16 September 2021

Special Guest Interview with Rosemary Griggs, Author of A Woman of Noble Wit


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Few women of her time lived to see their name in print. But Katherine was no ordinary woman. She was Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother. 
This is her story.

I'm pleased to welcome author Rosemary Griggs to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book 

It’s the story of a little known Devon woman whose son, Sir Walter Raleigh, made his mark. Like most women of her time, Katherine Raleigh’s footprint on the historical record is light. But, unusually, we do have an account of her that was published in her lifetime. When I read of her courageous vigil with a protestant martyr in Exeter I knew I just had to tell her story.   So, after six years of research,  A Woman of Noble Wit was born.  My title is taken from the description of her visit to Agnes Prest in the second edition of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. 

Katherine’s story is Tudor history seen through a woman’s eyes. She lived through tumultuous events that changed England for ever — the split from Rome, the see-sawing changes to religion under different monarchs, huge social and political upheaval.   

Little is known about Sir Walter Raleigh’s early years. Even the year of his birth remains the subject of debate.  But biographers have commented that his mother must have been a remarkable woman.  With two different husbands she produced five sons who survived childhood, four of whom were knighted. Her boys strode across the Elizabethan stage, dazzling, brilliant and proud. My novel follows Katherine as she becomes the woman who might inspire them to follow their dreams. 

What is your preferred writing routine? 

I’m a morning person, often drinking my first cup of tea before 6 am, so I like to be at my desk early and work through the morning.  An hour or two more after lunch, then I like to have some thinking time.  If the weather is good I’ll potter in my garden, or best of all, walk up to my allotment.  It’s in a field at the top of a hill, only accessible by vehicle in the summer months and is my special place where I can let my mind wander and listen to the birdsong as I tend my plot.  

That’s my ideal writing day, and I’d love to say that I’m disciplined enough to stick to that routine every day.   But life tends to get in the way.  I have to balance my writing time with preparation for my speaking engagements and  there’s always a lot of admin to do, not to mention time for husband and family.  I’m afraid I also often succumb to the lure of the “research rabbit hole”.  The one where you pause to check one little fact and stumble on a whole new line of enquiry only to emerge hours later without writing a word. I also spend a lot of time visiting the places Im writing about.  I find a lot of inspiration in Devons wonderful churches, many of which have changed little.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? 

Don’t give way to “imposter syndrome”.  You are the only one who can tell your story, so believe in yourself and keep going.  

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

A Woman of Noble Wit is my first novel, so its early days.  But its already clear to me that, as a writer, I need to work hard to make sure potential readers know about my book. Self-promotion doesn’t always come naturally, but it seems to me that its the only way.  Never miss an opportunity to tell people about your book. Word of mouth is powerful and, because my book features so many well loved Devon locations, I see local press and media interest as critical.  

I’ve been advised to set up my author platform, so I have a website and send out newsletters and post on my blog there. Then there’s the whole new world of social media, which on the face of it gives you the possibility of reaching millions of potential readers.   Ask me that question again in a year’s time, and I might be able to tell you what works best.  But as always with marketing, its never really possible to say which particular promotion or activity actually levered sales. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research 

I really didn’t expect to find that a member of the Raleigh family lived just down the road in the Devon town where I live. Katherine’s stepson, John Raleigh was heavily involved in his father’s shipping business, which veered between merchant trading, privateering and piracy. He was named co-lessee when Walter Raleigh senior renewed the lease on the farm at East Buddleigh in 1551, but later he had  a house in Newton Abbot, where he married the widow of a prominent figure in the town’s history.  

Another real surprise was to find evidence of the marriage of a priest under Edward VI and the consequences under Mary I, which gave me a sub-plot —fascinating stuff which I’ll publish soon.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing? 

I find writing about grief and loss quite harrowing, perhaps because I must draw on my own experience so much.  But I think writing the ending was the most  challenging.   After living with my characters for so long it was hard to part with them, especially Katherine, who has rather taken over my life.  

What are you planning to write next? 

While researching A Woman of Noble Wit I’ve met a whole cast of characters, each with their own story to tell.  I’m currently researching the life of another woman who, although born far away, spent most of her life in Devon. She’s another less known woman who married into Katherine’s family. Her path in life was rather different and her story tells a lot about attitudes in Elizabeth’s England. 

Rosemary Griggs

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About the Author

Rosemary Griggs is a retired Whitehall Senior Civil Servant with a lifelong passion for history. An avid researcher, she is now a speaker on Devon’s history and leads heritage tours at Dartington Hall.  She also creates and wears sixteenth century clothing which she often uses to bring history to life for local museums and community groups.  Rosemary lives in Devon with husband David, and her first novel, a Woman of Noble Wit features many of the county’s well loved places.  Find out more on Rosemary’s website https://rosemarygriggs.co.uk/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @RAGriggsauthor

1 comment:

  1. I never knew there was so much to Sir Walter Raleigh's family so this sounds like a terrific read. I have added it to my Wish List on Amazon.

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