It’s a beautiful summer’s day, and my roses are looking their best ever in the back garden. The scent is gorgeous! I’m here with fellow British author Caitlyn Callery, and we’re outside making the most of a rare English summer day, eating some of my strawberries with a dollop of fresh cream. And we’re talking about romance. What a perfect day!
Where have you come from today, Caitlyn? I live in Sussex, in south east England. Tunbridge Wells is about seven miles away, and Brighton is about an hour’s drive, and both towns are still very much as they were in Regency times, as are many other places in the area. In fact, the bus route from Brighton to Tunbridge Wells is called “The Regency Route”.
The town where I live, Crowborough, is built on the highest point in Sussex. It has a few literary claims to fame: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived about half a mile from my home for the last 26 years of his life and wrote most, if not all the Sherlock Holmes stories here, and AA Milne lived nearby when he wrote the Winnie the Pooh books. I set The Bankrupt Viscount in a place not unlike Crowborough – a small town on the Sussex weald – precisely because I know and love it so well, although Crompton Hadlow actually bears little resemblance to the town of Crowborough as it is today.
I live in the north of England, as you know, and Sussex is in the south. I’ve learned a lot of new stuff today. Thanks for those fascinating facts!
Where is your favourite place in the world? Wow! Just choose one? I love France and visit that country whenever I can. With the tunnel, it’s only two hours from my home. Then again, I visited Kenya as part of a team from the charity World In Need and fell hard for Africa, and I loved Morocco when I went there, also for World In Need.
But when all is said and done, my heart is in Ashdown Forest, which borders Crowborough. You can see for miles and it’s all unspoilt downland, with gorse and heather, deer and rabbits and… peace. I love it first thing in the morning, when the sun is barely up and there’s still a haze in the air, and if you sit very quietly, you can hear tiny animals scurrying in the undergrowth.
What an idyllic spot to live in!
Being a writer is a great job. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? ’ve done a variety of jobs over the years, ranging from working in a bank to manning phones in a call centre, from cleaning for elderly ladies to driving lorries (trucks), from chauffeuring to waitressing. I think the worst job though, was when I used to clean the butcher’s department in a supermarket. I would get there as the shop closed for the night and I had to hose down the walls and surfaces. There was blood and guts and gore everywhere. And to make matters worse, I didn’t know it when I took the job but I was in early pregnancy. Butchers’ kitchens and queasy pregnancy tummies do not mix well.
I had a Saturday job in a supermarket staff canteen when I was at school, and the butchers used to terrify me!
What book do you wish you’d written? Well, something that sold like Harry Potter would have been nice… seriously, I wish I could be as witty as Jane Austen. My favourite of her books is Persuasion. It is romantic, and funny, and it pulls you right in to the story. But then, I love Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It depicts childhood brilliantly, and I always end in tears. To be able to write that honestly, that powerfully… that is genius.
What’s your favourite song? Do I only get to pick one? I have different favourites for different reasons. Comme d’habitude, which is the original of My Way, is wonderful when sung by my favourite singer, Michel Sardou; And Can It Be by Charles Wesley, because it sums up my faith; Caro Emerald’s Liquid Lunch is a lot of fun. But I suppose the one that really comes to mind is Amazing Grace. Years ago, I wrote a screenplay about John Newton, the man who wrote that song. The research and the writing took forever, and every time I took a few days away from it, I would hear that song. If I was hard at work, I never heard it. It became a bit of a joke in the family every time it was played – “Oh, Mum’s shirking again, God’s cracking the whip.” One time, we were on holiday in France and I took the kids to a fairground and, I kid you not, one of the fairground rides was playing Amazing Grace. My son looked heavenward and said in an exasperated tone, “Give her a break. She’s on holiday!”
I love the song Amazing Grace. How interesting to write a screenplay about it.
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you say to them? Charles Wesley. When I was doing that screenplay about John Newton, I researched the Wesley brothers. John Wesley seemed cold and distant to me, but Charles was lovely – friendly and understanding and human. I’d love to meet him. We would talk about writing – he wrote 6000 hymns – and about clinical depression, something that has affected us both.
But then, I’d also like to talk to Kit Marlowe and find out what really happened on that day in Deptford and who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays…
What interesting choices!
What’s your happiest childhood memory? Sitting on my daddy’s lap, learning to read. Hard to imagine when you see me now but I was a hyperactive child, the sort who never stopped, never slept. My poor parents were exhausted, and in a bid to keep my mind occupied, my dad began teaching me to read when I was three. He learned French so he could begin teaching it to me when I was six, and when I was seven he encouraged me to write. Not only did he set me off on a lifetime’s passion, but he gave me some wonderful memories of our time together, too. He died before I had my first success, but it was dedicated to him.
If you had to marry a fictional character, from film, television, or books, who would it be? When I was a little girl, I told my mother I was going to marry Scott Tracy from Thunderbirds. I suppose, in some ways, he does embody the things I would look for in a man – he’s honest, dependable, heroic, willing to go into danger and battle to protect those who need it. Another hero that shares those traits would be Ivanhoe. I’m not really a Mr Darcy fan (unless he is played by Colin Firth) as he is too proud and arrogant for my tastes and I find him cruel. But Captain Wentworth from Persuasion would tempt me. A much nicer man. And I always, always fall in love with Joanna Wayne’s cowboy heroes.
Of course, I fell in love with Will in The Bankrupt Viscount. But then, you’d expect that, would you not?
Great heroes, all! I especially love the idea of marrying Scott Tracy :)
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you? One of my favourite sayings is, “There’s a play/novel in that.” It’s usually because something has happened which is funny, or surreal, or frankly, jaw-droppingly unbelievable. But it is true. Most of the things around us, even the smallest snippet of information, a fragment of a sentence, something we see in passing, can be used for inspiration. One of the first stage plays I wrote was Sammy, and it is based on the experience I had caring for my oldest son, who has Prader Willi syndrome. Another play, Volunteers, is set in a charity shop and it was inspired by a “You’ll-never-guess-what-happened-today” tale my mum told about the place where she worked. I hate it when people say, “There’s nothing to write about in my life, nothing ever happens,” because yes, it does!
Excellent advice for writers!
The Bankrupt Viscount is a Regency Romance. Set in Sussex in 1817, it’s the story of Will, Viscount Hadlow, who has unexpectedly inherited the title and the massive debts that go with it. He could clear those debts by marrying an heiress but Will is not comfortable doing that. While he ponders his options, he meets his neighbour, Ella Forbes-Smythe. After a disastrous encounter with a gold-digging suitor, the wealthy Ella has decided never to marry, and values her independence highly. But a series of “accidents” convinces Will that someone is trying to harm her, and he vows to protect her. As he does so, they find themselves coming closer, and falling in love. But even if they can overcome his pride and her love of independence, they still have to identify and stop whoever wishes her dead.
The Bankrupt Viscount is the first story in the Hadlow series, set in the area surrounding the village of Crompton Hadlow.
It can be found at MuseItUp Publishing
Thank you so much for having me.
Thanks so much for coming, Caitlyn. What fascinating answers you gave to my questions! And your book sounds great. Lovely cover! I wish there were a Regency Bus route from Yorkshire back to Sussex instead of the boring motorway. Have a pleasant trip home!
If you’ve enjoyed Caitlyn’s interview, and have any questions or comments, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!