This book was really fun to write – I actually had very little trouble. I wrote it while sitting on a Tuscan hillside looking over at Florence in the distance. I did hit one hitch: I wanted to know more about early Puritanism for Mercy (the heroine) and her family but I was in Italy with no internet connection. And then a miracle happened: a friend who was staying with us, who is a professor of English literature at Warwick University, had in her bag an academic book on the subject. How weird was that! While my family went off doing the sights, I was in the sixteenth century, helped by the fact that I occasionally had to run out to drive the local goatherd off our washing (that felt very authentic!).
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?
There’s a story to that. I wanted to call it something to do with the main male character – an actor or, as they said then, a player, but of course The Player’s Princess has a different meaning now and would suggest he wasn’t loyal to his lady. Actor is not very romantic so that was discarded. I then remembered the law at the time that called wandering theatre companies ‘rogues and vagabonds’ so thought the roguish word would nod to the theatre theme as well as hint at Kit’s playful sense of humour. It is also the book of the trilogy that looks at the ordinary people rather than the court so I liked the sense that you can find someone special at that level – your princess – without going to a palace.
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?
That is an impossible question, oh cruel blogger! I read so much my brain is a lucky dip of influences that I could not dip in and find the most important one. When writing this book in particular, I was influenced by the fabulous non-fiction account of Shakespeare’s Globe: 1599 by James Shapiro. I hope that does as an answer!
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?
I’ve been a British diplomat, an academic and worked for a big international humanitarian and development agency called Oxfam. The diplomacy gave me an interest in the human side of politics – very important to the Elizabethan court. The most helpful though was the academic research (I have a doctorate from Oxford University in English Literature). These books are supposed to fun and romantic but I hope the reader also senses there is a foundation in historic fact supporting the story.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
Serendipity – discovering something wonderful by mistake. That’s what writing historical fiction is like – always finding a glint of gold in the stream of events.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
I have many but I like The Lord of the Rings for a good fantasy escape. I live five minutes walk away from the pub where Tolkien and C S Lewis swapped stories and my church is in the street where he wrote the book so I find the fantasy nicely entwines with my daily reality. If you can get over the Peter Jackson version, you’ll find the descriptions of scenery, especially the Shire, look like the countryside where I live. In fact, some of my relatives are part hobbit, I’m convinced of it ; )
And may I wish you and all your followers a Happy New Year!