So that's eighteen of your twenty-nine History Girls. You can read about all of them and the rest below.
Elizabeth Chadwick remembers telling herself a story about fairies at the age of three. Throughout her childhood she continued to entertain herself with verbal tales of the imagination and it wasn't until her teens when she developed a crush on a tall, dark handsome knight in a TV programme that she began to write her stories down. Having completed her first 500 page novel at 16 (to this day languishing in a drawer), she decided that writing historical fiction was going to be her career. A further 16 years of working in supermarkets and doing the mother to small children job ensued while she honed her craft, sent off novels and received rejections. However all that changed when she was taken on by a leading London literary agency Blake Friedmann and her 8th crack at the market, The Wild Hunt, was accepted for publication. The Wild Hunt went on to win a Betty Trask award, presented by HRH The Prince of Wales, and to be translated into 16 languages.
Since Then, Elizabeth has written a further 21 novels, and been shortlisted 5 times for the Romantic Novelists' Association Major Award for mainstream fiction. In 2010 The Scarlet Lion was nominated by Richard Lee, founder of the Historical Novel Society as one of his top ten historical fiction works of the decade. In 2011 To Defy A King won the Romantic Novelists Association Best Historical Novel of the Year. Elizabeth is currently busy writing a trilogy about Eleanor of Aquitaine, which she hopes will shed a fresh light on this iconic medieval queen.
Anglo-Irish actress Carol Drinkwater is perhaps still most familiar to audiences for her award-winning portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. A popular and acclaimed author and film-maker as well, Carol has published twenty books for both the adult and young adult markets. She is currently at work on her twenty-first title.
When she purchased a rundown property overlooking the Bay of Cannes in France, she discovered on the grounds sixty-eight, 400-year-old olive trees. Once the land was reclaimed and the olives pressed, Carol along with her French husband, Michel, became the producers of top-quality olive oil. Her series of memoirs, love stories, recounting her experiences on her farm (The Olive Farm, The Olive Season, The Olive Harvest and Return to the Olive Farm) have become international bestsellers. Carol's fascination with the olive tree extended to a seventeenth-month, solo Mediterranean journey in search of the tree's mythical secrets. The resulting travel books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree, have inspired a five-part documentary films series entitled The Olive Route.
Carol has also been invited to work with UNESCO to help create an Olive Heritage Trail around the Mediterranean with the dual goals of creating peace in the region and honouring the ancient heritage of the olive tree.
Elizabeth Fremantle worked in women's magazines for some years before enrolling to study English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck and now writes novels set in the tudor period. QUEEN'S GAMBIT is about Henry VIII's sixth wife Katherine Parr, a canny political operator at a time of great upheaval, and SISTERS OF TREASON (May 2014) tells the heartrending story of Lady Jane Grey's two sisters, girls who found themselves at the heart of the struggle for the succession. A third novel (2015) will be about 'the decadent' Penelope Devereux, sister of the erstwhile Earl of Essex, described by James I as 'a fair woman with a black soul' and who was no stranger to scandal. Elizabeth lives North West London with her children and two poodles.
Laurie Graham is the otherwise unemployable author of twelve dark, social comedies who has turned in more recent years to historical fiction. With A Humble Companion she fulfilled a long-time ambition to write about Princess Sophia of Hanover and The Liar’s Daughter scratched her itch to write about Horatio Nelson. Her most recent novel, The Grand Duchess of Nowhere, focuses on Princess Victoria Melita, one of Queen Victoria’s less biddable granddaughters and an eye-witness to the Russian revolution. Laurie also blogs at http://www.lauriegraham.com/blog usually on some aspect of books and writing. She has four children, nine grandchildren, and lives in Dublin with her American husband.
Mary Hoffman has written over a hundred books for teenagers and children, recently specialising in the fantasy history of the Stravaganza six book sequence, set in a parallel world version of Italy in the 16th Century. She also writes stand-alone historical novels like The Falconer’s Knot, Troubadour and David, all published by Bloomsbury. Mary lives in a converted barn in Oxfordshire with her husband and three predatory cats. Her three daughters are all grown up and work in the Arts. She edited and contributed to Daughters of Time, the first publication of The History Girls. She started The History Girls blog in July 2011. Mary is currently working on a novel about Shakespeare and the supernatural.
Christina Koning is a novelist and short story writer who has reviewed extensively for the UK national press. She was born in Kuala Belait, Borneo, spent her early childhood in Venezuela and Jamaica, and was educated at Girton College, Cambridge and and the University of Edinburgh. She has worked as a travel writer and journalist - most recently for The Times - and has also taught creative writing at Oxford and Birkbeck College, London. Koning has appeared as a critic on Radio 4's Woman's Hour and has had stories broadcast on Radio 4; her short stories have also appearing in New Writing. In 2012 her short story, "A Worm in the Rain," about the poet Christopher Smart, was short-listed for the Bridport Prize.
Koning's first novel, A Mild Suicide, was published in 1992 and was short-listed for the David Higham Prize for Fiction. Her second, Undiscovered Country, won the Encore Award and was long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Fabulous Time (2011) was awarded a Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship. Recent fiction includes The Dark Tower and Variable Stars, about the 18th Century astronomer Caroline Herschel.
Her current novel, Line of Sight, is the first in a series of detective stories set in the late 1920s, featuring Frederick Rowlands, the "blind detective." Christina Koning is currently Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge.
was born and grew up in Gravesend, Kent, where she spent a lot of time up trees with a skipping rope tied around her waist, longing to turn into a monkey. The rest of her time was spent waging war against the cruelties of nature: she rescued stranded worms, mended snails' shells with sellotape, righted beetles, and buried the birds that the cat brought home. She was mistaken for a boy right up until about the age of fourteen (possible as a result of her cropped hair and constantly scabby knees). On one traumatic occasion she was taken to see Santa in his grotto and he asked her, 'What do you want for Christmas, sonny?"
Tanya studied English Literature at university, and then worked in a bookshop (running the children's section - lovely!), an arts centre (putting up soggy posters in the rain) and a zoo (where she spent a lot of time dressed up in a bear suit as Kevin the Teddy). Since 1992 she's been a writer, administrator and performer for Storybox Theatre. She now lives in north Devon with her partner, her two sons, , a ferocious Siamese cat called Edgar, and an eternally optimistic Labrador called Hobson. The latest addition to the household is Sally - Hobson's niece. She is an escapologist.
Tanya's latest YA novel is Buffalo Soldier.
Y S Lee (Ying) is the author of the award-winning Mary Quinn mysteries, published by Walker Books (UK) and Candlewick Press (USA). Rivals in the City, the fourth and final book in the series, is released in June 2014. Ying blogs every Wednesday at www.yslee.com.
Joan Lennon was born in Canada long enough ago to have experienced history first hand. She has lived in Scotland most of her adult life. She has a PhD from St Andrews University and has endeavoured unsuccessfully to get her 4 sons to address her as Doctor Mummy.
Her medieval series for 8-12 year olds, The Wickit Chronicles, follows the adventures of a boy called Pip with the voice of an angel and a delightful though dangerous-to-know gargoyle (technically a grotesque) called Perfect. In her Victorian series, The Slightly Jones Mysteries, also for 8-12s, her heroine's ambition is to be as great a detective as Mr Sherlock Holmes, and no baffling clues, mad scientists, Egyptian mummies or Scottish ghosts are going to stop her.
Joan's YA novel about Skara Brae, called Silver Skin, is due to be published in spring 2015. She is one of the contributors to Daughters of Time.
Claire Letemendia (also published as V.C. Letemendia)
Claire was born in Oxford and grew up in the neighbouring countryside where a great deal of action took place during the English Civil War, the period about which she writes. In her teens she wrote a Civil War novel and still has those pages preserved, in tiny handwriting, perhaps inspired by the Brontë children’s tales of Angria.
She moved to Canada in the mid-seventies and ended up pursuing an academic career in Toronto, with a brief break spent working in the world of high fashion retail and designing clothes. While she was finishing her doctoral thesis on the political development of George Orwell and later lecturing in political theory, ideas formed in her head for a more adult story about the English Civil War than her first effort. Themes that interested her from her studies found their way into her two novels, The Best of Men (2009) and The Licence of War (2014). Her father was from Spain, so she and her fictional protagonist Laurence Beaumont share a common heritage.
She feels at home in both Canada and England: for nearly thirty years she has been coming to London frequently, so she knows the city quite well and is very much ‘repatriated’ in her land of birth.
Now she spends about one month a year in Senegal, the homeland of her partner, and was inspired to create the character of Khadija, the seer in The Best of Men, through her contact with Senegalese mystical and religious practices and the Peul people who live near the coast where she and her partner have a small property. She is now working on the third volume of Laurence Beaumont’s adventures, The Wounds of Fortune.
Kate Lord Brown
Kate Lord Brown grew up in the wild and beautiful Devon countryside. After studying philosophy at Durham University and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, she worked as an international art consultant. Her debut novel 'The Beauty Chorus' was inspired by the many hours she spent on airfields in the UK, and the experiences of pilots in her family during WW2. Her second novel about the Spanish Civil War, 'The Perfume Garden', draws upon the years she lived in Spain. Kate has just completed a MA in Creative Writing with the Manchester Writing School, and she lives with her pilot husband and young family in the Middle East.
Karen Maitland lives in the medieval city of Lincoln and has a doctorate in psycholinguistics. Her first medieval thriller, Company of Liars, was set at the time of the Black Death in 1348. This was followed by The Owl Killers, about the beguinages, the medieval cities of women. The Gallows Curses takes place during in the reign of King John and Falcons of Fire and Ice, a dark thriller, is set in Portugal during the Inquisition and Iceland at the time of the Reformation. She is published by Michael Joseph/Penguin. Karen is also one of six historical crime writers known as the Medieval Murderers – Philip Gooden, Susannah Gregory, Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight and Ian Morson – who together write an annual joint murder-mystery novel, including The Sacred Stone, Hill of Bones and The First Murder, published by Simon & Schuster.
Clare was inspired to start writing when she discovered that her first subject, Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of Save the Children (where Clare used to work), confessed how little she cared about individual children, ‘the little wretches’. Maternity leave gave Clare the perfect opportunity to find out more. The resulting book, The Woman Who Saved the Children, won the Daily Mail Biographers’ Club prize.
Clare’s next subject, the passionately patriotic Christine Granville, Britain’s first female special agent of WWII, presented her own challenges, having been well trained not to leave a paper trail. Fortunately Christine also liked to tell a good story and inspired several of the men who adored her to tell her story too. The Spy Who Loved was published in 2012 to critical acclaim.
Clare is a regular speaker at literary events and on radio including the Today programme, and Women’s Hour. She lives in Essex with her husband and three daughters.
Gillian Polack is a writer, editor, historian and non-fiction writer. Gillian has three published novels, two anthologies, two historical cookbooks and some short stories. Her most recent novel, Langue[dot]doc 1305 is a time travel tale, taking a group of scientists back to 1305. Gillian's second novel Ms Cellophane was shortlisted for a Ditmar award. One of her anthologies was also shortlisted in the same year. Her current research is mainly to do with how writers think of history and how they use it in their fiction. She currently lives in Canberra, Australia, which explains almost everything, including her tendency to collect fans and university qualifications.
Some of the places she can be found:
Facebook: Gillian Polack
Sue Purkiss taught English in various settings before becoming a writer. She has recently been a Royal Literary Fellow at Exeter University.
Anne began her working life as a medievalist but turned to writing after deciding the academic life was not really for her. She has been writing children’s books for about 15 years, though still makes occasional forays into adult writing, mostly in the area of the history and philosophy of science. She has published around 150 books for adults and children, both fiction and non-fiction. Much of her non-fiction has historical content. She has written fiction with a contemporary setting but featuring historical figures who have endured beyond their sell-by date (did you know that Louis Pasteur, Joseph Guillotin and Elvis Presley were all vampires) and has specifically historical fiction in the pipeline.
She is technical support and emergency cover for the History Girls. She does not blog each month but is a contributor to Daughters of Time.
Ann Swinfen published three novels with Random House, but for her three latest – The Testament of Mariam, Flood and The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez – she set up the publishing house Shakenoak Press to see into print. Loving the whole independent publishing process, she thinks it unlikely she’d ever return to conventional publishing. Short stories previously in magazines and on BBC radio are now on Kindle. She’s reissuing her backlist and continuing the Christoval series set in 16th century London, featuring a young physician coerced into becoming a code-breaker and spy in Walsingham’s secret service.
Lydia Syson is a fifth-generation Londoner who learned to read and write in Botswana, which led to many discussions about the nature of sea and snow. She has worked with words and stories all her life, in her early career as a radio producer for the BBC World Service, and now as an author of historical YA fiction. Detours along the way include a PhD about poets, explorers and Timbuctoo (Birkbeck, 2003) and a biography of an eighteenth-century fertility guru - Doctor of Love: James Graham and his Celestial Bed (Alma Books, 2008).
Lydia’s debut novel, A World Between Us, was on the launch list of Hot Key Books in 2012. It's a story of politics and passion during the Spanish Civil War and was nominated for the Carnegie, Highly Commended by the judges of the Branford Boase Award, and longlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, Waterstone's Children's Book Prize and the UKLA Book Award. Her second novel, That Burning Summer (2013), is set in 1940 on Romney Marsh in Kent, and Liberty's Fire - love on the barricades of Paris, 1871 - is out in 2015. Lydia has four children. In 2016, they will all be teenagers at once. She also blogs regularly at www.lydiasyson.com.
Louisa Young is the author of My Dear I Wanted to Tell You (HarperCollins), set between 1908 and 1919, a story of love, death and the origins of maxillo-facial reconstructive surgery in World War One. The sequel, The Heroes' Return, was published by Borough Press in 2014.
She has also written The Book of the Heart (Flamingo), a cultural history of that most emblematic organ, and A Great Task of Happiness (republished 2012), a biography of her grandmother the sculptor Kathleen Scott, widow of Captain Scott of the Antarctic.
Her first novel, Babylove, was listed for the Orange Prize.
As half of Zizou Corder she has co-written five children's novels with her daughter, including the Lionboy trilogy, which is published in 36 language.
She read history at Trinity College, Cambridge, and lives in London, where she is working on the sequel to My Dear I Wanted to Tell You.
History Girl Reserves
Because we post every day of the month, we sometimes run into problems when one of our number has a work or domestic or health emergency. So we have lined up a wonderful cohort of Reservists who will be with us from time to time. They kindly write "anytime posts" which we keep in a bank until we need one to fill a gap.
|Rosemary Hayes, Sarah Gristwood and Eizabeth Laird|
Sarah Gristwood is the author of a number of books including the Sunday Times best-seller Arbella: England’s Lost Queen, Elizabeth and Leicester and the novel The Girl in the Mirror. She was born in Kent and read English at St Anne’s College, Oxford University. She is married to film critic Derek Malcolm and lives in London and Kent. Her latest book is Blood Sisters reviewed here.
Maria McCann is the author of As Meat Loves Salt (Flamingo, 2001/Fourth Estate, 2011) which was an Economist Book of the Year and The Wilding (Faber, 2010) which was longlisted for the Orange Prize and a Richard and Judy book club choice. Her third novel (title to be confirmed) will be published by Faber in July 2013. She has contributed to various anthologies, most recently to Why Willows Weep (October 2011) and Out of Chaos: Stories for Our Shared Planet which will appear in the autumn of 2012. Maria holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Glamorgan and is a qualified teacher of many years’ experience: for a decade she designed and delivered Creative Writing courses at Strode College in Somerset, leaving Strode at the end of 2010 to become a Fiction Mentor for the Arvon Foundation. Maria is also a reader for the Annette Green Literary Consultancy. Although her own work is mainly as a historical novelist, she retains a keen interest in other kinds of fiction as a reader, writer and tutor. She is also an accredited writing coach.
Susan Price was born in 1955, in the heartland of the industrial Midlands, in Brades Row, Oldbury. Her father had been born in the same house,. When she was four, her family were relocated to a council house near Dudley, which had a bathroom, running water, electric light and an indoor lavatory! She grew up in this house, in which every room had overflowing, floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and still books had to be piled on stairs and windowsills As a child she was a voracious reader, and soon discovered a love of myth, legend and folklore which has lasted her whole life.
Her first book, accepted for publication when she was 16, was The Devil's Piper. Since then she has published about 60 books, ranging from nursery tales to 'cross-over' novels for Young and Not-So-Young-Adults.
Among her best known books are The Ghost Drum, for which she won the Carnegie Medal in 1987, and The Sterkarm Handshake, which won her The Guardian Children's Fiction Award in 1997.
She has recently begun to publish her back list as ebooks, for Amazon’s Kindle, and blogs with other independent authors at Authors Electric: Do Authors Dream of Electric Books? http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk
Ann has been writing fiction for children of all ages since 1974. She has always been fascinated by history and archaeology, and is particularly interested in the lives of ordinary people in the past. She is one of the trio of Historical House (Usborne) writers - the other two being Adele Geras and Linda Newbery. In recent years she has written four young adult novels for Walker Books. Alice in Love & War is set during the English Civil War. No Shame, No Fear (which was shortlisted for both the Guardian and Whitbread Awards), Forged in the Fire and Seeking Eden are about the persecution of the Quakers in the 17th century.
Ann comes from south-east London, but she and her husband have lived in Shropshire for many years. They have two grown-up children.
Elizabeth Laird was born in New Zealand of Scottish parents. She has lived in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Iraq, Lebanon and Austria and now lives in Britain with her husband, David McDowall, who is also a writer. They divide their time between London and Edinburgh.
Elizabeth Laird has won many awards, including The Children's Book Award, and has been shortlisted five times for the Carnegie Medal and many other awards. Some of her books are set in contemporary Britain, while others tackle modern issues in the Middle East and Africa. Her historical novels cover topics as diverse as the Crusades, war in Abyssinia, Nelson's navy and the Killing Times in Scotland. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages.
Rosemary Hayes lives in rural Cambridgeshire with her husband and a variety of animals. Her first novel, ‘Race Against Time’, was runner-up for the Kathleen Fidler Award in 1988 and since then she has written more than forty books for children.
Her most recent historical novel, ‘The Blue Eyed Aborigine’ retells one of the most extraordinary – and violent - events in Australia’s history.
As well as writing stories, Rosemary is a reader for a well known Author’s Advisory Service and runs creative writing workshops for both adults and children.