It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Lucienne Boyce, author of To The Fair Land.
About Lucienne Boyce:
Lucienne Boyce writes historical fiction, non-fiction and biography. After gaining an MA in English Literature with the Open University in 2007, specialising in eighteenth-century fiction, she published her first historical novel, To The Fair Land (SilverWood Books, 2012), an eighteenth-century thriller set in Bristol and the South Seas.
Her second novel, Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery (SilverWood Books, 2015) is the first of the Dan Foster Mysteries and follows the fortunes of a Bow Street Runner who is also an amateur pugilist. Bloodie Bones was joint winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016, and was also a semi-finalist for the M M Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016. The second Dan Foster Mystery, The Butcher’s Block, was published in 2017 and was awarded an IndieBrag Medallion in 2018. The third in the series, Death Makes No Distinction, was published in 2019 and is also an IndieBrag Honoree. In 2017 an e-book Dan Foster novella, The Fatal Coin, was published by SBooks.
In 2013, Lucienne published The Bristol Suffragettes (SilverWood Books), a history of the suffragette movement in Bristol and the west country. In 2017 she published a collection of short essays, The Road to Representation: Essays on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign.
About To The Fair Land:
In 1789 struggling writer Ben Dearlove rescues a woman from a furious Covent Garden mob. The woman is ill and in her delirium cries out the name “Miranda”. Weeks later an anonymous novel about the voyage of the Miranda to the fabled Great Southern Continent causes a sensation. Ben decides to find the author everyone is talking about. He is sure the woman can help him – but she has disappeared. It is soon clear that Ben is involved in something more dangerous than the search for a reclusive writer. Who is the woman and what is she running from? Who is following Ben? And what is the Admiralty trying to hide? Before he can discover the shocking truth Ben has to get out of prison, catch a thief, and bring a murderer to justice.
Author Interview with Lucienne Boyce:
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- What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I love a good literary pilgrimage! One of my favourites was a Dorothy L Sayers trail in Cambridge and the Fens which my husband and I went on many years ago. I love her books and find her fascinating as a writer. I always enjoy visiting Cambridge anyway, and it was nice to explore some of the surrounding towns and countryside. We had a little leaflet we got from a tourist office, I’ve still got it somewhere. I don’t know if you can even get copies any more.
Whenever I go anywhere I always like to find out if there’s a literary connection. Sometimes there are Blue Plaques to track down: I’m an avid Blue Plaque spotter, especially in London. I love to visit houses associated with writers, such as Rudyard Kipling (Bateman’s https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/batemans), Charles Dickens (the Charles Dickens Museum, Doughty Street, London https://dickensmuseum.com/), Virginia Woolf (Monk’s House, Sussex https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/monks-house). There are too many to mention! But houses, streets, museums, and exhibitions of bookish interest are a big draw for me.
- Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
That’s a very interesting question, particularly because of my interest in fiction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During these periods many women wrote under male pseudonyms or as “anonymous”. Frances Burney’s first novel, Evelina, was published anonymously because she was afraid of what her father would think, and also anxious that writing novels was not something a respectable woman would do.
Though it was often the case that the writer’s identity was very quickly revealed – as were Burney’s, George Eliot’s and Charlotte Brontë’s – the point is that a male name was deemed to give credibility to a novel. It’s very interesting too how attitudes to books could change when the writer was revealed to be a woman. And how many women authors have had their work attributed to men? Some critics have argued that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was in fact written by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
These are issues that women still face today. One author found that books submitted to agents under a male pseudonym attracted more attention than the same book under her own name (see https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/06/catherine-nichols-female-author-male-pseudonym). More famously, J K Rowling chose to use a gender-neutral version of her name because it is said that boys won’t read books by women, and when she wrote her Strike novels she did so as Robert Galbraith. Writer Alison Morton told me that she considered using a gender neutral name when writing a contemporary thriller because men will not read books by women (https://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.com/2021/02/authors-alison-morton-and-helen-hollick.html)
So this is still very much a live issue for women writers. My own view is that I would not play along with this particular prejudice by using a pseudonym to disguise my gender. I might consider using a version of my own name if I decided to publish in a different genre – eg add my middle initial, but I’m not sure that even that would be necessary. After all, why would I need to signal that it was a different genre when it would be perfectly obvious from the book? And it does seem rather pointless when writers use a different name but announce themselves as “John Smith writing as John S Smith”. On the other hand, some authors find using a different name helps them to create different authorly personae.
In the end writers have to decide for themselves what works best for them and for particular books, and on the whole I am not sure a pseudonym would work for me.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Historical fiction is very research-intensive, and I do a lot of research. I read books, of course, and not just history books, but literature of the period. Fiction, poetry, newspapers, journals, poetry, diaries, autobiographies, and some specialist texts eg on medicine, law or the church. I also like to research location and while it is true that much has changed over time, I find it’s still possible to get a great deal from visiting towns or buildings with a connection to my characters. For example, as I live in Bristol and not far from Bath, I have a lot that’s survived from the eighteenth century on my doorstep. Visiting houses and other buildings is also useful, as are trips to museums and archives. I also listen to the music of the era, and look at paintings, sculpture, clothes, and other artefacts.
I can spend quite a bit of time researching before I start a book, as there’s usually something I need to know before I can launch into the story. But it is a continuing process as the novel progresses and I discover other things I need to know – details about travel, perhaps, or a particular occupation. I don’t see the research as one stage that’s completed before I move on to writing the book; rather the two go hand-in-hand.
- How do you come up with the titles to your books?
I rarely have a title before I start a book, it’s something that emerges after I’ve finished. Then I’ll think about the themes, characters and any images that seem appropriate, who the novel is about, when it’s set, and where it’s set. I usually brainstorm a list of possibilities and go through these until I find one that seems right – does it say something about the book, does it fit the genre, is it too long, too short, too forgettable? It can take quite a while to come up with one that feels right.
- Describe your writing space.
I’m very lucky to have a lovely study to work in. It’s got bookshelves to the ceiling and a ladder! I always have a nice calendar hanging above my desk – this year it’s an Eric Ravilious one – and flowers on the windowsill. I have some lovely pictures around the room too, including a photograph of suffrage campaigner Millicent Price (née Browne), whose biography I am writing. She looks down on me with an expression that seems to say “and when will the book be finished?”, and I can’t blame her. There is still a lot to do, but I am well through the first draft and though there is more research to do when archives eventually re-open I hope to make more progress in the next few months.
I have a few other inspirational objects scattered about. On my desk is an eighteenth-century cartwheel penny, and I have some suffrage things – a paper knife, pictures, and a pine cone! The pine cone is from the last surviving tree planted in an arboretum dedicated to the suffragettes in the 1900s at Eagle House near Bath. Some of the most famous women in the movement – Mrs Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and many others (including Millicent Browne) stayed at the house and planted trees while they were there. Colonel Linley, who owned Eagle House, would photograph them doing the planting and then he would put up little plaques by the trees. Now the arboretum’s gone, vanished under a housing estate, and only a few of the plaques have survived. But one tree remains and I was given the pine cone from it by a woman who came to one of my suffrage talks.
I also have – ahem – a model of the Tardis, a few Daleks, and a cyberman.
If I turn my head I can seen part of the garden, and the tree where the sparrows gather to squabble. Apart from their racket, it’s usually quiet here at the back of the house. It’s quite a cold room and I feel the cold terribly, so I usually have a heater on and other people coming in have been known to start mopping their brows and exclaiming about working in a greenhouse.
- Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
I have a website at www.lucienneboyce.com. I also blog about women’s suffrage, the eighteenth century, books and writing at https://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.com/ And readers can catch up with me on Twitter @LucienneWrite, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LucienneWriter and GoodReads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6437832.Lucienne_Boyce
- Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
As I mentioned, I am writing a biography of suffrage campaigner Millicent Browne, whose husband was a conscientious objector during the First World War. I’m also working on the next Dan Foster Mystery. (The Dan Foster Mysteries follow the adventures of a Bow Street Runner.) I have an idea for a new mystery series, but it will be a while before I can get to it while I’m juggling the other projects.
- What are you reading now?
I usually have three or four books on the go. One or two are research books connected with my writing, history or biography or whatever. I usually then have a non-fiction and fiction book in progress in the evenings. At the moment these are John Keats: Poetry, Life and Landscapes by Suzie Grogan, and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – I love fantasy fiction.
Want to learn more about Lucienne? Here’s where you can connect with her: