We have had the pleasure of working with Elizabeth Housden this year on several of her books. Elizabeth traditionally is a romance author, so when she told us her next book was going to be an historical fiction novel we were excited! We recently had a chat with Elizabeth about this switch and her latest book ‘The Gentlemen Go By’…
Congratulations on the new book Elizabeth, it seems to be getting very positive feedback so far. How hard was it to switch genres from your usual romance to writing an historical fiction novel?
Thank you! Yes, The Gentlemen Go By does seem to be generating quite a lot of interest and very positive feedback which is most gratifying. I didn’t find it hard switching between genres as this historical novel is written as if it was happening now but within the restraints of late eighteenth century life. The characters feel like we do now, are loving, angry, fearful, jealous, ambitious, in just the way we are today because that aspect of human life hasn’t changed at all. It is only communications and everyday practicalities of living that have changed. My aim is always to make characters who are utterly believable to the reader and so, in that sense, I have handled it exactly as my modern novels. The research into the ways and means of living then was fascinating and I have tried to communicate that difference but people haven’t altered at all.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
The inspiration for the book came from the poem from which its title is taken. The line, “The Gentlemen Go By” is part of the refrain from one of Rudyard Kipling’s poems, “A Smuggler’s Song” – a poem with which I have been completely familiar since a child. I remember learning and reciting it for a drama exam! Having read a short biography of a real-life smuggler, I thought I could use all the facets of the poem in a novel, which you will see I have!
Why did you choose the Isle of Wight as the setting?
I chose the Isle of Wight partly because I need to be completely familiar in every way with the place in which I set my novels. I need to dip into my mind’s eye where I turn off this road or that, what I see if go here or where a stream flows over a road there, how the shadows lengthen on that particular ancient wall. Although roads have very much altered in their construction and appearance, modern roads often follow where old ones were so again I did research to find out ancient roads and how they correspond to new ones, which buildings existed there and why. My parents lived and died on the Isle of Wight and here it was I grew up. I have loved it all my life so it is also a tribute to all Islanders, past, present and future – a gift to them and this lovely countryside with its unique feel – some small thing to give back to a place that has given me and my family so much joy.
Who do you think this book will appeal to?
I hope it will appeal to those who like history presented as real, not something that has nothing to do with our modern lives. It is an adult novel, by the way, not for children, please be aware! I hope, too, it will appeal to those who love a real, earthy, dashing hero, flawed even though he is, but generous, passionate and ahead of his time and the girl who he loves worthy of him. I hope the mystery absorbs and the end… well never mind about the end, you’d need to read it to find out about that!
What emotions do you hope the book will inspire?
Excitement, wanting to know what’s on the next page, anger at injustice, admiration for the socially aware, and perhaps a tear or two at the end…
Do you have any more books in the pipeline? If so, Are you switching genres again or will it be romance or historical fiction?
Yes, I have several books in the pipeline. One is another modern novel for adults set amongst Oxford’s academia (Impossible Loyalties), another is a detective story, set partly at the end of WW1 and partly in the present (Old Sins Cast Long Shadows). I am in the middle, too, of a trilogy (The Barbary Trilogy) for young people (again set partly in the Isle of Wight) – this is a kind of Da Vinci Code for children – and also the beginnings of another historical novel for adults but set this time in the late fifteenth century. This has the working title of Ambition’s Debt. Oh, and an illustrated myth re-telling for children with which I won an accolade from the BBC Big Arts Week, the play version of which I also wrote, and is still performed all over the world. The book version is written and I am waiting now for the illustrations. It is called “The Jade King and the Animals of Destiny”. So, several different genres there, I think!!
Elizabeth’s latest novel, ‘The Gentlemen Go By’ is available now to purchase from Amazon