Join me this morning in welcoming historical fiction author, Laura Purcell.
Writing is such a challenging endeavor. What got you started on it and what keeps you doing it?
I’ve always been an avid reader, so whenever I ran out of books I started scribbling little stories of my own to keep myself amused. I remember doing my own versions of “The Saddle Club” – starring me and my friends, of course – and later when I got into the series E.R, hospital romances. But the final push into full, completed stories came from Jane Austen. I adored (and still do) her works and the worlds she created, but was devastated when I found out she had only lived to write six completed manuscripts. My earliest work tried to imitate her, as I wrote the kind of stories I thought she would like, had she lived longer.
As for what keeps me writing – it’s sheer necessity! Writing is a bit of a drug for me, like caffeine. I get grouch and headachy if I don’t do it often. I’m compelled to write. That’s just who I am.
What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Did you still have them?
My long suffering brother was kind enough to read many of my early attempts, whilst others were foisted off onto school friends. Some I kept to myself. I did, rather stupidly, try to get an agent in my teens when I clearly wasn’t ready. Of course the manuscripts were rejected, but I’m kind of glad I went through that. It inured me to the inevitable rejection you come across in writing from an early age! I have hard copies of all these early efforts stashed away in my bottom drawer. It seems a shame to destroy what I worked so hard on – and besides, I can look at them now, cringe, and realize how far I’ve come.
What made you choose to write in the time period you write in?
I’ve already mentioned Jane Austen was a big influence, but there were also Georgian TV shows I grew up watching. Hornblower, Sharpe and The Scarlet Pimpernel were great favourites with me, and I think they subconsciously influenced me to love the period! I focus on the Georgian monarchy and have come to genuinely love the individuals who formed it. One major push that keeps me going is that few people know about them, and even less have tried to tell their stories.
What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?
I enjoy developing a character and showing different sides of their personality, especially with historical figures. It’s very satisfying to take historic sources and turn them into a three-dimensional, complex person. The bit I dislike has to be the endless redrafting. I’m happy enough during the first few, but when you get to version ten you start to go a bit crazy.
Historical fiction takes a lot of research. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?
Medicine, and especially surgery, was just horrific. I think the most memorable instance was Fanny Burney’s account of her mastectomy – without anesthetic! Because she was an author, she went into great detail, describing the way the knife scraped against her rib! Not for the faint-hearted.
What do you to keep all your research information and plot ideas organized and accessible?
Oh dear, they’re not very organized at all . . . I make summary sheets for characters and plots and draft out a time line. But I tend to have books littered all around my desk in easy reach for certain parts.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
It’s ok to be rubbish in the first draft. Let all the junk come out and edit it later. It won’t be perfect first time.
Tell us a little about your current project.
I’m currently working on a new draft of God Save the King for my agent before submitting to publishers. It tells the story of Queen Charlotte, who was married to the famously “mad” George III. She and her daughters made terrific sacrifices for his sake and, ultimately, paid the price of his illness.
What’s up next for you?
My next book is about the Regency play-boy George IV, who is often treated unfairly by history. Using the perspectives of his two wives and his daughter, I’m going to tell the tale of his extravagant, luxurious and rather tragic life.
You can find Laura online: