Jesse Blackadder, author of "The Raven's Heart", "After the Party", and "Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica" (available February 2013) answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in history, her favorite figures from history, and the age old question of coffee or tea.
1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?
I'd love to be Louise Arner Boyd, the American polar explorer. Her family died leaving her a fortune, so she became an explorer, leading and funding several expeditions to Greenland during the 1930s. Later in life she became the first woman to fly over the North Pole. She was awarded honorary membership of the American Polar Society, with the comment that she had ‘contributed more to our knowledge of Greenland, Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land and the Greenland Sea than the work of any other explorer’.
2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?
Some time in the 1930s when so many female adventurers were making their mark. I’ve just written a novel set in that era and it fascinates me.
3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?
Mary Queen of Scots, because she was a major character in my novel The Raven’s Heart and I’d love to see if I got her right. Amelia Earhart – because who wouldn’t want to have her to dinner? Frida Kahlo, ditto. Freda du Faur, the intrepid mountain climber who made her mark scaling peaks in New Zealand. And Emily Wilding Davidson, the English suffragette who threw herself under the King’s horse in the Epsom Derby in 1913 and was killed. Can you just imagine the conversations?
4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?
When I traveled to Scotland to find out the history of the Blackadder surname, I found the ruins of the old Blackadder castle on the banks of the Blackadder River. Learning that my ancestors lost the castle in a clan battle 500 years ago was the starting point for The Raven’s Heart. I still fantasize about living in that castle.
5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you'd like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?
My fellow Australian author Kate Forsyth would be a brilliant companion for her eclectic interests in history (her last novel "Bitter Greens" was an exquisite rendering of the story behind the Rapunzel fairy tale). English author Philippa Gregory gave the opening address at the Historical Novel Society conference in London last year and was so intelligent, fascinating and erudite that I would go anywhere with her if I had the chance.
6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?
I’m more of a queen’s girl myself.
7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?
I find myself drawn to forgotten figures in history. Since reading Philippa Gregory’s "The Other Boleyn Girl" I have rather a soft spot for Anne’s younger sister Mary, who never achieved wife status but was a mistress of Henry’s.
8. English monarchy or French monarchy?
Ah, but what about the Scottish monarchy? Mary Queen of Scots was half Scottish, half French, and spent her life in France, Scotland and England – a combination that brings it all together and makes for a fascinating character and era.
9. What three novels could you read over and over?
Jeanette Winterson’s "The Passion", following the journey of a soldier in the army of Napoleon and the web-footed daughter of a Venetian boatman has amazed and fascinated me since my first reading of it in 1997. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve returned to it – at least half a dozen. James Herriot’s "All Creatures Great and Small" books about the life of a Yorkshire vet in 1930s-50s have been a favorite since I was a teen and I revisit them every few years. And funnily enough I recently re-read the classic "My Friend Flicka" by Mary O’Hara, expecting that I wouldn’t have the same response to it I had as a youngster. To my surprise I found it was a deeply layered, contemplative book that left me in tears.
10. Tea or coffee when writing?
I live in one of the few parts of Australia where coffee is grown and my partner is a coffee roaster and trainer. So I have my own personal barista, freshly roasted and hand blended local beans, and a great coffee machine on the kitchen bench. What was the question again?
Jesse Blackadder's official website: