A Writer’s life with Author Wendy J. Dunn

Wendy Dunn

I’d like to welcome Author Wendy J. Dunn to Layered Pages today to talk about her writing. She is an Australian writer who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of two Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel.

While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter—named after a certain Tudor queen, surprisingly, not Anne.

Wendy tutors at Swinburne University in their Master of Arts (Writing) program. She also works as a literature support teacher at a primary school.

Why do you write?

Why do I write, Stephanie? Writing is the way I achieve a complete life. Text is my mirror to look at myself and my world, and one of my means to achieve personal growth. I have learnt through writing the truth of Jacques Derrida’s words: “human beings require the mediation of consciousness, or the mirror of language, in order to know themselves and the world” (Derrida Online). Through the act of writing, life, that glass darkly, becomes less dark and clearer. I see writing as a space that creates and builds empathy – not only for the reader, but for the writer, too.

How has writing impacted your life?

Writing has not only impacted on my life, but also moulded it into an authentic life. I was only eight when I committed myself to writing. At ten, I won my first writing competition for a poem. I was also ten when a friend gave me a child’s book of English history and I read its story of Elizabeth I. As an unwanted and seemingly unloved daughter of a father who valued only sons, I connected to the story of another seemingly unwanted daughter. That book changed my life and began my lifelong desire to learn and then write about the Tudors.

Writing shaped my identity, my life and continues to do so. Writing is my life-tool. I re-storied and reshaped my life through writing.

My father came from the slums of London. Growing up for him was a constant struggle against adversity and deprivation. The tragedy of my father’s life was similar to many of his generation. He received no opportunities to fulfil his potential and this left him a tormented man. He believed he did his children no favours by giving them a happy childhood. He also believed you could not change the narrative of your life: if you were born poor, you died poor. But, like many Cockneys, my father was a born storyteller; his occasional bedtime story was one of the best times of my childhood. His vivid retelling of history, folklore and family stories fed my imagination, and built the first stones to my writerly self.

My father devoured books. Once he read them, he discarded the books into our spare broom cupboard. I burrowed my way through them: history, philosophy, the complete works of Shakespeare, politics and classic novels. My love of reading increased my daydreams of a future as a writer.

My father balked (or maybe panicked) at the thought of supporting two daughters (my older sister was a gifted Mathematics student and that pushed her through the door) during the years of university and pulled the plug out of my hope to complete High School. I left school and home at seventeen, and became a shop assistant.

Not long afterwards, I met my husband, married him at eighteen and had our first child ten months later. But my desire to write never left me.

Years later, I entered a local University through their early leavers’ scheme, academic success gave me the confidence to return to writing and pursue a career in education. Employed as an Arts and Craft teacher, I decided to a complete a Graduate Diploma in Visual and Performance Arts. It immersed me in the creative process and the floodgates opened to the novel I had started to write in my twenties. Words poured out of me. I emerged from the end of the course with the first draft of my first historical novel, Dear Heart, How Like You This? Over ten years later, and lots of re-writing during my summer breaks from teaching, an American small press publisher offered to published it in 2002.

Writing is a way of being to me now rather than a way to earn a living. That no longer matters so much because I have something richer in its place, a deeper appreciation of how writing has helped me to grow and claim my true identity.

More than a decade ago, a year or two before my first novel was published, the very lovely Sandra Gulland (LOL – she does not remember this!) told me: Perseverance furthers. Smile – it became and remains my creed. Following it, I may not have achieved what society regards as true success for a writer, which tends to be measured in money and fame, but I have experienced a wonderful and exciting life adventure.

Wndy Dunn book cover

What advice would you give a beginner writer?

Write because you’re passionate about the craft of writing, not because you see it as a way to make money or become famous; very few writers support themselves purely through writing.

Join a supportive writing group and strive to be a supportive member. Keep reading. Reading is a serious and necessary tool of study for the writing craft. (I always find myself bemused when another writer tells me they don’t read books. In my humble opinion, reading is the other side of writing.)

One of my most favourite sayings is this: ‘Aim at the sun, and you may not reach it, but your arrow will fly far higher than if aimed at an object on a level with yourself’. If you love to write, then write and aim at the sun.


Jacques Derrida Assessed online

Author Website




Book Spotlight

02_The William Shakespeare Detective Agency-The School of Night_Cover

Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Cool Gus Publishing
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 168

Series: The William Shakespeare Detective Agency
Genre: Historical Mystery

“My name is William Shakespeare. No, not that Shakespeare; and no jests please, I’ve heard them all. I’m the other one, the ne’er do well cousin, the loafer, known to family and friends as the dunce, the one who could not recite Cicero or Horace, who could never be as good as his clever cuz, the one who has just come to Bishopsgate from Stratford with silly dreams in his head and a longing to make something more of himself than just a glover’s handyman.”

What he finds in London is Lady Elizabeth Talbot, who is willing to pass a few shillings to this blundering brawler if he will help her find her husband. Poor William does not realize the trail will lead to the truth behind the death of Shakespeare’s great rival, Christopher Marlowe – or to a lifelong love affair with a woman far above his station.

Each book tells the story of William’s adventures as England’s first gumshoe, set against turbulent Elizabethan politics; of his romantic pursuit of the impossible Elizabeth Talbot; while charting the career of his up and coming dramatist cousin, the bard of Stratford, but just Will to his family.

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

About the Author

03_Colin Falconer

Born in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages.

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz.

He currently lives in Barcelona.

For more information please visit Colin Falconer’s website. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

The School of Night Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, January 10
Spotlight at Historical Readings and Views

Monday, January 12
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, January 13
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Thursday, January 15
Interview at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Friday, January 16
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Monday, January 19
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Tuesday, January 20
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, January 22
Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, January 23
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Saturday, January 24
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Sunday, January 25
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Monday, January 26
Review at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, January 28
Review at Carpe Librum

Thursday, January 29
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Interview at Books and Benches
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Friday, January 30
Review at Brooke Blogs

Friday, February 6
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

04_The School of Night_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

My Guest, Author Marie Macpherson

Marie Macphersonjpeg

I’d like to welcome Marie Macpherson to Layered Pages today. Marie lives in a small village not far from the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. She studied at Strathclyde University, gaining a PhD in Russian Language and Literature. She spent a year at Moscow State University in the former Soviet Union to research her thesis on the 19th century Russian writer, Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer.

After a career teaching languages and literature, she retired from academic life to pursue her interest in creative writing and has found her niche in historical fiction.

The rich history of lowland Scotland provides her inspiration. Reeling and jigging at Scottish Country Dancing and walking the Lammermuir Hills keep her fit.

Marie, please tell me about your writing…

Why do I write?

I often ask that question myself? For writing is such hard work! Why don’t I just remain a reader? I often ask myself when the words won’t flow, the characters don’t gel, the plot refuses to thicken and my wonderful ideas come out half-baked.

Like most writers, I developed a passion for literature and language at an early age: learning to read was an eye-opener for me. That marks on paper could be transformed into words seemed a kind of magical process, a kind of alchemy – not least because most of my earliest reading material was fairy stories and legends.

The film Dr Zhivago cast a spell over me aged sweet sixteen and drew me into the exotic culture of Russia. Learning to decipher the Cyrillic alphabet, I re-discovered the magic I’d experienced as a child learning to read. And being able to understand the great classical novels – those big baggy monsters – by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Turgenev – in the original language was thrilling.

Since winning a writing competition (aged 10) – a story about my pet dog, I’ve been a closet writer, secretly scribbling stories There are a couple of novels locked away – not in the proverbial drawer – but in an ancient, primeval version of Word that needs a magic spell to open it. One day I will.

After experimenting with contemporary, satirical fiction, I found my niche in historical fiction set in 16th century Scotland, not surprising perhaps. Growing up on the battlefield of Pinkie and within sight of a ruined castle, I was surrounded by history and haunted by stories from the past. Ghosts and ghoulies stalked the tumbledown halls and walls – all rich fodder for the imagination. The legends of the great Scots heroes and heroines have always enthralled me: Wallace the freedom fighter wielding his broad sword, Bruce being inspired by a spider, Mary Queen of Scots getting her head chopped-off. Perhaps, subliminally that was why I chose the work of Lermontov topic for my PhD thesis. The Russian writer claimed to be descended from the Scottish bard and seer, Thomas the Rhymer.

Winning the Martha Hamilton Prize for Creative Writing from Edinburgh University, followed by the Writer of the Year award by Tyne and Esk Writers, pulled me out of the closet and pushed me to submit my work for publication.

How writing impacted on my life

I’m a ‘late call’ to creative writing and being published has given me a second career. What better way to while away the time to the grave? Instead of contemplating my navel, I’ve taken off on a rollercoaster ride. When not writing or researching, I’m giving talks, presentations and interviews, appearing at literary festivals and events, writing articles for magazines and blogs. While it’s been a steep learning curve, there’s never a dull moment.

Be careful what you wish for, as it may come true. And, at times, that’s how I feel about being a published writer. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My advice about Writing

It’s hard to think of something new to say as so many other writers here have given very wise and practical advice. What to add?

  • Heed Toni Morrison’s maxim: If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
  • Write in a genre you feel comfortable in. Don’t try to follow the latest fashion if it doesn’t suit your style or doesn’t fit.
  • Take time to develop your voice. After a lifetime of writing academic articles this was the most difficult lesson I had to learn. To shift my mindset, I try to heed Anton Chekhov’s advice: Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. My mantras are show don’t tell, be specific. Clichés perhaps but crucial.
  • Dramatise a scene as much as possible but don’t romanticise too much. And above all be authentic.
  • Since my memory is a sieve, I always carry a notebook to catch hold of those fleeting thoughts before they take off again.
  • Work off-line, but I’m the world’s worst at not following own advice. I’m at risk of being a Facebook fly, gadding about the internet, hopping from blog to blog – not so much to self-promote but to give and receive moral support readers and writers from all over the world. As E. M. Forster famously said, ‘Only connect.’ And that’s the benefit of social media.
  • Keep in mind Bruce’s spider – if at first you don’t succeed in being published, keep trying! Never say never!


The First Blast of the Trumpet, the first book in the Knox trilogy was published in 2012. It is available in hardback, paperback and Amazon

The next in the series, The Second Blast of the Trumpet, is due for release in September 2015 on Amazon

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Sunday Book Highlight

The Secret Bride Book Cover

Mary Tudor, the headstrong younger sister of the ruthless King Henry VIII, has always been her brother’s favorite-but now she is also an important political bargaining chip. When she is promised to the elderly, ailing King Louis of France, a heartbroken Mary accepts her fate, but not before extracting a promise from her brother: When the old king dies, her next marriage shall be solely of her choosing. For Mary has a forbidden passion, and is determined, through her own cunning, courage, and boldness, to forge her own destiny. The Secret Bride is the triumphant tale of one extraordinary woman who meant to stay true to her heart and live her life just as her royal brother did- by her own rules…

Excerpt from The Secret Bride:

“Mary was upstairs, and what he did next would affect not only his own life, but perhaps history. She might be meant to marry another king… beget a great dynasty… he could be taking a destiny from her greater than giving her a common life with him.  Charles missed Anne so keenly just then, the trusted counsel of a sister, her honesty with him, and her humor. At this moment, he even missed Henry whose raw clarity in things never wavered. If he could see the king’s face, as he always had—read his expression—he would know far better what to do.

As the French king advised, he had written to Wolsey and explained the situation, but of course the letter could not possibly arrive in London in time. The sound of Mary’s weeping still echoed through his mind, haunting him with thoughts of all he stood to lose. If I should wait… and lose her love because of it…if she should be married off to another because I paused for too long… He closed his eyes. Heavenly Father, I am at a crossroads, I know not want to do… She is my love, my heart… but he is my king… I cannot think how I am to honor one and betray the other.

When he went to her chamber a quarter of an hour later, he knew what scrutiny he would face from the French ladies there. There would be no turning back from the gossip it would cause. Whatever they decided to do, soon the world would know their secret and the cocoon of secrecy in which they had always lived would be gone forever. But he realized, only by seeing her one more time would be know the right path to take. He owed them both that. When he could put it off no longer, he rose, made the sign of the cross, and began the long walk to where Mary, and destiny waited.”


Diane Haeger, who also writes as Anne Girard, is the author of 15 historical novels, most of them based on true stories from history. Her stories are drawn from a range of countries and eras including the French Renaissance, Georgian England, the American Civil War, to a series called In The Court of Henry VIII. Her most recent novel, Madame Picasso, details an early love affair in Paris between the famous artist and his muse. Her next novel, to be published later this year, is Platinum Doll, about 1930’s movie star Jean Harlow. Haeger holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in clinical psychology. She lives in California with her husband and children.



Saturday’s Book Goodness!


Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure. She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real. Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life… “If there is a world where fiction becomes more believable than reality, then Alison Morton’s ingenious thrillers must be the portal through which to travel. Following in Caesar’s footsteps, she came with INCEPTIO, saw with PERFIDITAS – and has well and truly conquered with SUCCESSIO!” – Helen Hollick, author and Managing Editor Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews “Alison Morton has done it again. SUCCESSIO is the latest in her series of powerful tales of family betrayals and shifting allegiances in Roma Nova. Once again, I was gripped from start to finish.” – Sue Cook, writer and broadcaster

About Author:

Alison pic2

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She gained a BA in French, German and Economics and thirty years later went back and bagged a masters’ in history (with distinction!).

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

Six years in the UK reserve forces (where she rose from private soldier to captain) not only reinforced her sense of common purpose and self-discipline, but provided her with experiences and opportunities no civilian would ever touch. Oh, and travel and fabulous mess evenings.

Setting about her novelist education with the persistence of a Roman road builder, she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, studied with the Arvon Foundation, joined the Historical Novel Society and attended numerous specialist workshops and conferences. Thanks to her independently published book sales figures, she has recently qualified as a full member of the UK’s Society of Authors. She has recently been accepted as an author member of International Thriller Writers.

Alison talks and writes about alternative history at conferences and workshops including for the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Historical Novel Society and in Writing Magazine. She also writes a monthly column in the local English language magazine and has published a collection of these as The 500 Word Writing Buddy: 25 Inner Secrets for the New Writer.

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants.  Alison’s third book, SUCCESSIO, which came out in June 2014, was selected as the Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014 and has also been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion.

Alison is represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency for subsidiary and foreign rights.


Connect with Alison on her blog

Facebook Author Page

Twitter @alison-morton


Buying links (multiple retailers/formats):