When I was at school I hated History. For four long years in my teens I had an extremely boring History teacher, who made everything seem really dull. My main memory of her lessons is of her writing on the blackboard lists of dates and Acts of Parliament and telling us to copy them and learn them. I don’t remember her telling us anything interesting: about the people, how they lived, how they thought, or why the Acts of Parliament were important. And in those days there was no internet, and we had no television either, so although I enjoyed visiting castles and museums, these seemed to bear no relation to what I was supposed to be learning at school. I wasn't inspired. I’m sure I wasn’t the best pupil, but Miss P. wasn’t the best teacher either.
Fast forward 25 years, when my daughter was the same age as I’d been then. At the time there was a series on television called “Robin of Sherwood”, on which she and her friends were all hooked – especially the hero, Robin Hood, played by Michael Praed. (Seen here with Judi Trott, who played Maid Marian)
They all had posters of him on their bedroom walls and never missed an episode. That term at school (an all-girls school) they had a new History teacher, Mr. Pritchard, and he began their first lesson by saying, “Right, girls, Robin of Sherwood!” Instantly he had the entire class in the palm of his hand, and they lapped up everything he could teach them about life in mediaeval times. This has sparked a lifelong interest in mediaeval history in my daughter at least, and maybe in others too. History teaching had certainly improved since my day, so well done Mr Pritchard!
In fact I did come to love history later, after I’d given it up at school, when a friend recommended historical novels by the likes of Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton etc.
I was soon hooked, and read all the ones I could find. It was fascinating to learn about life in different periods in history, and importantly how the behaviour and beliefs of those who ruled the country affected ordinary people. I was inspired to find out more about the eras I was reading about, and realised what I’d missed through such uninspired teaching.
This is why I love writing for children, especially writing historical novels. I hope to make history exciting for children, so they will enjoy it more than I did. Now I don’t have to learn lists of dates I love doing all the research required, to make sure I’ve got the facts right. And when my first book was published ("Raiders!", about the Viking invasion of Britain) it filled me with great satisfaction to imagine how Miss P. would have scoffed at the idea of me writing a historical novel!