The History Girls is a blog which was started in July 2011. From then on we blogged daily but we have moved to once a week, on Fridays as from August 2019.
We are on Twitter, @history_girls and have a Facebook page.
Here are a handful of us at Janie's house in Oxford 26.10.2019
|L-R Judith Allnatt, Carolyn Hughes, Janie Hampton, Mary Hoffman, Ruth Downie|
You can read about all of the History Girls below. Scroll down beyond the list of links to their websites to read biographies.
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Judith Allnatt is an acclaimed short story writer and novelist who loves to unearth stories from history. Her novels have been shortlisted for the Portico Prize for Literature and the East Midlands Book Award, featured as a Radio 5 Live Book of the Month and short stories have been selected for the Commonwealth Short Story Awards, and broadcast on Radio 4. Her third novel, The Moon Field, described by The Times as ‘deeply moving’, is set in the First World War and was featured on the BBC News Channel’s ‘Meet the Author’. Judith’s latest novel, The Silk Factory, is an eerie story of love and memory drawing on both the Luddite weavers’ rebellions in the nineteenth century and a modern day haunting.
Judith lectures widely on Creative Writing and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She lives with her family in Northamptonshire and is working on her fifth novel.
Maggie Brookes is an ex-journalist and BBC TV historical documentary producer, turned novelist and poet. She relishes uncovering stories about the strength of women and the power of friendship and love in the most terrible of circumstances. Acts of Love and War is about love and courage in the brutal Spanish civil war. The Prisoner's Wife – based on a true story of WW2 – was published around the world in 2020. Maggie taught Creative Writing at Middlesex University for 30 years and has had six poetry collections published under the name Maggie Butt.
Having completed her first 500 page novel at 16 (to this day languishing in a drawer), Elizabeth 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. 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 awardand to be translated into 16 languages.
Since Then, Elizabeth has written a further 21 novels, and been shortlisted 6 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 has written a best-selling trilogy about Eleanor of Aquitaine and her current work, The King's Jewel, about Nesta Ferch Rhys, mistress of King Henry I, will be published in April 2023. She is a member of the Royal Historical Society and occasionally lectures on the Academic circuit.
Penny Dolan is a children's writer and storyteller, and works in schools, libraries, museums, galleries and at historic sites. Her latest novel A Boy Called Mouse is set in a fictional Victorian age and follows her runaway hero's life on the road with a Punch & Judy man and into the whirling backstage life in the Albion Theatre. She contributed to Daughters of Time.
Lesley Downer lived in Japan for many years. She tramped around Basho’s Narrow Road the Deep North, lived among geisha, interviewed sumo wrestlers and enjoyed the glitzy life of Tokyo. She is the author of many books on Japan, including Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West and The Last Concubine, short listed for Romantic Novel of the Year. Her new novel, The Shogun’s Queen, takes place largely in the Women’s Palace.
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. 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.
Two of her books (My Grandmother’s Stories and Golden Windows) won prizes in the USA. Together with Linda Newbery and Ann Turnbull, she has written two novels (Lizzie’s Wish and Cecily’s Portrait) for the Historical House series (Usborne). A Candle in the Dark (A & C Black) is for younger children and deals with the subject of the Kindertransports. She has published 7 novels for adults, the most recent of which is Dangerous Women under the pseudonym Hope Adams
Kathryn Gauci is a critically acclaimed international, bestselling, historical fiction author. She is the recipient of numerous major international awards for her works, including The Hemingway Award 2020 – 1st Place Best in Category – Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBA) for her WWII novel The Poseidon Network.
Kathryn was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After spending a year in Vienna, and six years in Athens as a carpet designer, she ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. After thirty years in the textile industry, she decided to become an author. Her interests are WWII Europe, and Greece and Turkey spanning the years from the Greek War of Independence, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire through WWI and II. She also gives presentations about female agents and the Resistance in WWII, and Ottoman and Greek textiles.
The Embroiderer was her first novel; a culmination of those wonderful years of design and travel, and especially of those glorious years in her youth living and working in Greece. It has since been followed by more novels set in both Greece and Turkey. Seraphina’s Song, The Carpet Weaver of Uşak, The Poseidon Network, and The Blue Dolphin: A WWII Novel.
Her latest WWII story set in France, The Song of the Partisans, will be her 10th novel. Kathryn lives in Melbourne Victoria.
|Photo credit: Lesley Powell|
Laurie is a journalist and author of twenty novels. Her writing, described as ‘darkly comic’, has defied genre-placement, with the exception of four historical novels: A Humble Companion, The Liar’s Daughter, The Grand Duchess of Nowhere and The Night in Question.
She admits that she has perhaps been interested in too many diverse and arcane themes for the good of her career, but she has had a lot of fun. She is now semi-retired and lives as an almshouse Brother at the Charterhouse in Smithfield, London.
Mary Hoffman has written over a hundred and twenty 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 Oxfordshire with her husband and two elderly Burmese 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's novel about Shakespeare and the supernatural, Shakespeare's Ghost, was published by the Greystones Press in 2016 and The Ravenmaster's Boy in 2017. She has published two adult novels under pseudonyms.
CAROLYN HUGHES has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers. Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
Carolyn has just published Squire's Hazard, the fifth book in her MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series of historical novels set in fourteenth century southern England. Further Chronicles are under way.
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 Silver Skin was inspired by the Stone Age village of Skara Brae in Orkney. She is also one of the contributors to Daughters of Time.
Michelle Lovric writes historical novels for adults and children. She has particular interests in Venice, art and the history of medicine. Her first novel, Carnevale, is the story of the portrait-painter Cecilia Cornaro, described by The Times as the possessor of ‘the most covetable life’ in fiction in 2001. In The Floating Book, a chorus of characters relates the perilous birth of printing in Venice, examining the translation of raw emotion into saleable merchandise. Lovric’s third novel, The Remedy, a literary murder-mystery set against the background of 18th-century quack medicine, was long-listed for the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction.
In her latest, The Book of Human Skin, Lovric returns to the theme of art, with a plot revolving around a transgressive portrait of a supposedly dead nun in Peru. She also explores the issues of Holy Anorexia, unmitigated villainy and a very unusual form of bibliomania. Her first novel for young adult readers, The Undrowned Child, was described by The Independent as ‘gripping, elegant and original’ A sequel, The Mourning Emporium, was published November 2010 and Talina in the Tower in 2011. Michelle was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art for some years. Her latest adult novel is The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, published by Bloomsbury.
Caroline teaches and leads a variety of courses on Latin and Greek, Classical Art and Archaeology, and Classical literature. She also delivers workshops for schools and offers private tutoring. Caroline writes regularly for Argo, a journal of the Hellenic Society, and various other Classical publications.
Caroline's first book Culture and Society at Lullingstone Roman Villa was published by Archaeopress in July 2019. Her website is: www.carolinetutor.co.uk
As Karen Maitland, she has written eight medieval thrillers published by Penguin and Headline UK, and Random House USA. Company of Liars, The Owl Killers, The Gallows Curse, Falcons of Fire & Ice, The Vanishing Witch, The Raven’s Head, The Plague Charmer, and A Gathering of Ghosts.
Writing as K J Maitland, The Drowned City and Traitor in the Ice are the first two of a Jacobean crime thriller series set in the world of spies, murder and treason, following the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The third book in the series, Rivers of Treason, is published in April 2023.
She is also one the Medieval Murderers who along with Philip Gooden, Susannah Gregory, Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight and Ian Morson, write joint historical crime novels. She has contributed to five Medieval Murderers novels - The Sacred Stone, Hill of Bones, The First Murder, The False Virgin and The Deadliest Sin.
She has lived in many parts of the world, but has now settled in Devon, near Dartmoor where Agatha Christie had her writing retreat and Sir Arthur Colon Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles.
VEH Masters was born and brought up on a farm a few miles outside St Andrews, Scotland and now lives near Peebles in the Scottish Borders. Her first novel The Castilians tells the story of the siege of St Andrews Castle in 1546 and The Conversos and The Apostates continue the story. She writes about events in history with which she feels a strong connection, working to understand how and why people acted as they did. Many of these significant moments have led to who we are today, which she finds endlessly fascinating and hopes her readers will too.
Find out more at Vicki’s website https://vehmasters.com/
Miranda Miller lives in north London with her second husband, a musician. She has a daughter and two stepchildren. She has published seven novels, a book of short stories about Saudi Arabia and a book of interviews with homeless women and politicians. She is currently writing King of the Vast, the third volume of her Bedlam Trilogy, which will be published next year. In these three novels she attempts to explore art and madness in nineteenth century London. As well as being historical novels they ask the unanswerable question: what would those Regency and Victorian people think of us? Like Nina, the eponymous heroine of Nina in Utopia, and Richard Dadd in The Fairy Visions of Richard Dadd, the apocalyptic painter John Martin in King of the Vast is a visionary who sees beyond his own time. She was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the Courtauld Institute from 2013-15 and is now an RLF Consultant Fellow.
Gillian Polack is a writer, editor, historian and non-fiction writer. Gillian has ten published novels, two anthologies, two historical cookbooks and some short stories. Her most historical novel, Langue[dot]doc 1305 is a time travel tale, taking a group of scientists back to 1305. Gillian's 2019 novel The Year of the Fruit Cake won a Ditmar award and she was recently made one of Australia's Ambassadors for Reading. Her current research examines how novels transmit culture, and her book on the subject is Story Matrices: Cultural Encoding and Cultural Baggage in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Academia Lunare, 2022). Her previous research book was History and Fiction: Writers, their Research, Worlds and Stories (Peter Lang, 2016) 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.
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 regularly but is a contributor to Daughters of Time. She was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge.
Antonia Senior is a writer and journalist. After studying History at university, she worked at The Times for fourteen years in a variety of roles, including acting Business Editor and Leader Writer. She became a freelance after the birth of child number 2, to concentrate on writing and reviewing books. Antonia writes the monthly round-up of the best new historical fiction in The Times’ Saturday books section. She is a judge for this year’s Historical Writers’ Association debut fiction crown. The Winter isles, the story of Somerled, the first Lord of the Isles, is out in paperback in April.
Elisabeth Storrs is an Australian author. The first book in her A Tale of Ancient Rome trilogy, The Wedding Shroud, was endorsed by Ursula Le Guin, and named by Ben Kane as one of the top three books set in the classical world. The third book, Call to Juno, was named as an Editor’s Choice in the Historical Novels Review. An archaeologist loved Elisabeth’s saga so much she created an audio-visual exhibition featuring its characters voicing votive statuary at the Museo dell’Agro Veientano near Rome.
Elisabeth is the founder of the Historical Novel Society Australasia and program director for the HNSA conferences. In 2020 she headed the HNSA team that introduced the $100,000 ARA Historical Novel Prize.
Now Elisabeth is hurtling centuries forward to write Treasured, a novel set in WW2 Germany about stolen art, crazy Nazi archaeology, and a race to save the Trojan Gold during the fall of Berlin. Feel free to connect with her through her website or Triclinium blog. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter @elisabethstorrs, Instagram, Bookbub and Pinterest.
Deborah Swift is the author of six historical novels and a trilogy for young adults. She couldn't escape history as a child because her parents ran an antique shop, and the furnishings at home were always old artefacts on their way to, or from, the shop. The love of history stuck, and she enjoyed a long career as a set and costume designer for theatre and BBCTV, where she was able to indulge her love of research for period plays and films. Later she taught the history of theatre and the history of art to undergraduates at the University of Manchester. One of her main areas of interest is the 17th Century, and she is currently working on a trilogy of novels about the women in Pepys' Diary. Deborah lives near the beautiful Lake District, close to the mountains and the sea.
Linda (L J) Trafford
After gaining a degree in Ancient History LJ Trafford toured the amphitheatres of western Europe before a collision with a moped in Rome left her with a mortal terror of crossing Roman roads.
Returning to the UK somewhat battered and impressively bruised she spent several years working as a tour guide. This proved a perfect introduction to writing, involving as it did, the need for entertainment and a hefty amount of invention (it’s how she got tips).
She now works in London doing something whizzy with computers.
She is the author of "The Four Emperors" series which covers the tumultuous year that followed the fall of the flamboyant Nero: Palatine, Galba's Men and Otho's Regret. The last of the series Vitellius' Feast is out in Autumn 2018
Since the publication of the award-winning Taking Flight in 2010, Sheena Wilkinson has been established as one of Ireland’s leading writers for young people. Until now, her novels have all been contemporary, but she has had many short stories published set in the early twentieth century, the most recent being ‘Each Slow Dusk’ in Walker’s The Great War Anthology (2014). Name Upon Name (Little Island) is her first historical novel, set in Belfast 1916
History Girl Reserves
Because we post every week, 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|
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Leslie Wilson is the author of four critically acclaimed historical novels, two for adults, Malefice and The Mountain of Immoderate Desires (which won the Southern Arts Prize) and two for young adults, Last Train from Kummersdorf (shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize) and Saving Rafael (nominated for the Carnegie Medal, Highly Commended for the Southern Schools Book Award, shortlisted for the Lancashire Book of the Year Award and longlisted for the Wirral Paperback of the Year Award). She has lived in England, Germany, and Hong Kong. She lives in Berkshire with a husband and a dog, and has two daughters and three grandsons. She contributed to Daughters of Time.