Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Author Interview: Lucy Jago (Montacute House)

Today I am excited to have Lucy Jago, the author of the newly released YA historical Montacute House on the blog today to answer my questions about the book. You can see my review of the book here.

The interview:

Can you describe Montacute House in a sentence for my readers?

Montacute House is, for me, the most evocative Elizabethan House in the country. The book, 'Montacute House' is a page-turning tale of murder, mystery and witchcraft set in late Elizabethan England in which a thirteen year old illegitimate girl unwittingly uncovers a plot to assassinate the Queen and James VI of Scotland while also discovering the truth about witchcraft and her own birth.

I’m fascinated that the real 16th century property of Montacute House inspired your story. What interested you about it?

I know Montacute very well because my grandparents used to live in the village. I played there, and on the strange, conical hill behind it, as a child and would imagine witches living in the woods. As my fascination with history grew, memories of Montacute stayed with me, which I think is partly why I find the Tudor period so absorbing.

How do you think the character of poultry-girl Cess appeals to modern readers?

I think that, whatever period someone lived in, certain basic human qualities are common to us all - the need for security, for relationships with others, for status, for fulfillment in whatever form. Others, such as what we think about 'love' or 'childhood', are very much created by the times in which we live. Writing to give readers this sense - moments of identifying completely with a character and moments of alienation, is a great motivator for me and I think Cess embodies this. At times a modern reader can completely identify with her - her desire for friendships, her humiliation at being an outcast, her desire to know who her father is; but at other times she is strange to us - her genuine fear of the faerie world, for example. I think this makes her a real and believable character while also creating a sense of her as being of the time in which she lived. She is also feisty, clever, resourceful and courageous like, I suspect, many of my readers.

Montacute House is rich in interesting historical detail. What research did you have to do before writing?

Lots! The research is a very rewarding part of the writing process for me. I have to make myself stop rather than force myself to start.

What was the writing process like for Montacute House and what was your favourite part?

The writing process was fun and challenging but rather stop-and-start as I gave birth to two children and moved house four times during it. I now have three children and am moving again so, necessarily, I have had to learn to write in short bursts which I find extraordinarily difficult, especially as it always takes a while to 'get back' to the period I am writing about. I don't have a favourite part although the scene of a certain character's funeral I still find powerful despite the number of times I have read it.

What appeals to you about writing historical fiction for young adults?

I discovered my love of history once I left school - I found it exceptionally boring at school because we were made to learn dates and all about such topics as 'The Repeal of the Corn Laws' and not about people and how they lived and thought. I think the teaching of history is much better these days (my daughter comes home with really interesting projects) but I hope my books will also inspire young people to love history and see it as something alive, changing, fascinating and full of passion and mystery and not as a dull and dry list of dates and legislation.

If you could go back in time, which period of history would you travel to?

If I had to succumb to the medical and dental treatment of the period then I would not go back very far! If, however, I could come back to the present day for all my bodily needs (hot showers, clean sheets, comfortable clothes and antibiotics) then I would go back to Elizabeth I's England but I would make sure I was rich and well connected and probably male because being poor or female was very hard.

Can you tell me what you are working on next?

It's top secret but I can tell you it is set just a little later than 'Montacute House'. It is not a sequel to 'Montacute House' but I do hope to write one (or two, in fact) one day.

Thank you for answering my questions Lucy and giving such a fascinating insight into Montacute House and the process behind writing it! I'm so glad that you're writing another historical book and that a sequel for Montacute House is possible. I love your answer to number three, that is partly why I love historical fiction so much!


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