Writing from her lovely home in Hertfordshire, UK, Rosemary Morris writes about the past, with characters full of life, love, and adventures, but her feet are planted solidly in the present. Witty, intelligent, and a prolific writer, she lights up the pages of history and allows her characters to tell their story in a way that draws readers in and holds them close. Welcome, Rosemary.
Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure
Q: What is it about historical fiction that first attracted you as both a reader and a writer?
A: At primary school, I enjoyed history and English literature more than any other subjects. When I was old enough to choose library books, I selected stories set in the past. Later, I discovered authors who wrote historical fiction for children. One of my favourite novels was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, which is J.K. Rowling’s favourite children’s novel. I still enjoy reading historical fiction.
From an early age I had a vivid imagination. I made up stories about children who lived in the past. In my teens, I wanted to write in the same style as my favourite authors. Eventually, my first novels were either rejected or the publishers reneged on the contract. Real life intervened until I wrote another novel, and at long last achieved my dream of becoming a published author.
Q: What can you tell us about your latest book?
A: My latest novel is Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, The Lovages of Cassio, Volume One, (BWL Publishing), and is available from Amazon as a paperback. It is also available as an e-publication from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and other online venues.
When Yvonne and Elizabeth, daughters of ruthless Simon Lovage, Earl of Cassio, are born under the same star to different mothers, no one could have foretold their lives would be irrevocably entangled.
Against the backdrop of Edward II’s turbulent reign in the fourteenth century, Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, contains imaginary and historical characters.
Q: What surprised you the most about how people actually lived during the period you write about?
A: My novels are set in England during three periods: Edward II, Queen Anne Stuart 1702-1714, and the ever-popular Regency era.
The limited legal rights of women surprised me more than anything else. For example, if a woman married to an abusive husband left him, under the law he could have custody of their children, and not allow her to see them. Moreover, he could refuse to provide for her financially.
Q: How do you decide what historical facts go into a book, and which ones are interesting, but don’t make it to the pages of your novel?
A: I write from my characters’ viewpoints. I only include historical facts which are part of their lives, such as their food, clothes, religious beliefs etc., and events that have a direct bearing on their lives, which they discuss or are involved in.
Q: Those who love to read (and write) historical fiction often lament the fact that some writers create “modern” characters in period setting. How do you overcome that dilemma and ensure your characters are true to their time period, status, etc.?
A: I write fact-based fiction in which my characters act and speak according to the era which I am writing about. My research is extensive. I study relevant literature, economic, political, and social history, and visit museums, stately homes, gardens, and other places of interest.
When writing dialogue, I strike a balance between the way people spoke in the past and the way they speak now.
Q: What have you learned about yourself since beginning the journey of becoming a writer?
A: Before my first novel was published I wrote when I ‘was in the mood’. Afterward, I learned self-discipline. I usually wake up at 6 a.m., write 2,000 words of my work in progress and deal with ‘writerly’ matters until 10 a.m. Next, I get on with the practicalities of daily life—cleaning, cooking, gardening, shopping, etc. After lunch, I work online for an hour or read non-fiction related to the novel. Between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. I often answer e-mails, post messages online, visit the online writers’ group I belong to, and critique chapters or apply critiques of my chapters.
Q: What advice would you give to that would-be or new novelist?
A: Imagination can’t be taught, but writing is a craft which can be learned. Read books about how to write, and attend a writers’ group where you will receive constructive criticism. Don’t be discouraged by rejections from literary agents or publishers. Most published novelists have served a long apprenticeship before one of their novels is accepted.
Q: How do you deal with the question of blending fact and fiction to tell your historical fiction stories?
A: Fact must be included to ground a historical novel in the past. I show my characters choosing what to wear, what to eat, etc. I allow them to express their opinions about current events and to discuss important matters.
Q: Is your genre specific or general? Why?
A: I write romantic historical fiction, which is rich in historical detail, drawing room manners, food, fashion, economic, political and social history, and much more.
Q: Did your reading choices have anything to do with your choice genre?
A: So many authors still inspire me, including Georgette Heyer’s historical fiction. I have read her books so often that the pages are almost ragged. I also enjoy Elizabeth Chadwick’s medieval novels, which I have read more than once, and Elizabeth Goudge’s lyrical prose, particularly Little White Horse, Island Magic, and Green Dolphin Country. My favourite classics, such as Jane Eyre, Ivanhoe, and Pride and Prejudice, also deserve a mention. Yet, as much as I admire and have in one way or another been influenced by these writers, I have found my own voice. My novels have themes that modern readers can understand. For example, greed in Tangled Love, a woman previously misused by a cruel husband in The Captain and The Countess, and in False Pretences, a young woman’s determination to trace her birth parents.
Q: Where were you born?
A: In Kent, South East England.
Q: What do you like most about where you live now?
A: My three-bedroom house in Hertfordshire is small and easy to take care of. From upstairs it has a beautiful view of my organic back garden with herbs, fruit trees, and vegetables. Beyond it is a green edged with woodland.
Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Spring, when I begin sowing seeds and planting out herbs, vegetables, and ornamentals.
Q: Do you have any personal heroes/heroines?
A: I admire A.C. Bhaktivedanta, Swami Prabhupada. Penniless, at an advanced age, he went to America and founded The International Society of Krishna Consciousness, which has spread throughout the world.
Q: What’s next for you, Rosemary?
A: I have nearly finished writing Wednesday’s Child, Heroines Born on Different Days of the Week, Book Four. After I submit it for publication I shall write Thursday’s Child Book Four, and Grace, Lady of Cassio, The Lovages of Cassio Volume Two.