Sara Sheridan, author of "Brighton Belle", "London Calling", "England Expects", "The Secret Mandarin", and "Secret of the Sands" 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?
One of the reasons I’m fascinated by female history is that there is so little left of women, compared to men. I’m an archive junkie and in the past I’ve based female characters on as little as a single sentence in a memoir. In Secret of the Sands, the character Zena is like that – a slave girl she was probably illiterate but the explorer James Raymond Wellsted mentions a beautiful Ethiopian slave girl – and from that I made her up! Anyway, it would have to be a female character and I think it would have to be an explorer so I think I’ll chose Maria Calcott who was a travel writer working in the 1820s – she visited India, Italy, Brazil and Chile and formulated a theory that helped her to measure earthquakes – a real pioneer.
2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?
I was born in 1968 but I wish I had been alive in the 1950s. It was an amazing decade when post-war Britain boomed and it also heralded the end of the British Empire. If I had to pick an exact year it would be 1955.
3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?
All women – of course! And I’d include Maria Calcott as above, WWI medical pioneer, Elsie Inglis, Agatha Christie, Voltaire’s mistress, Emilie, Marquise du Chatelet and the Countess of Nithsdale who broke her husband out of the Tower of London after the 1715 Jacobite uprising. We’d have a blast.
4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?
Dunottar Castle – all coastal, wind battered and mysterious.
5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you'd like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?
T C Boyle and Joseph O’Connor, please.
6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?
Hmm. That’s a tough question. But I’m going with King Louis. He was the Sun King after all though French society at that time was less socially mobile than English society. Still, I like those crazy court rules!
7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?
Catherine of Aragon because she lasted so long – a political survivor even if he divorced her. She must have been enormously tough.
8. English monarchy or French monarchy?
That depends on the era. The English monarchy during the days of the Empire are just fascinating. But the French directly before the Revolution might have been clueless but my, they had style.
9. What three novels could you read over and over?
"Water Music" by T C Boyle (I go on about this book so much! Google it, you’ll see!) "Star of the Sea" by Joseph O’Connor. "The Cazalet Chronicles" by Elizabeth Jane Howard (she was a genius!)
10. Tea or coffee when writing?
Coffee. Are you mad?
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