Thursday, 25 April 2013

Author to Author - Judith Arnopp chats with Maria Grace

Today we are joined  by Regency Romance Author, Maria Grace. Thank you for coming to talk to us today, Maria.

First, can you tell us what got you started as a writer? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
I think I was in the third grade when I started writing. The first effort was a stick-figure illustrated book of poetry that no one but me has seen in decades, and I think it is going to stay that way.  A couple years later, I pecked out my first short story anthology on a Smith-Corona manual typewriter.  That too is hidden away in a box, away from prying eyes and potential blackmailers.

If you were to write the 'origin's episode' of your writing what would be the most important scenes?

I can think of a couple important scenes in that script.  The first would be my third grade teacher patiently showing me how to format poetry and encouraging my first efforts, no matter how bad they were.  I had a similarly encouraging fourth grade teacher who recruited me to help write a grade level play on the history of our state that won district-wide attention, that would be another important scene.  The final one would be set in my High School years with my friends begging for the next installment of the six part fantasy series I was writing. Those were some very special times. 

Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

I have several partners, my family of course, first and foremost.  Their superpower is patience with me.  They listen to my wacky ideas and even come up with the plot twists that are staring me in the face, but I don’t recognize. I couldn’t do it without their unreserved support.
I have some wonderful writing buddies whose superpower is courage.  They aren’t afraid to tell me when something is just plain bad and in need of work.  It takes a true friend to tell you your main character is stupid and they don’t like her at all.
Finally, my proofreading partners whose superpower is super-vision to ferret out all those typos and other errors that are just invisible to me.  I can’t ever thank them enough.

Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

My secret lair is the office I share with my engineer husband. The room is painted in his favorite color, royal purple—seriously. We have two desks, four book cases, a secretary armoire with pull out desk, two file cabinets and a love seat all crammed in that 11x12 foot room. It isn’t unusual to find both of us, our three teen-aged sons, five cats and the dog all packed in there watching TV in the evening, even though there is a perfectly serviceable living room just down the hall.

What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?

My biggest challenge is making sure I keep my focus on writing, not the thousand and one other things clambering for my attention all at once, not the least of which is the current desk cat, who trades duties with his brothers so there’s always a fresh cat in need of petting stationed between me and the keyboard.

What important lessons have you learned along the way?
Someone once told me, “Do it, afraid.” That really stuck with me. Writing is pretty easy all told, letting anyone else read it is an entirely different story. From the moment I first let someone read what I wrote, there hasn’t been a step in the process that hasn’t filled me with some level of panic. But I grit my teeth and just do it, afraid, and I’m glad I have.

What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

When I put my first story out to be read and people actually liked it and encouraged me—that was a moment I won’t forget.

What is the best writing advice you have ever been given and why?

The best writing advice I have ever received is: You can fix anything but a blank page.  In other words, worry about getting it written before you start worrying about getting it perfect.  Editing can fix any mistakes you make, as long as you get something on paper.  That sustains me on the days I feel like I don’t think I can write a sentence that makes sense.

Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

I just published All the Appearance of Goodness, the third installment of the Given Good Principles series. Here’s a blurb.

What is a young woman to do? One handsome young man has all the goodness, while the other the appearance of it.  How is she to separate the gentleman from the cad?

When Darcy joins his friend, Bingley on a trip to Meryton, the last thing on his mind is finding a wife. Meeting Elizabeth Bennet changes all that, but a rival for his affections appears from a most unlikely quarter. He must overcome his naturally reticent disposition if he is to have a chance of winning her favor.

Elizabeth’s thoughts turn to love and marriage after her sister Mary’s engagement. In a few short weeks, she goes from knowing no eligible young men, to being courted by two. Both are handsome gentleman, but one conceals secrets and the other conceals his regard. Will she determine which is which before she commits to the wrong one?

You should drop everything and get it because it is a really fun story with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. It is a feel-good tale that is a great remedy against a grey and gloomy day.

It sounds lovely - the sort of book to read with a box of chocolates and a glass of wine. What’s in store for your writing in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

I have tons of projects on the horizon.  I have a complete Regency Romance manuscript in the drawer, ready for editing. I’m working with an editor on a science fiction trilogy that I’d like to get out sometime next year. I have another Regency Romance 90% finished and it will soon be on the editing stack.  I have an historical fantasy novel planned out, begging to writing time and a Regency Romance Novella trying to elbow its way into the schedule as well. So I’ve got plenty of projects to keep me going for a while. 

Well,  you are certainly one busy lady. I am just off to follow the link below and buy one of your books. Thank you so much for brightening our day, and good luck with all those projects.  

 Thanks so much for having me, Judith! 

You can find Maria Grace online:
Visit her website Random Bits of Fascination
On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace
English Historical Fiction Authors
Austen Authors

Her books are available on and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Tudor Court as you’ve never seen it before!

Thank you to Francine Howarth for giving me the chance to share my work with you the reader.


The Winchester Goose
at the Court of Henry VIII
Judith Arnopp

Tudor London: 1540. Each night, after dark, men flock to Bankside seeking girls of easy virtue; prostitutes known as The Winchester Geese. Joanie Toogood has worked the streets of Southwark since childhood but her path is changed forever by an encounter with Francis Wareham, a court spy. 

Meanwhile, across the River, at the glittering court of Henry VIII, Wareham also sets his cap at Evelyn and Isabella Bourne, members of the Queen’s household. Political intrigue draws the girls into danger and the shadow of the executioner’s blade.

Set against the turmoil of Henry VIII’s middle years, The Winchester Goose provides a brand new perspective of the happenings at the royal court, offering a frank and often uncomfortable observation of life at both ends of the social spectrum.

Reader comments on The Winchester Goose: 

"I truly love anything Tudor and I must say this positively one of the best one I've read so far."

"Probably the best historical fiction I have read in a long time"

"This book stands out because the main characters are completely different from your run-of-the-mill Tudor folk."

The Winchester Goose

The Wincestrian goose
Bred on the bank in time of popery
When Venus there maintain’d her mystery
(Ben Jonson – Underwoods 1692 folio)

Prologue – Southwark Stews

Although she follows me, I can tell she wishes she wasn’t here. She lifts her skirts above the foulness of the alleyway and her feet slip in the mire, the hem of her gown all besmirched with mud. She is pale, glancing anxiously from side to side, her lips colourless as she shivers and sweats, and her hands are trembling as if she has the plague.

We pass my friend, Bertha, who is sitting on her threshold with her skirts hitched, airing her blue-veined legs. I wave, “good day” to her but she doesn’t respond for, just as she sees me, her man comes lurching round the corner, sozzled with drink although it is not yet noon. Every day he pisses all Bertha’s hard earned pennies up the wall. 

As his wife sets her beefy fists squarely on her hips and lashes him with her tongue, the lady beside me whips her eyes from the raucous disaster of their marriage. She turns her head so fast that I glimpse her yellow hair tucked beneath the veil of her hood. “I cannot be responsible for the things you see here, my dear,” I say gently.

The way she averts her eye, raises her nose and flinches away from the stench of my world tells me a lot about her. She shies away from unpleasantness and would rather not see the half-naked starvelings peering from the shadows. Their hunger is an affront, their bare feet an insult, yet it was she who asked me to lead her here. It isn’t my fault if she doesn’t like what she finds. 

We pass a stranger, a shady fellow up to no good, he melts away into the shadows not wanting to be seen. When I stop suddenly, the lady does likewise and I point a finger along the route she is to take. “See there, past the midden where the pigs are rooting? It’s up that stairway behind the inn that you must go. The Cock’s Inn it’s called, my dear.”
She doesn’t see the joke of that. She is an innocent, kept ‘nice’ by her mother. My own mother did nothing to protect her daughters from the world but she made sure we learned enough to follow where she led. 

“Be careful on those rickety steps,” I call after her. “M’ room is the one right at the end.”
I wonder what she will make of the musty chamber where one corner of the shingle leaks when the rain is blown in from the west. My sisters and I have grown accustomed to damp in that corner and catch the worst of the drips in a bowl, for water always comes in handy. Things’ve been a lot worse mind, before our luck began to change. Once, the place was caked with grime and the blankets on our narrow bed were thin and moth-eaten but I’ve a thicker counterpane now. 

In winter the bitter blast still manages to find a way through the broken shutter but we do well enough and are grateful to have a room at all. It is better than a ditch and provides us what comfort it can. But my fine, pretty lady will not have seen anywhere like it before, of that I am certain.
“Go on up, my dear, that’s where you’ll find him.”  I urge her onward, knowing Francis will have thrown off his cloak and be growing impatient. As I watch her sidling past the pigs, tiptoeing through the mire, I snort at her gullibility but then, as she places her foot on the lowest step, to my surprise I feel a twinge of conscience. 

I bite my lower lip, wondering if I should call her back. What will she say to him? What would any woman say on finding her husband sprawled on a whore’s bed on a dull July morning?
But she is gone, already climbing gingerly up the unsteady stairs, her gloved hand reaching out to push open the chamber door.  I hold my breath and listen for the rumpus that will follow for it promises to be as good as any bawdy play. But instead, I hear a scream so grisly that it turns my skin to gooseflesh.The hair stands up on my scalp and, for a few moments, I find I cannot move.

Then, all of a sudden I am wrenching up my skirts to fly across the yard and scramble up the steps behind her. Just as I reach the top she stumbles backwards across the threshold with her hands held to her face. Her eyes are wide open, her mouth an ugly scar as she gropes blindly at my arms, scrabbles at me, babbling nonsense. I am afraid of such madness and cannot bear to let her touch me.
Crossing myself in the old way, I wrench away from her clutching hands so violently that she loses her footing. Her ankle turns on the top step and I see her face open like a flower as she realises she is going to fall. Before I can stop her, she tumbles backwards, her body bouncing loosely from stair to stair. 

I dare not look down and it takes a few moments for me to find the courage to look upon the bundle of fine linen and velvet that is sprawled in the mud. She is lying very still and her face is white, her eyes closed but I think I can just see her chest rising and falling. I don’t know whether to run and help her or venture indoors to see what trouble awaits me there. 

There is no sound from within and I glance one more time at her prone body before, with my heart hammering like a drum, I hold my breath and push open the door.

The Winchester Goose is available in paperback or on Kindle.

Other books by Judith Arnopp are

Available here USA


The Forest Dwellers

The Song of Heledd

Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens