Today I am very excited to welcome Historical author Antonia Hodgson to the blog, sharing her inspiration behind the delightful 'The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, for which you can check out my review here and who she would meet if she could go back in time. Grab your time machine and lets go...
1) What is it you like about writing Historical fiction?
One of the things I love about all fiction is the chance to visit somewhere I've never been. I love being immersed in other worlds - past, present or future. There's the pleasure of escape, but also the surprising connections. How much we've changed, and how much we have remained the same. I'm also particularly drawn to my period - the early 1700s - because it's so neglected. It makes my research a true voyage of discovery!
2) How much goes into your research process?
A great deal, which I'm more than happy about. Having access to all the books in the British Library is a true privilege. Sometimes I'll order up an old, half-forgotten pamphlet and will be struck by the fact that someone from the 1720s made this physical object, held it and read it almost three hundred years before me. It feels extraordinary. For my third novel I've been reading a lot of private estate papers and family letters, and that feeling is even more palpable. Beyond that, of course there are a lot of fantastic historians, and text books on clothing, etc., to read. And visits to National Trust houses, which inevitably lead to a tea room, and most importantly to a fruit scone.
3) What drew you to Henrietta's story?
Henrietta was George II's mistress, but that wasn't particularly what drew me to her. It was why she became his mistress. In essence, she was seeking protection from her violent, abusive husband, Charles Howard. As mistress to the king, and servant to the queen, Henrietta was afforded some protection. But for a few months in 1728 she ended up trapped in St James's palace, while Howard threatened to drag her home with him. (He didn't want her back - he just wanted to be paid off. Unfortunately George II was notoriously stingy and refused to pay.) She was absolutely terrified of her husband - and rightly so. Eventually Howard got his annuity and Henrietta was able to leave her rooms. But for those few months, she was basically a prisoner. Most of the women in the book are fighting for choice and independence and freedom, one way or another. Henrietta's story is just the most extreme, and it's also true. There's a very good biography about her by Tracy Borman, if people are interested in reading further.
4) Who was your favourite character to write?
I loved writing the scenes between Tom and Queen Caroline. I first read about Caroline in Lord Hervey's memoirs. He absolutely adored her, and they would sit for hours gossiping about the rest of the court. She was a supremely clever woman - politically astute, very witty and fascinated by both the arts and scientific developments. On the whole I'm more interested in exploring the dark streets of London, but Caroline was clearly an exceptional woman, monarch or otherwise. In terms of personality, I was most drawn to young Sam (nephew to Samuel Fleet, Tom's cellmate in The Devil in the Marshalsea). Caroline was fun to write, but Sam was the most interesting to explore, for me.
5) If you could go back and meet any historical character who would it be and why?
Well, all sorts of people. But what if I accidentally created a paradox in the space-time continuum? There's me, meeting Shakespeare, and the next thing you know the entire universe is winked out of existence. Thanks for the offer, though.
The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins is out now...check it out and let us know what you think!