Posted on 02/03/2016 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Alison Stuart became a writer by accident. Sort of.
As a teen, she wrote historical novels — her love of which was nurtured by her father, who read such books as The King’s General to the Stuart kids on Sunday afternoons. But later, though, she found it tough to write when school, work, and children demanded much of her energy.
So it wasn’t until her husband wrongly talked her into taking a ski slope that didn’t seem “too steep” — resulting in Stuart dislocating her shoulder — that she had a long stretch of uninterrupted time to write.
The story she worked on for the rest of that vacation turned out to be a gateway drug. She has now published seven full-length historical romances and a collection of her short stories. (Another novel, Exile’s Return, is available for preorder and will be officially released Feb. 15.)
Stuart told us more about her passion for writing in general and the English Civil War in particular in an interview just before she left for vacation. Here’s hoping she ignored hubby’s advice this time ...
SADYE: So what happened to the book you began after the ski accident?
ALISON: The story I started writing had been knocking for a very long time. I finished it and entered it in a couple of contests — the Romance Writers of Australia contest where it was runner up, and the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize (where it was) shortlisted.
I foolishly thought publication was assured, but many rewrites later, it finally became By The Sword and was first published in 2007, 15 years after that ski accident! It was revised and re-released last year as the first book in my Guardians of the Crown series.
SADYE: A few years later, you had the chance to spend three years in Singapore away from your day job, thanks to your husband’s work. Did your writing benefit?
ALISON: Before Singapore I had been, like many writers, a lone wolf. Falling in with the ANZA Writers’ Group was the best thing that happened to me.
We were all very different, but in my short time with them we produced two anthologies of short stories (in the days before indie publishing and ebooks!). I gained so much confidence from working with them — and learned to write short stories.
Once home, it took me a while to find another group, but I have found my tribe. And to be honest, I don’t think I could do what I do without the support of that bunch of fellow writers! I think back to 1992 (the year of her ski accident) and realize how much I didn’t know about the craft of writing. We are always learning!
One caveat — you do have to choose a writing group carefully. The wrong mix of personalities can destroy as much as it can enhance.
SADYE: What’s your favorite part about writing historical fiction?
ALISON: I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. My father introduced me to a love of history from a very early age, and re-imagining my historical worlds is the thing I love to do best (and possibly the biggest challenge).
It’s not just about taking a bunch of characters and plonking them onto a stage set, you have to give them a real world to move and interact with. I love it!
SADYE: Many are saying that the 17th century is the next hot historical period. Any theories as to why?
ALISON: I love the fact that e-publishing in particular has started to introduce readers to a world outside Mr. Darcy and his ilk, and the 17th century is just waiting for readers to fall in love with it.
Politically there is war, social upheaval, social reform, kings being executed, incredible wealth, incredible poverty, scientific advances, art, music — and men in bucket-top boots, lace collars and big hats with feathers!
SADYE: Who is your favorite historical figure and why?
ALISON: I am totally, completely besotted with Sir Thomas Fairfax, an infatuation that goes back to Rosemary Sutcliff’s wonderful YA story Rider of the White Horse.
He is probably the most overlooked figure in the English Civil War era — Cromwell this and Cromwell that. In fact it was Sir Thomas Fairfax who established the New Model Army and led it until his resignation in 1650.
(He was) a man of great humility and integrity who wouldn’t sacrifice his principles to sit on the king’s trial. He must have been possessed of that quiet confidence of command that meant that the men who served under him would have followed him to hell. That kind of leader is one in a million.
In his spare time he wrote bad poetry and grew roses. He was also tall, dark and handsome — well, handsome-ish.
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Categories: Author Interview