Thursday, July 26, 2012

Interview With Gillian Bagwell, author of The King's Mistress

I'd like to welcome historical fiction author Gillian Bagwell to The Eclectic Reader and hope readers enjoy the interview. The King's Mistress was released in the UK on 19th July - gorgeous cover too!

1. Can you give readers a description of The King's Mistress - The September Queen (US 2011)?

It’s the first fictional account of the story of Jane Lane, a young woman of about 25 years old, who girl who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. In a scheme that sounds like something out of fiction, Charles disguised himself as Jane’s servant, and she rode pillion (sitting side-saddle behind him while he rode stride) along hundreds of miles of roads teeming with cavalry patrols who were searching for him, through villages where the proclamation describing him and offering a reward for his capture was posted, and among hundreds of people who, if they recognized him, had every reason to turn him in and none—but loyalty to the outlawed monarchy—to help him.

It was an improbable scheme. Charles was six feet two inches tall and very dark complexioned, not at all common looking for an Englishman of that time. But time after time he rode right under the noses of Roundhead soldiers without being recognized. He narrowly eluded discovery and capture so many times that the whole event eventually became known as the Royal Miracle. He had been proclaimed a traitor, and anyone who was found to have helped him would be executed for treason. What Jane did took great bravery, as she was not only risking her life but the lives and lands of her family.

2. Do you travel to locales your novels are set in for research?

I did make a research trip to England for this book, and my blog Jane Lane and the Royal Miracle (www.theroyalmiracle.blogspot.comrecounts my adventures as well as the daily events in Charles’s six-week odyssey.

 view from top of Worcester Cathedral

It was incredibly moving and evocative to follow in Jane’s and Charles’s footsteps, starting with Worcester and visiting some of the places Charles hid. Standing atop Worcester Cathedral, where he began the morning of the battle, it was easy to imagine his despair as he watched the approach of Cromwell’s army, knowing he was vastly outnumbered. It gave me goose bumps to look down into the priest hole at Boscobel House where he spent a night and to visit the bedroom at Trent Manor where he hid for a couple of weeks.

 closet with priest hole at Trent Manor

Sometimes, though, long-distance research is necessary. When I got back from England I discovered that after Jane left Charles, she travelled in a part of England I hadn’t been able to visit, and I had to recreate her journey using a reproduction of a 17th century road map and Google Maps and Google Earth!
3. Is there anything that surprised or shocked you as you researched your novels? Any titbit about Nell or Jane that you’d like to share?

I was astonished by the fact that after Jane Lane parted from Charles, she and her brother walked from Staffordshire to Yarmouth—about 200 miles—when they had to escape to France. It’s a long, long way, much of it through desolate and empty countryside, and they made the journey when winter was coming on. The specifics of what happened to them aren’t known so I had to invent them, imagining what difficulties and dangers might occur along the way.

4. Is there anything you find particularly challenging when you’re writing?

So far all of my books have required an enormous amount of research, and between that and the actual writing, it’s a real challenge to complete a book by my publisher’s deadline. I’m terrified I won’t be able to finish! The first draft is the hardest part. When I’m having a hard time I just tell myself it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be done—then I can go back and revise, which I find much easier than writing the first draft.

5. What’s next on the table for Gillian Bagwell?

I’m close to finished with my third novel, Venus in Winter, based on the first forty years of the life of Bess of Hardwick, the formidable four-times widowed Tudor dynast who began life in genteel poverty and ended as the richest and most powerful woman in England after Queen Elizabeth; built Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall; and is the forebear of numerous noble houses including the current royal family of Britain.  It will be published next July in the U.S.

6. What are you reading now?

Still lots of books for research on Bess of Hardwick! I’m frequently reading someone else’s historical fiction, both because I enjoy it and to see what others are writing. Right now I’m reading and enjoying an advance copy of Deborah Swift’s The Gilded Lily, which is set in 17th century London, where I’m right at home! And I’ve been reading The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden, a very prolific English writer from the mid-20th century, who doesn’t seem to be as remembered as she deserves to be.

7. Favourite historical fiction authors & authors who inspire you?

Diana Gabaldon! I love her books I love her books and she’s been an inspiration to me. She became a writer after being well established in a much different career and began writing Outlander as a “practice book.” Some practice book!

I love Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series—he really captures the time and place, and in rereading the books I always marvel at how deftly he writes, conveying a scene, dialogue, character so clearly, economically, and enjoyably.

8. If you could be dropped into any book as a character, who would you be and why?

I don’t think I’d like to be a character in a book! That’s kind of the ultimate in having no control of your life and destiny, isn’t it?

Gillian Bagwell’s novel The King’s Mistress will be released on July 19. (It was published in the U.S. in 2011 as The September Queen). Her first novel, The Darling Strumpet, based on the life of Nell Gwynn, the seventeenth century actress and mistress of Charles II, is a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award for Best First Book. Please visit Gillian’s website, to learn more about her books and for links to her blogs and articles.

Thanks to Gillian for taking the time to answer my questions. I loved the info and photos about the research trip and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is an all time favourite of mine.
Have any of you read The King's Mistress aka The September Queen or Gillian's 1st novel The Darling Strumpet? (it's next on my reading list)


  1. Great interview! I think it would be so interesting to follow the same journey as the characters - or visit the same rooms they inhabited.

    1. Thanks Mary, reading historical fiction makes me want to visit all the places I've read about!

  2. Thank you for an interesting post

    1. Thanks for stoppping by Mystica :)

  3. Wow, how fascinating! I would have been so scared, but she must have been such a brave young woman

    1. incredibly brave and imagine walking 200 miles ;)

  4. Fab interview.

    I just received my copy of The King's Mistress and it will not sit on my shelf long. :)

    I am also looking forward to Deborah Swift's next novel.


    1. Looking forward to your review Carol, I don't have The King's Mistress yet, but The Darling Strumpet is up next :)

  5. I love historical fiction. I hope I can travel to England some day. =) Nice interview!

    1. me too Lissette, England is high on my list :)

  6. This book sounds brilliant!! I loved reading the author's words!!

  7. Diana's a favorite of mine too :)

  8. Great interview and I will be keeping my eyes out for this one.


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