I’ve always loved history and I’ve always loved reading. I can’t remember how old I was when I first crept into my grandparents’ front room and secretly “borrowed” a volume from the treasure trove in the mahogany bookcase. But I do still remember the wonder of visiting other times, of living other lives, as I turned those pages. I grew up on a farm, quite isolated in those days, so I saw few other children. But I wasn’t really lonely. Characters from the books I read became my friends and I used to make up all sorts of stories about the adventures I shared with them. I’ve been reading ever since.
In my teens I devoured Jean Plaidy’s historical novels and at about the same time I found Anya Seton’s Katherine, which I return to again and again. I would love to have become a historian, but life gets in the way of our dreams. As it turned out I went into the science stream at school and after a few false starts eventually found my way into the Civil Service. I juggled marriage and children with a career, and wrote carefully crafted policy briefings and speeches for Ministers to deliver.
In retirement I can give my fascination with times past full rein. I first met Katherine Champernowne, the subject of my first novel, when I volunteered with the National Trust, where I make regular appearances as a history interpreter. I started to research her life. Like most women of her time her footprint on the historical record is light, but I persevered and dug deeper, searching for clues amongst the dusty documents that do remain to us. I pored over biographies of her famous boys and longed to fill the tantalising gaps in her story, to imagine what it felt like to be her. So A Woman of Noble Wit was born. It will have a special place in the mahogany bookcase that now stands in my front room waiting for my grandchildren to discover its secrets.
Creating historical clothes has rekindled my love of needlework and finding out how those amazing outfits were made has introduced me to such a wide range of topics – from the sixteenth century wool trade to the discovery of new dye stuffs; from linen and laundry to health and hygiene; from the laws that controlled what everyone wore to the tailors and seamstresses who laboured long to create the latest fashion for the wealthy.
My research continues. I'm currently exploring the story of another woman who spent much of her life in Devon and I'm constantly learning more about living in those times. I love sharing my discoveries through my writing, my blog and my talks.Events Page My Writing My Blog