Returning for a visit to A Fantastical Librarian is historical novelist Victoria Lamb, author of the Lucy Morgan trilogy and The Tudor Witch trilogy. I’ve reviewed the first two Lucy Morgan books, The Queen’s Secret and His Dark Lady and I’m very much looking forward to reading the last instalment Her Last Assassin. Last year I was part of the blog tour for His Dark Lady and Victoria wrote me a lovely guest post on her research process. So for this year’s blog tour I asked her for an interview and you can find the results below. Keep an eye out for a review of the book in the next few months.
Let’s start with the basics. For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with you: who is Victoria Lamb?
That’s an interesting question. I am a daughter of the late Charlotte Lamb, a prolific and much-loved romantic novelist, and I write both historical and romantic fiction myself, under various guises. I also write poetry, have five children, and live in Cornwall with my husband, who is a fiction editor.
Can you tell my readers a bit more about the Lucy Morgan trilogy and its protagonists?
Lucy Morgan is the orphaned child of an African queen who was captured by slavers and brought to England. Lucy is raised by Master Goodluck, a theatrical spy in the employ of Sir Francis Walsingham, and works from her youth as singer and entertainer in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Later, she becomes one of the queen’s ladies and falls for a handsome young playwright named William Shakespeare. These are the four characters around whom the story of each book is woven. In each book, a new assassin threatens the queen, while Lucy’s on-off romance with Shakespeare grows ever more problematic, the player-cum-spy Master Goodluck providing a link between all their worlds. The initial idea for the trilogy was inspired by my research into Shakespeare and his ‘Dark Lady’ of the sonnets. Nobody is entirely certain who she was, but one interesting candidate is Lucy Morgan, claimed by some historians to have been a Moorish lady at Elizabeth’s court during the latter part of her reign.
Your Queen Elizabeth I is one of the most vulnerable and human versions I’ve read in recent years and I really loved the balance you struck between letting her be loving and caring and being a temperamental tyrant as her father often was. Was that hard to achieve?
It was hard at times not to make Elizabeth unsympathetic; these were the days of the absolute monarch, of course. It was considered a prince’s divine right to rule, and Elizabeth was clearly her father’s daughter! But then she had to be quite stringent in her beliefs and actions; any sign of weakness, with England fairly unstable throughout her reign, could have proved disastrous for a lone female in that male-dominated climate. And while Elizabeth was known for her petty cruelties to ladies in waiting, pinching and slapping them for minor misdemeanours, and even imprisoning them for marrying without consent, I also read many accounts of her kindness to loyal servants. She visited one dying courtier and fed him soup with her own hand, and wrote personal letters of condolence to bereaved courtiers. Also, her lifelong attachment to Robert Dudley perhaps kept her softer nature alive as she grew older, and that relationship features in all three books, allowing me a more emotional place to go with her character even when Elizabeth was at her toughest politically.
What was your favourite moment in the series?
Probably when Shakespeare takes Lucy Morgan to the theatre in book two, His Dark Lady, and sits on the stage itself with her to watch the play – one of the trendiest places to sit if you could get it! – then takes her to the pub afterwards, drinking with other theatricals like Burbage and Kit Marlowe. Though it’s set in London, I actually wrote that scene while staying in in Stratford on a writing retreat, watching swans drift past the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the River Avon. To me, it feels like the central scene of the entire series, and represents a major turning point in their relationship.
The Lucy Morgan trilogy isn’t the only trilogy you’ll be publishing the last volume of this year. Your YA historical fantasy trilogy The Tudor Witch is also wrapping up in 2014. Is it strange to bid these characters farewell and start completely new adventures?
Yes, strange and very sad. I cried as I wrote the final scenes of both my last books in these series, because I could hardly bear to say goodbye to them all. But all good things must come to an end, and although it would be great to revisit some of these stories in the future, perhaps even continue my YA series, I am also looking forward to some exciting new projects.
What’s next for Victoria Lamb? Will you remain in Tudor historical fiction or will explore a different era? Or will you break away from historical fiction entirely?
I have several historical projects already in hand, one of which is definitely NOT Tudor but rather nearer our time. More I am not yet at liberty to say! However, I cut my teeth writing contemporary fiction, so would like to return to that at some point this year or next. Watch this space, in other words.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
I used to be very passionate about playing snooker – I was semi-pro in my twenties and was seeded 24th in the world for women’s snooker before leaving the game. These days I don’t get much time to play games, so most of my passion is reserved for writing. However, I am addicted to music – from the latest pop to classical opera – and spend many hours a day with headphones on, listening and writing, or just listening and chilling out.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
I try not to recommend books in interviews, as it can give a false idea of my taste in books. (I change reading habits like other people change their clothes.) But I sometimes casually mention books I’m reading on Twitter or Goodreads, so connect with me there! @VictoriaLamb1
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
I was very intense as a teen and not only alphabetized my book shelves – I was lucky enough to have an entire book room all for my own use! – but numbered and catalogued them according to genre too. These days, having run a secondhand bookstore a few years back, I have many thousands of books and not enough shelves to house them, so I’m afraid my ‘system’ has been reduced to teetering stack after stack in corners and against walls and up the stairs, and on every available surface … Poetry beside romance beside biography beside Latin authors beside historical novels. A delightful intermingling of words and categories that makes it impossible to find anything specific without hours of hunting, but easy to be surprised at every turn. I highly recommend it!
Thanks for the interview! Victoria
Born in Essex in the mid-sixties, Victoria is the middle daughter of bestselling novelist Charlotte Lamb and the classical biographer Richard Holland. When the family later moved to the peaceful Isle of Man, Victoria was brought up in rural surroundings in a home full of books.
She returned to England for her education as an adult, and married there. While living in Warwickshire, affectionately known as Shakespeare Country, she began writing The Queen’s Secret, a novel set at nearby Kenilworth Castle during an epic visit by Queen Elizabeth I in 1575.
Victoria now lives in Cornwall with her husband, four of her five children, and a highly energetic Irish Red Setter. In her leisure time, she has been known to write poetry and go for long walks across the moors.
Below you can find the schedule for Victoria’s blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the other blogs!