Today it’s my pleasure to chat with prolific author, Victoria Lamb, who also writes as Elizabeth Moss
Victoria, many of your books have been set in the Tudor period. Why did you pick this era in particular?
Some of my earliest reading in historical fiction as a teenager were books by Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt, including some of her classic tales about Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley and Lettice Knollys. So when I was starting out as an historical writer, it made sense to turn first to periods I had enjoyed reading about when young. I also write Regencies as Elizabeth Moss, another favourite era inspired by reading the wonderful Georgette Heyer. Tudors are very popular right now, probably because we can relate to them rather more easily than to characters in the Middle Ages; they’re like us, but not us, and I think that’s very appealing to people who want a touch of historical texture in their fiction.
How do you go about your research? Do you start writing, then research when you need to, or read around the era and subject beforehand?
I check my basic facts, draw up a timeline, and then start writing pretty much as soon as possible. I’m quite impatient and restless as a person, and writing is no different. If I had to make notes for weeks and think deeply about my stories, I would just get bored and never write them. But I can’t start a story without having a feel for the narrative voice – or voices – it will be written in. That can take a few false starts. But if my preliminary research is in place when I start, then I already have a fairly good idea how the voice will sound, because it will have been building up in my mind while I did that research.
As I move further into a book, I tend to trip over situations where I need to do more research – unknown dates and places, or historical know-how like how many days a particular journey would take on horseback in Tudor England or what kind of rules and rituals governed women in childbirth. That’s the point at which I will down tools, pick up my books, Google a date or ask an academic friend, and pin down that fact. Once sorted, I move on. Until the next unknown fact crops up. Some people may prefer to do all that research before writing, but I don’t find it interrupts my flow to research on the hoof, and it certainly means I can write my books more quickly.
Weaving fictional characters and plots into historical fact as you do, how do you keep on top of all the information?
I am addicted to Post-It notes. I stick them on the wall next to my desk, or dangle them from my bookshelves, or even plaster them across my desk. When I start a book, I note down physical characteristics – eyes, hair, height etc – for quick reference and can then check them as I go along. Since I’m almost always working on two books at once, losing track of the colour of someone’s eyes is actually not that difficult! I also keep names, facts and timelines on hand, often on several whiteboards that lean against the wall next to my desk. There’s a wonderfully cleansing and cathartic moment at the end of every book – usually around proof stage – where I tear down the old Post-Its, wipe off my whiteboards, and start again.
Tell us about your latest releases.
As Victoria Lamb, I have the second book in my Tudor Witch Trilogy for young adults out in the States this week – WITCHFALL – with the third and final book, Witchrise, due out in the UK this July. The third book in my Lucy Morgan series, HER LAST ASSASSIN, a Tudor spy thriller with romantic elements set at Elizabeth I’s court, is also just out in hardback. Paperback to follow in the autumn. As Elizabeth Moss, writing Tudor romance, I have REBEL BRIDE out this week, the sequel to Wolf Bride. Rather a lot of publishing activity in 2014, as you can see!
Thank you, Victoria, for taking time out of your busy writing life to talk to us. Good luck with your new books.
Victoria Lamb lives in a farmhouse on the wild fringes of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, England, with her husband, five children and an energetic Irish Red Setter. She writes poetry and fiction as her day job, and is addicted to social media. On dark nights she has been known to sneak out onto the moors and howl at the moon . Visit her website www.victorialambbooks.com or chat with her on Twitter, where she answers to @VictoriaLamb1.
Victoria was in conversation with Francesca Burgess