Starbucks and Guinea pigs keep this superhero going. Read on and find out more…
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes?
My “origins” would be quite dark, though not on a scale with Batman! I always liked reading, but it only became a huge part of my life as a teenager, when I suffered from an eating disorder. I was too weak to attend PE lessons (that’s gym class for my friends in the US) so I got sent to the library. It was there I found Austen, Dickens, Bronte and Hardy. When I had to take time off school, I read and wrote my own stories to keep my mind occupied.
What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
My early efforts were Regency romances with exaggerated characters and what I thought then was witty dialogue. Now they’re cringe-worthy, but I keep them all the same. It helps you to remember how far you’ve come – and to keep going when a first draft is rubbish.
I promise we won’t tell. My alter-ego works in an office as an administrator for a finance company. She is very bored.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
My sidekicks are my husband and my guinea-pigs, who make me laugh and provide me with super hugs. My husband also makes a super cup of tea, though he rarely unleashes the power…
Where do you get your superpowers from?
Caffeine. Ideally Starbucks lattes, but I’ll accept instant.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
My secret lair is my desk in the study. It’s very, very messy with research books strewn at all angles. I also have a collection of toys and collectable figures around the computer to cheer me on from the side-lines.
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?
Lots of reading. Reading great books inspires me to write, so I try to get in as much reading time as possible, even if it’s just listening to audio books as I get ready in the morning. I also attempt to keep myself immersed in the Georgian period by watching documentaries, period dramas, going on research trips and listening to contemporary music.
Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
I think I’d have to go along similar lines to Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass. I just love that purple wig.
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?
Hmm, other than lack of caffeine, it would have to be self-doubt. Sometimes I sit down and think “I can’t write any more. I’ve forgotten how to do it”. On other occasions I manage to write, but hate every word I type. The other problem is time. With an office job, house and pets to look after, there just aren’t enough hours in the day!
What was the supervillian that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
The super villain for my work in progress is the dreaded word count! There’s so much history to cover and some interesting character arcs. I want to do the story justice, but it’s just too long. The struggle is to stay creative and detailed as I write the last scenes, while being conscious I have to go on the attack with the red pen later.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
It’s hard work. Writing isn’t a hobby: it’s a second job. You have to give it everything, and then some. You’ll be exhausted, you’ll be fed-up, but you have to keep going. Another vital thing is to appreciate your work for what it is. It might not be Wolf Hall, it might never win prizes, but that doesn’t mean it sucks.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
It’s always thrilling when a reader picks up your book and loves it. The first time someone – who isn’t your friend – gives you five stars or writes a wonderful review of your book is amazing. I’ve also loved seeing cover-art and attending PR meetings with my publisher. Both gave me an incredible “this is really going to happen” feeling.
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I’m not one for regrets. I’d do everything the same. There’s so much to write about Queen Charlotte and her family that it was impossible to squeeze everything in. It’s sad when you have to take stuff out because it’s just not relevant to the novel, but I try to blog about those elements.
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why?
You don’t have a “right” to be read. You need to earn it and make people want to invest their time and money in your writing.
Queen of Bedlam tells the story of a remarkable woman: Charlotte, America’s last queen and long-suffering wife to the “mad” King George III. Both Charlotte and her daughters made incredible sacrifices for the King’s health, but we rarely hear of them now. Discover how a happy court turned into a prison and a loving marriage became a nightmare.
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
I have lots of projects on the horizon! I’m writing about each Hanoverian monarch and the women who shared their lives, which will probably result in about eight books. I’m currently working on the tempestuous George II. His wife has been called the cleverest queen consort ever to sit on the throne and he also had a deaf mistress, so this has proved a fascinating tale to write.
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