Research & Writing Historical Fiction

Today Judith Arnopp talks about her research, writing and her collaboration on Sexuality and its Impact on British History with me. Judith’s life-long passion for history eventually led her to the University of Wales where she gained a B.A. in English and Creative Writing, and a Masters in Medieval History. Her first novel, Peaceweaver was published in 2009, quickly followed by two others. Her best-selling Tudor novel, The Winchester Goose lead her to create five more novels covering the lives of Anne Boleyn, Katheryn Parr and Elizabeth of York. The King’s Mother is the third book in The Beaufort Chronicles a trilogy following the fascinating life of Margaret Beaufort. She is researching her eleventh novel. Judith’s non-fiction work has been published in various historical anthologies and she is active online at her website and at Facebook  and Twitter @juditharnopp

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During the course of research for my novel The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn I constantly came up against intriguing suggestions of some sort of romantic attachment between Anne and Thomas Wyatt. Historians are divided as to the nature of the relationship and at the time, since it had no part in my novel I wasn’t able to pursue the matter. So, when I was approached by Hunter Jones to write a piece for a forthcoming anthology to be published by pen and Sword books, Sexuality and its Impact on British History, I jumped at the chance.

The project is a collaborative project between authors: Hunter S Jones, Annie Whitehead, Jessica Cale, Gayle Hulme, Dr Beth Lynne and Emma Haddon-Wright and myself, examining how romance and sex has impacted upon history. It looks at relationships from the Anglo Saxon period right through to the Victorian, throwing up some surprising facts and details.

I love researching the Tudors. I love Anne Boleyn and I also love Thomas Wyatt’s poetry so it wasn’t long before I was fully immersed, my study piled high with books and snippets of verse stuck around the room.

Wyatt’s presence in Anne’s social circle and the fact of his arrest at the same time as Smeaton, Norris, Brereton, Rochford and Weston, is often overlooked. It is only Wyatt’s surviving poems that give us pause, make us stop and consider if perhaps he was too close to the queen; perhaps he was the lucky one, the one that got away.

Even if their affection was platonic, they were friends and moved in the same circles for most of their lives. The queen’s companions were also his, he drank with them, laughed with them, jousted with them and later, in May 1536, he watched from his prison in the Bell Tower as they died on the scaffold. He may or may not have deserved to die with them but the experience was riven into his heart and coloured his poetry ever afterwards. It is clear he could not forget.

The bell tower showed me such sight

That in my head sticks day and night.

There did I learn out of a grate,

For all favour, glory, or might,

That yet circa Regna tonat.

Whether he was guilty of adultery with Anne or not, the remainder of Wyatt’s life was difficult; he spent most of his time abroad, involved in intrigue and espionage, leading to capture and ransom by the Spanish. His involvement in the attempted assassination of Reginald Pole led a second spell in the Tower of London. His marriage to Elizabeth Brooke failed and eventually he left her and lived openly with his mistress, Elizabeth Darrell. We all know how Anne died but Wyatt died of virulent fever at the home of his friend Sir John Horsey in Sherborne, at the age of thirty nine.

My chapter on Anne and Wyatt, named These Bloody Days in honour of one of his best poems, took a great deal of time and consideration. One day I’d hold one view, the next I felt differently but the more I read the more I became immersed in the desperate sorrows of that time. My personal life took a back seat and I fell behind with my novel The King’s Mother – Book Three of The Beaufort Chronicles, the life of Margaret Beaufort. I distinctly remember one afternoon sitting on the floor surrounded by books and documents and realising that I just had to stop researching and get something on paper or I was going to miss the deadline. Once I began to write it, things became easier, as I slowly made order out of chaos I began to feel better and when it was time to send it off to the editor, I knew it was going to be all right.

As luck would have it, once Anne and Thomas were out of my head I was able to return to Margaret’s story and met the deadline on that project too. All the authors involved are in a fever of excitement and the book has been received with a great deal of enthusiasm and we are all set to go.

Author Judith Arnopp

 Sexuality and Its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare 

Banner II Final for Sexuality and its imapct on history

Would you swig a magic potion or plot to kill your husband in order to marry your lover? These are just two of the many romantic and sexual customs from British history that you will explore as seven authors take us through the centuries, revealing that truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to love. From bizarre trivia about courtly love, to techniques and prostitution, you’ll encounter memorable nuggets of provocative information that you’ll want to share.

It’s all here: ménage a trois, chastity belts, Tudor fallacies, royal love and infidelity, marriage contracts (which were more like business arrangements), brothels, kept women, and whorehouses. Take a peek at what really happened between the sheets. Each story provides you with shocking detail about what was at the heart of romance throughout British history.

Sexuality and Its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare chronicles the pleasures and perils of the flesh, sharing secrets from the days of the Anglo-Saxons, medieval courtly love traditions, diabolical Tudor escapades—including those of Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots—the Regency, and down to the ‘prudish’ Victorian Era. This scholarly yet accessible study brings to light the myriad varieties of British sexual mores.

Available on Amazon 

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Layered Pages interview with Alfred Woollacott HERE

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About the Author:

Alfred W

Alfred Woollacott, III retired from KPMG after a career spanning 34 years, choosing to reside full time at his summer residence on Martha’s Vineyard. Being “45 minutes from America” and with a 50 – 60 hour per week void to fill, he began dabbling into his family history. His dabbling grew into an obsession, and he published several genealogical summaries of his ancestors. But certain ones absorbed him such that he could not leave them. So he researched their lives and times further while evolving his writing skills from “just the facts ma’am” to a fascinating narrative style. Thus, with imagination, anchored in fact and tempered with plausibility, a remote ancestor can achieve a robust life as envisioned by a writer with a few drops of his ancestor’s blood in his veins.

When not writing, Al serves on several Boards, and keeps physically active with golf, tennis, and hockey. He and his wife of 44 years, Jill, have four children and ten grandchildren.

Author Website

Amazon Profile Page

Book Review: Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter

Every Single Secret II

Pub Date 01 May 2018

Emotionally guarded Daphne Amos always believed she’d found a kindred spirit in her fiancé, Heath. Both very private people, they’ve kept their pasts hidden from the world, and each other, until Heath’s escalating nightmares begin to put an undeniable strain on their relationship. Determined to give their impending marriage the best chance of succeeding, Heath insists that Daphne join him on a seven-day retreat with Dr. Matthew Cerny, a psychologist celebrated for getting to the root of repressed memories. Daphne reluctantly agrees—even though the past is the last place she wants to go.

The retreat’s isolated and forbidding location increases her unease, as do the doctor’s rules: they must relinquish their keys and phones, they’ll be monitored at all hours by hidden cameras, and they’re never to socialize with the other guests.

One sleepless night, Daphne decides to leave her room…and only then does she realize that the institute is not at all what it seems—and that whatever’s crying out from Heath’s past isn’t meant to be heard. It’s meant to be silenced.

My Thoughts:

I love reading psychological thrillers and I admire writers who pen them because to really get in the mind of a sociopath or psychopath, one has to explore the dark side and in this particular case, it’s beyond creepy! Doing so is not always easy and coming up with a premise for these stories, you want to have quite the imagination to keep your readers hooked. Carpenter’s stories do this for me, and she out did herself with Every Single Secret. There is also the fact that this story is set in my state which makes it all the more intriguing.

This story has so many surprises and unexpected twist and turns that keeps you in suspense throughout the book.  Carpenter is great at setting the stage for a gothic southern story and she does it with such flare that I am always curious as to what she will write next. Her characters are so complex and at times you feel like you might not want to get too deep into their minds…I say this in a good way. She also has you question the characters actions and motives throughout the story and I find this thoroughly engaging.

When I first saw the book cover and title, I knew I had to get my hands on this story quickly! I had wondered about the cover and how it related to the story and when I got to that part, I was stunned! It’s a whopper and intensely chilling and had me a bit freaked out!

There are monsters all around us…

I rated this book four stars.

I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

Grief CottageGrief Cottage by Gail Godwin

Bloomsbury USA

General Fiction (Adult)

Pub Date 06 Jun 2017

After his mother’s death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she’d moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation.

The islanders call it “Grief Cottage,” because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty-years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.

Grief Cottage is the best sort of ghost story, but it is far more than that–an investigation of grief, remorse, and the memories that haunt us. The power and beauty of this artful novel wash over the reader like the waves on a South Carolina beach.

My thoughts:

The story has strong characters and the protagonist, Marcus, is an old soul or how old was he really telling this story? I was never quite sure and at times I felt like there was too much telling rather than showing. He doesn’t have childhood friends really and he relates to adults more than children his own age. His Aunt Charlotte-who takes him in after his mother dies- is quite an odd bird and values her privacy in extreme ways.

While the premise is an interesting one, I found it hard to get into and it took me sometime to finish the book. When I finally got to the ending it just seemed to end abruptly and I was dissatisfied, as I was hoping there would be a strong climax to the story. How is this a thriller ghost story? I didn’t come away with that feeling at all. The conflicts seemed muted to me.

On a positive note, much of the story is atmospheric and the setting is quite good.

I am sad to report I gave this book two stars.

I obtained a review copy from the publishers through NetGalley for my honest opinion.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Historical Fiction Book Covers

Today I’m blogging about book covers and we all need to agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and branding in the book industry. Just like any other business-yes, it is a business-the quality of your product-in this case, books- does matter. I can spot a homemade book cover a mile away and so many self-publishing authors produce their own covers and then wonder why their books aren’t selling. Is the book not selling because of the cover alone? Maybe not entirely but it plays a big factor in sales. Two major rules I have for indie authors: 1. Do not skimp on hiring a professional editor. 2. Do not skimp on hiring a professional cover designer. Follow these two rules before hitting that publish button and your brand has a chance in the arena of publishing. Okay, I need to add a third rule: Pre-Book launch promotions are vital!

I’m featuring cover designer Jenny Q with Historical Fiction Book Covers and I would like to say that her covers of late have especially caught my eye. So much so that last week I featured one of her cover designs in my weekly cover crush series I conduct with other fellow book bloggers.

Do check out more of her work by visiting her website HERE.

Next week I will be blogging about marketing and creating a budget for the promotion of your book even in the writing stages of your first draft.

If you would like to know more about my consulting and marketing, please contact me at lapitmarketing@yahoo.com and visit my company at L.A.P. it Marketing.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Jenny’s latest cover design:

The Fire WithinFalling in love is never easy, especially when a deadly volcano awakens beneath your city, threatening everything you hold dear.

Aurora Fortunas is an aspiring physician living in the celebrated city of Pompeii. Scholarly, proud, and devoted to family, she has refused every suitor for fear that a domineering man will crush her independence. When an earthquake strikes, bringing her on a collision course with a handsome stranger, she finds him old-fashioned, imperious, and utterly captivating.


Evander Mercurius is worldly, strong, and fearless. His belief that a woman should know her place and a man should always have the final word is challenged when he meets the beautiful and fiery Aurora. Tasked by his father to secure his family’s business ties to the new emperor of Rome, he finds himself forced to choose between the love of the beautiful healer and the temptation of political gain.


As Mount Vesuvius roars to life, shaking the city to its foundation, Aurora’s healing skills and Evander’s loyalties are put to the test. As the mountain’s wrath rains down upon them, can they learn to compromise, find their inner strength, and save their newfound love before it’s too late?

The Fire Within is available in ebook and print formats on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Add it to your shelves on Goodreads, and visit Carmela’s website for more information.

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Tour Recap: Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe (The Derrynane Saga Book 2) by Kevin O’Connell

Starting February 19th Novel Expressions Blog Tour and their team of book bloggers, hosted, Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe (The Derrynane Saga Book 2) by Kevin O’Connell. The tour went really well and it was a great pleasure working with Kevin and the bloggers on the tour. Below I’m sharing with you the tour schedule and about the book that the bloggers featured. Be sure to click on the different bloggers blogs and see how they have featured Kevin’s story. Enjoy! -Stephanie M. Hopkins

About the Book:

Two Journeys Home

It’s 1767. As the eagerly anticipated sequel to Beyond Derrynane begins, Eileen O’Connell avails herself of a fortuitous opportunity to travel back to Ireland. In Two Journeys Home, the O’Connells encounter old faces and new—and their lives change forever.

Her vivacious personality matched only by her arresting physical presence, Eileen returns to Derrynane this time not as a teen aged widow but as one of the most recognised figures at the Habsburg court. Before returning to Vienna she experiences a whirlwind romance, leading to a tumult of betrayal and conflict with the O’Connell clan.

Abigail lives not in the shadow of her sister but instead becomes the principal lady-in-waiting to Empress Maria Theresa.

Hugh O’Connell leaves behind waning adolescence and a fleeting attraction to the youngest archduchess when he begins a military career in the Irish Brigade under Louis XV. But more royal entanglement awaits him in France…

Author Kevin O’Connell again deftly weaves threads of historical fact and fancy to create a colourful tapestry affording unique insights into the courts of eighteenth-century Catholic Europe and Protestant Ascendancy–ruled Ireland. Watch as the saga continues to unfold amongst the O’Connells, their friends and enemies, at home and abroad.

Amazon Link

Editorial Reviews:

O’Connell is a fantastic storyteller. His prose is so rich and beautiful it is a joy to read. The story is compelling and the characters memorable – all the more so because they are based on real people. . . I am Irish but I did not know about this piece of Irish history. It is fascinating but historical fiction at the same time . . . Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers!

(c) Beth Nolan, Beth’s Book Nook

I enjoyed the first part of the Saga awhile back . . . (and) couldn’t wait to continue the story of Eileen and her family . . . this author really does have a way with words. The world and the characters are so vivid . . . Overall, I was hooked from page one. I honestly think that (Two Journeys Home) was better than (Beyond Derrynane) – which is rare. The characters and world-building was done in such a beautiful manner . . . I can’t wait for the next one . . .

(c) Carole Rae, Carole’s Sunday Review, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe . . . is a gripping story that will transport the reader back in time, a story with a strong setting and compelling characters . . . a sensational romance, betrayal, family drama and intrigue . . . The plot is so complex that I find it hard to offer a summary in a few lines, but it is intriguing and it holds many surprises . . .  great writing. Kevin O’Connell’s prose is crisp and highly descriptive. I was delighted (by) . . . how he builds the setting, offering . . . powerful images of places, exploring cultural traits and unveiling the political climate of the time . . . The conflict is (as well-developed as the characters) and it is a powerful ingredient that moves the plot forward . . . an absorbing and intelligently-crafted historical novel . . . .

(c) Divine Zapa for Readers’ Favourite

About the Author:

Kevin O'Connell

Kevin O’Connell is a native of New York City and the descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French Army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. He holds both Irish and American citizenship.

An international business attorney, Mr. O’Connell is an alumnus of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre.

A lifelong personal and scholarly interest in the history of eighteenth-century Ireland, as well as that of his extended family, led O’Connell to create his first book, Beyond Derrynane, which will, together with Two Journeys Home and the two books to follow, comprise the Derrynane Saga.

The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland.

Author Website 

Tour Schedule: Blog Stops

February 19th

Spotlight- Layered Pages

February 20th

Guest Post- The Writing Desk

Guest Post  – Blood Mother Blog

February 21th

Book Review-  A Bookaholic Swede

Book Excerpt – Kate Braithwaite

Guest Post – A Literary Vacation

February 22nd

Interview – Flashlight Commentary

Book Excerpt – Just One More Chapter

Book Review –Impressions In Ink

February 23rd

Book Review – Lock, Hooks and Books

Book Review – before the second sleep

March 6th –Tour Recap

Four-Legged Stool

One legged stool

Alfred began dabbling into in family history and dabbling grew into an obsession, and he published several genealogical summaries of his ancestors. Find out more about Alfred’s work at the Four-Legged Stool website.

About Alfred Woollacott III:

Alfred W

Alfred Woollacott, III retired from KPMG after a career spanning 34 years, choosing to reside full time at his summer residence on Martha’s Vineyard. Being “45 minutes from America” and with a 50 – 60 hour per week void to fill, he began dabbling into his family history. His dabbling grew into an obsession, and he published several genealogical summaries of his ancestors. But certain ones absorbed him such that he could not leave them. So he researched their lives and times further while evolving his writing skills from “just the facts ma’am” to a fascinating narrative style. Thus with imagination, anchored in fact and tempered with plausibility, a remote ancestor can achieve a robust life as envisioned by a writer with a few drops of his ancestor’s blood in his veins.

When not writing, Al serves on several Boards, and keeps physically active with golf, tennis, and hockey. He and his wife of 44 years, Jill, have four children and ten grandchildren.

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