Thursday, 27 September 2012

History in the Court 2012

History in the Court is a wonderful annual opportunity for lovers of historical fiction to meet one another and their favourite authors. It's run by David Headley, owner of Goldsboro Books in London. Last week I scooted up to the big smoke to attend for the second time. The bookshop is quite small, so people spill out into the street, with chatter and laughter broken only by the occasional sound of a wine-glass breaking...

It was lovely to meet again two writers I met last year: first, Douglas Jackson, who writes thrillers set in ancient Rome under his own name, and a different strand of thrillers, the most recent of which is The Isis Covenant, under the name James Douglas. Like so many writers, he works to a gruelling production schedule but clearly loves what he does - we had a good chat about how useful Google satellite is when researching locations.

I also met Karen Maitland, one of my favourite historical fiction writers, again. I've read all of her books and strongly recommend them - her latest, set in Iceland and Portugal, is The Falcons of Fire and Ice. We discussed Icelandic volcanoes and medieval health remedies!

It was great also to see the lovely Jenny Barden, who's caught up in the whirlwind of promoting her book, Mistress of the Sea (see my previous blogpost here about the launch) - and in organising the Historical Novel Society's Conference, which starts tomorrow!

I had hoped to meet Lynn Shepherd at last, the author of the brilliant Tom-All-Alone's - but one of the penalties of milling about in the street in the semi-dark is that it's very difficult to know who's there! Some writers wore badges, but you feel uncomfortable barging up to someone and staring fiercely at their pectoral region ...

I was also remiss on the photography front (blame the wine) - so I only have one of Karen Maitland. Here's the link to my report on last year's History in the Court, which is more heavily illustrated!

On Saturday, I'm off to the Historical Novel Society Conference, and I'm really looking forward to it. There are fascinating panel discussions and talks lined up, pitch meetings and the chance to socialise with authors and readers. Three of my Fictionfire clients will be there, so I'm looking forward to catching up with them.

Two Saturdays after that (13th October), I'll be running my writing workshop I Need a Hero, about how to create memorable heroes and heroines in your fiction - full details of that and the other workshops in the autumn/winter series are on my website here - they include setting up your social platform, writing short stories, and creating villains with relish!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Jenny Barden: Mistress of the Sea Book Launch

Jenny Barden and her book, with its beautiful cover
Two weeks ago I went to Daunt's very lovely bookshop on Marylebone High Street to attend the launch of Jenny Barden's Tudor adventure, Mistress of the Sea. It was a great evening: Jenny made a speech, and excerpts of the novel were given dramatised readings by various young people dotted around the shop. Given that Daunt's has a beautiful wooden gallery running round the main shop-floor, it was easy to relate this to the idea of a 16th century theatre or the decks of a ship. Mind you, it did startle the clientele when the first stentorian voice belted out!

The book itself is the result of a long process, as books are: of ideas gelling, of strands coming together, of research and aha! moments, of doubts and of faith. Jenny paid tribute to friends and writing colleagues who've helped see her through, including the Verulam Writers' Circle, the new writers' scheme of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and the Historical Novel Society. Incredibly, she's been balancing preparing for this launch with organising the HNS Conference in London at the end of this month - I don't know how she manages it!

Writers are often full of self-doubt and success may seem an ever-receding goal, but attending book events like these reminds us that it can happen, it can come true. What we all need is staying-power. Plus passion. Plus friends and support. For me, it was a delight to meet Jenny and also to meet Emma Darwin at last - I'd got to know them through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, and this is how these networks function these days. You make contact, share ideas and experience, shore each other up, tell each other jokes and snippets of lit-gossip and trade-satire - and often you haven't even met that person, so it's such a pleasure when events such as these and the upcoming HNS Conference give you the chance to do so.

I'm looking forward to reading Mistress of the Sea: adventure on the high seas and in the New World at the time of Francis Drake, with romance and rebelliousness mixed in. What's not to like? If you want to find out more about Jenny, her website is . She's written a fascinating post about the genesis and development of the story at

The Historical Novel Society is here  and is well worth joining, but the Conference is now, I believe, fully booked!

Jenny is in Plymouth today, giving a talk: 'Following Drake's first adventure - but suppose a woman had been there?' Great stuff!

Jenny is on Twitter: @jennywilldoit and I'm @LornaFergusson.

In October and November I'll be running workshops on creating heroes and villains, as part of my Fictionfire autumn and winter programme. I Need a Hero is on October 13th and Villains with Relish is on November 10th - you can find full details on the Fictionfire website: