Author Interview: SE Morgan / The King Over The Sea



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

SEM-  I live in Wales, in Cardiff which is a lovely city close to both the mountains and the sea. For fun, well, of course I write, but hill walking and photography are other passions.

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

SEM- I enjoy most periods.  I guess I’m torn between imagining what it must have been like to live in Iron age Europe and the Victorian era. It’s the hardships people overcame that inspire me.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be? If you did not choose a female- Who is your favorite female historical figure?

SEM- With times being as they are, I think I’d go for Jenner ,who first used cowpox pustules to inoculate for  small pox, or Alexander Fleming and his discovery of penicillin.

As for women, I’ll pick Elizabeth Garret Anderson, the first woman in England to become a doctor. I was shocked to discover women were only allowed entry to English university in 1868, and after gruelling sets of exams were only granted certificates of achievement, not degrees. It was not until a decade later in 1879 they were awarded degrees like men.

Elizabeth Garret Anderson after years of study finally passed the Society Of Apothecaries examination and achieved a  licence to practice, in 1865 but the apothecaries, appalled, changed the rules to stop women being able to enter medicine that way. It wasn’t until 1876 women and men were allowed to enter medicine. Similarly after being elected to the British medical association in 1878, the BMA voted to bar women from applying. This stayed in place until 1892.

My questions? Elizabeth  what kept you going in the face of such vehement male opposition?  Was it your belief women needed women doctors or sheer bloody mindedness in the face of male stupidity?

 JMR- You were a civil servant working in Mental Health, how did you become a writer of historical fiction?

SEM-  In school I always wanted to write, but was good at science; enjoyed physics, chemistry and maths, found them easier in fact.  The pathway to medical school was open, and I’ve never regretted that choice. I loved both my clinical career as a consultant psychiatrist and then working with politicians to improve mental health provision in Wales. I retired early, in part due to my parents declining health and that gave me the chance to write.

JMR- Sarah, tell us about your book, The King Over The Sea?

SEM- It is set in 5th century Wales and Ireland, and blends what historical facts are known with legend. When you have saints as characters in a novel, it’s important to remain respectful of beliefs so that was part of the challenge. Here is my blurb; 

Be careful in your dealings with your uncles,” Maelon, pagan Irish prince and younger son is warned by his father, High King Niall. Aged twelve, he is sent from his home and everyone he loves to study for a priesthood he despises, with his faithful wolfhound Kira.   

In Wales, he befriends Maewyn Succus, later better known as Patrick.  When Maelon’s father dies, his worst fears are realised; his school is destroyed. He is forced to flee deep into the mountains, where he becomes besotted by his flame-haired cousin, Dwynwen. She must marry whoever her Christian father, King Brychan, dictates. 

Dwynwen, Welsh patron saint of lovers and Saint Patrick of Ireland are well remembered, but Maelon’s name is long forgotten. Their fates are entwined by loyalty, betrayal and redemption. A Celtic love story that has echoed through centuries of re-casting, but was this the original?

 JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline? I believe you have a new book coming out soon.

SEM-  Yes, the second novel about my Morgan ancestors is undergoing final editing and formatting, and I’ve just received an initial cover design, which I’d like to share with your readers.

It’s called A Welsh Not. The government attempted to suppress the Welsh language by using The Not, a piece of wood or board passed between children if they were heard speaking Welsh. The child holding the not at the end of the day was beaten.

My novel is about family and ties that bind, and escaping the constraints of Victorian Wales; class religion and politics. It’s about Love, loss and longing. Here’s the blurb;

Bess Morgan’s choices are limited, for all that she was educated with Magistrate Edwin Davies’ daughter. Her only options to earn her keep, are working as a dairymaid or shop assistant. If she decides to marry, might she end up in the newly built asylum, like her poor mother? Bess envies her brothers and yearns to continue her education, resentful that the idea is laughable. Reformers demand votes for men, but not for women, and girls are barred from university.  

Her handsome brother, Richard hates the flattery and fawning needed as a draper’s apprentice and longs to study then teach. Besotted by Magistrate Davies’ flirtatious daughter, somehow he must find a way to earn enough to marry a girl way above his station in life.  

Can Bess and Richard escape the constraints of Victorian Wales? While coal is king and the Welsh valleys boom, Carmarthen stagnates. The Morgans must adapt to survive.  

JMR- I am an avid reader of historical fiction but I don’t see much set in Wales. Is Welsh history overshadowed by England and Scotland or am I not looking in the right places?

SEM-I think that’s fair, relative to England and Scotland it is often overlooked, although Welsh writers are trying to correct that.

JRM- If readers wanted to check out more books on Welsh history, fiction and nonfiction, what ones would you recommend? What resources did you use in your research?

SEM-  For fiction, I’d recommend Alexander Cordell’s; Rape of the fair country, its a fantastic story of hardship in the Blaenavon iron works during the early industrial revolution, maybe AJ Cronin’s The Citadel, about a Scottish doctor working in the Welsh valleys and later London. It’s the book that informed Aneurin Bevan when he formed the NHS.  As wild cards, how about Aberystwyth Mon Amour, and Last Tango in Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce. They are the first two in a spoof 50’s noir detective crime novel series, and very funny.

In non-fiction readers might enjoy the Mabinogion, our ancient folk tales.

In teams of research, the list is long, as I get rather obsessed with detail. For The King over the Sea, it was easier, in that there is little written documentation for the 5th century. Even so I dipped into St Patrick’s Confessio, and drew on later sources such as c. 828, Historia Brittonum and the slightly later Anglo Saxon Chronicles, an amalgam of sources that was altered constantly until the eleventh century, as well as Welsh and Irish legend and academic resources.

For the Victorian novels, it’s easier and totally absorbing. I start with the fantastic resource of Welsh newspapers on line which have local newspapers from across Wales from 1804-1919. For my first novel which was set over 4 months in 1843, I read the weekly Carmarthen local newspapers and tried to experience life as a Victorian, as well as contemporary diaries and novels.  

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

SEM- I have a blog,, which is a mix of historical snippets, book reviews and quite a bit of music, jazz, rock and folk. I post when inspired rather than several times a week. I don’t really use facebook, twitter etc. I can’t keep up. I am a keen member of the Goodreads community however and enjoy that. My author profile is S E Morgan

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

SEM- ‘How do you find support when you  write,’ seems an important one. I am very fortunate, to have an active writers’ circle in Cardiff. We have about 30 regular attendees with 20 in the meetings most weeks, (and have managed to keep going over lockdown with zoom ).  It really helps having a group to keep encouraging  and supporting you and giving feedback on your work. It’s as useful seeing what other writers get right and get wrong. 

JMR- Thank you, Sarah for stopping by today. Good luck with your writing. Readers, I have included a link to Amazon for you to check out Sarah's books. 

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