I’ve always been a storyteller – even as a child – writing my first book at the age of six and insisting that it was typed up and bound! During my career in marketing and copywriting, I studied for an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam, and then went on to have Arts Council funding for screenplay development. I finished my first book, Plague Land, after attending the course in novel-writing at literary agents Curtis Brown.
I’ve lived in Somerset, London, Southampton, Manchester and now the Weald of Kent. My influences are gothic literature, film, nature, history and my large and mildly eccentric family.
I’m often asked why I chose to set my books in the medieval period? And this is what I always say. I didn’t choose the Middle Ages – they chose me. Yes, I have an interest in the Romans, Egyptians, Victorians etc – but I have a passion for the Middle Ages. A passion that probably goes back to my early childhood and my love of fairy tales – stories that were always set in a cod-medieval world of castles, moats, turrets, great forests, knights, lords and peasants.
But, of course, the Middle Ages is a long time period, so why the 14th century, and specifically the years between 1348 and 1381? For me, this thirty-year period was irresistible, particularly as I’m a writer of crime thrillers. I was drawn to selecting a dark canvas from history. And these years were very dark indeed – beginning with the Black Death and ending with the failed Peasants Revolt of 1381.
How I write
What am I working on currently?
I’ve just finished writing the fifth book in the Oswald de Lacy series. It’s now 1370 and Oswald’s mother is lying on her deathbed, wanting to know more about a mysterious letter she’s discovered while sorting out her affairs. Oswald has to make a confession about his involvement in the letter… but its dark story of murder and revenge reaches back into his past, and threatens to reveal a secret that Oswald has hidden for over twenty years.
Why do I write?
I write because I see stories everywhere and in everything, and always have done. I love the idea of looking back over the centuries and imaging how people’s lives both differed from our own, and yet were the same. The human nature is to crave love, security, to seek answers, to be bold, to travel, to have children, to be better than the next person, to fight, to defend and to nurture. And so on, and so on. The people of history experienced the same emotions and motivations as ourselves, they just lived in a different environment.
My writing process.
I do a great deal of thinking before starting a draft. I particularly put effort into planning out my story and trying to make sure it has a strong and absorbing plot, an exciting and unexpected climax and then a satisfying resolution.
I also put a lot of effort into research, both desk research – but perhaps more importantly, by visiting as many historic sites as possible, and just imaging how they looked, felt and even smelt, six hundred and fifty years ago.
When my planning and research are as finished as they can be, I then sit in a room and write. I work best in the mornings, and try to write at least one thousand words a day. Once a finished draft has been seen by my agent and editor, I begin the process of re-writes, the additions and the subtractions, the copy-edit, and the proof read. It’s a long and thorough process, but then they do say that to write is to rewrite.