Elizabeth: Tell me a little about yourself. Where do you live, education, family. Whatever you would like.
Judith: As you know, my name is Judith Arnopp and I live in Wales. We recently moved from a small farm near Lampeter, to Aberporth just a short distance away on the west Coast. I write historical novels and articles, do a few talks and lectures. My more recent work focuses on the late medieval and Tudor period. My other interests include history (of course), gardening, needlework, walking and reading. I grew up in a small town north of London, but we often took holidays in Wales and it became a childhood dream to live here– I’ve been resident in Wales for twenty odd years now and hardly ever leave, not even for holidays.
Elizabeth: What induced you to start writing?
Judith:I enjoyed history at school and studied it at university so, when I decided to write professionally, historical fiction was the natural choice. I like to strip away the finery of well-known historical people and consider what they were like underneath. Imagine our queen with her feet up watching Strictly Come Dancing – off duty, her guard down. What is she thinking? What is she feeling? I usually write from a female perspective. Women, especially medieval women, were poorly represented in the historical record and very often their experiences are only traceable via the records of the men whose lives they shared. It is fascinating to follow their path, consider the whys and wherefores of their actions, and flesh out the bones of the facts we know about them. I always stress that I write fiction but it is very heavily reliant on research.
I don’t believe in evil. I think everyone has a dark side and sometimes our murkier nature takes over, so there are no villains, there are no saints, just a bunch of people fighting inner battles – as we all are. I try to humanize women who have previously been demonized both historically and, more recently, in fiction.
Elizabeth: Who is your favorite writer? Why?
Judith: I love the classics. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens etc. and I aspire to the talents of more modern authors like Hilary Mantel, Michel Faber. As a young girl I read a great deal of Historical novels: Jean Plaidy, Rosemary Hawley Jarman were among my favourites then. Something must have rubbed off on me, for when I began to write seriously historical fiction was my automatic choice. Having a master’s degree in medieval history makes things easier simply because I know how to research without getting side-tracked.
Elizabeth: What attracted you to your special genre?
Judith: Oops, I think I’ve covered that in the previous questions.
Elizabeth: Who is the favorite character of all whom you have created? Why?
Judith: Most of the people I write about actually existed so I had to study what is actually known about Margaret Beaufort, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth of York etc. and then flesh out the historical bones. My favourite fictional character has to be Joanie Toogood from The Winchester Goose, a confident, warm hearted prostitute from Southwark. The goings on at Henry VIII’s court are very different when viewed through Joanie’s eyes. In my latest novel, Sisters of Arden, Margery is a novitiate nun whose life is thrown into disarray by the dissolution of the monasteries. Her adventures on the road during The Pilgrimage of Grace are quite eye opening.
Elizabeth: Would you take a minute to explain how you develop your stories?
Judith: I write instinctively with very little planning. I know roughly where my story will end because history has already been written but figuring out how my characters will get there is as much an adventure for me as it is for them. Sometimes events unfold from nowhere. I do very little actual plotting on paper, it all unfurls during the process. The characters definitely speak to me and tell me what is what.
Elizabeth: To end this interview, what piece of information, upcoming project, advice or request would you like to share with this audience?
Judith: I am just starting my twelfth book which is about Mary Tudor, the daughter of Henry VIII. I have no title as yet but it will feature Mary reflecting on her life, her relationship with her father, Henry VIII and her abhorrence for Anne Boleyn. She was hugely affected by her parents’ divorce, the break from Rome and I hope to examine the state of the church in England, and her fears of what will happen after her death when the throne passes to Elizabeth. Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth is fascinating – the conflict of sibling love and rivalry. I enjoy writing about infamous women. As with Margaret Beaufort, I don’t intend to whitewash them or excuse or deny anything but I provide them with the opportunity to explain the reasons behind their actions.
When Judith Arnopp began to write professionally there was no question as to which genre to choose. A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds an honours degree in English and Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of Wales, Lampeter. Judith writes both fiction and non-fiction, working full-time from her home overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales where she crafts novels based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women from all roles of life, prostitutes to queens.
If you like English history, you will like Judith Arnopp’s books! Her novels include:
Sisters of Arden
The Beaufort Chronicles: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series)
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York;
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr;
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII
The Song of Heledd;
The Forest Dwellers
Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical anthologies and magazines.
For more information:
Author page: author.to/juditharnoppbooks