Author Interview Elizabeth St. John: The Lydiard Chronicles
Happy Tuesday Readers! It's author interview day and I am super excited about today's guest; Elizabeth St. John, author of the amazing Lydiard Chronicles. Here are the details of her latest book. And by the way, can I say how beautiful those book covers are! Wow!
Written in Their Stars
Published: November 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 374 paperback
Available: paperback, ebook
Series: Book #3
JMR- Hi Elizabeth welcome to the Book's Delight, tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live? What do you do for fun? What does the perfect day look like?
ESJ- Hi Jeanie, thanks for having me here today. I spend most of my time at my home in California with my incredibly supportive husband and our two new arrivals – a Clumber Spaniel puppy and a ginger Tom Kitten. So, lots of fun and exhausting playtimes with them. We are very fortunate that we live in a gorgeous climate, so we are outdoors from dawn to dark, enjoying the wonderful San Diego lifestyle. The rest of the time I’m in England, usually based at Lydiard Park, our family seat.
JMR- I cannot even begin to tell you how jealous I am!
JMR- You write historical fiction. What is your favorite era? Why? Do you have a favorite historical female?
ESJ-I have always loved historical fiction and enjoy many eras (except perhaps the Georgian / Regency, but to be fair I haven’t spent a lot of time there). Writing The Lydiard Chronicles made me research the Stuarts and British Civil War period, and that was absolutely fascinating. It’s a really underserved period of our history, and one I would encourage everyone to explore more. Great drama, the birth of so much of our modern thinking, science, exploration; passionate love affairs, and of course, fab clothes! As for a favorite historical female, I have to say each of my heroines as I write becomes my current favorite. Getting to know them intimately, and recreating their world creates a bond that is never broken.
JMR- I have been reading a lot about this era. I just finished the Diary of Samuel Pepys. I have to say, I think it rivals the Tudors for intrigue and exceptional characters.
JMR- Your Lydiard Chronicles are based on the lives of your actual English ancestors. Did you grow up knowing about these people or did you discover them as an adult?
ESJ-Our family history is well-documented, and at the family seat the Friends of Lydiard Park have created an extraordinary family archive over the past 60 years, which stretches back centuries. I always knew the broad family history, but I did not discover Lucy Hutchinson and her seventeenth century diary until I was an adult. Her memoirs of the St.John family and her life during the Civil War inspired my novels.
JMR- Were you able to visit your ancestor’s homes in England? What did that feel like, walking in their footsteps? Were you able to view the ‘family portrait’?
ESJ- Yes, Lydiard Park has a wonderful collection of Lucy’s family portraits, as does St. Mary’s, the family church within the Park grounds. Lydiard is my special place, and I spend a lot of time there. I always must have a chat with them all; it brings me very close to their characters, especially when I can read their diaries and letters at the same time.
JMR- This is so amazing, and thanks for letting us take a peek at the house. Gorgeous.
JMR- What was the most interesting thing you learned about Lucy St. John? Do you feel like you ‘know’ her? Do you think you’d like each other? Is there one burning question you’d like answered?
ESJ- Lucy’s courage within the Tower of London was extraordinary, to me. For thirteen years she raised her children while caring for the prisoners within the Tower. It was her duty as the Keeper’s Wife to ensure their wellbeing, and her daughter writes at length of her kindness, and her aptitude with medicinals to keep them healthy. Her portrait is my favorite, and the artist has captured the essence of her character, I feel. I like to think we have an affinity, and I would enjoy working side by side with her in her stillroom and learning her recipes. As for a burning question – did she truly “entertain” the Earl of Suffolk?
JMR- As historical fiction writers, we want our female leads to be feisty, brave and independent. But we also must keep in mind the social norms and expectations of the times. How did you maintain a balance when developing Lucy’s character?
ESJ- It’s a great question and I was very conscious of this challenge, especially when we are recreating seventeenth century England. Again, I turned to her daughter’s diaries, contemporary letters and accounts, and really worked hard to understand both the restrictions and freedoms allowed women in those times. Lucy was highly educated and encouraged her daughter to acquire deep learning, had her own allowance to spend (a significant amount) and travelled freely. So, she certainly demonstrated an independent spirit, while still conforming to seventeenth century society.
JMR- What’s next? With such a flamboyant family are there more stories to tell? I peeked at Lucy St. John’s ancestry, whew, some juicy stories there!)
ESJ- Well, funny you should ask. Right now, I’m in the 15th Century at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Our family was in the middle of that whole extraordinary period of history, because Margaret Beaufort (mother to Henry VII) was half sister to Elizabeth St.John. Yes, I’m researching my namesake – and an extraordinary life she led. I’m hoping to begin the novel later this year.
JMR- Tell readers how they can find and follow you on the web and social media?
Thanks – I love to hear from readers, so please connect or download the free COUNTERPOINT short stories on my website.
Facebook: Elizabeth J StJohn
Lydiard Park: www.friendsoflydiardpark.org.uk
JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?
ESJ- I think you had some great questions, Jeanie, and thank you again for inviting me to chat. I really enjoyed being here!