Confessions of a Writer

Good day to you! I can’t believe it’s Monday again – time certainly has been flying by. Today, we have something a little different from what I usually post on TSCL. I don’t usually do these tagged posts, but as I was tagged by Annelisa, who has been so kind to me on Twitter, I thought why not? 

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be? I have always been a reader and writer, but I never thought I’d be a professional writer. The funny thing is, I did enter writing competitions throughout my childhood and teens, and I still didn’t think about doing it professionally. I did, however, always want to be a historian, so my current situation suits me perfectly.

What genre do you write? I write in both History (nonfiction) and Historical Fiction.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project? My current WIP is A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain and it’s basically an entry for every day in a year. It’s similar to my Twitter feed of “On This Day in the 17th Century” but expanded and goes into much more depth on each topic/event. I technically started in December 2014, but I was actually working on The Stuarts in 100 Facts, which although a slim volume, took an exceptionally long time to research.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about? I wrote a short story when I was ten, a libretto for my own opera when I was 13, and I wrote a romantic novel when I was 15 with the ludicrous title of The Myth of Gherardine. I think the story is still good, and worth re-using, but the title couldn’t have been worse!

What’s the best part about writing? Research! Sweet banana, how I love research – especially archival research.

What’s the worst part about writing? Writing and then reading the first draft. Egad, that can be rough.

What’s the name of your favourite character and why? My favourite character from my work will have to be a tie between Mary II in William and Mary: A Novel because I admire devotion to one’s spouse (and she certainly was devoted to William!), and John, Lord Wraysbury in The Chambermaid – I like him because he’s a fully-fleshed character, neither wholly bad nor wholly good.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)? Anytime – when it’s quiet!

Did you go to college for writing? No, I went for History and Anthropology – and there was certainly a lot of writing for those! When I give talks, I’ve sometimes been asked, “Did you take creative writing?” No, I didn’t, and frankly, I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think that one can be taught to be a writer – you either are naturally inclined that way or you’re not. I think we’ve all been persuaded into thinking that taking courses and going to college is a must, but I don’t think it is. I took violin lessons for a while and no matter how much I practiced and took lessons, I was still bad at it. I’ll always wish I could be a violinist, but I’m just not good at it. I think we are all good at something, it’s just a matter of finding what you are naturally good at doing and pursuing that. When it comes to writing, as with anything one does, the more you work at it, the more honing and crafting you can do. I think it’s a personal journey and self-discipline is extremely important.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors? When someone doesn’t punctuate – that really gets on my nerves. Everything else, I’m pretty easy-going about. I cringe more when I see mistakes in my work – especially when it’s gone through editing and proofreading and BOOM, I see something and I feel decidedly upset about it. As a reader, I don’t mind the occasional typo – but if the book is riddled with them, that’s different. Honestly, what mainly bothers me more than anything in historical fiction is when an author gives their characters, especially women, very modern views which would not have been in keeping with that time period. Once 21st-century attitudes and ideologies come out in, say, the 16th century, I stop reading.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you? Don’t overuse academic jargon as that will alienate most readers, and don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm for a subject. Best advice ever.

What advice would you give to another writer? Don’t talk about writing, just do it. I’ve known far too many people who spend so much time talking about the craft of writing and this and that, but don’t write. And if you are writing historical fiction, do your research! Don’t make stuff up about a real-life character without evidence; it doesn’t do anyone any favours. And, above all, actually empathise with the story you’re writing – it will come across to the reader. I cried when I wrote the ending of His Last Mistress, and when readers cry too, I’ve done my job properly.

What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement? I am a member of a little community of 17th-century specialists on Facebook, and we’re all very encouraging about each other’s work – and I think that such groups abound, and you just have to look for them.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies? I love singing (especially operatic arias), I love baking and cooking, talking to my mum, visiting stately homes, reading, and accumulating books. I don’t have any available shelves now, and I’ve resorted to piles of books on furniture now(!)

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What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Oh gosh, I’ve read so many good books this year – starting with Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek – and I was very much taken by Kishlanksy’s brief biography of Charles I.

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year? It’s a tie between The Invisible Woman, Effie Gray, and the film I saw last night, Crimson Peak.

What is your favourite book or series of all time? The Wings of the Dove by Henry James, The Alienist by Caleb Carr.

When I was 18, I really enjoyed Rosalind Miles’s Guenevere trilogy, even though I thought the writing was inferior to A.S. Byatt’s (I had just finished reading Possession by her, and it remains one of my favourite books because it’s so incredibly beautifully-written).

Who is your favourite author? I can’t just put one name! William Shakespeare, Henry James, Emile Zola, Daphne Du Maurier.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing? I have to submit A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain by 1 December. It’s already available for pre-order on Amazon and you can add it to your Want to Read list on Goodreads.

The blurb is already available, although I’m not done yet!:

The Stuart era was a turbulent time in a world on the brink of change. Diarists from the famous Samuel Pepys to the gardener John Evelyn here brush shoulders with anonymous household accounts and well-known poets, describing events from the Great Fire of London to the coronations and depositions of kings and queens. Andrea Zuvich guides the reader through a year with the ordinary people and the movers and shakers of the Stuart era, lavishly illustrated in full color, providing the definitive timeline for this period in history. By turns entertaining, thought-provoking and surprising, this book is for anyone who wants to know more about both the everyday yearly activities and the once-in-a-lifetime events that shaped Britain during the seventeenth century.

Where else can we find you online?

Twitter @17thCenturyLady
iTunes Podcasts
Historical Writers’ Association
Historical Novel Society

I won’t tag anyone, because most of my friends have either done this or don’t have time, but if you would like to participate based off this one, please add a link below!


Hear ye! One thought — so far — on “Confessions of a Writer”:

  1. Annelisa

    Oh, I love this, Andrea! Thank you for doing it. I’m so excited to see you have a podcast, and have just downloaded several episodes to listen to on my walks. Also, I am in awe of your dedication to the seventeenth century. It’s a period I’ve totally fallen for, and plan to spend more time in. I already have ‘The Stuarts in 100 Facts on my Goodreads list, but will also be adding A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain (a book which I’m quite excited to hear you’re writing!)
    I’d be interested to know where to find the 17th century specialists on Facebook too.
    It’s so lovely to get to know more about you Andrea. You are a very interesting woman 🙂


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