5 July 2019

Guest Interview with Gemma Hollman, Author of Royal Witches: From Joan of Navarre to Elizabeth Woodville


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author and historian Gemma Hollman to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Until the mass hysteria of the seventeenth century, accusations of witchcraft in England were rare. However, in the fifteenth century four royal women, related in family and in court ties - Joan of Navarre, Eleanor Cobham, Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Elizabeth Woodville - were accused of practising witchcraft in order to kill or influence the king.

Some of these women may have turned to the dark arts, but the purpose of the accusations was purely political. Despite their status, these women were vulnerable because of their gender as the men around them moved them like pawns for political gains. Royal Witches explores the lives of these women, and the consequences of the accusations against them.

What is your preferred writing routine?

It took a while for me to truly get into a writing routine, but I found the best thing was to listen to my mood. Some people get up at 5am and write, others find they work best in the evening. I found that I do my best work during late morning and the afternoon, so I would spend the morning gearing myself up for the day and reading over what I had written the previous day to refresh my mind. Then I get to work, and make sure to allow myself regular breaks to keep my mind going! When my deadline got tight, I would use the evenings to do mundane tasks that didn’t take too much energy, like referencing.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Just do it! So many people have ideas for books, but are often scared to put pen to paper. If you think it’s a good idea, it probably is. Get words on the page, and you’ll find that the more you write the more you find your flow and your voice. You can edit and tighten up later, but there’s nothing worse than having an empty page!

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

Something all authors want to know! I think at the moment, social media and blogging is really the way to go. You are always going to have a ready market of readers who browse the history shelves in bookshops, so you want to try and market to those who may not normally consider buying your type of book. So many people are on social media today, it really is the biggest way to connect to people across the world. Make an account, talk about your book, but make sure to engage with other authors too – people are often happy to help out fellow authors!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

That Edward IV was himself accused of using witchcraft by his brother, the Duke of Clarence! I had read plenty of books on Edward and whilst they mentioned his brother’s demise, no one thought this accusation was worth mentioning. It was only when I was reading the Parliament proceedings against Clarence that I found this nugget. Up to that point, near the end of my research, it had only seemingly been Royal women who were tangled up in the accusations, so it was certainly a surprise to see the King himself targeted, even if it was in a slightly different way.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest parts of my book to write were those where there are few sources – or few accessible sources. Although Eleanor Cobham was Duchess of Gloucester, there is very little material tracing her life in the 1430s. I had to talk about that period without losing sight of her, and having the readers wonder where she had gone to. The same happened with her predecessor in the book, Joan of Navarre. Her life in Brittany is also poorly documented, and there is very little written in English. I was able to work with some French sources but my language skills are limited! Trying to get a feel for what her life was like before she came to England was quite tricky, therefore, so I tried to just focus on some key events and bring those to life instead.

What are you planning to write next?

My passion certainly lies with strong women in the medieval period. I do have a soft spot for the royalty, so I am hoping to look at some earlier examples of women who managed to gain a lot of power in a time where it would not necessarily be expected they could do so. I have a few ideas in the works but don’t want to spoil any of them just yet!

Gemma Hollman

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About the Author

Gemma Hollman holds a Masters in Medieval History from the University of York. She runs Just History Posts blog and social media pages, and at present is working in an archive. She currently lives in Hertfordshire with her partner. Find out more at her website www.justhistoryposts.com or via Facebook and on Twitter @JustHistoryPost.

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