Mastodon The Writing Desk: January 2024

31 January 2024

Book Launch Spotlight: Tudor Feminists: 10 Renaissance Women Ahead of their Time, by Rebecca Wilson

Available from Amazon UK 

and pre-order from Amazon US

The term ‘feminist’ would have been anachronistic in the Tudor period, but surely we would not hesitate to call the lady, who would be queen, Anne Boleyn, a feminist? 

All ten women examined in this book, from Catherine Parr to Margaret Beaufort, lived their lives in a way that challenged the patriarchal world they lived in. 

Each chapter is dedicated to one remarkable woman, ahead of her time. It explores her achievements and examines the impacts she had on a male-dominated world, while placing her in the context of her particular circumstance and background. 

These Renaissance women, from the high born to the merchant class, were rule breakers, they railed against the rigid social norms of their time and stand out vividly against a backdrop of domestic servitude.

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About the Author

Rebecca Wilson has degrees in History and English Literature, and was a teacher for several years where she taught these subjects. She writes for The Historians Magazine, and lives in West Cumbria with her husband, son and two puppies, on the edge of the Lake District. Tou can find Rebecca on Instagram @tudorghostmammy.

30 January 2024

Book Launch Spotlight: The Royal Women Who Made England: The Tenth Century in Saxon England, by M J Porter

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Throughout the tenth century, England, as it would be recognised today, formed. No longer many Saxon kingdoms, but rather, just England. Yet, this development masks much in the century in which the Viking raiders were seemingly driven from England’s shores by Alfred, his children and grandchildren, only to return during the reign of his great, great-grandson, the much-maligned Æthelred II. 

Not one but two kings would be murdered, others would die at a young age, and a child would be named king on four occasions. Two kings would never marry, and a third would be forcefully divorced from his wife. Yet, the development towards ‘England’ did not stop. At no point did it truly fracture back into its constituent parts. Who then ensured this stability?

 To whom did the witan turn when kings died, and children were raised to the kingship? The royal woman of the House of Wessex came into prominence during the century, perhaps the most well-known being Æthelflæd, daughter of King Alfred. 

Perhaps the most maligned being Ælfthryth (Elfrida), accused of murdering her stepson to clear the path to the kingdom for her son, Æthelred II, but there were many more women, rich and powerful in their own right, where their names and landholdings can be traced in the scant historical record. Using contemporary source material, 

The Royal Women Who Made England can be plucked from the obscurity that has seen their names and deeds lost, even within a generation of their own lives.

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About the Author 

MJ Porter is the author of over fifty fiction titles set in Saxon England and the era before the tumultuous events of 1066. Raised in the shadow of a strange little building and told from a young age that it housed the long-dead bones of Saxon kings, it’s little wonder that the study of the era was undertaken at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The Royal Women of the Tenth Century is a first non-fiction title. It explores the ‘lost’ women of this period through the surviving contemporary source material. It stemmed from a frustration with how difficult it was to find a single volume dedicated to these ‘lost’ women and hopes to make it much easier for others to understand the prestige, wealth and influence of the women of the royal House of Wessex. Find out more at and Twitter @coloursofunison

29 January 2024

Book Review: Anthony Woodville: Sophisticate or Schemer? by Danielle Burton

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Woodville family are synonymous with the Wars of the Roses. While much has been published on the family as a whole, especially Elizabeth, wife of Edward IV, Anthony Woodville – the favourite sibling of Elizabeth – has been largely overlooked by history. He is famed for his arrest and execution in June 1483, but there is much more to learn from his life.

I always felt sorry for Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, and suspected his only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The subtitle to Danielle Burton's new book, Sophisticate or Schemer? also intrigued me, as I hoped to find out more about this enigmatic man.

The lack of reliable primary sources mean that (spoiler alert) after eight years of extensive research into his life, Danielle Burton has not been able uncover new evidence, but does ask plenty of thought-provoking questions.

Some we will never have the answers to, including why, after his wife Elizabeth died in 1473, Anthony married thirteen-year-old Mary FitzLewis who was twenty years younger than him. The most intriguing question is why Richard III needed him out out of the way so urgently, ordering his execution without bothering to hold a trial.

I was pleased to see the full transcript of Anthony Woodville's will at the end of the book, together with his poignant last poem. I particularly liked Danielle's engaging writing style, and feel I understand Anthony Woodville much better after reading her new book, which I am happy to recommend.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Danielle Burton is a Derbyshire based historian, author and history blogger. She has a First in History from the University of Derby and an MA in Public History and Heritage. Whilst Danielle's main interest is the Wars of the Roses, she has  been a member of the Richard III Society since a young age, and is an experienced speaker, having presented her research at history conferences, for local history groups and have also been a returning speaker for the Be Bold History Network. She currently works at the Derbyshire Record as an Archive Assistant, and as a Visitor Centre Assistant at Masson Mills. Find out more at Danielle's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @PrincessBurton

27 January 2024

Special Guest interview with Dominique Wright, Author of Her Side Of The Story: A Psychically Channeled Untold Novel Of Catherine de Medici

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

While looking into her past lives, Dominique shockingly discovered that she was Catherine de Medici. During the process of recovering Catherine’s memories, Dominique realized that Catherine had a secret life she kept from everyone at court. 

I'm pleased to welcome author Dominique Wright to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your book.

Her Side of the Story is about the life of Catherine de Medici, written from her point of view. It starts from her childhood in Italy, just as she is about to begin her life in France, and goes throughout her entire lifetime. I wrote the book as if Catherine was narrating her life story to the readers, and she shares an intimate view of what transpired while she lived in the castle. I hope readers can connect with Catherine more personally with her life as a Queen, mother, wife, and friend like I have come to know her.   

What is your preferred writing routine?

Most of my writing was done in my kitchen, actually. I have four children, and the youngest two are still toddlers, so they played in the living room, where I could see them while I wrote my book standing up in the kitchen. I liked writing at my desk in my meditation room and tried to sit there as much as possible when the little ones were napping. 

I have a lava stone on which I rest my feet to stay grounded. It lets my mind stay present and clear, which helps my writing flow. I devoted about 2-4 hours per day to writing. It is usually midday after my morning routine or whenever I can squeeze in the time during my day. With the children's schedule, it took work to make time, but I always made an effort consistently. Where there is a will, there is always a way. But I had to figure out what worked for me, and I would advise others to do the same.

What advice do you have for new writers?

I am a new writer, so from one new writer to another. If you feel like you would write a book, then do it!

Trust yourself, embrace your deep desire to compose your book, and go for it! Accept that it is a process that may take some time, and it is something you have never experienced before. Be open to loving the journey of the unknown as you become a writer. There may be good days and bad days, but take it one day at a time and be patient and understanding with yourself. We all have a story inside of us that we need to share.

Refrain from overthinking about the opinions of others during your writing process because that can tend to block your personalized creativity that will make your book unique.

Take it one step at a time when writing and stay in the present moment. Authoring a book is a beautiful experience; you should be open to the process, especially on the bad days. But there will be such a sense of pride within yourself when you hold your book in your hands for the first time!

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

I am incredibly grateful to have been welcomed into the beautiful world of supporting authors who have helped guide me throughout this process. I have discovered that you must share about my book any way you can; otherwise, no one will know about it. There are so many methods, and it can all be overwhelming. 

But the most important thing is to continue sharing my book. Tell anyone and everyone. I post on social media daily. Having such a wonderful, supportive author community has helped as well. There is such beauty that fills the world when people support each other rise. Everyone benefits from such positivity.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

There was a lot actually that was very unexpected. But the one that stands out most is that I did not realize how much I would enjoy learning about Catherine and her life. There are many stories of her life from the point of view of other people who probably did not like her, and so, of course, she would have a negative reputation.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Oh goodness, the entire book was challenging for me to write. It was like an emotional rollercoaster. I am sure I cried writing every chapter, some harder than others, and I don't cry often. Not that the book is entirely sad, but there was a lot of emotional intensity in the experiences she shared, and I felt that emotion while writing the book.

What are you planning on writing next?

I would love to travel to France and spend a few months to be closer to where Catherine had lived to strengthen my connection with her so that I can write more in-depth books. Maybe a series about her life and the relationships she had with the ones she was closest to during her life. A series of the Life of Catherine de Medici may be coming soon. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book and would love to compose more.

Dominique Wright

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About the Author

Dominique Wright is an author, professionally trained energy healer, psychic and spiritual channel. At seventeen, she moved to Italy, where she lived for a year, then moved to Spain for another two. After transferring back to the United States, she became a stay-at-home mother and, after ten years, realized that there must be more to life than where she was. So, she began a spiritual journey that she has embarked on over the past thirteen years. During this time, she has grown to change many lifestyle habits for the better. She earned one marathon medal and three half-marathon medals, published a book, and became a professional energy healer and psychic. In her professional life, she enjoys helping others find their soul purpose, and in her personal life, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, eating, and being in nature. You can find Dominique on Twitter @WrightDomi1018

26 January 2024

Special Guest Interview with Philippa East, Author of A Guilty Secret: A psychological thriller about friendship and lies

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

2003: Carrie and her friends spend their days studying at boarding school, and their nights sneaking out to the woods. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

2019: When Finn receives a shocking call from his estranged wife, Mhairi, informing him of their friend Kate’s death, neither is prepared for the secrets they will uncover. The trail leads them to the events at a boarding school many years before.

I'm pleased to welcome author Philippa East to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

A Guilty Secret is my fourth psychological thriller with HQ/HarperCollins (released in January 2024). It's about a remote Scottish boarding school; a group of troubled teens getting up to no good in the woods; the untimely death of a beloved psychotherapist; and two estranged ex-spouses thrown together to investigate the connections between all these creepy goings-on… A Guilty Secret is available in e-book, paperback and audiobook now!

What is your preferred writing routine?

I generally write (or start writing) in the late morning, after checking messages and making a few posts on social media. Especially when I am writing (drafting a manuscript), I cannot work for long periods. I try to write 2,000 words a day, and I can manage that within about two hours. After that, I’m wiped and normally take a nap! 

When I'm editing, I can manage longer stints - perhaps up to five or six hours a day. I usually drink Redbush tea to keep me going and listen to concentration music to help me focus. Sometimes the ideas and words flow, and sometimes they just don’t. To be honest, I try to just sit down and put in the grunt work regardless of how inspired I feel.

What advice do you have for new writers?

If you know you want to write seriously, look to become "an expert in the field". Not the expert, of course, but try to learn as much as you can about the profession you aspire to. Firstly, read! Get to know what other contemporary authors are writing and publishing. Learn from them, be inspired by them, and get to know where your work fits alongside them. Secondly, study the writing craft. There are basic elements that make stories work for readers. 

These include: show vs tell, point-of-view, psychic distance and – so importantly – story structure (e.g. the “hero’s journey”; the “five commandments of storytelling”). It takes hard work, but getting to grips with these can be the quickest way to improve as a writer. Thirdly, seeking feedback and critique on your work is essential to make your work the best it can be. This can be from fellow writers in a writing group or on a writing forum, or from a professional editor. Finally, research carefully how to submit to agents. Getting this part right will hugely up your chances of securing representation and ultimately a publishing deal.

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

Probably the most effective way is the publicity and marketing my publishers do! But the way I most enjoy is doing in-person events with readers and writers. These can range from a panel slot at a major writing festival to an intimate event in my local library. It's such a privilege to meet the people who are reading and enjoying my work. I enjoy them all!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

For my second novel, Safe and Sound, I had to research what to do as a landlord if tenant dies in your flat. Safe and Sound is about a charismatic, popular, pretty young woman whose death in a south London bed-sit goes unnoticed for ten whole months. The book was initially inspired by the real-life death of Joyce Vincent in 2003, and the heart-breaking docu-drama Dreams of Life, made about her by filmmaker Carol Morley. 
When I was writing Safe and Sound, lots of people said, "but that would never happen!" and I too thought that no-one would be isolated like that in this era of mobile phones, text messages and social media. Sadly since the book came out in 2021, there have been a number of other cases of people dying in this lonely way.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

There is a scene at the end of my debut, Little White Lies, involving a very intense interaction between my two main characters, teenagers Jess and Abigail. It takes place on a railway bridge and was such a difficult scene to write not just because I had to absolutely nail it in terms of the emotional climax and culmination of both character arcs - but also because it was very difficult to work out the logistics of the bridge structure! My editor and I were reworked that scene right up until the book went to print.

What are you planning to write next?

I'm currently working on my fifth psychological thriller, which I hope will be released next year. This one in set rather exotically in Fiji and centres on an elite women's-empowerment organisation that has a very sinister underbelly... In this book, I'm enjoying exploring my obsession with modern-day cults, which as a psychologist I find absolutely fascinating. In this book, I’m also playing around with including episodes of a (fictionalised) true-crime podcast, which has given me an excuse for all the true-crime documentaries I am also obsessed with!

 Philippa East
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About the Author

Philippa East grew up in Scotland and originally studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Oxford. After graduating, she moved to London to train as a Clinical Psychologist and worked in NHS mental health services for over ten years. Philippa now lives in the Lincolnshire countryside with her spouse and cat, and alongside her writing she continues to work as a psychologist and therapist. Her debut novel Little White Lies was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger for best debut of 2020. She has since published three further psychological thrillers, Safe and Sound, I'll Never Tell, and A Guilty Secret. You can find Philippa on Facebook and Twitter: @philippa_east

25 January 2024

Book Review: Rosalind: one woman did the work, three men took the glory, by Jessica Mills

Available for pre-order

Rosalind Franklin knows that to be a woman in a man’s world is to be invisible. In the 1950s science is a gentleman’s profession, and it appears after WWII that there are plenty of colleagues who want 
to keep it that way.

Jessica Mills brings to life the true story of the often troubling world of Dr Rosalind Franklin, a brilliant scientist who played a key role in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Rosalind is a first person account of the relentless sexism and discrimination that Rosalind faced during her career, 'like Joan of Arc, fighting for égalité'.

I should not be surprised by the patronising attitudes of her mostly male colleagues, but Jessica Mills weaves a masterclass in immersive storytelling around the detailed science of the discovery. I found the casual remarks about her hair and dress disturbing, and she notes, 'it seems to be only men who comment freely on a woman's looks, as if they are fair game'.

Even more shocking is when we see how Rosalind must tolerate the blatant stealing of her scientific work by men who should know better, some even presenting her words as their own. 

Rosalind Franklin at work, 1955 (Wikimedia)

Inspiring and thought-provoking, Rosalind will leave you with a new appreciation for the contributions of Rosalind Franklin and other women to scientific discovery, and is an important reminder of the challenges that women in science had to (must still?) overcome.

I particularly liked the occasional flashbacks to Rosalind's life during the war, and how even her father thought she should work as a 'land girl' for the war effort. Her war work for the Coal Board improved the effectiveness of respirator filters, and set her on a path which would lead to new discoveries in DNA and RNA.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 was awarded to James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA.  Rosalind's contribution was briefly mentioned by Maurice in his acceptance speech as 'very useful' and covered up for many decades.  

I found myself wondering if the account has since changed. An internet search shows "crucially important X-ray crystallography work by English researchers Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, contributed to Watson and Crick's derivation of the three-dimensional, double-helical model for the structure of DNA."

I highly recommend Rosalind: One Woman Did the Work, Three Men Took the Glory to anyone interested in learning more about the history of science and the role that women have played in it.

"At times like this, when you lose everything that you ever knew to be true, all you can do is drive forwards to keep the ghosts at bay."

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Jessica Mills is a journalist and author. She has written for publications such as The Independent, The Wall Street Journal and Business Insider, where she investigated the use of flammable cladding in hospital intensive care units in 2020. She spent several years as an editor at Dow Jones, where she led the team that uncovered the misuse of funds at the  Abraaj Group, and was a member of the steering committee for Women at Dow Jones. Her debut novel tells the true story of Rosalind Franklin, the invisible woman behind the discovery of DNA’s double helix. It was longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize 2020. Find out more from her website and find her on Twitter @Byjessiemills

Disclosure: I am grateful to the publishers, Legend Press, for a review copy of Rosalind

24 January 2024

Book Launch Guest Post: The Secrets of Crestwell Hall, by Alexandra Walsh

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

1605: Bess Throckmorton is well used to cunning plots and intrigues. With her husband Sir Walter Raleigh imprisoned in the Tower of London, and she and her family in a constant battle to outwit Robert Cecil, the most powerful man in the country who is determined to ruin her, Bess decides to retreat to her beloved home, Crestwell Hall.

Bess Throckmorton and the Gunpowder Plotters’ Wives

The thing I love writing about most are the women who have been lost from history. In my new dual timeline novel, The Secrets of Crestwell Hall, I move between the present day and the early Jacobean period where I reimagine the 1605 Gunpowder Plot as told by the wives and female relatives of the Plotters. 

My contemporary characters have recently moved to the manor house, Crestwell Hall, which they are trying to save from having to be sold to be turned into a hotel. They want to discover its lost past and turn it into a place for people to visit to experience the restored grandeur of a bygone era. Isabella Lacey and her ten-year-old daughter, Emily, join Isabella’s aunt, Thalia, in this venture as Isabella heals from an unpleasant divorce. They discover a Bible that once belonged to a previous owner, Elizabeth, Lady Raleigh, wife of Sir Walter Raleigh and better known by her maiden name, Bess Throckmorton, which has a remarkable tale to tell. 

In The Secrets of Crestwell Hall, I have worked hard to give a voice to Bess who was a real woman of formidable character who had to cope with the difficulty of having a husband incarcerated in the Tower of London, guilty of treason. I became interested in her in 2019 when I was researching The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy (Sapere Books, 2020), particularly as through her Throckmorton family she was connected to a considerable number of the nobility. It was this which was most important for The Secrets of Crestwell Hall because she is related to nearly all the wives of the Gunpowder Plotters.

It was even more intriguing because the wives were Catholic while Bess was a Protestant in the vast and influential Catholic Throckmorton family. This made her the perfect person to use as a rallying point for the other suspicious wives. Not only was she living with the difficulties of having a husband who was an attainted traitor – Sir Walter Raleigh – her religion gave her protection. 

Raleigh had been arrested in 1603 for his part in the Main Plot. This was one of two plots that took place in the aftermath of Elizabeth I’s death and the succession of James I. He was sentenced to death but this was commuted at the block to life imprisonment in the Tower of London. In the eyes of the law, he was legally dead, yet he remained very much alive. 

I tried to imagine how difficult this must have made life for Bess. Her husband’s lands and houses were forfeit to the Crown, yet she had two sons and herself to support. After the Gunpowder Plot was discovered, in the real version of events, both Bess and Walter fell under suspicion. However, with no evidence against them, the charges were dropped, yet for me, this was the hook I needed to draw together all the wives. 

Of the thirteen main plotters led by Robert Catesby, eleven were married. These women have been hiding in their shadows all along but now, I shall introduce you to them.  

By the time of the plot Catesby was a widower. His Protestant wife, Catherine Leigh had died in 1599. They had married in March 1593 and had two sons: William – who died as a baby – and Robert. The differing religions suggests various possibilities: it was a love match or in his youth, Catesby, was not such a zealous Catholic and political activist. It was after Catherine’s death he became more involved in politics.

The first person to join Catesby was John Wright, known to all as Jack. His wife was Dorothy Scott. They were teenage sweethearts, who married in 1588. Jack did not convert to Catholicism until the Essex Rebellion in 1601, then the family home of Twigmore Hall, North Lincolnshire became a safe house for Jesuit priests. When he was enthral to Catesby, Jack and Dorothy moved their six children to a house belonging to Catesby at Lapworth in Warwickshire. Dorothy was one of the wives arrested after the plot was discovered. 

Dorothy’s family has been harder to trace and at present, I am still searching.

Thomas Wintour, Catesby’s cousin was next to join up but there are no records he was ever married. However, the same cannot be said for Guy Fawkes. The Internet has a variety of theories and in her book, The Gunpowder Plot, Terror and Faith in 1605, Antonia Fraser suggests Fawkes may have been married to a Maria or Mary Pulleine and they had a son, Thomas. My research revealed various documents linking Guy Fawkes to the Catholic Pulleine family of Scotton Hall, Yorkshire. There are signed notices concerning rents and land ownership giving Fawkes a clear connection to the Pulleine family and this may have been where the suggestion arose but, alas I found no conclusive proof of his marriage. 

Two of the marriages of the plotters were known to be in tatters and the first of these was the marriage between Martha Wright and Thomas Percy. Martha was the sister of John and Christopher Wright, two of the plotters and was the daughter of a convicted recusant, her mother, Ursula Rudston. At the time of the plot, Martha and her husband were barely on speaking terms with rumours abounding that he had bigamously taken another wife. Despite this, in the aftermath, Martha was one of the six wives arrested and taken to London for questioning. 

The other couple having problems were Anne Tufton and Francis Tresham. He was another cousin of Catesby and well-known for his volatile nature. There are records detailing Tresham’s misdemeanours – assault, affray and general bad behaviour – and it’s possible this unreliability was the reason he was one of the last to be initiated into the Plot. 

Tresham was accused of writing the Monteagle letter, the document that revealed the Plot but Catesby accepted his explanation that he was not the culprit. Tresham was arrested on 12 November and died of an unspecified illness while incarcerated in the Tower of London. Anne’s reaction appears to be undocumented but as a Protestant, she would have been safe from the law and maybe, she was relieved to be free from the suspicion and drama of being married to such an unpredictable man.

The other wives (using their maiden names) were Gertrude Talbot (married to Robert Wintour), Margaret Ward (married to Christopher Wright), Dorothy Wintour (John Grant), Christina Browne (Robert Keyes), Elizabeth Tyrwhitt (Ambrose Rookwood), Mary Mulsho (Everard, Lord Digby) and Martha, the wife of Catesby’s loyal manservant, Thomas Bates. At present, I am still searching for her maiden name. 

Of these women, Margaret Ward, Dorothy Wintour, Christina Browne and Elizabeth Tyrwhitt were also arrested. They were taken to London and held at the houses of numerous aldermen of the City. 

Eventually, they were released without charge but their lives were damaged by their husbands’ traitorous behaviour. Homes were searched and goods looted by local militia. Mary Mulsho in particular was horrified at the violence with which her house was treated and the amount of goods claimed by law enforcement officers. 

The Gunpowder Plot remains one of the most famous incidents from James I’s reign and, while the wives survived their lives and the lives of their families would forever be tainted by the tang of gunpowder, treason and plot.  

Alexandra Walsh
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About the Author

Alexandra Walsh is a bestselling author of the dual timeline women’s fiction. Her books range from the 15th and 16th centuries to the Victorian era and are inspired by the hidden voices of women that have been lost over the centuries. The Marquess House Saga offers an alternative view of the Tudor and early Stuart eras, while The Wind Chime and The Music Makers explore different aspects of Victorian society. Formerly, a journalist for over 25 years, writing for many national newspapers and magazines; Alexandra also worked in the TV and film industries as an associate producer, director, script writer and mentor for the MA Screen Writing course at the prestigious London Film School. She is a member of The Society of Authors and The Historical Writers Association. For updates and more information visit her website: and follow her on Facebook, Twitter @purplemermaid25 and Bluesky

23 January 2024

Special Guest Interview with Katharine Quarmby, Author of The Low Road

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In 1828, two young women were torn apart as they were sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay. Will they ever meet again?

I'm pleased to welcome author Katharine Quarmby to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Low Road is set in Georgian England, and moves between the early childhood of the main character, Hannah, in rural Norfolk, to the orphanage she is sent to in Hackney, East London, where she meets another inmate, Annie and forges a deep and loving relationship with her, before both being transported, separately, to Australia in the 1820s. For me this story is a way of connecting with a true story from my Norfolk hometown, but it is also a story from the roots up, of how an ordinary, working class girl fought to be herself, against all odds. 

What is your preferred writing routine?

I prefer to write first thing in the morning for a few hours, before taking a break at lunchtime. I then find I often have another burst of energy towards the end of the day. I also find that it works for me to keep the routine going during the weekend, if possible, so I try and at least keep the thinking process about writing going then. I want my unconscious mind to do the work, so if I set myself a writing problem on Friday that feels intractable, sometimes by letting it sit over the weekend, it can be at least wrangled into shape on a Monday. 

This pattern holds largely true for journalism as well, which is my day job, with one key difference. I write in the morning, take a break at lunchtime and try and walk to the local reservoir and back if there’s time. I then find it easier to edit, rather than write in the afternoon. The only difference is that I try to keep the weekends completely free if I’m writing an article, to give myself downtime. I think that’s because journalism is clearly paid, so I treat it as a job, with proper breaks and writing is a passion, so it’s for pleasure. So I don’t mind it creeping into the weekend. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

My advice is to find the routine that suits you best. I’ve found that writing and journalism seem to use the same part of my mind, so if I’m writing a long-read or an investigation it is too near to creative writing for me to hold the two at the same time. Instead, I write in blocks of time. My main source of income is journalism, so I embark on a project, earn what I can (whilst enjoying the process and collaborating with colleagues a lot, it’s no hardship) and then give myself time to write fiction. Other writers can segment their time and do jobs and write at the same time. Find your own rhythm and routine. 

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

I’m not sure there is just one way, because the publishing industry has become so large, and at the same time the space for book reviews has shrunk considerably. Where for previous books the publisher has taken on the lion’s share of the publicity, this time around has been different. I’ve had to be actively involved in seeking out awareness raising myself, doing podcasts, book blogs (which I love), asking for reviews and endorsements from other authors, and doing social media. Book bloggers are a really important part of the book industry landscape and it’s been a pleasure to discover this wonderful community of readers and writers committed to discussing fiction in such a positive and constructively engaged way. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

For me the most unexpected part of my research was finding that there were loving and long-lasting relationships in the female work factories in Australia, where one of my key characters was sent after she was transported. There were also deep friendships between girls at the Refuge for the Destitute in Hackney, London. This uncovered a hidden history for me in Georgian times and I hope I have done it justice in The Low Road

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Two key characters die in The Low Road and writing about the bereavement and ongoing trauma that follows death was hard for me, not least because our family experienced multiple bereavements in 2017, one of the years in which I was researching the novel. 

What are you planning to write next?

I have been lucky enough to be awarded an Arts Council England grant to develop a crime series, which I’m basing loosely on stories I have covered both in the UK and abroad. But I don’t want to stop writing historical fiction either - I’m in the early stages of reflecting on how I could write another novel about the Swing Rioters in Eastern England, where I grew up, and about how ordinary working people stood up to the injustices caused by the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the effect on wages and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. 

Katharine Quarmby

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About the Author

Katharine Quarmby has written non-fiction, short stories and books for children and her debut novel, The Low Road, is published by Unbound in 2023. Her non-fiction works include Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People (Portobello Books, 2011) and No Place to Call Home: Inside the Real Lives of Gypsies and Travellers (Oneworld, 2013). She has also written picture books and shorter e-books.
She is an investigative journalist and editor, with particular interests in disability, the environment, race and ethnicity, and the care system. Her reporting has appeared in outlets including the Guardian, The Economist, The Atlantic, The Times of London, the Telegraph, New Statesman and The Spectator. Katharine lives in London. Katharine also works as an editor for investigative journalism outlets, including Investigative Reporting Denmark and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Find out more at Katherine's website:  and find her on Facebook and Twitter @KatharineQ

22 January 2024

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn: Volume II, by Sarah Morris

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Anne is a young, twenty-first-century woman in the midst of a lifelong love affair with the sixteenth-century and the enigmatic Anne Boleyn. Whilst indulging her secret passion on an exclusive 'Anne Boleyn Connoisseurs' Weekend', she is taken seriously ill at Hever Castle. Falling into a deep state of unconsciousness, Anne becomes ensnared in a time portal that transports her back in time to England in 1527.

She awakens to find herself in the body of her heroine, Anne Boleyn, at the time, a young woman on the brink of an historic love affair with the mighty King Henry VIII. Anne finds herself at the centre of Henry's world, yet increasingly vulnerable as the figurehead of the emerging and evermore powerful Boleyn faction. 

Whilst she learns what it is to walk in the footsteps of the woman who would change English history, she is also engulfed in mixed emotions and only too aware of how her relationship with Henry mirrors that of her twenty-first-century relationship with Dan, her married lover.

Soon, Anne begins to lose her own sense of identity as the boundaries between the two women begin to blur. As she is sucked back and forth between her two great loves and two increasingly fragile lives, Anne struggles to change her heroine's terrible fate on the scaffold while trying to prevent her modern-day life from hurtling inextricably toward disaster.

'Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn' is a timeless story of passion, ambition and betrayal; it is also an enduring story of an intense love forged between two souls bound together for all eternity.

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About the Author

Sarah Morris, also known online as The Tudor Travel Guide, lives in England, in the picturesque Gloucestershire countryside. She has been enthralled by the Tudors since she was a child, learning about them at school and spending many happy weekends and holidays touring historic properties with her parents. Sarah is often heard saying that when we visit a place, it is only time and not space, which separates us from the past. With that in mind, The Tudor Travel Guide, is committed to ensuring that Tudor history lovers everywhere can relish their immersion into the past, with all the facts and hard-to-find details needed to time travel at their fingertips! New itineraries and places to visit are constantly being added to the Tudor Travel Guide ‘portfolio’. To keep abreast of all the latest, sign up for 'The Tudor Travel Guide’s' mailing list via the homepage: and find Sarah on Instagram @thetudortravelguide

21 January 2024

Book review: Puritan Rule Under Cromwell, by Jane Hayter-Hames

Available for pre-order from Amazon UK

The civil wars which turned England into a battlefield ended with the execution of King Charles I in Whitehall on the 30th January, 1649.  The new government had unimaginable power, yet the social and political problems would not go away, and both Scotland and Ireland simmered with discontent about English rule.

This is where Jane Hayter-Hames' new book begins, although I recommend reading her previous book, The Fall of Charles I, to have a fuller understanding of the background.

Oliver Cromwell emerged as the leader, but his brand of Puritanism did not have mass appeal, there was still a significant Catholic faction, and by it's nature Parliament proved difficult to control. Driven underground, Royalist sympathisers muttered about a king in exile, and the new constitution had yet to be agreed.

Cromwell did his best to balance these conflicting demands, and this book provides a clear overview of events up to his death on the 3rd of September 1658, aged 59.

In 1660, Charles I's son was restored as king, but his kingdom was changed forever. Puritan Rule Under Cromwell offers a useful way of understanding how - and why the monarchy was given a second chance. I look forward to reading the next volume in Jane Hayter-Hames'  fascinating series.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Jane Hayter-Hames is an author, historian and researcher. She was born in Devon and lives on her farm on the edge of Dartmoor She also has roots in County Cork, Ireland where she has studied and written history. She read politics and economics at the University of Oxford, but returned to the university to take a BA in history in 2009.

20 January 2024

Book Launch Spotlight: Enemies of the Empire: (Foundation of the Dragon Series: Book 3) by Robb Pritchard

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

AD 383: Magnus Maximus is on the verge of usurping the Western Empire, but the greater fight will be for his legitimacy. 

As the empire teeters around him, its enemies getting stronger, he must navigate the narrow path between diplomacy and military aggression. But is the empire still strong enough to bear another internal conflict?

His wife Elen is sworn to protect her mountainous corner of Britannia. Magnus taking an army across the empire will leave her loved ones vulnerable, and so her husband turns into her enemy. 

Her damaged brother, easily malleable by powerful men both opposed and allied to Magnus, has become a pawn in the circles of power, but no one knows where his loyalties lie. Least of all him.

Three emperors enter the final conflict, but will the empire itself survive?

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About the Author

Robb grew up in North Wales but left for a life of travelling when he was a teenager. After living in a dozen different countries around the world over nearly thirty years, he became nostalgic for his home country. Hiraeth, in Welsh. For the day job, he has the unbelievable privilege of travelling the world to test drive, and write about, classic Porsches and Ferraris and the occasional crazy off-roader and has lived off his writing, and some half-decent photos for the last fifteen years. The passion though, has long been writing novels. It took a few long years for him to get here but Brethren is malting its fluffy fledgling feathers and has been released into the wild. Hopefully, he wrote it well enough that it can fend for itself. Find out more from Robb's website

19 January 2024

Book Review by Maya Cherny of Drake - Tudor Corsair, Book One of the Elizabethan Series

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

1564: Devon sailor Francis Drake sets out on a journey of adventure. Drake learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life in an audacious plan to steal a fortune. Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy.

Review by Maya Cherny

A fictional account of Francis Drake’s life and rise to prominence. The book is written as the first person narrative, quite reserved and simple, as Drake positions himself. It almost reads as a captain’s log of the voyage, where his entire life is such a voyage.

The book explores his childhood and birth of his love of sea adventures, his first voyage, his rise to commanding a ship, piracy(privateering) and being a consultant to Elizabeth I on the seafarers matters. From a humble beginning as a son of village preacher, his path seem unusually lucky in different aspects.

He had the woman he loved, his found passion and profession, attention of the Queen, enormous wealth and privileges. Of course, there were other things, that might have been better: he lost many of his relatives and friends to sea adventures, he did not have kids of his own, experienced look downs on him from nobility, 

Blamed for bringing trophies/not bringing enough trophies/angering the Spanish, still, his life is a poem of longing for new experiences and reaching them.

He was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, although not intentionally. He befriended locals in new lands, tried out novelty food, seen world wonders and became experienced sailor, commander, cartographer, strategist.

The author outlined interesting personal characteristics, which led me to think of Francis Drake as an observant person, good manager for his crew, with strategic planning and ability to learn on mistakes of others.

I became very much engaged with the story and by the last pages I did not want him to die, even the outcome is known for hundreds of years. Nevertheless even his death seems proper - a sailor parts with the world near far lands at his beloved sea.

Maya Cherny

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About the Reviewer

Maya Cherny is originally from Moscow and lives inSan Jose, California, where she works as a software engineer and mathematician. A ballet dancer at heart, Maya's interest in British medieval and Tudor history began with Philippa Gregory's books and she then continued to look for authors of fiction and non-fiction for that period in British and medieval history. You can find Maya on Facebook.

18 January 2024

Shadows in the Ashes, by Christina Courtenay

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Brimming with romance, adventure and vivid historical detail, Christina Courtenay's gripping dual-time novel travels from the present day to the fires of ancient Pompeii.

The sunlight caught her gold bracelet, sending a flash that almost blinded her.

She closed her eyes, but jumped when the earth started shaking and there was an almighty boom behind her.

Present Day

Finally escaping an abusive marriage, Caterina Rossi takes her three-year-old daughter and flees to Italy. There she's drawn to research scientist Connor, who needs her translation help for his work on volcanology. 

Together they visit the ruins of Pompeii and, standing where Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fire on the city centuries before, Cat begins to see startling visions. Visions that appear to come from the antique bracelet handed down through her family's generations...

AD 79

Sold by his half-brother and enslaved as a gladiator in Roman Pompeii, Raedwald dreams only of surviving each fight, making the coin needed to return to his homeland and taking his revenge. 

That is, until he is hired to guard beautiful Aemilia. As their forbidden love grows, Raedwald's dreams shift like the ever more violent tremors of the earth beneath his feet.

The present starts eerily to mirror the past as Cat must fight to protect her safety, and to forge a new path from the ashes of her old life...

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About the author

Christina Courtenay lives in Herefordshire in the UK and is married with two children. Although born in England she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, the family moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East. Christina is a Vice President and former chairman and of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). She won their Elizabeth Goudge Trophy for a historical short story in 2001 and the Katie Fforde Bursary for a promising new writer in 2006. When she's not writing, she spends her time tracking down elusive ancestors for her family tree, and her other hobbies include archaeology (the armchair variety), listening to loud rock music and collecting things. Find out more at Christina's website and follow Christina on Twitter @PiaCCourtenay

17 January 2024

Book Launch Guest Post by Jane Dunn, Author of An Unsuitable Heiress

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In Regency England, beauty and talent are not enough to be considered marriage material, so when the eminently eligible Lord Charles Latimer sets his heart on Angelica, his uncle is sent to intervene.

A Writing Life

My writing life has certainly been one of serendipity, over which we have little control. But after many decades of writing and publishing, it has also been one of tenacity and hard work, which is entirely in our own hands. The serendipity came to me when I left London University and decided to enter the Vogue Talent Competition. 

This was a well-established way to stand a very slim chance of being offered a job by Condé Nast in their flagship building Vogue House, in Hanover Square in Mayfair, London. One of the assignments of the competition was to write an autobiography. I was an entirely green girl and was amazed to be awarded, as runner-up prize, a job in the editorial side of British Vogue! There began one of the most surprising and enjoyable times of my life.

Working for Vogue, however lowly my job, opened the next door. I met Christopher Falkus, the MD of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, at a publishing party I was trying to avoid (I had 2 small children and would rather have stayed home with them) and he said in an airy way, ‘Write me a book.’ Mr Falkus had had some success with writers who had worked for Vogue, and biographies were all the rage. 

From nowhere the name Mary Shelley, wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and author of Frankenstein, shot into my mind. When I discovered there had been no biography of her since the 1930s, I wrote to him and said, I will write you a biography of Mary Shelley. I was commissioned for £500 and so it all began.
I put my children to bed at 6pm and wrote while they slept. 

This was pre-internet so every morsel of information had to be gleaned from books and manuscripts which meant endless, time-consuming visits to wonderful libraries in London and America. My first book Moon in Eclipse was well-received by the critics and I realised I could be a biographer and this was a career I could manage while looking after my children, even as a single parent. It also introduced me to the Romantic Poets, the Napoleonic Wars and late Georgian politics, manners and history, and I fell in love with the period.

My most commercially successful biography was Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens about the relationship between the cousin queens, Elizabeth l and Mary Queen of Scots, published by HarperCollins. It actually entered The Sunday Times and New York Times Bestseller lists and stayed there for some weeks. An ambitious undertaking, it took every ounce of my resources. Inevitably, with the passing years, my energy for writing biographies, which take years to research and write, began to wane, as did publishers’ appetite for them. So I happily hung up my quill and thought my public writing life was done.

But No! I read a witty article in The Times about the genius of Georgette Heyer and I was reminded of my love for her when I was a teenager. I re-read every one of her novels and when I came to the end I did not want to leave this brilliant Regency world behind. So I sat down to write my own. Luckily my agent, an heroic Scot who had never read a Regency Romance in his life, loved it and sold it to Boldwood Books. They are remarkably collaborative and I have had terrific fun writing these stories for them to publish. They have surprised me with joy – and success!

I have always loved writing about women and now I was writing about fictional women who existed on the edge of Regency high society. My first was The Marriage Season about a young widow of the Peninsular War and her sister who live in the country and decide to go to London for the Season so Lucie can find a suitable match. There is a toddler son, fleets of magnificent horses (the Ferraris of the Regency) and heroes, raffish friends and dark-souled villains to die for.

My second was An Unsuitable Heiress about a motherless, illegitimate young woman who is too poor to hire a maid as chaperone. To be able to travel to London alone to find her father and become a portrait painter she disguises herself as a young man. Of course all kinds of adventures and eye-opening situations occur as she’s befriended by 3 young blades and introduced to masculine Regency life.

My latest book, published in January 2024, is A Scandalous Match, about a young actress, Angelica Leigh, from the wrong side of the tracks who is a sensation playing Ophelia to Kean’s Hamlet. The young son of a duke falls in love and determines to marry her, causing all kinds of consternation to his family. 

An actress is only one rung socially above a courtesan and such déclassé women rarely become legitimate members of the Haut Ton. So his uncle, a reforming Whig MP, is despatched to buy her off…Dodgy parents, a predatory Tory MP, a Byronic poet swirl through the pages. Against all the odds our lovely Angelica finds true love – of course! She has the kind of good looks to stop traffic and this Leighton painting of the Siren and Sailor gave me the idea of her beauty and lovely red-gold hair.

So the moral of my tale is: never say never. If you are open to new challenges you may start a whole new chapter of your life, or veer off into an unexpected byway of your work. When serendipity offers you a hand, grab it and run with all your might – and you are bound to win in one way or another, and have a great deal of fun along the way.
Thank you to all my wonderful readers, to Tony Riches for his generosity in asking me to contribute to his blog, and Good Luck to you all in every endeavour.

Jane Dunn

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About the Author

Jane Dunn is an historian and biographer and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her first job after university was at British Vogue - she was runner-up in their annual talent competition and lucky enough to be offered a job in the editorial side of British Vogue. Jane began writing historical fiction, specifically set in the Regency in the time of the Napoleonic Wars. An elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Jane lives in Berkshire with her husband, the Classicist, Nicholas Ostler, and an elderly rescue whippet. You can find Jane on Goodreads and Twitter @JaneDunnAuthor