Wordpool: In Conversation with Elizabeth Fremantle

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived…

Walking into Central Library and being greeted by coffee and a Danish pastry is a luxury not often indulged in, but Friday morning was not just any day.  As part of the ongoing Wordpool literature festival, the library was hosting debut author, Elizabeth Fremantle.  Having recently released her first novel, Queen’s Gambit, she indulged us with a morning of reflection about the book which was both insightful and informative.1043889_10151527062817654_571358355_n

Elizabeth’s choice to write historical novels is a bold one.  We know the stories and the people from our lessons in school, but it is her fresh perspective and dedication to give the ‘unheard’ women of the past a voice and a forum to play out their influence in history which has previously been ignored and sets her book apart.  Set in Henry VIII’s court, Queen’s Gambit explores the mostly undiscussed nature of Katherine Parr, the one woman who survived to become Queen Dowager after Henry’s reign.  Written in present tense, there is a great pace and urgency to the narrative, occasionally slowed by the point of view shifts between three characters, Katherine, her maidservant and her physician.  Whilst requiring a little patience at the outset, the shifts do not affect the quality of the story; in fact, they add further depth, complexity and historical accuracy that could not be achieved from a sole perspective.

Blackpool Library’s Tony Sharkey showed a deep interest and love for the book as he lead the discussion, which in turn became infectious amongst the large audience.  We were lucky to hear Elizabeth read a passage from her book which demonstrated her adept skill in weaving historical research with imagination and respect.

I caught up with Elizabeth after the session.  She is an amazingly humble person for someone who seems to have some of the tenacity and strength of one of her heroines, making bold choices that lead her to become a novelist.  Having worked a series of bar and restaurant jobs, Elizabeth began editing for well-known fashion magazines at which point she married and moved to France.  Having lived in Paris for some time, she returned to London as a single parent with two children.  It was at this point that she enrolled on a BA English degree at Birkbeck, graduated with a first and then went on to achieve an MA in Creative Writing.

She came to historical fiction after writing three contemporary novels (that she admits she will never release) but feeling like she still had not found her voice. Elizabeth made a change. It was at this point she began to write the sort of book that she would enjoy reading, having picked up a love for Reformation and Renaissance whilst studying for her degree.  Speaking of her choice for the female-centric plot lines, she explained:

All women seem to have a strength that is often overlooked, and I really wanted to make the most of drawing that out.

In the future, she intends to keep writing historicals.  The possibility of progressing forwards through the ages provides a certain organised appeal to her structured approach.  Queen’s Gambit, which is out now, is the first in a trilogy of stories that will each stand alone in their own right, whilst providing historical context and continuity if read in order.  The second book is due to be released next spring.

After spending a fascinating morning listening to Elizabeth Fremantle in conversation, it seems that we will be hearing great things from this author!

Thanks Wordpool for organising another great event!

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