Bernard Cornwell - tips from a master of historical fiction

Learning from the master – Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell has written over 55 novels and sold more than 20 million books worldwide. 20 million. Just let that sink in. He’s one of my favourite novelists. I devoured the Sharpe series and am now into his Uhtred Saxon/Dane epic. UK appearances are rare as he now lives in America. So I jumped at […]

Review of RSC's 2016/17 The Rover by Aphra Behn

While researching my dissertation on Aphra Behn, I found her short-lived career as a spy fascinating. When I picked up The Rover its alternative title of The Banish’d Cavaliers made me wonder – what did those flamboyant losers of the English Civil Wars get up to when Oliver Cromwell was in power? And so the […]

Twitter pitches - Pieter Aertsen's Marketseller

For any unpublished author with a Twitter account, #PitchCB is the stuff of legend. On the fourth Friday of every month, the UK literary agents of Curtis Brown invite Twitter pitches. Here are the guidelines. On 22 April 2016, I joined the hoards – probably about 300 of us – with this: 1653. Oliver Cromwell’s […]

Writing Retreat option - La Muse in France

“I do not know of any creative soul who does not dream of calm, cool, grass-growing days in which to work without interruption.” When I read this glorious sentence from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I sighed in agreement. I find it tough to switch from my ‘Business Head’ of being a copywriter to my ‘Book […]

Sparkler illustrating how to submit your manuscript

This month I attended the sold-out ‘How NOT To Submit Your Manuscript’ session at York Literature Festival. For two hours, literary agents Jo Unwin, Sam Copeland and Sallyanne Sweeney  gave gallons of brilliant advice. When should you start looking for an agent? All three agents said you needed to have finished your fictional novel before […]

First hand spy quotes

There is nothing like a first-hand account to get an historical novelist excited. For me, the secret papers of John Thurloe, Oliver Cromwell’s spymaster, have been a treasure trove. Hidden until the beginning of the 18th century, workmen only came across them when they dismantled a false ceiling in his former chambers at Lincoln’s Inn, London. In my […]

Disguise or just keeping warm? Winter by Wencelas Hollar

Disguise is an essential tool in espionage. However I still remember the roar of laughter from fellow cinema goers when Tom Cruise peeled off his latex face in Mission: Really Impossible – No We Mean It This Time. Given I’m writing a book about seventeenth century spies, latex is off the menu. I did find some absolute gems though […]

Pepys Exhibition

My novel is set in 1650s, between the violence of the English Civil Wars and the flamboyant return of King Charles II. It’s not a very well-known historical period. At school, I think there was mention of Oliver Cromwell cancelling Christmas, but that was about it. Here is the late, great Alan Rickman calling off […]