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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > March 2016 > Star interview: Anne O’Brien

Star interview: Anne O’Brien

Getting the facts right is essential but it’s really all about the characters, the new queen of historical fiction tells Tina Jackson

When we think of princesses, the most enduring image of all is the medieval beauty in flowing robes, living in a castle. But who were these women, and what were their lives actually like?

Historical fiction author Anne O’Brien has grippingly recreated the stories behind the names of 14th and 15th-century queens, noblewomen and courtesans. Her work will appeal greatly to readers of Philippa Gregory, with whom she has been favourably compared, but where Philippa Gregory’s territory is largely the late Plantagenets and the Tudors, Anne’s is the full-blown mediaeval period of the 14th and early 15th centuries, with heroines including Katherine Swynford, Elizabeth of Lancaster, Katherine de Valois and in her latest novel, The Queen’s Choice, Joanna of Navarre, the second wife of Henry lV, who was accused, after his death, of witchcraft.

‘We know what the kings were doing, but there were these women at home – sister, wives and daughters – and their lives make an imprint on what’s happening,’ says Anne. ‘We get the impression that they’re ceremonial, or sitting embroidering or praying – and I couldn’t believe that these women didn’t have something to say about it. They’re lucky if they get two paragraphs in a history book. I didn’t believe that they were ignorant, or uneducated, and I thought I’d like to write about them, and their history.’

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Slow down! Why word counts and targets aren't always good for your writing Synopsis secrets: The single page that will sell your book Top tips for every genre:- • Crime: Perfect pacemaking • Five ways to grow creatively as a children's author • Explore the new trend for genre-blending fantasy Masterclass: Study the style and stories of Henry Fielding, James Thurber, Rudyard Kipling and Roald Dahl Star interview: Anne O'Brien, the challenger to Philippa Gregory's crown WIN! A PC worth £600

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