An Interview with Barbara Gaskell Denvil

An Interview with Barbara Gaskell Denvil


I recently met Barbara Gaskell Denvil, a well-established author from Australia. She accepted my invitation to an interview. Sit down with your cup of coffee and read, along with me, about this fascinating woman. 

Thanks so much, Elizabeth, for your invitation and the possibility for posting on your blog. I thoroughly enjopyed this interview, particularly as we have so much in common. History, and discovering the hidden truths, is an absolute passion of mine and has been ever since I was eight and watched the film of Shakespeare’s Richard III. I found it very exciting, but even at that age the horror of this murderous monster seemed somewhat exaggerated, and I wondered whether this king could have been quite so bad. A couple of years later, I began my research. And I have never stopped. 

  1. Tell me a little about yourself. Where do you live, education, family. Whatever you would like.

I am an ancient old crone who has a youthful passion for history. I also adore searching out the less well known details, but my principal story-lines cover the adventures of fictional characters against absolutely accurate backgrounds. It’s the English medieval I love, and having lived most of my life in London, I grew up walking those old cobbled back-lanes which still exist, exploring the Tower, the palaces, and the original buildings which still stand.
I have three children, including identical twins, but when my husband died of cancer, I needed to move myself and try not to wallow in memories. So, my children and their families with me, I moved to Australia, and that’s where I now live amongst the rural beauty and the amazing bird and animal life, with huge flocks of cockatoos, parrots and kookaburras, with kangaroos in the garden and reptiles of many kinds..
My original family were all creative academics, and so it seemed quite normal for me to start writing at a very young age. I worked in publishing, wrote short stories and articles, became a reviewer for Books & Bookmen, an editor, a tutor for television scripting, and finally a very busy mother.
But now of course I write full time, and started with my own love of historical fiction, mainly mysteries.

  1. What induced you to start writing?

I found it a natural move, and couldn’t even consider anything else. I read constantly from the age of 7, including mostly adult novels even at that age. Once I discovered and devoured Lord of the Rings, I developed another passion for fantasy. I still love those two genres more than anything else, and have written in both. My children’s series, BANNISTER’S MUSTER which includes six books, now also available on Audible, actually combines accurate medieval history with fantasy adventures. 

  1. Who is your favorite writer? Why?

I honestly have to be boring and say I have no actual favourite. There are too many I absolutely love – including the marvellous Dorothy Dunnett’s historical adventures, and Tolkien’s magical fantasy. Over many years I must have read thousands of books which I loved and admired. I admit I’m picky about the quality of writing itself, and love books with well developed characterisation. I’ve just finished reading something by Joe Abercrombie, a dark fantasy thriller, which is a genre new to me. But I love to try everything if it is high quality. And that’s what I hope to write myself.

  1. What attracted you to your special genre?

My travels around old London as a child, visiting Stratford and other ancient villages, and feeling that genuine atmosphere come seeping through my veins. I could breathe the old chimney smoke, I could see the flags and banners flying in the wind, I could feel the wet cobbles through my shoes, and hear the horses’ hooves cantering past me. I sat in the old Guild Halls of various towns, the churches and cathedrals, looking around at the beauty and magnificence designed and built so long ago, and I touched stone walls which had stood for a thousand years or more. Above all, I read of the past. I was fascinated by the Viking era, then moved on to the medieval. I’ve researched other periods too as all history fascinates me – the civil war – the renaissance – the Napoleonic wars – even the Cretaceous period and the dinosaurs. The differences and the scale of human development is amazing. But I cry too, discovering what dreadful brutality was treated as normal, and how people fought wars by literally hacking each other to death face to face. I visited an old castle in England, and saw a genuine old Rack there for display – almost as a joke. But that old black wood was stained, and I could imagine the blood spilled over the ages, and the terrible pain inflicted. So I researched the evil too, and included that in my books as a passionate and deeply sympathetic token of deep respect  to those who had been tortured in real life, even often the innocent.

  1. Who is the favorite character of all whom you have created? Why?

Perhaps Andrew, the hero in my novel BLESSOP’S WIFE, and Tyballis, who becomes his wife. Tyballis has been abused by her first husband, and this has almost broken her spirit. But I loved showing her courage, and how she rediscovered it, and fought both for herself and for the new man she now loved.
Andrew is not the usual hero – he’s not young, handsome, noble, or easy to understand. He has many dark secrets, but beneath the intelligence, secrets and strengths, he is kind and adores the woman he wants so much to help.
This novel is a medieval mystery, not a romance, but there is certainly a thread of considerable romance between these two major protagonists.
I feel genuine love for most of my characters, but these two are certainly amongst my favourites.

  1. Would you take a minute explain how you develop your stories

I always start with a sudden flash of inspiration. This can come from anywhere – a film or a book – something someone says or does – and very often just a vivid dream. Then over the following days I start to think about that piece of inspiration, and I encourage it to develop. My characters come first. They grow in my head and introduce themselves to me. Once I feel they have really come alive in my thoughts, I start to make a few notes.
But I am a Pantser, and will soon just sit down at the computer with a cup of tea, (and later a glass of wine) and start to write.
Yes, I’ll have bad days. I’ll get stuck, and will often change my mind and throw some bits away. But on the whole, the entire book will just float into my head. I will write and write and write for weeks and months, usually around ten hours a day, six days a week. Once I’ve finished, then I start all over again. I re-write, I polish, and I add extra details. Depending on the length of the book, it will take me between three months and five months to write. But that’s 60% absolute jo
y, and only 40% really hard and agonising work.

? 7. To end this interview, what piece of information, upcoming project, advice or request would you like to share with this audience?

I have begun a series, named CORNUCOPIA, which will probably take me a couple of years, as it will be around nine books and none of them too short. This will be a mixture of fantasy and history, for I have created a whole new world called EDEN, very closely based on the genuine medieval world of the 1400s. The clothes are similar, the behaviour is extremely similar and much of the language is similar as well. But there are some startling differences. Trains! Steam trains rush across the countryside. There are kings, but the country is governed by a secret council, which plots and schemes, unknown to most of the citizens. The religion is Mafia-like, and there is great poverty amongst great wealth.
But while I am enjoying writing this very quirkily series, I am taking notes for my next historical mystery – A SUYMMER OF DISCONTENT, and this will certainly not contain any fantasy of any kind. The crime, mystery and thread of romance will be set against a highly accurate background of medieval England.
In the meantime I should love to introduce you to my historical mystery THE FLAME EATER, which is a big crime mystery full of adventure, romance, crim and mystery. I found some fascinating historical facts when researching and I have a special fondness for my unusual hero Nicholas.  The heroine has a hard path to face, as I believe many young women would have faced at this time in history.

 The Amazon link for The Flame Eater.

My Author Page on Amazon –

My Webpage —–

Thanks so very much, Elizabeth, it’s great knowing you and discovering your wonderfully fascinating blog.
All the very best,

An Interview with Tamar Anolic

An Interview with Tamar Anolic


I interviewed Tamar Anolic, an up and coming author recently. She was willing to answer all my questions. Thank you so much for speaking with me at length, Tamar!

I am a writer out of the Washington, D.C. area. I am the author of two novels of alternate historical fiction that focus on the Romanovs and Imperial Russia. The first is “Triumph of a Tsar,” in which the Russian Revolution is averted and the hemophiliac Alexei, son of Nicholas II, comes to the throne. The second is “Through the Fire: An Alternate Life of Prince Konstantin of Russia,” which examines the life that Konstantin, cousin to Alexei and Nicholas, might have lived if the revolution had been averted. “Through the Fire” is a novel in short stories; each chapter is short story that stands on its own, but as a whole, the novel tells the story of Konstantin’s life.
I’ve been writing since I was a kid because I liked making up stories. I’ve been interested in the Romanovs and Russian history for close to twenty years now, and in all of research, I wondered what kind of tsar Alexei would have made. He was often a headstrong child, but he was also sick a lot, which gave him compassion for the suffering of others. The Bolshevik revolution’s ending of the Romanov dynasty and of Alexei’s life only added to my fascination. Eventually, I found myself what would have happened if the Revolution had never occured and Alexei had become tsar- who would he have married? Who would his four sisters have married? How would Alexei’s hemophilia have affected him into adulthood? Where in the Romanov dynasty could history have been different, enough to avert the Revolution? All of that speculation and plotting turned into my novel, “Triumph of a Tsar.”
While I was writing “Triumph of a Tsar,” I continued studying photographs of the Imperial family, to keep the faces of the people that I was writing about strong in my mind. During that process, I came across pictures that I had seen previously, but these images took on new significance to me as I was writing. This includes pictures of the poet Grand Duke Konstantin and his children, because his son, Prince Igor, is Alexei’s aide-de-camp and has an important role in “Triumph of a Tsar.” But photographs of Igor’s brother, Prince Konstantin, also jumped out at me. Prince Konstantin had suffered heartbreak when his proposal of marriage to Princess Elizabeth of Romania was rejected. Konstantin also had translucent blue eyes that I found captivating, so even while I was writing “Triumph of a Tsar,” I knew I wanted to write something about Konstantin. At first, I thought it would be a single short story- the story “Before the Fire,” which is the first thing I wrote about Konstantin, and which was published in the journal “The Helix.” Before I knew it, however, more and more stories about Konstantin started flowing, including the short story “Rumors of War,” which was published in The Copperfield Review. Soon, I had enough for a book-length project, and this became “Through the Fire.”
ecause my historical fiction is alternate historical, the development of these stories came about as a unique blend of studying what actually happened in history, what my characters were like as real people when they were living- and then projecting that into a future that was very different from the course that history actually took. With “Triumph of a Tsar,” I thought that Alexei’s hemophilia and his need to manage it would make him careful of his health and mindful of the need to marry young and produce an heir, while all the while doing as much for Russia as he could during the short lifespan that he thought he would have. With “Through the Fire,” I thought that Konstantin, who was devoted to his regiment, would stay in the army for life, and that it might take him a few years to find another bride after his first proposal was rejected.
 It’s hard to say that I have a single favorite writer. However, there are definitely writers whose work has given me either a solid background in, or a new way of thinking about, the Romanovs’ history. There are also authors who have helped me think about how to write about the Romanovs in fiction while remaining true to who they were as people. These authors include Robert Massie (who wrote “Nicholas and Alexandra” among other famous books); Simon Sebag Montefiore (whose recent book “The Romanovs: 1613-1918” is about the whole of the Romanov dynasty and highlights both the early Romanov rulers and their connection to Nicholas II and his immediate family); and novelists such as Laura Rose, whose book “The Passion of Marie Romanov” is a good example of faithfully bringing an underrepresented Romanov to life.
 I’d have to say that both Alexei and Konstantin are my favorite characters. Both “Triumph of a Tsar” and “Through the Fire” really wrote themselves in a lot of ways. With “Triumph of a Tsar,” it was a lot of fun to give Alexei the character arc that he was denied in real life, and to watch Alexei become a full-fledged adult and active participant in history. With “Through the Fire,” it felt incredible to give a voice to one of the more junior members of the dynasty, about whom so little has been written, and who often gets overlooked.
As for upcoming projects, I’ve been selected to speak at the Historical Novel Society’s North American conference at the end of June. I’ll be speaking about the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution- different ways that the Revolution could have been averted, and how to write about the Romanovs as characters in historical fiction. I’m excited about both the topic and the conference- there are a lot of interesting topics and speakers on the program, and I think the conference is going to be great.

An Interview with Mike L Ross

An Interview with Mike L Ross

Mike L. Ross sat down with me recently, and answered all my questions! Thank you Mike for taking the time. Here is what he had to say:


My wife Marti and I live in Kansas, just north of Wichita. We’re transplants from Oregon, where I used to work for Intel as a software engineer until I retired. About a year ago we decided to move south to be closer to our grandchildren. We have four of them, the oldest is five years old. When not writing, researching, and marketing books, I help other seniors at a retirement community with woodworking, and serve as a consultant for computer matters to anyone who needs it. I also enjoy running, karate, and fencing, but have slowed down in these as I get older.

PictureI went to Rice University in Houston back in the 1970s, and graduated with degrees in Mathematical Sciences (Computer Science) and German. I went back to school and graduated in 2011 with a master’s in software engineering from Portland State University. I taught college computer science for three years after retiring from Intel.

I suppose I started writing originally because of my mother – she was a high school English and Spanish teacher. I sold some short stories when I was fourteen, because she had contacts at Random House. I got back into serious writing about ten years ago, because I’m fascinated with history, and think some stories just have to be told.


Mike’s first book of the Across the Great Divide series is available soon. Read on to learn what it is about.

It’s always interesting when asked to choose a favorite anything – there are so many. However, probably my top three favorite writers are James Clavell, Tom Clancy, and Anne Perry. That’s a pretty diverse group! Clavell is just a master storyteller, and his historical fiction, like Tai Pan and Shogun are an amazing blend of meticulous research, and characters that walk off the page. I admire Clancy because of his attention to detail, vast technical knowledge, and down to earth attitude. I got into an email exchange with him once, and he conducted an impromptu session on character development that helped shape my writing. He took the time, even though I’m not a famous person. Anne Perry has mastered her era and genre to a degree rarely seen. Her Monk and Pitt series show how to keep a multi-volume series fresh, with characters growing and changing, yet every story is plausible and true to the era. Her WW1 series examines a different era, but captures the spirit of the war, and weaves new characters that engage and draw you in. I have an almost embarrassing twenty-one of her books on Kindle.

Other than just a love of history, I’ve always been attracted to learning more about the nineteenth century. My main character, William Dorsey Crump, was a real person, and I knew his granddaughter Katie when I was a kid in Lubbock, Texas. As an adult, I remembered Katy’s stories, and then started researching him—the story was just too fascinating to leave alone. Will was a Confederate cavalry soldier, a mountain man, a rancher, and a founder of both Shallowater and Lubbock, Texas. He fought under John Hunt Morgan, and participated in Morgan’s raid north into Indiana and Ohio, then spent two years in POW camps in the north. The Civil War era particularly attracted me, because I see so many parallels with today—a deeply divided country, issues of prejudice and sanctuary cities, the federal government versus state and local, and tariffs, just to name a few similar issues. The solution of that time was war – a war that killed one in five adult men in the country. My series, Across the Great Divide, is intended to explore those historical issues, and get readers thinking about how there could be better solutions today, while being true to the spirit of the times.

Probably my favorite character aside from Will is Luther, who is entirely a product of my imagination. Luther is about the same age as Will, fifteen when the story starts, but born a slave. His owners are the Clay family, granddaughter of Henry Clay. His mother and sisters are on another plantation, and run away to escape cruel treatment. Luther goes on the Underground Railroad, getting Will’s sister Albinia, another principle character, involved. Luther has to choose between the safe but debasing life of slavery, and saving his family. After his mother’s torture, he must choose between letting revenge and hate consume him, or forgiveness and love. He’s a strong man, but one driven by passions.

My historical fiction stories generally stem from an event or person in history that fascinates me. My mother taught me to write, but also to research, in an era before the internet—it’s so much easier now. I start with the event or person, and learn everything I can about it. Then I place myself, or someone I know well, in that situation, and get to know the character—of course, the character won’t be exactly the same as a real person, but that gives an outline. I write character sketches of all the principle characters—I know their birthdays, their likes and dislikes, their physical descriptions, their strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs. I write down how I want the character to grow and change through the story. Julia, Will’s oldest sister, is a good example—she starts off as just a money-grubbing golddigger looking for a rich husband, and ends up a strong woman, risking her life for others, to save her sister Albinia and act as a Union spy. Once I have my characters, I outline the book. Since most books are some form of the hero’s journey, I pay attention to whether I’m following that. I want to have a definite beginning buildup, climax, and falling action that ties together all the threads of the story. Even though I’m writing a series, I want each novel to stand on its own.

The outline sets the beginning, climax, and end for each chapter – something I learned at the Oklahoma Writer’s Conference, listening to a seminar by Adriana Mather. There are of course adjustments that happen along the way, either due to new research, new ideas, or simply a character that starts complaining to me about how they are written. The outline steers the story, and knowing my characters in advance helps me to know how they would react in a given situation.

I have several upcoming projects – I’m halfway through writing the second book of the Across the Divide series, tentatively entitled “The Search”, which takes Will west in his mountain man phase, into the middle of Red Cloud’s War. The third book will be mostly about Luther and Julia, post Civil War, and the final one follows Will up to the founding of Lubbock. I have another project started about a Civil War nurse, and yet another based on the incredible life of my mother, a rather different type of story – more of a spiritual journey and missionary biography. Across the Great Divide, Book1: The Clouds of War launches April 24 for pre-order, and release date on sale everywhere is May 14, from Harper Collins, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local bookstore. There will be Ebook, paperback and hardback editions, and a little movie trailer that Harper Collins is producing. I write about American history every day at facebook/historicalnovelsrus and my website, http://www.historicalnovelsrus. I have an email list that points out bargains in historical fiction, and gives occasional peeks at chapters in new projects.

An Interview with Author Judith Arnopp

An Interview with Author Judith Arnopp


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.

Author Bio
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:

Interview with Teresa Mcrae, Author

Interview with Teresa Mcrae, Author

I have spoken to historical fiction authors to pick their brains about writing. Several of the authors have allowed me to post their answers here.. Once a week I will post another guest author. Please consider supporting these people the best way you can, by reading their works. My first guest is Teresa McRae, author of the Garrison Series.

​1. Tell me a little about yourself, Teresa. Where do you live, education, family. Whatever you would like.

I live in St. Louis, Missouri with my husband Chris and my dogs, Rocky and Max. I graduated from the University of North Carolina many years ago with a degree in Political Science. 

2. What induced you to start writing?

I have always written to some degree, starting with poetry as a child. I also did some songwriting with my husband, who is a musician. I had started a few novels, but it wasn’t till I retired that I completed my first book. 

3. Who is your favorite writer? Why?

I have quite a few authors I like. It’s difficult to choose a favorite.

4. What attracted you to your special genre?

Years of enjoyment reading Historical Fiction. Also, the belief that I had something to say on the subject of African Americans in the 19th and early 20th Century. My books cover the years 1850 to 1920. 

5. Who is the favorite character of all whom you have created? Why?

My protagonist in Book 1,Mamie Garrison. Much of her personality, her tenacity and courage,  was based on my daughter, Christina.

6. Would you take a minute to explain how you develop your stories?

I spend a large part of my time on research. Sometimes, a small scene may require days of research. I start with a general outline, and continue to tighten it as I write. I like to mull over my storyline till it plays almost like a movie in my mind. Often, this takes a while, thus the reason my books take so long to write. 

7. To end this interview, what piece of information, upcoming project, advice or request would you like to share with this audience?

Believe in what you have to say. Write what touches your heart. 
My third book in the Garrison Series, should be available in a few months, I hope. If you wish to contact me, I can be reached on FB: Teresa McRae-Author

Teresa McRae-Author
Teresa McRae-Author. 1,029 likes · 26 talking about this. Welcome. My novels are set in the latter half of the 19th century, with themes of slavery, abolition, romance, history, genealogy, and the…