Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Cinderella or Scarlett O'Hara?

As a reader, do you have to fall in love with the female main character of a novel from the first page? Or can you have a woman who is self centered, ambitious and even arrogant, who treads on people's toes, and is determined to get her own way, yet still enjoy the novel?

Do you hope she will find a kinder way to deal with people, or that somewhere along the way she's going to get what you feel she deserves?

Do you admire her cunning methods to get what she wants, using whatever weapons she has, or are you more sympathetic to the kind-hearted miss who is abused by everyone but is still kind to stray kittens and gets the rewards at the end by luck rather than judgement and scheming?

The heroine of my latest book, Royalist Rebel, was definitely a Scarlett. She was also a real woman in a time where if she hadn't devised a plan, the conflicting factions would have destroyed her, her family and her whole future.

Elizabeth refused to give in, played both sides of the game, dined with the Puritans and spied for the Royalists, keeping them both on side for the sake of her family and later her children. She never apologised or explained her behaviour, kept her activities under wraps and let her enemies and friends think what they liked and became a Duchess in the end.

Do you love to hate Scarlett, the flawed heroine, or do you wish you could be more like her? Or is Cinderella the true heroine who triumphs despite adversity instead of being defeated by it?

Friday, 24 January 2014

Author Interview - Laura Purcell

I have Laura Purcell on my blog today who writes about the misunderstood, neglected and sometimes abused ladies of the Hanoverian court.   Laura has recently secured a contract with Myrmidion Books for her novel Queen of Bedlam about Queen Charlotte and the daughters of George III which comes out in June.

1.  Welcome Laura, what is it about the Georgians that makes their stories so compelling for you as an author?
Quite frankly, the Georgian stories are too good to be lost in the mists of time! It amazes me that we know so much about the Tudors and Victorians, but often bypass the years in-between. The Georgian period was instrumental in forming the world as we know it today. However, most novels either concentrate on Regency romance, the French Revolution, or Nelson’s navy. We hear little of the English monarchy, struggling to accept the new limitations to their power.

But even if the era wasn’t fascinating, I’d feel compelled to write about the queens and princesses I have come to love and admire. As I’ve researched, the women of the Hanoverian dynasty have astounded me with their strength, faith and political cunning. They lived through truly awful events, and some died in gruesome ways, but they always managed to maintain personal integrity.

The Georgian court offers excellent characters, from the fiery George II to the eccentric Caroline of Brunswick. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to explore their psyches and move beyond the caricatures to find out what motivated these people.

2.  What book do you wish you’d written? 
There are so many! The main ones from recent years are The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and Fingersmith by Sarah Walters. When I finished these, I just sat and thought “Wow.” With so many twists and turns, they had me hooked. I really admire the ability to surprise a reader with a carefully laid trap. The ones that make you cry out in shock are the best!

3.  If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?  
I’d be too afraid to ask the Georgian queens I write about to dinner. I’d have to be on my best behaviour and they might tell me off for parts of my stories! I’d rather like to dine with Oscar Wilde. I love his plays and I imagine he’d keep me entertained with his wit throughout the meal.  

4.  Where is your favourite place to write?
I do most my writing huddled at my untidy desk, but I prefer writing in the summer when I can sit outside with a notepad and pen. Once I wrote a chapter sitting in the gardens of Hampton Court Palace – that was pretty special.  

5.  What’s your happiest memory?  [Apart from marrying Kevin that is!]
This has to be the day I got my dog, Splash. Although he is no longer with us, I’ll always remember how tiny, cute and fluffy he was! Dogs feature strongly in my novels; luckily Queen Charlotte was a massive fan of canines, so I got to research all her furry friends from the spaniel Badine to the tiny Pomeranians.

6.  If you were to marry a fictional character, from film, television, or books, who would it be? 
Goodness, what a choice! There are so many wonderful heroes out there. I always had a soft spot for Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth. The letter he wrote to Anne Elliot made me cry, and I imagine he’d look amazing in his navy uniform! Talking of the navy, I also have a massive crush on Horatio Hornblower. He’s intelligent, dashing, brave and kind. The only reservation I have is the name Mrs Hornblower …

7.  What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing since you began? 

Patience. When you finish a first draft, your book isn’t done – in fact, you’re barely half-way! Tempting as it is to move on to a new story, if you really care about your book you have to go back and rewrite, polish, polish and polish again. So many times I think “It must be done by now…” only to go back and find a glaring error I missed the first five times. This is why it’s so important to be passionate about what you write; if you’re not, you can’t face the endless redrafts!

8.  Pantser or plotter? Bearing in mind the framework is based on English history? 

Given the nature of my work, I have to plan events and scenes in a timeline. I decide which moments of history I’m going to use and then fit them into a character arc. The problem with real life is it’s more random than fiction. At times I have to move events to make emotional sense. However, I don’t stick rigidly to my plan. Sometimes you get to a point and find it isn’t working, so you take a different route.

9.  If you were on a desert island and could only take one book with you, what would it be?
One book! Are you trying to give me nightmares? I’ve read A Tale of Two Cities many times and never tire of it, so that seems a wise choice. It has the perfect blend of comedy and tragedy for all moods.

10.  Who is your favourite author and what is it that strikes you about their work?
Again, it’s painfully difficult to pick just one. My favourite author of all time would have to be Jane Austen. Her books make me laugh, but I always come away feeling I’ve learned something too. She gets human nature just right. Perhaps it’s their simplicity that is so effective. I feel Austen’s novels help us to cope with everyday life, rather than taking us on epic journeys we’re never likely to encounter. For modern authors, I’m a Philippa Gregory fan. I know she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m not saying her work is perfect. However, she has the power to draw me in to a story and make me connect with the characters in a way few others do.

11.  What book have you read recently that you really loved?
I recently finished Madam Tussaud by Michelle Moran. It was a powerful story with great characters. For me, it had just the right mix of history and drama, elegant parties at the Tulleries and bloody doom. I’ll certainly read more by Moran.

12.  And finally, please tell us about your latest book, where we can find it, and where we can find your blog/website!
With pleasure! Queen of Bedlam will be released by Myrmidon on 10 June 2014. It tells the story of Queen Charlotte, wife to the famously “mad” King George III.  The King’s illness had a huge emotional impact on the women in his family, but it also imprisoned them.  Charlotte struggles with duty and horror, whilst her daughters try to reconcile their devotion to their father with their longing for freedom.

I blog about Georgian history, my favourite court figures and key events at my website  However, do be warned that some posts will contain spoilers for the books!

Thanks so much Laura, I have a feeling we shall be seeing a lot more of you in the near future. The best of luck with your new release - Queen of Bedlam

Laura on Facebook
Laura on Twitter
Laura on Goodreads 
Laura on Amazon

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

My Review is on the Historical Novel Review Blog at: HNR Blog


As the English Civil War divides England and tears families apart, Kinton Lacey castle is one of the brave few loyal to the roundhead cause.

With her father away, Deliverance Felton will do whatever it takes to defend her family home against the royalist forces ranged against it. She can shoot and wield a sword as well as any man and anything she needs to know about siege warfare she has learned from a book...but no book can prepare her for what is to come.

Captain Luke Collyer, soldier of fortune and a man with his own reasons for loyalty to the parliamentary cause, is sent to relieve the castle. Everything he knows about siege warfare in general and women in particular he has learned from experience, but when it comes to Deliverance Felton has he met his match?

Deliverance will not give up her command lightly and Luke will have to face a challenge to his authority as fierce as the cavalier foe outside the walls. He will do whatever it takes to win Deliverance’s trust but will he run the risk of losing his own, well guarded, heart?

Alison Stuart
Buy Claiming The Rebel's Heart

A word from Alison: This is the first in a series - the Harcourt Chronicles, although why it is called the Harcourt Chronicles is a bit of a spoiler that will have to wait! This period of history is my passion and I would love to share it with you.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

And This Month's Winner Is......

As someone who rarely, if ever wins anything, I'm chuffed to announce the Romance Reviews Magazine has voted Royalist Rebel the Winners of their  best historical reads for Mainstream Historical Novels for January 2014

With especial thanks to Suzy and to Francine Howarth, who wrote this lovely review.

Although I am far from a fan of first-person narrative, I do love the period of the English Civil Wars. Therefore, I decided to lay aside the fact Royalist Rebel is written wholly from the viewpoint of Mistress Elizabeth Murray. I’m glad I did because Ms Seymour paints a vivid picture of life at Ham House. Given that Elizabeth’s earlier (un-chronicled) life is the author’s creation it blends well with known facts of the young woman’s rise from relatively modest beginnings to that of wealth and title. It’s a well-researched book in terms of the political scores and all credit to the author for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I like the way Elizabeth Murray’s story begins with highlighting her present circumstances and the staunch allegiance of her parents to the Royalist cause. All the while her haughty manner and fundamental belief the enemy consist of nothing but filthy (smelly) Puritan folk (of low-birth) seems to imply Mistress Murray is indeed ignorant to the fact members of the aristocracy are fighting on both sides of the great divide. Nor does she seem cognisant to the fact that not all Parliamentarian soldiers are of Puritan mindset. I confess there were times when I despised Elizabeth’s conceited grandiose self image and her prejudiced outlook, but she’s not a fictional character and I didn’t have to like her to admire her unstinting desire to keep Ham House in the family.

As time moves on and Ham House is under threat of seizure by the Parliamentarian Sequestration Committee, (a method of punishing supporters or suspected collaborators of the Royalist cause), Elizabeth resists at every given turn, though is often forced to capitulate when events and circumstances are beyond her control. But, if something is wanted badly enough, then feminine guile to deceive Cromwell and feminine wile to gain a titled husband is worth the risk in the overall scheme of bettering her position within society and gaining a long for coveted title.

See the review here: 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition

The Historical Novel Society seeks to support writers of new historical fiction by the HNS International Awards – a series of competitions for previously unpublished short stories and novels.
2014 Award, For an Outstanding Short Story
An International Award, with a prize of $2,000 
for an outstanding historical short story. 
Entries must be between 1,000 and 5,000 words. 
The deadline for submissions is 1st April 2014.
For an idea of the quality of story they are looking for, here 
is the first HNS anthology,