Author Interview with Helen Hollick, author of The Forever Queen

I am so excited to welcome author Helen Hollick to Passages to the Past!!  I am a huge fan of Helen's, as regulars of this blog well know, and just recently read and LOVED The Forever Queen (READ MY REVIEW).

Helen graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us inquiring minds!  I hope you enjoy!

Psss....stay tuned for a giveaway of The Forever Queen later today!

The Forever Queen was first published in 2004 in the UK under the title A Hollow Crown. Do you feel that the Emma’s story has been given a second life with the new issue/printing? 

Oh definitely! It is 40,000 words shorter for a start! I was very apprehensive about having to edit so much when my editor at Sourcebooks first mentioned it. I didn’t think I had the confidence to do such a grand “deleting”, but author Elizabeth Chadwick gave me some wise – and kind – advice. She told me that she thought there was great book just itching to get out of a good book. “Take a deep breath and go for it” she said. So I did. And I think she was so right!

Given the marketing power of the internet coupled with the explosion in popularity of the historical fiction genre over the last few years, how do you feel this release compares with the original? 

There is no comparison whatsoever – sad to say. A Hollow Crown, the original UK edition was very hard to write because my dearest friend died shortly before I was due to start writing after undertaking a year or so of research. While struggling with intense grief and trying to write I had four different UK editors – one of whom I never met. My agent had virtually abandoned me (she actually did ditch me some time after publication) and I felt extremely isolated, lacking in confidence and enthusiasm. When I finally delivered the manuscript I got a blank look and a muttered “We didn’t think it would be this big.”
Why didn’t an editor work with me to cut it then? Improve it? Polish it? Instead, Heinemann published more or less as it was (I am appalled at some of the errors I found in it). This sorry tale does not end there. 

It soon became obvious that the publisher was not interested in the book. I received no marketing whatsoever for the hardback when it came out, nor the paperback (released the first week of January 2005. Not a great week for buying books). It sank heavily and after all these years I have still not paid back in royalties the modest advance I received for it. 

By contrast, Sourcebooks have worked long and hard with me to give the book the shining life it deserves. 

I have asked Heinemann/Arrow Books to reprint in the newer, shorter, better version but they have refused. Nor will they permit me the rights back. Oh well, I will take great pride in the new edition!

While examining Emma’s life, is there anything that you came across through research that especially intrigued or surprised you?

Her relationship with her son, Edward (later Edward the Confessor) was interesting. It became apparent in his later life that he disliked – maybe even loathed – his mother. I discovered their discord while writing Harold the King (to be published in the US as I Am The Chosen King in March 2011). I had written Harold first, you see, even though Emma comes chronologically before him. I wanted to explore why mother and son had this intensity between them. Edward was exiled for many years when Emma was wife and Queen to her second husband, Cnut, so he probably felt very unwanted and pushed aside. But I was intrigued to discover in Emma’s biography, the Encomium Emmae written while she herself was in exile in Flanders after Cnut’s death, that she mentions her early years as a young Queen of England, mentions her two sons, Edward and Alfred but there is not a single word of their father – her first husband King Æthelred. I thought that highly significant. If Emma loathed the man, maybe that gave her a reason to reject her son?

In our last interview we spoke about 1066: The Movie, which is based from your novel I Am The Chosen King (titled Harold the King in the UK, and the sequel to The Forever Queen). Can you tell us an update and tell us how the movie is progressing? Are you enjoying the new adventure?

We are still on target and progressing. We have the young and very beautiful UK actress Kate Maberly on board – among other movies she was in Finding Neverland starring alongside the gorgeous Johnny Depp. She is to play Edith, Harold’s sister, Edward’s wife, although in the movie we are going to change her name to Alditha – purely because there are three Edith’s and we needed different sounding names.

We are still looking for the full funding, but the producer, Robin Jacob is highly confident that we will get it. Much of the foundation work involved in making a movie is now in place – lawyers, accountants, where to hire the cameras and lighting etc, all the stuff that takes many moths – even years – to get together, the sort of background necessities that most people are not even aware of having to be set up. Many movies take years to get in place before shooting actually starts – we will get there! We will!

For more information about 1066 The Movie, click HERE.

What is it about Medieval England that you find fascinating?

I have a special affinity with the 1066 period. I have no obvious reason why, I just do. It’s like a feeling of belonging. I know my ancestors were alive during that time – we all had ancestors alive during the 12th Century, otherwise we would not be here – but I have an instinctive, deep down, feeling that my great great x ? maternal grandmother was somehow involved in the trauma of the Battle of Hastings, in October 1066. Maybe she was there, helping with the wounded, maybe she had a son, a husband, a father, killed there. It might sound silly, unless you believe in these things, but I can sense the past when I stand on that Battlefield seven or so miles from Hastings. Sense my ancestry and the grief of that dreadful, sad, day for England.

I see you recently got a Kindle, how do you like it so far?

It is very simple to use – I even downloaded (uploaded?) some titles before it was delivered – how cool is that! I like its size, its lightness, and the fact that the font can be adjusted. And all the free books that are available is great. Classics mostly, but there are so many that I have never read and probably never will if I had to buy the books. Hardy, George Eliot. Chekov… 

Will the Kindle be the end of books? No. As much as I like it – and it will be wonderful to use while travelling – no more lugging heavy books – I still prefer the feel of a real book. You cannot flick through the pages on a Kindle – nor have that feeling of elation (or sadness) as you realize you are almost at the end. You can’t just “glance” at a book on a Kindle, and you can’t put your treasured tomes in pride of place on a bookshelf.

I will buy cheap, “throw-away” type reads for my Kindle, the sort of book you would pick up at a half price stall or borrow from a library. But the good books? The ones you want to savour, to keep? Ah, then it will be the real thing.

What are you currently reading?

I have just gone through the ARC of I Am The Chosen King (phew, what a lot of typo errors! Caused by scanning pages, of course). So next on my pile? 

Real book…. The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge or Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
Kindle Book…. Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog Amy!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?
Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom—and her crown—are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.


Helen Hollick lives in northeast London with her husband, daughter and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman / Saxon Britain and the Golden Age of Piracy--the early eighteenth century. Sourcebooks Landmark will release the next chapter on Helen’s 1066 saga, I Am the Chosen King, in Spring 2011. For more information, please visit



  1. thank you for inviting me on to your blog Amy!

  2. Wow...great interview Amy ;) Are you going to do an on-line chat with Helen? That would be wonderful especially after reading her trials and tribulations with her first release and word! Help me with the husbands name Cnut...the southern in me wants to pronounce it "C"nut and yet I feel as if the "C" is suppost to be pronounced as a "K" as in Help, Help Me
    Fondly, Roberta

  3. Greta interview, I can't wait to read this book since I like Emma :)
    And that movie sounds cool

  4. Wonderful interview. I feel for Ms Hollick and her experiences with A Hollow Crown. I'm so excited to read The Forever Queen -- I've seen such positive reviews around the blogs I enjoy.

  5. I enjoyed this interview, thanks for doing it. It was interesting to read the authors own feelings bout her book. I hope her movie gets all its funding!

  6. Thanks for this interview, Amy! It was fascinating to read about the publication process. I own The Hollow Crown, but it's been a while since I read it, and I plan on getting a copy of Forever Queen as well. (I just got a Kindle myself, and agree with Helen's comments - but then I haven't really gotten into reading books that way yet.)

  7. Nice interview, and not the first author I've heard who has had problems of that sort with their agent and/or publisher. Glad to know she persevered and now we have a great new historical to read!

  8. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview! I especially love Helen's spiritual family "connection" with the Battle of Hastings. I cannot wait to read this book and get a sense of this period in history. Thanks!

  9. I'm absolutely fascinated by that time period and really looking forward to reading this one. Great interview!

  10. Fascinating interview. Helen Hollick is a favorite author. I read and enjoyed A Hollow Crown 2 or 3 years ago. The comment about "a great book emerging from a good book" makes me anxious to get this new edition.

  11. Thank you for featuring this book and this author. I've never heard of her before and now I think I have something new to read! I just got a kindle too - and I love it. When I'm traveling and not sure which new book I want to start it makes it so much easier. But I also still plan to buy some real books.

  12. Thank you for the interview! I have not had much experience with this time period of English history, but my interest is definitely peeked! I can imagine how hard it was to edit the book for US release and how it would feel like chopping off part of your baby. I cannot wait to read this book and checking out the others as well!

  13. Great interview...keeping fingers crossed that her movie gets made because it is one I would definitely like to see!

  14. What a wonderful interview. I always like hearing from the authors themselves. It's nice to have insight into how they work and write.

  15. Thanks for the interview. I love historical fiction. What a time you had w/ your publisher. I'm glad you got together with sourcebooks!

  16. Helen, you book sounds really good and I wish you the best of luck on it.

  17. Great interview! What really caught my attention was the difference between the first/UK publishing experience and the new/US experience -- that's a really striking difference! Craziness ... Definitely looking forward to reading 'Forever Queen' and keeping my eyes out for 'I Am the Chosen King' in the spring! ((LOVE both titles, btw!!))

  18. How interesting that you feel your ancestry in the Battlefield. I loved the interview.
    Love & Hugs,

  19. Wow! I love that her book is getting better treatment and a new life. The movie sounds intriguing as well, very cool! I too imagine what my ancestors would have been/done in a certain situation. Love that.



    libraryofmyown at gmail dot com

  20. I love this interview! I found every question and answer to be very fascinating. I am so glad that the books are being republished. I do like sourcebooks. The covers are fabulous too. :)

    I really need to read this book, Forever Queen. Is sounds amazing!

  21. I knew that books often have different titles when they're released in different countries (very frustrating, by the way), but I didn't know that there could be editing between releases. 40,000 words is such a big change. I would love to read the new version.

    tiredwkids at live dot com

  22. Thank you for all the fantastic comments - it's always good to hear what readers are thinking; your feedback is highly appreciated.

    I am giving away free signed bookplates that can be attached too your books (I have bookplates for the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, The Sea Witch Voyages and for Forever Queen - state which ones you would like)

    There's no charge, but I do ask you to donate $2 to a charity of your choice.

    Contact me via my website:

    (I will need your name & an address where to send the bookplates)

  23. Great interview Amy! Loved hearing about Helen's experiences with publishing, although I was saddened by the lack of support some of my favorite authors receive from publishers. Another of my favs just learned that she will not be able to finish a series that all of her fans have been anxiously awaiting the finale. I'm so happy that Sourcebooks realizes that there is a market for historical fiction and is bringing so many of the great works of our British friends to America.

  24. How sad (and selfish) that a publisher who wasn't very interested in your book in the first place, won't give you the rights back. They certainly didn't earn the right to keep them, as poor a job as the did with the editing and release. Sounds like a step child they don't want, but won't let anyone else have.
    You were gifted with wonderful covers shown here for both your books.
    These are people who I've read little about and I don't think get much coverage historically. I look forward to reading their stories.
    How exciting you are working on a movie of this era. I am sure it is turning out to be be much more involved than you ever thought. Can't wait until it will be in theaters. Will you have control over the movie's story?

  25. Absolutely fab interview, Amy!
    thank you for insightful questions & enlarging our knowledge of both the book and the struggles of Helen as she has traversed the book's publication! so pleased to hear of the movie in progress :)

  26. Great interview! I have a copy of The Kingmaking in my TBR pile and can't wait to get to it :)

  27. Great interview! Wow, that was a lot of editing to accomplish! I cant wait to read this book :)

  28. What a great interview. It is really interesting how the changes you made in the manuscript and title made such a difference in how the book was received.

    I'm really looking forward to reading your books. I am happy to have found you here on Passages to the Past.


  29. Such an interesting interview! I'm excited to read and learn about Emma because I've never read anything about her before. Thank goodness for good authors who can help keep historical figures in our conciousness!

  30. great interview.This book sound wonderful. Good to hear of the movie in progress. augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.

  31. Wonderful interview! I love epic historical novels, and am very interested in English history. I can't wait to read this book!


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