Mastodon The Writing Desk: June 2019

24 June 2019

Author Interview with Deryn Lake, Author of The Prince's Women

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The story of a man of Scottish legend. Charles Edward Stuart was the Bonnie Prince from overseas, risking all to fulfil his people's destiny

I'm pleased to welcome historical fiction author Deryn Lake to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Prince's Women is an account of the life and adventures of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who came out of exile in Italy and landed in Scotland full of the brave intention of getting rid of the Hanoverian King and returning the land to the Stuart kings the Scots people loved so well.

When Charlie’s grandfather – King James II – was removed from the throne of England because of his Catholic views, the family were forced to live abroad. But Charles Stuart decided the time had come to win the throne back and landed in Scotland, his mind full of fabulous but foolhardy ideas to do just that. My book deals not only with that tremendously exciting period and the bloody and terrible battles, but also with the passionate Prince’s love affairs. 

It also reveals some amazing truths based on some tear-stained correspondence lodged in the Royal Archives at Windsor.

What is your preferred writing routine?

My preferred writing routine is to work every afternoon from two till six p.m.    When I was younger I used to write all day – most unhealthy! – but these days I find that the mornings are taken up with household affairs. Do I have any social life, I hear you ask. The answer is that I sneak off to London to meet friends and go out to lunch. I also go to Glyndebourne Opera House which is fairly close to where I live and to the ballet at Covent Garden. Not trendy, I hear you say, and the answer is yes, I am a trifle classically minded.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

For anyone starting out as a writer I have a theory that it’s born in you and that you will see things just a bit differently from other people. Although creative writing courses can help they can’t make spun gold out of a piece of wool. Teach yourself the difference between what is good and what is not in your writing – and just keep going at it until you know it is right. And try to write every day, even if it is only for an hour or two. Make this your special creative time and don’t let anything interfere with it.

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

There are lots of ways to raise awareness of one’s books but I must confess that I don’t do much of them. People give talks at libraries, go on chat shows, go to writer’s conferences. But does any of this help? I think in these fast-moving times the only true way is to get something on television. Then the great reading public will make the connection and you will finally have arrived. It hasn’t happened to me yet – but here’s hoping!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Research reveals masses of things that literally take your breath away. When writing Fortune’s Soldier – the third book in the Sutton Place trilogy – I discovered that two of the principal characters, both actual people, a married couple called Anne and Algernon Hicks, had died on the same day.    She of cancer but he, fairly obviously, must have committed suicide. Strange but true.  Dear old Algernon obviously could not live without his Anne. Unfortunately I did not discover this until after I had finished the book. Woops!  

Another exciting thing I found was that Joan of Arc left a banner on the altar as a votive offering after the coronation of Charles VII of France. It was the device of the Knights Templar, disbanded at a much earlier date. Why? In my latest book about the Young Pretender I found that he had an illegitimate son by his cousin Louise. It died in infancy. Well, well.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I have never written a truly difficult scene.    What I do is read everything very, very carefully once I have finished it, looking for every little mistake, every word repetition, every crass error that is going to stick out like a sore thumb when it is set up in type.  Then, when I finally finish it, I leave it alone. My late great agent – the one and only Shirley Russell – told me that there comes a moment to stop improving what you’ve done – and so I do.

What are you planning to write next?

My next book is venturing into the world of legend and magic and mystery and love.     I won’t say too much at this stage other than to tell you that it will have the title All The Rhine's Fair Children.    And it is not a travel book about the mighty river.    Meanwhile enjoy The Prince's Women – and keep on reading.

Deryn Lake
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About the Author

Deryn Lake started to write stories at the age of five, then graduated to novels but destroyed all her early work because, she says, it was hopeless. A chance meeting with one of the Getty family took her to Sutton Place and her first serious novel was born. Deryn was married to a journalist and writer, the late L. F. Lampitt, has two grown-up children, four beautiful and talented grandchildren, and one rather large cat. Find out more at Deryn's website

23 June 2019

Book Review: Victoria to Vikings: The Circle of Blood, by Trisha Hughes

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The third book in Trisha Hughes' well-researched series explores the story of Queen Victoria and her legacy. Victoria to Vikings: The Circle of Blood takes us from Victoria's ancestry to the current queen, Elizabeth II. I'd not thought about it before but they shared the experience of coming unexpectedly and poorly prepared to the throne.

It was useful to be reminded of the complex social and political environment the young Queen Victoria was faced with, as it helps explain the strange 'double standards' of the Victorian era.

Full of fascinating details, we learn that when Prince Albert was dying (probably from Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the intestine which was unknown at the time) his doctors prescribed ammonia and a glass of brandy every half hour.

The less well known aspects of Victoria's life and death can also be quite surprising. Her fondness for her gamekeeper, John Brown, is well known, yet I didn't know she left written instructions that after her death she was to be buried with a lock of his hair, holding his letter in one hand. 

I found some sympathy for Victoria's son Bertie. Surprisingly, given her own experience, it seems Victoria did little to prepare her son for the crown. After a troubled childhood, one of his first acts on inheriting the throne was to order the destruction of his mother's mementos of John Brown, including the cairn of stones in his memory at Balmoral. 

To reach the reign of the current queen, Trisha Hughes has to take us through two world wars, before tracing Prince Philip's little-known Viking heritage to bring the series in the 'full circle' of the title. Of necessity, this means some events are skimmed over, but I enjoyed reading this series and am happy to recommend it.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Australian born Trisha Hughes began writing 18 years ago with her best-selling memoir ‘Daughters of Nazareth’. Trisha’s passion is history and she loves bringing it alive in a way that is easy to read and enjoy. Her hope is to inspire young readers and the young at heart to understand and enjoy stories and legends from the past. While living in Hong Kong, she writes for a local magazine and is involved with young writers. Find out more at Trisha’s website: and You can contact Trisha on her Facebook page, Trisha Hughes Author and on Twitter @TrishaHughes_

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was kindly provided by the publishers.  

15 June 2019

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Story is for any writer who ever wanted to understand and develop their craft.  Robert McKee's book is one of those wonderful discoveries that you can open randomly at any page and learn something about writing. McKee's main point is that all notions of paradigms and 'foolproof' story models for commercial success are meaningless.  Instead of looking for shortcuts we need to be faithful to our principles.

I have no aspiration to become a screenplay writer but, like many of us, I once had a go at writing a play for radio. I am glad I did, as it helped me appreciate how much easier the whole experience could have been if I'd followed the principles set out in Story.

I was particularly intrigued by the explanation of the genre and subgenre system used by commercially successful screenwriters.  McKee points out that genres don't inhibit creativity – they inspire it and anyone who ever tells a story is really doing so within the principles, structure and style of a genre - even those who rebel against genres!

His chapter on characterization and character development is also very thought provoking for any story writer. Characterization is described as the sum of all the observable qualities that make the character unique – but true 'character' is what waits behind this mask to surprise us.

McKee argues that true character is revealed through the choices made under pressure – and the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation. The memorable characters of film and literature are all of course rooted in this simple but easily overlooked principle.  I like the idea that, having analysed the clear and obvious choice for a character, we then ask what would be the opposite to that and why they would act in that way?

Story has hundreds of examples from movies of every genre (the list at the back takes 33 pages).  I've never really thought about it before but he points out that how odd it is to sit in a darkened room full of strangers and give our undivided attention to a story for two hours without a break.  I wonder if I will ever watch any of them again without thinking about the screenwriting.

I also found myself wondering how many of these movies have influenced the way I think about story writing – and I definitely have renewed respect for screenplay writers.  Next time you go to see a movie, make a point of knowing who actually wrote the story.  You will find someone who was prepared to write every day, line by line, page by page –with the courage to risk rejection and failure in the quest for stories told with real meaning.

Tony Riches
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About the Author

Robert McKee developed his ideas on creative writing when he was a professor at the University of Southern California. His seminars have contributed to the work of 36 Academy Award winners, 164 Emmy Award winners, 19 Writers Guild of America Award winners and 16 Directors Guild of America Award winners. Find out more at and follow Robert on Twitter at @McKeeStory

Do you have recommendations on books for writers you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below

The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join in. 

14 June 2019

Historical Fiction Spotlight: No More Time to Dance (The Story of Catherine Howard Book 2) by G. Lawrence

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

No More Time to Dance is book two in The Story of Catherine Howard, by G. Lawrence

July 1540: After eight months as a maid of court, Catherine Howard has become Queen. Separated from past friends and surrounded by people who resent her rise to the throne, the sole close companion she has left is Jane Boleyn, the infamous Lady Rochford. 

And this is not the only strain upon Catherine. People from her past come calling, the threat that the King may find out she is not the pure, innocent maiden he thinks she is puts her in peril. Catherine must imitate the Queens of the past in order to survive. 

And she must ignore her love for another man. 

On the day of her wedding, Catherine begins a dangerous game, wearing a mask, hoping to fool the King, until the day she can be free. 

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About the Author

Gemma Lawrence is an independently published author living in Cornwall in the UK. She studied literature at university says, 'I write mainly Historical Fiction, with an emphasis on the Tudor and Medieval periods and have a particular passion for women of history who inspire me'.Gemma can be found on Wattpad and Twitter @TudorTweep.

13 June 2019

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Devil's Slave, by Tracy Borman

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Compelling, sensual, suspenseful, The Devil's Slave 
is a standalone sequel to The King's Witch 

Frances Gorges has already survived the accusation of witchcraft. But if her torturers at the court of King James knew of her love for Tom Wintour, one of the executed members of the gunpowder plot, it would mean certain death.

Pregnant with Tom's child, hiding under the reluctant protection of her spiteful and ambitious brother, Frances lives in fear - until she is offered the chance to make a respectable - if loveless - marriage and return to court.

She will not be expected to sleep with her husband. The only price she must pay for safety is to give up the cause for which her lover died.

But old loyalties are hard to deny, and soon Frances is drawn back into the snake-pit scheming of the factions trying to take the throne.

Everywhere she turns, it seems that someone has the power to force her deeper into danger until, all too late, Frances hears the warnings of her own heart.

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About the Author

Tracy Borman is joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust. She studied and taught history at the University of Hull and was awarded a PhD in 1997.  Tracy is the author of a number of highly acclaimed books, including Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant, Matilda: Wife of the Conqueror, First Queen of England, Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen and Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction. Tracy is also a regular broadcaster and public speaker, giving talks on her books across the UK and abroad. She lives in Surrey with her daughter. Find out more at and follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyBorman