Queen Of The North by Anne O’Brien
Review to follow
To those around her she was a loyal subject.
In her heart she was a traitor.
1399: England’s crown is under threat. King Richard II holds onto his power by an ever-weakening thread, with exiled Henry of Lancaster back to reclaim his place on the throne.
For Elizabeth Mortimer, there is only one rightful King – her eight-year-old nephew, Edmund. Only he can guarantee her fortunes, and protect her family’s rule over the precious Northern lands bordering Scotland.
But many, including Elizabeth’s husband, do not want another child-King. Elizabeth must hide her true ambitions in Court, and go against her husband’s wishes to help build a rebel army.
To question her loyalty to the King places Elizabeth in the shadow of the axe.
To concede would curdle her Plantagenet blood.
This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head.
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel? Biography
A) Although I now live in the Welsh Marches, in Herefordshire, I am a Yorkshire girl by birth in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, I lived in East Yorkshire for many years where I taught history. Writing was not something I ever thought of doing.
That was in a past life.
Moving to Herefordshire, I gave up teaching and began writing historical novels. It has brought me much enjoyment and a new career. Now I live with my husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage with a large garden, where I write about the forgotten women of medieval history. It is a marvellous area for giving me inspiration, full of castles and churches and battlefields.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) – Firstly I have to select a medieval woman as the central character. She must be well connected and involved in the politics of the day. There must be an element of notoriety, scandal, or interest about her life to make her a worthwhile candidate to tell the story.
– A timeline is essential to put the woman and her family into historical perspective with other characters and historical events.
– After many weeks of historical research to put all the relevant facts into place, I start writing. Accuracy is essential.
– A year later, after four separate drafts, additions of events and characters who often take me by surprise, much editing and reviewing and it is complete to be sent off to my agent and my editor
– With my editor’s keen eye, there follows some polishing, usually with regard to length. I tend to write too much.
– And hopefully, sixteen months after I began, the novel is finished.
It is not always as seamless as this of course. Real life tends to break in to my writing schedule with such mundane occupations as dusting and shopping and cooking a meal or two, but I try to write something every morning. It also takes perseverance, patience, and compassion with my characters and what they wish to say. All of it though is highly enjoyable.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) If I wish to read historical fiction, it has to be Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, six novels that carry her hero through sixteenth century France, Scotland with visits to Russia and the Levant, all magnificently constructed to combine fact and fiction.
If I feel a need for some atmospheric crime, then what better than Anne Cleves’ Shetland series, now a superb TV adaptation in the bleak but beautiful islands off northern Scotland.
An excellent blend of folklore, myth, crime, and rural creepiness makes compulsive reading with the novels of Phil Rickman’s series with Merrily Watkins the priest in the depths of Hereford, starting with Wine of Angels.
If I want a novel of family or the relationships and interaction between people, then there can be no better than Anne Tyler. I first discovered her years ago with Breathing Lessons, and continue to read her novels.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) They tended to be historical. My interests have not changed.
A loved the novels of Mary Renault, particularly those which brought the Greek myths to life. I think the first I read were The King Must Die and Bull from the Sea. The novels of Alexander the Great also make great reading in my teenage years, starting with Fire From Heaven. I have re-read them more recently and find they have stood the test of time.
The Passionate Brood was the first historical novel by Margaret Campbell Barnes that I recall reading. It tells the tale of the children of King Henry II and Robin Hood. It showed me what could be done with history to make it a page turning experience for the reader.
Mary Stewart’s novels of King Arthur and Merlin, beginning with The Crystal Cave , captivated me, and still do. I still have a soft spot for King Arthur novels.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) It has to be, every time, holding the completed novel in my hands. All is done and it can no longer be changed and edited. It is complete in its cover. It is proof that I have produced something tangible over the past year that has come together in readable form. It is proof that not only have I enjoyed writing it, but my editor and my agent have also enjoyed reading it. It is also a time of some trepidation of course. Now the novel is out of my hands and available to the vast the reading public. I always hope that they enjoy it too.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) For me writing is a very private matter. No one reads my novel, not even sections of it, until it is finished when it is sent off to my agent and editor. Even so the support of those around me is invaluable. My husband who I often dragged into my discussions of historical motivation and logic. His interest in 19th Century history but he is fast becoming well educated in the politics of medieval England. My agent who I know will give me all her support if I get into difficulties or simply need some encouragement. My editor who has the final sweeping view of the novel and gives me advice. I trust her expertise implicitly.
I am blessed to have such support in what can be a very lonely world between me, my PC, and people who have been dead for at least six hundred years.
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***Review to follow soon***