It’s with great pleasure that I welcome author Susan Cooper-Bridgewater to Bookaholic Confessions, today. I’m really looking forward to reading Susan’s novel Of Ink, Wit and Intrigue (get hold of your copy here) It sounds like a brilliant and highly addictive read, so naturally I had lots of questions for Susan. Find out where she gets her writing inspiration from, how she goes about doing her research and wanting to be Johnny Depp’s make-up artist…
Hello Holly, and thank you too for inviting me to take part in an author interview on your excellent website, Bookaholic Confessions.
I was born in Leicestershire in the early fifties and I am now retired after a long career as a legal secretary. I have for many years held a curiosity for England’s colourful history, with particular emphasis on the Restoration period and its people. My enthusiasm for this fascinating age has, in recent years, led me to scholarly research of those times resulting in some of my works being published (in 2011 and 2013 volumes of Oxford University Press Notes and Queries Journal). I also have unpublished pieces archived in Blenheim Palace, at Woodstock, Magdalene College in Cambridge and in the Library Catalogue of Trinity College in Cambridge. Having said all that, I can assure you I am not as sober as this may sound. To study and write about the notorious Lord Rochester and the profligate times of the Restoration, it often helps to have a light-hearted, open minded and curious nature.
Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Of Ink, Wit and Intrigue? (Published 28th February 2014 by Troubador)?
‘Of Ink, Wit and Intrigue, Lord Rochester, in Chains of Quicksilver’ is my first published novel. It’s a curious historical fiction, allegedly penned by the hand of the true-life, infamous John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, one of England’s most notorious wastrels, wits, poets and libertines at Charles II’s Court, and who once titled himself ‘The Wildest And Most Fantastical Odd Man Alive’. He vividly narrates the intimate events of his audacious life in England and abroad. I have created a book with an unusual quirky edge, in that it invites the reader to journey in the company of the charismatic Rochester as he candidly recounts his inimitable life, from birth to death. The story however does not end with his demise, but continues with an intriguing epilogue.
After many years’ research into the life and times of Lord Rochester, I felt I was qualified to embark on a historical novel about him, albeit bravely taking on his persona and telling his story in the first person. Published novels of the complete life of the Earl of Rochester are a rarity, but I believe they have their place amongst the non-fiction biographies of this fascinating character. I wanted to write a novel that would appeal to anyone with a passing or a keen interest in the infamous times of England’s seventeenth century, as well as fans of historical fiction in general.
How did you go about doing the relevant research for the novel?
I began researching Rochester and his times in 2003. I accumulated a stack of research papers, read numerous excellent biographies about his lordship, and also read many contemporary sources of and by Rochester. I was fortunate indeed in living only some sixty miles from the idyllic Cotswolds of John Wilmot’s birth, and so was able to make many trips to Ditchley, Adderbury, High Lodge, Woodstock Park, and Spelsbury. Walking in the very footsteps of my muse captured and fuelled my imagining of Rochester’s life there. I also travelled as far afield as London, Somerset (the ancestral home of his wife) and the nether reaches of Cornwall (where at that time was stored, sadly in a grave and dilapidated state, Rochester’s bed). The bed was the place of his poignant, repentant demise in the Cotswolds. My research of the earl is ongoing, and no doubt I have yet to find hitherto unknown snippets of his remarkable life.
How long did Of Ink, Wit and Intrigue take you to write?
I wrote the initial draft manuscript during 2006 but, as many authors will no doubt tell you, that is just the bare bones of the work. The flesh was added by redrafting, editing, and working in further researched material; this all part and parcel of a long journey. It wasn’t until towards the completion of the book, about a year prior to its publication, that I was inspired to write the intriguing epilogue.
What’s the best thing about writing historical fiction?
Oddly, I don’t normally read historical fiction, and nothing surprised me more than when I embarked on writing a novel myself. I just felt compelled to write his story, not only for my own pleasure, but also for an audience who would enjoy reading a novel based largely on historical fact, yet with amusing and imaginative episodes.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Johnny Depp’s make-up artist perhaps! Only joking, although he did play Lord Rochester in the film The Libertine, so we would have something in common. To be honest, with only having a single published book under my belt to date, I would not really class myself as a writer, but I suppose I must be! As I have been retired for a year or two, I now have the luxury of spending more time on my passions both for my animals, equine and feline, and of course history. If I wasn’t writing about the latter, I would certainly be reading about it.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
Once I decided to publish myself, the choice was an easy one. My novel is self-published under the Matador imprint of the excellent Troubador Publishing Ltd., who are based in my home county of Leicestershire. In choosing that route it has given me a great deal of freedom to input my desired criteria for the book during the whole process of publication, including Advance Information, Press Release and all the necessary marketing of the printed book and ebook.
Who are your favourite authors and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Naturally, my favoured genre is history. I have read many excellent books relating to the 17th and 18th centuries, most of which are works of non-fiction. A selection of my favourite authors is Peter Ackroyd, Dan Cruickshank, Ophelia Field, Amanda Foreman, Antonia Fraser, Wendy Moore, Samuel Pepys, Liza Picard, Sian Rees, Claire Tomalin, Jenny Uglow and Maureen Waller.
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
Apart from writing research papers on Rochester and his contemporaries, I am currently working on a fact/fiction historical novel telling the stories of my ancestors, the Bridgewaters. My own genealogical research of them has turned up some remarkable individuals. I also hope one day to write my first biography, the subject being a 17th century female figure whose life I am also in the throes of researching.
A huge thank you to Susan for participating in this interview. ♥ Don’t forget to download your copy of Of Ink, Wit and Intrigue here.
Susan Cooper-Bridgewater has for many years held a curiosity for England’s colourful history, with particular emphasis on the Restoration period and its people. Her enthusiasm for this fascinating age has, in recent years, led her to scholarly research of those times resulting in some of her works being published in 2011 and 2013 volumes of Oxford University Press Notes and Queries Journal. Susan also has unpublished pieces archived in Blenheim Palace at Woodstock, Magdalene College in Cambridge and in the Library Catalogue of Trinity College in Cambridge.