‘John, don’t go.’ 
‘You are no longer my Minister,’ John said. ‘You have no need for me.’ 
‘I am still your brother.’ The burst of fury John felt at those words took him by surprise. He spun round and William flinched. 
‘No, you are not my brother. You have never been my brother. I have always been yours, and you have no conception of how hard it has been to bear that knowledge all my life.’ William sat open-mouthed, his eyes strangely dilated. John braced himself for the attack that never came. Instead William’s face crumpled and he burst into convulsive tears. John was too stunned to move. He had expected anger, coldness, perhaps even indifference, but not this clear evidence that his words had wounded William more than he had ever been wounded before. What made it so much worse was that even now John had to fight the instinct to lower his weapons, to offer assistance, to surrender. Even now, after everything, he felt guilty. 
And then William made it a thousand times worse. He looked up at his brother and said, ‘I am sorry, John. I’m sorry.’ 
Nothing in the world would induce John to admit these were the very words he had awaited during the whole period of their estrangement. Once they might have been enough, but John had spent six years stewing in unfulfilled bitterness. He set his lips and told a lie. ‘I do not care.’ He tensed himself for William’s next attempt to keep him from leaving the room. Somewhat to his surprise nothing came. John felt a pulse of disappointment ..."

In his attempt to be his own man, John deals William a body blow, but which brother suffers the most from this?

Jacqueline Reiter's exquisite writing takes one not just to the heart of the matter, but to the emotion of the matter. She writes so much from the heart, they are not just characters in a book. They are not just distant historical people. They are warm and loving, living humans that we grow to know and love. I cannot praise the book highly enough.

Jacqueline Reiter has a PhD in late 18th century British history from Cambridge University. She has been researching the Pitt family for many years, focusing particularly on the life of the 2nd Earl of Chatham, whose nonfiction biography she has also written. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and their two young children, both of whom probably believe Lord Chatham lives in their house.

You may read more about Jacqueline in 'Diana talks to Jacqueline Reiter'

The author's nonfiction book about Lord Chatham is available from Amazon. The late LordDiana's review  of this excellent book may be viewed here:

© Diana Milne, October 2017

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Diana talks to the writing team of Gary Williams & Vicky Knerly

I am sure that you are tired of being asked the usual questions that would be interviewers ask authors, so hopefully this interview is an interview with a difference and I have come up with some unusual questions!

Hello! I am pleased to welcome you both to 'Diana Talks' ... I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
We’ll pose a question that we get asked often. How do two people write as one? Contrary to what folks might think, we don’t divvy up chapters. Gary doesn’t take all the odd numbered chapters; Vicky all the even. Our process starts with an idea that we discuss turning into a story. Next, we create a chapter outline, which includes story timing, characters, mysteries revealed, mysteries solved, etc. We do initial research if needed. From there, we move to writing. Gary generally takes the first pass, then Vicky makes a second pass. Thus, our writing is layered. In this manner, we maintain a consistency of story flow and pace.

What is the genre you are best known for? Thrillers. To date, we haven’t strayed from this genre, although sometimes they border on mysteries and have been known to have a supernatural element to some of them.

If your upcoming book, provisionally titled Blood Legacy, was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
Blood Legacy, releasing early in 2018, marks our second full-length novel with American CIA Agent Samuel Tolen. We first introduced Tolen in the short story, Before the Proof, and he was subsequently featured in our best-selling novel, Indisputable Proof. We once had Denzel Washington pegged as our perfect actor to play Tolen, an African American in his mid-40s. Since a few years have slipped away, we feel either Shemar Moore, most recently of the American television series Criminal Minds, or Idris Elba, star of many popular movie thrillers, would be more age-appropriate choices.

What made you choose this genre? For Gary, it’s what he most enjoys reading. It’s the action, mysteries, deception, clues, and treasure hunts that appeal to him. Writers such as Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Matthew Reilly, Steve Berry, James Rollins. For Vicky, who has a love of the English language and teaches business writing to sometimes unwilling students, it’s about the escape into realms where action, adventure, and plot lines take precedence over form, style, and function.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters? Mostly from uncovering or learning about a historic mystery or some nugget of historical information that we find fascinating and that’s not general knowledge. In this way, it gives us an opportunity to educate our readers. We always make sure to include Authors’ Notes at the end of each novel to specify what information in the story is factual and what comes from our imagination.

Favourite picture or work of art? Gary: I consider manmade structures a work of art. With that said, I’m going with the Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau in Egypt. Vicky: One of my all-time favorite (I’m using the American spelling of this word!) paintings is by Salvador Dali.  It’s titled Lincoln in Dalivision, and it incorporates a number of themes into a single image. It’s a brilliant piece of work.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Funny you should ask. As a side project, we’re working on a humorous book. We haven’t even mentioned it to our publisher, so we’re not sure when it will be finished or who might publish it, as our publisher specifically handles thrillers and mysteries. We have no timeline for completion, so we’ll have to see what happens.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously?
For both of us, it was a later-in-life decision. Gary was in his mid-forties, still working full-time in the corporate business world, and had self-published some books, one of which Vicky read. While she liked the story, they needed rewrites and editorial work. This was how we met, when Vicky gave Gary feedback on a novel in late 2007. From there, Gary suggested that we team up. Even though we’ve never lived in the same city, by early next year we’ll have published our 8th novel.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Gary: I had to look it up. Never heard of it. Based on the description, I think I’ll pass. Vicky: I tried Vegemite when I was in Australia, and it was ok.  I’ll try anything once!

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
Gary: Not really. I just need quiet, uninterrupted time. When figuring out the plot, especially if there’s a snag, I tend to do it while highway driving, or some other rote activity that frees my mind. I think more clearly.
Vicky: Since I work a full-time job at a university, teach as an adjunct professor, and am currently a doctoral student working on my dissertation, writing is my “me time,” so it happens in the evenings and on weekends, and like Gary, I prefer chunks of quiet, uninterrupted time.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Gary: I’m not answering this on the grounds it could incriminate me. Vicky:  Haha, I have to agree with Gary on this one, but just so you know, I’ve cried when we kill off a character in previous novels.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Gary: I think I’d like to own a bar as long as I had enough capital not to worry about slowdowns in business.
Vicky: I’ve always wanted to grow grapes and make wine in Italy (when I retire).

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Gary: Definitely coffee. Not a big wine drinker; I prefer craft beers. Vicky: Coffee in the morning, hot tea in the afternoon, and red wine at night.  They are the elixirs of life!

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
As mentioned before, once we have an idea and characters, we outline each chapter. Although, truthfully, it’s a loose outline that we continually adjust as we write. Sometimes, it’s because we think of a better way to accomplish a scene. Sometimes, it’s because we learn a fact (maybe historical?) that we realize we should integrate into the plot. Because of how we create mysteries and sometimes lead our characters to incorrect assumptions, an outline is critical to keeping us sane as we write.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
It’s done in Times New Roman 12 pt. It works for us.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Gary: I would love to get my hands on the historical documents that were lost in the fire that consumed the Library of Alexandria nearly 2,000 years ago. The amount of historical records lost was staggering. Vicky: The original of the U.S. Constitution.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
No, can’t say that’s happened to us. The outline prevents it, although they may occasionally make odd comments or do quirky things.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
Research? Tons and tons. We ingrain history into every novel, so research is paramount. We have taken a few trips to scout out scene locations or attend academic lectures.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
We tend to keep real characters at bay. Although, for mild comic relief, we have named fictional characters after real people. For example, in our trilogy (Death in the Beginning, Evil in the Beginning, and End in the Beginning), one of the star players is named Curt Lohan. On multiple occurrences, he is forced to deny any ancestry to an actress bearing this same last name.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
Absolutely. In our eyes, the best fiction takes something real, something tangible (place, people, history) and then bends the events into an interesting story. We constantly take those tangibles and ask, “What if?” to extrapolate possible scenarios that might have been or might be. The trick is to do so in a way that makes the story believable, unless you’ve already identified the plot as “beyond the realm of possibility.” This is the reason we specify at the end of each story what is real and what is fiction.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
Yes, and that’s a good thing, since that’s how we make our living.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
All writers tend to fall in love with their protagonists and antagonists. You love them for their good and their evil. It’s like a parent will always love their children no matter what they do. The hardest part is killing off a protagonist that you’ve grown especially fond of. It’s like losing a family member.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Gary: Same as what we write: thrillers & mysteries. I do enjoy the occasional biography or non-fiction work based on some historical incident. Beyond that, I enjoy researching the Internet for articles on new historical finds.
Vicky: Reading for pleasure? What’s that?

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Gary: I’m always partial to a good IPA beer. Or maybe a red ale. Vicky: Whatever one’s favorite beverage of choice might be.

Last but not least... favourite author?

Gary: I think I’d have to say Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Vicky: That’s a tough one, because I love so many.  Other than that dynamic duo, Williams and Knerly, I’d have to go with Stephen King for the sheer variety and deliciously bizarre plots that come out of that man’s brain.

Books by Williams and Knerly are available here

You can catch the duo at their Facebook page or Twitter @WilliamsKnerly

About the duo:

Gary Williams was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and resides in St. Augustine, Florida with his wife. He attended Florida State University and has a bachelor's degree in Business Marketing from University of North Florida. Once a corporate manager, he now writes full time. His hobbies and interests include reading, fishing, history, and football.

Vicky Knerly is a native of Syracuse, New York. She has two sons and currently resides in Melbourne, Florida. She has a bachelor's degree in English and two masters' degrees, and she has won awards for her research-based writing. She currently works as the Assistant Director of Student Services and is an adjunct professor for Florida Institute of Technology.

Gary Williams and Vicky Knerly partnered in 2008 and, in 2011, they signed with Suspense Publishing based in Los Angeles, California.

In August 2014, Amazon Publishing relaunched Williams and Knerly's digital titles: Death in the Beginning (The God Tools: Book 1), Evil in the Beginning (The God Tools: Book 2), Before the Proof, Three Keys to Murder, Manipulation, and their best-selling title, Indisputable Proof.

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Gary Williams & Vicky Knerly 2017

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Heroines of the Medieval World - Nicholaa de la Haye

Heroines of the Medieval World
Today our very own Sharon Bennett Connolly stops by The Review on her 2-week long blog tour for Heroines of the Medieval World, with a signed, hardback copy of the book to give away. If you would like to be in with a chance of winning this wonderful book, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. 
The draw will made on Wednesday 15th November.
Good luck! 

It's a pleasure to drop in at the Review on what has been a hectic - but fun - two-week blog tour. I thought I would share an extract from the book for this post, but couldn't decide which. So  Diana came to my rescue and chose her favourite heroine: Nicholaa de la Haye, who just happens to be my favourite too.

Nicholaa was a wonderful character whose lifetime spanned the reigns of Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, King John and Henry III . As castellan of Lincoln Castle, she withstood not one, but three sieges in her career. In the first, when she held the castle for Prince John against William Longchamps, Richard I's justiciar, she held out for 40 days before the siege was lifted after John's other castles at Nottingham and Tickhill were taken. In 1216 she prevented a second siege by paying off a rebel army, led by Gilbert de Gant, who had occupied the city of Lincoln.

An here's an extract from the end of King John's reign, when Nicholaa was castellan of Lincoln Castle, leading up to the third siege:

 "Nicholaa de la Haye and her husband are among the few barons who stayed faithful to John throughout his reign. Gerard de Canville died in 1215, but Nicholaa was able to retain Lincoln Castle. King John had managed to upset practically every baron in England, with his despotic and heavy-handed ways. In 1215 open rebellion was thwarted when John signed Magna Carta, a long, detailed document dealing with the barons’ particular grievances, but touching the whole system of government and including arbitrary fines and the exploitation of wardship. John ‘had broken the spirit of kingship’. John was soon writing to the pope to have Magna Carta annulled and England was plunged into rebellion. The barons even invited the French dauphin, Louis, to join them and make a play for the throne. Louis was the son of John’s erstwhile friend Philip II Augustus, King of France, and the husband of his niece Blanche, who was the daughter of his sister Eleanor, Queen of Castile. Louis and his men had landed on the Isle of Thanet on 14 May 1216. Louis advanced through Kent and took Canterbury before moving onto Winchester. John seems to have been undecided as to how to act; he sent his oldest son Henry to safety at Devizes Castle in Wiltshire. Dover Castle, under the command of Hubert de Burgh, held out against the French and rebel forces, as did Windsor and Lincoln. The northern barons ‘were defeated in their attempts to take Lincoln. A certain lady called Nicola, who was the custodian’s wife, freed herself from this siege with a money payment.’

Even John’s loyal barons were now beginning to turn on him, including his cousin the Earl of Warenne. John moved north, devastating the Isle of Axeholme ‘with fire and sword’ before arriving at Lincoln in September 1216, just days after the besieging army had departed with their payment. Nicholaa met the king at the eastern postern gate of the castle. She offered the keys of the castle to the king, claiming she was unable to continue with the office of castellan due to her great age. John is said to have replied, ‘My beloved Nichola, I will that you keep the castle as hitherto until I shall order otherwise.’When Nicholaa spoke of her ‘great age’ she wasn’t exaggerating. She was probably around sixty years old at the time, a great age in those days, but John still had great confidence in her and just a few days before his death, John granted Nicholaa the position of Sheriff of Lincoln in her own right, despite the fact her son Richard was now a grown man and able to inherit the position. As King John moved on from Lincoln, he contracted a violent fever and died of dysentery at Newark on 19 October 1216. The new king was now John’s nine-year-old son, Henry III, with the famous and redoubtable William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, acting as reluctant regent.

Support began to fall away from Louis, who returned to France to recoup his strength. In early 1217 he returned to continue the fight. An armed force under the Comte de Perche moved on Lincoln. He took the town, which was unprepared for attack, and laid siege to the castle, still in Nicholaa’s charge. Louis himself travelled to Lincoln to request the surrender of the castle, promising Nicholaa there would be no reprisals, no one would be hurt. Nicholaa refused and settled in for another long siege. Despite the French army outside her walls, she may have been quietly confident; this was, after all, her third siege and no one had ever managed to breach the walls. Lincoln Castle is a rather large fortress, sitting opposite the impressive cathedral and perched on the top of a bluff – the hill going down to the town is not named Steep Hill for nothing. However, this siege was going to last longer than the others. From March through to May, Louis’ forces battered the walls of Lincoln Castle. The French prince had brought impressive siege engines, leaving them at Perche’s disposal when he returned to London, fully expecting to hear of Lincoln’s capitulation within weeks, if not days.

However, he did not count on the tenacity of Nicholaa and her deputy, Sir Geoffrey de Serland, who rallied their troops and resisted the combined Anglo-French forces of the Comte de Perche, and awaited reinforcements."

If you would like to catch up on the rest of the Heroines of the Medieval World Blog Tour, which includes extracts, reviews and articles, just follow the links:
 Tony Riches' The Writing Desk; extract on St Julian of Norwich
 Annie Whitehead; review and extract on Aethelflaed
 The Henry Tudor Society; article, All For Love, comparing the love stories of Katherine Swynford and her granddaughter Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scotland.
 Sarah Bryson; article, Heroines Without a Sword, discussing the lives of St Margaret of Scotland and Maud de Braose.
 Susan Higginbotham's History Refreshed; an extract on Joan, Lady of Wales.
 Medieval Archives; an extract on Hildegard of Bingen.
 Kristie Dean; a review and extract on Anne of Kiev, queen of France.
 Stephanie Churchill; an interview with Sharon.
 Lil's Vintage World; a You Tube video review of Heroines of the Medieval World.
 Sara Hana-Black;
Amy Licence;
SJA Turney;;

Sharon Bennett Connolly has been fascinated by history for over 30 years.She has studied history at university and worked as a tour guide at several historic sites. She has lived in Paris and London before settling down back in a little village in her native Yorkshire, with husband James and their soon-to-be-teenage son.
Sharon has been writing a blog entitled 'History...the Interesting Bits' for a little over 2 years and has just finished her first non-fiction work, 'Heroines of the Medieval World'. The book looks at the lives of the women – some well known and some almost forgotten to history – who broke the mould; those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history.

Sharon can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Heroines of the Medieval World,  is now available in hardback in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It is also available on Kindle in both the UK and USA and will be available in Hardback from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Diana talks to Catherine Curzon, aka Madame Gilflurt

Hello Catherine. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me! Let us start right away...

What is the genre you are best known for?
Historical non-fiction. I suspect that Im best known for my rip-roaring tales of Georgian royals. I skip from the scandalous to the sublime, with plenty of sauce and grisly details along the way.

If your latest book, Queens of Georgian Britain, was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

The book tells the story of the three queens of Georgian Britain and the queen who never was, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, so it would make a perfect ensemble TV series. Of course this means that there wouldnt be one lead as such, but four queens and the kings they married, from childhood to death. Id leave the casting up to the experts but with a couple of caveats - Id love King George III and Queen Charlotte to be played by my wonderful friends, Adrian Lukis and Caroline Langrishe, both of whom Im lucky enough to work with on our show, An Evening with Jane Austen. In fact, the more I think about it, the more perfect they would be. They have a wonderful chemistry and would capture the intense, occasionally absurd years of George IIIs reign marvellously.

What made you choose this genre?
History has been my passion since early childhood, when my granddad told me the story of Marie Antoinettes execution. He was a consummate teller of tales but that one really stuck with me and I went through a phase at drawing beheaded queens when I was about five years old. Heaven knows what my teachers though, but the impact was clearly long lasting!

Favourite picture or work of art?
Joshua Reynolds sublime 1784 work, Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse. Its one of the most striking paintings Ive ever seen, all the more so because the colours are so muted, with shadowy, threatening figures emerging from behind Sarah Siddons as though from a dream. Mrs Siddons was the quintessential Georgian leading lady and the portrait caused a sensation.

As a devotee of the theatre, I would have given anything to see her perform, but Reynolds has at least left a suggestion of her powers in his work.
Reynolds signed his name across the bottom of Mrs Siddons's dress and told her, "I have resolved to go down to posterity on the hem of your garment.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Im fortunate to be able to cross genres and Ive written published fiction as diverse as tales of 18th century highwaymen, the trenches of World War I (that novel will be out in 2018) and even a short tale of a reluctant superhero-turned-Latin-teacher in 1950s London!

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
Ive always written for as long as I can remember, so it certainly wasnt a conscious decision. In fact, to not write would have to be a conscious decision, and an unthinkable one - I dont think I could ever do it! I wrote my first novel when I was in my teens and I still have it, though its for my eyes only. Its a vast, rather out of control and utterly bizarre tale of modern day medical horror set in a small US town. I like to think that Ive rather matured as a writer since then!

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
I havent tried it since I was 12, so thats nearly thirty years ago. I do love a Marmite cracker though, so the signs are good!

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or that piece of music...??
Whenever Im writing my occasional jokey blog posts as George Wickham, I always write longhand in a beautiful journal, and Mr Wickham just seems to spring into life on the page in a way he never does on screen. Im working on a brand new project for the theatre now and that, too, is going into that journal in longhand.
I cant write with the television on but always listen to music when I work, usually something that I know very well so I dont end up listening to the lyrics rather than working.
Beyond that its just me and the laptop and lots and lots of tea.

I promise I wont tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Both have their moments!

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Im a full time author, so I already get to do my dream job, and the job Ive always wanted. I spend my working days writing about what I love, I perform with an actor Ive been a fan of for more than 20 years and I get to meet lovely people and speak at amazing venues - Im living my dream!

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Tea for me, please. I dont really drink much alcohol at all but if you insist, mines a G&T!

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
I plan, but I always let the muse take over wherever necessary - I follow the road as it reveals itself but I never lose sight of my destination.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
Georgia, love it!

Cornish clotted cream fudge or strawberry fudge?
Clotted cream fudge, I think, though Id prefer a very, very bitter dark chocolate.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Thats an easy one for me! I dream of seeing the love letters that George IV wrote to Maria Fitzherbert, his secret wife. Sadly, Maria and Wellington burned them in her hearth following the kings death so theyre lost to us forever.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
Oh my goodness, my life sometimes feels like one extended research session! My favourite trip was one to Windsor Castle last year. We were shown around by a friend of mine and it was one of the most marvellous experiences Ive ever had - one could imagine George IV strutting about ahead of us and singing his own praises!

Authors of non-fiction have to contend with real characters doing their own thing. Are there any real characters you have been tempted to ignore because you just dont like them or they spoil the *plot*?
No, never. In non-fiction, the plot as it is wouldnt exist without every player, so I owe each and every one of them a debt, from the valet to the queen and everyone in between!

How important to you is correct historical detail in tourist orientated venues?
Very, as anyone who was at Chatsworth with me this autumn can attest.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
Not as such, but Ive come to regard some of them as old and very dear friends, and some of the stories in my first book, Life in the Georgian Court, were heartbreaking to research and write. Telling the tale of a young Russian emperor who was thrown in prison at three years old and kept there until his death decades later was one of the most emotionally jarring things Ive ever done and the death of George III never fails to move me. Happily, I can always turn away from that to Prinnys love life and indulge myself in a few scandalous tales!

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
The same material I use for research - Horace Walpoles diaries are a constant delight!

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Hot chocolate, just like Caroline of Ansbach, one of the queens featured in the book. She just couldnt get enough hot chocolate, so its the perfect accompaniment!

Last but not least... favourite author?
Laurence Stern. Everyone should read Tristram Shandy and if you already have, go back and read it again!

Queens of Georgian Britain is available from Amazon. 

About the book:

Once upon a time there were four kings called George who, thanks to a quirk of fate, ruled Great Britain for over a century. Hailing from Germany, these occasionally mad, bad and infamous sovereigns presided over a land in turmoil. Yet what of the remarkable women who were crowned alongside them?

From the forgotten princess locked in a tower to an illustrious regent, a devoted consort and a notorious party girl, the queens of Georgian Britain lived lives of scandal, romance and turbulent drama. Whether dipping into politics or carousing on the shores of Italy, Caroline of Ansbach, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Caroline of Brunswick refused to fade into the background.

Queens of Georgian Britain offers a chance to step back in time and meet the women who ruled alongside the Georgian monarchs, not forgetting Sophia Dorothea of Celle, the passionate princess who never made it as far as the throne. From lonely childhoods to glittering palaces, via family feuds, smallpox, strapping soldiers and plenty of scheming, these are the queens who shaped an era.

About Catherine Curzon:

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian. She is the author of Life in the Georgian Court, Kings of Georgian Britain, and Queens of Georgian Britain (to be released in October 2017).

Her work has been featured on, the official website of BBC History Magazine and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has provided additional research for the sell-out show, An Evening with Jane Austen, at the V&A. Catherine has spoken at events and venues including the Bath Jane Austen Festival, Stamford Georgian Festival, Kenwood House, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, Lichfield Guildhall, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes historical fiction. Her novels, The Crown Spire, The Star of Versailles, and The Mistress of Blackstairs, are available now.

She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill with a rakish colonial gentleman, a boisterous hound and a tranquil feline.

Visit her online salon at 

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Catherine Curzon 2017