Today I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements. And as part of it I have a Q&A with Katherine Clemants.
This is a book that I was excited to read, I loved Katherine’s first book, The Crimson Ribbon, so much that I sure this is going to be equally good and perhaps even better. At the moment I haven’t had a chance to sit down and enjoy a book properly as it is bang in the middle of exam season. Boo!
But back to The Silvered Heart, which is about an infamous highwaywoman. Below Katherine has kindly answered the questions I sent her, in lots of detail and, without giving too much away (I will try to be more sneaky next time!).
What drew you to Katherine Ferrers? Because (and this may be a terrible thing to admit) but I have never heard of her. She seems quite an intriguing lady.
You may not have heard of Katherine Ferrers, but you may have heard of legendary 17th century highwaywoman, ‘The Wicked Lady’. Her story has inspired a number of novels and films. The most well known is a 1945 box office hit of the same name, starring James Mason and Margaret Lockwood. The identity of this mysterious outlaw has most often been attached to Lady Katherine Ferrers and myths surrounding her have passed down through the centuries. She’s even said to haunt her old stomping grounds.
It was this rather romantic story that first attracted me, but as I researched the real Katherine I got thinking about what the reality might have been. I found that we don’t know much about her life. And this can be a gift for a novelist: there’s just enough doubt to suggest that the stories could be true, and of course, it gave me lots of room for invention. The book is by no means the ‘true story’ of her life, but an amalgamation of the fact and the fiction.
When researching, did you find some interesting facts about Katherine / the period, that do not make it in the novel?
I always say that you need to know much more about the history than ends up in the book and that was certainly the case here. Through researching Katherine’s family connections I became interested in the secret intelligence networks that played a significant role during the Civil Wars and Interregnum. Both Parliamentarians and Royalists had spies and secret agents passing information around the country and to the Continent. I found this fascinating, from the ciphers and codes they used, to the various failed uprisings that were planned by loyal Royalist groups, such as the Sealed Knot.
One particular character in The Silvered Heart, Sir Richard Willis (or Willys) was a real life Royalist supporter who was accused of betraying the Royalists’ plans to Oliver Cromwell’s spymaster, John Thurloe. Willis was condemned by Charles II and has gone down in history as a traitor, but his story is intriguing. It’s almost certain that he was passing information to Thurloe but I suspect his motives were more complicated than history shows. Willis always maintained his innocence and the evidence against him is not entirely convincing. I wish I’d been able to do more justice to his story.
This leads on a bit… what are your writing habits?
I write best first thing in the morning. First drafts are written long hand and then transcribed onto my laptop for rewriting and editing. I’m dabbling with dictation software at the moment, with some hilarious results. I need peace and quiet. I’m not one of those people who can write in cafes or on trains – I wish I were but it just doesn’t work. And there is always tea. Lots of tea.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to write? Either for historical fiction or generally.
The best piece of advice I was ever given was to just get on and write. Like anything else, you learn by doing. I think the rules of good writing are the same whatever genre you’re working in, but here are three things I’ve learned about historical fiction:
It’s essential to know your history. As I said above, you need to know much, much more than will ever go into your book. I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to alter some historical facts (though I prefer it when authors are clear about exactly what they’ve changed) but you need to know the facts before you can play with them.
Don’t overdo the historical detail. Readers only need a few details to get a flavour. A light touch can be very effective. Try and include only the things that are relevant to your characters and the story.
Remember you’re writing for a modern reader. People can get tangled up worrying about authentic voices in historical fiction but I believe that’s impossible anyway. Anachronisms can jolt the reader out of their experience, (unless, of course, you’re employing them purposefully), but we’ll never know how people really spoke ‘back then’, so make choices that feel authentic to your characters and try and be consistent.
Do you have a favourite moment in the book?
Probably the ending. I can’t say more without giving spoilers.
Name the best book you read last year, your favourite book and the book at the top of your TBR.
My favourite last year was probably Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests. I have far too many long standing favourites to pick just one but today I’ll go for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I’m trying to read more classics this year, so next on my TBR pile is Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, after I’ve finished Song of the Sea Maid, the fab new one from Rebecca Mascull.
Finally can you describe your book in five words?
Story of survival, on horseback!