Christina Courtenay interviews Alison Stuart

Christina CourtenayIn part two of our #RomanceRelay, Christina Courtenay interviews Alison Stuart.




You’ve set some of your books during the English Civil War – what is it about that time that fascinates you the most?  And which side would you have been on?
Alison StuartI loved the English Civil War from the moment my father read Du Maurier’s THE KING’S GENERAL to me (an odd choice for an 8 year old!). Civil war pits families and friends against each other and provides wonderful opportunities for a writer. I don’t have to look far to find conflict!

As for my own leanings… I am reputed to have a couple of regicides in the family tree and I suspect, politically my own politics lean towards the Parliamentary cause. However they do not always make sympathetic characters… cavaliers will always be wronged and romantic. That said, I did have fun with parliamentary characters in HER REBEL HEART.

You also write time travel stories – if you could go back in time yourself, which period would you like to go to and why?
I don’t think I’d like to time travel at all! No flushing loos? No toothbrushes? If I had to go back, I think it would only be as far as the Edwardian era and only if I could be lady of the manor!

Do you believe in ghosts and have you ever seen/met one?
Yes I do believe in ghosts – unquiet spirits. I have worked in a couple of haunted buildings and although I never saw the pesky spirits myself, enough credible witnesses did (we’re talking Army folk here – not given to wild imaginings!). I do definitely experience a strong sense of discomfort in places (like a weight on my chest) – most recently the battle site at Waterloo, but that is about as psychic as I get! I love doing ghost tours and used some of the ghostly stories in my own ghost story GATHER THE BONES.

Why do you think Regency novels continue to be so popular?
I have only written one Regency (LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR) and while it was fun to write, it is such a crowded market and yet readers keep coming back for more. It is a period of gentility with gorgeous clothes, wonderful manners and I think it is that fantasy element that attracts readers. I suspect the reality, particularly below the stairs was far from so pleasant.

If you could choose clothing from one era in history, what would you most like to wear?
I adore costume from any period. I always loved the elegant head pieces and lines of the Tudor period of Ann Boleyn but you can leave the iron corsets! I actually think the regency period had the most gracious (and comfortable) clothes. Trouble is when I don a round gown, I just look… round!

What are you currently reading, or planning to read?
I have to confess I am turning to crime… my reading at the moment are historical mysteries, cosy or otherwise. I am half way through C.S Harris’s latest Sebastian St. Cyr mystery WHO BURIES THE DEAD (that has a fabulous Charles I connection so I am happy on all counts!) and a lovely cosy mystery by Anita Davison set aboard a trans Atlantic liner in the early 1900s, MURDER ON THE MINNEAPOLIS.

Are you working on another novel at the moment?
I am always working on the next project, although at the moment I am deep in edits for the 3rd book in my English Civil War series, GUARDIANS OF THE CROWN. EXILES’ RETURN will be released in February next year. Number 2, THE KING’S MAN is out in September.

When I finish those I am hoping to get on with my own historical mystery series set in Singapore in 1910, but then again I have so many ideas buzzing in my head, it could be anything!

Do you find inspiration mostly from locations, things or people?
All of the above… sometime it is just a line in a book, a portrait with a story behind it or, as I am fortunate to travel, it is more often than not a place.

By The SwordWhen you visit old houses or castles for example, do you immediately start thinking up stories about that place?
Of course! The very stones are redolent with the past and I love peopling old places with my own characters – I used to study house plans as a child and make up stories. The idea for BY THE SWORD, which was the first of my GUARDIANS series, derived from a wonderful old house in Worcestershire called Harvington Hall. I would love to write a whole series just around that house and the house in GATHER THE BONES is a loosely disguised Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire. I will deliberately seek out lesser known National Trust or Heritage properties in the search for inspiration.

As you live in Australia, is there anything in particular about Australian history that interests you and would you like to write a story set there?
I used to be very dismissive of Australian history. What history? But as I grow older, I am far more deeply appreciative of the difficulties and the sheer courage of the early settlers. I would dearly love to tell my own ancestors’ story… she was a convict set to Botany Bay in 1798 and he was a gallant sea captain and I couldn’t invent some of their adventures. Need I say more?

Alison Stuart

By the Sword (UK)
By the Sword (Aus)
Buy the Sword (US)


Read Alison Stuart interviewing Sue Moorcroft

Christina Courtenay

The Jade Lioness – out now in ebook – paperback coming October 2015

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