Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Penny Hampson, Author of 'A Gentleman’s Promise'

28 August 2018

Special Guest Interview with Penny Hampson, Author of 'A Gentleman’s Promise'

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Today I'm pleased to welcome new historical fiction author Penny Hampson:

Tell us about your latest book

A Gentleman’s Promise is my debut novel; set in 1810, it tells the story of what happens when two, seemingly incompatible, characters are forced to collaborate.

Cautious gentleman, Richard Lacey has inherited a title, a neglected estate – and the attentions of a killer; then young Jamie Smythe and his older, independent-minded sister, Emma, turn up, claiming to be the rightful heirs. Suspicion, scandal, and murder can’t be ignored, neither can this unsettling female, who is determined to sort things out on her own. Can Richard unmask the villain, hang on to his sanity, and keep headstrong Emma safe, all whilst trying to convince her that they would make an ideal couple?

What is your preferred writing routine?

I would like to say I get up early and sit at my desk undisturbed until I clock off around six in the evening, with a few breaks scheduled in-between for lunch and tea. Alas, this never happens. No two days are the same; like many other writers, I have calls on my time that mean writing has to be slotted in, as and when. Sometimes I do manage to get up early and spend a couple of hours writing; other days, I don’t manage to get to my computer until well into the afternoon or evening. Rarer still are the days when I don’t do any writing at all. However, I try to do something writing related every day, be it only a couple of sentences or undertaking research.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Being such a novice myself, I wouldn’t dream of offering advice. I can only relate my own experience, which was to sit down and actually make a start on something I’d been thinking about for years. I then showed my work to two friends who, very kindly, didn’t fall into hysterics at my poor attempt at a story, but instead encouraged me to continue.

My next step was to join the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association; this put my work before an anonymous professional writer who offered positive and constructive criticism and lots of encouragement.

I also read Stephen King’s, On Writing, a book I can’t recommend too highly for aspiring writers.

As well as all the above, I continued to read anything and everything in my genre, really analysing the text, and working out what the author was doing to tell the story and draw me in; in other words, trying to understand the craft of writing.

Three years, a professional assessment, and many drafts later, I finally had the story I’d always intended to tell.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your book?

So far, doing a free promotion seems to have worked, although it does seem odd to be giving away something that I’ve worked hard on for years. I also tweet (@penny_hampson) and have my own website (

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

Part of my heroine’s backstory is concerned with her father’s obsession for discovering antiquities and the family’s travels to Greece, which end so disastrously. I did a lot of research to ensure that travelling to the Ottoman Empire was a possibility at this time and came across lots of material about Lord Elgin and his travels. I was fascinated to discover his wife’s account of their journeys, contained in letters she sent to friends and family; she struck me as a really determined, positive individual with a wonderful sense of the ridiculous.  Mary Hamilton Nisbet, Countess of Elgin however, is mainly known for her scandalous divorce, which seems a pity.

My main source for information about Mary and her letters is an article entitled ‘Lord Elgin and His Collection, by Philip Hunt and A. H. Smith, published in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 36 (1916), pp. 163-372.

A more complete edition of her letters was published by a descendent of hers in 1926 (The Letters of Mary Nisbet of Dirleton, Countess of Elgin, by Mary Nisbet Ferguson) which omitted some of the more controversial elements, I understand; as far as I know, only one biography has been written about her (Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin, 2004, by Susan Nagel). When I can find the time, I would love to read her original letters, currently held at the British Museum.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The scene I approached with the most caution and anticipation was the one where the villain of A Gentleman’s Promise reveals his reasons for his misdeeds. I wanted to convey his emotion and passion, but without descending into melodrama; I hope I have achieved this. I have to confess, re-reading this scene still brings a lump to my throat.

What are you planning to write next?

My next book in the Gentlemen series is already written! It still needs some work, but with luck it will be published later this year. An Officer’s Vow is the story of what happens to Major Nate Crawford, after the events of A Gentleman’s Promise. Hampered by his war wounds, both physical and mental, he is returning home to the family estate when runaway heiress, Miss Lottie Benham, literally falls into his path. What ensues takes them both on a whirlwind tour of the country, foiling spies, kidnappers, would-be murderers, and of course, unexpectedly falling in love. Nate and Lottie each have problems that must be overcome before their happy ever after can become a reality.

Penny Hampson
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About the Author

Having worked in various sectors before becoming a full time mum, Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion and studied History with the Open University. One B.A. Honours degree and an MPhil later, Penny found her dream role at a leading academic institution, helping academics, publishers, researchers, and others find the images or text they needed in that institution’s extensive special collections. Flash forward nineteen years, and Penny decided to indulge her other main passion, historical fiction; this time not just reading it, but writing it too. Encouraged by friends, family, and professional writers, three years later Penny published her debut novel A Gentleman’s Promise. Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time). Find out more at Penny's website and find her on Twitter @penny_hampson.

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