Author Interview: Ronan Beckman / An Actress of Repute


Welcome Readers. Today we are talking with author Ronan Beckman about history, writing and his book, An Actress of Repute. 


JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Ronan. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

RB- Thank you so much - this is my first interview as an author! I am a Detroit-born, former Tampa Bay living American who emigrated to the UK 30 years ago. I live in Northampton, a shoe-making town whose chief industry has seen it’s better days (it is the setting for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots). I love living in a land so full of history everywhere you turn. In my spare time, I love walking and exploring this beautiful and underrated part of England. Britain has a magnificent network of public footpaths - many originally set in place centuries ago to ensure that peasants could cross the land of wealthy lords in order to get to church on Sunday.

JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

RB- Hands down, it is the Late-Georgian ‘Long Regency’ period. I love everything about it: the grand architecture, the stunning gardens, radical transformations in fashion for both men and women. Culturally, this was a time when Britain was hitting a peak in creativity. Just think - painters like Reynolds, Gainsborough and Thomas Lawrence transforming the way people were depicted. The poet Lord Byron was the equivalent of a modern-day rock star, with fawning fans showering him with adoration. And it was an important time for women in the arts as they started to be able to make their mark in the world and have their talents fully appreciated: such as the renowned actress Sarah Siddons and authors like Mary Shelley, Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

RB- I have an absolute love for Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. Amanda Foreman’s biography of her was my first introduction to the fascinating lives that many women of the day lived. Yet until recently, their stories have long been relegated to the sidelines in favour of studies about men in power. I would ask her if she had the chance again, would she have avoided undertaking her disastrous marriage to the Duke of Devonshire. I honestly don’t know if she would have had any choice. I somehow think she would have been better off escaping to Gretna Green with any of her servants and marrying them.

JMR- How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

RB- I’ve always had a love for history, but genealogy really fired my interest in getting these stories down in print. I always thought I would go down the biography route, but I just couldn’t see how to make that work. I then went on a fabulous course - “How to Write Fiction Based on Family History”. The key takeaway was “fiction can go to the places facts cannot”. It gave me the freedom to flesh out the worlds that my characters inhabited.

JMR- So I have to ask, why choose to write a female character?

RB- This was the most daunting aspect for me. The short answer is that I was compelled by the discovery that my wife’s 4th great grandmother was mentioned in a book as being ‘an actress of some repute’. For an actress with a supposed level of recognition in her time, information about her was very scarce. I spent years piecing together as much as I could about her. She lived an absolutely amazing life and I felt her life story had to be resurrected from obscurity.

JMR- For a writer of Regency England, you are blessed to live there. What places did you visit for research? Where did you feel closest to your character?

RB- Although the main theatres she worked at burnt down, Covent Garden and Drury Lane Theatre in London would still be recognisable to my main character today. But amazingly, her house still stands (it is a hairdresser’s shop now). There is an unusual church just 3 doors away, and I wrote some scenes set there. I can just picture her as a little girl being scolded by her mother for pretending to be a ballerina on the church steps!

JMR- Ronan, tell us about your new book, An Actress of Repute.

RB- My book is set in the London theatre world of the early 1800s. It is thought that during the Regency as many as 20,000 people visited a theatrical entertainment every night. It was a time when the concept of celebrity was just starting to form, with an array of talented performers taking to the stage. My main character, Elizabeth Searle, is a 14 year old girl from a theatrical family who through unfortunate circumstances suddenly finds herself having to become her family’s main breadwinner. She starts very auspiciously in Europe’s largest theatre and is working alongside the most renowned entertainers of the day. But it is the backstage antics that provides the greatest drama!

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

RB- I am working on the sequel to An Actress of Repute now and intend to cover Miss Searle’s life in a series of six novels. This next one is fun, as it is set in the seaside resort of Brighton and features the Prince Regent himself! A distant cousin of my wife’s may figure in a future project. He was a French cartoonist who came to San Francisco during the Gold Rush and was a roommate in a boarding house with Mark Twain at one point. And at some point, I would like to write something about my personal story of being adopted and the journey of discovering more about my birth family. So much to write - so little time!

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

RB- I’m on almost everything - from Pinterest to YouTube.

You can find links to most of them on my website/blog:






JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

RB- “How did you wind up in England?” I met my lovely English wife while teaching English in the beautiful historic city of Kyoto, Japan. After deciding to marry in another country starting with the letters J and A (Jamaica), we decided to stay put in England for a year or two.  That was 30 years ago, and we are still here.

JMR- Ronan, thanks for stopping by and best wishes for your book. Readers, I have included a buy link as I’m sure you’ll want to check out An Actress of Repute.


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