Thanks to Victoria for spending some time with us and I hope you all enjoy the interview...
First, can you please tell us a little about yourself.
I write novels and poetry as Victoria Lamb (and under other names too). I have been a published writer and editor since 1995, and like to work in a variety of genres. I have lived all around the UK, but am currently based in Cornwall with my husband and five kids, plus young grandson. I come from a literary background – my late mother was the novelist Charlotte Lamb, and my father was chief sub-editor at The Times newspaper when he retired – so I have read and indeed written fiction since my childhood.
‘Her Last Assassin’ will be released on February 27th how do you plan on celebrating?
I will probably have a tasty latte, spend a few hours on Twitter, then carry on with my next book. My writing schedule is so crowded, with several books out from different publishers over the course of each year, both in the UK and abroad, that I barely have time to notice publication dates these days!
What do you want readers to take away from ‘Her Last Assassin’?
A sense of completion and a feeling of joy. Her Last Assassin, as the title suggests, is the final book in my trilogy about the intertwined lives of Elizabeth I and her lady-in-waiting Lucy Morgan, whom I posit in these books as the infamous “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In this final book, we journey with Elizabeth into the last dangerous years of her reign and find out if Lucy can resolve her turbulent love affair with Shakespeare – who is, as she can never forget, a married man.
Did you come across anything in your research that altered the course of your novel or caused you to re-write a particular scene?
Yes, in the Prologue we find the spy Goodluck, who used to be Lucy’s guardian, on a dangerous undercover mission in the Low Countries. That scene originally had a different slant, but then in the course of my research I discovered some fascinating facts about an English traitor in the Netherlands, Sir William Stanley, which got me very excited! I spent my formative years living in the Isle of Man, where the Stanley family were governors during the English Civil War, so the name was very familiar to me – as Yn Stanlagh Mooar, ‘the Great Stanley’ in Manx Gaelic, who fought loyally for King Charles I while his wife was left in charge of the island at Castle Rushen, the last Cavalier stronghold to fall to the Roundheads. So it gave me shivers to read about this earlier Stanley, albeit a more obscure branch of the family, betraying his queen and country by surrendering English-held positions to the Spanish, then leading an army against his own countrymen. I knew at once that I had to feature Sir William Stanley in Her Last Assassin, so rewrote the scene around his presence in the Low Countries.
What was the hardest scene to write and why?
It’s difficult to answer this fully without giving spoilers, but one of hardest scenes to write was the infamous murder of Christopher Marlowe, as witnessed by Master Goodluck in my story. Kit Marlowe, English spy and playwright, appears occasionally in both His Dark Lady and Her Last Assassin, and I wrote most of his scenes with a free hand. However, his death in Deptford in May 1593 was not only closely documented at the time, but has since been the subject of any number of books and novels. I prefer not to have too detailed an account of the ‘facts’ on hand when writing historical fiction, as it becomes restrictive and hampers my ability to flesh out a scene with fresh vision. But of course it’s highly likely that the eyewitness accounts of Marlowe’s murder are either entirely false, or at the least, misleading and patchy, since those who gave the accounts were all probably spies and informants as well. So it took me a while to strike the right note between following the detailed historical accounts, and providing my own view of how Kit Marlowe might have died – and for what reason.
What was your favorite scene to write and why?
Conversely, I very much enjoyed writing the scene at Tilbury where Queen Elizabeth addresses the troops who will defend England against the Spanish Armada. This is also a scene which has often been depicted in novels and films, but in this case it was fun to bring some touches of my own to a well-known historical moment. From childhood I have been stirred by rhetoric like the St. Crispin Day speech in Henry V, so it was a real pleasure to research and write this scene where Elizabeth I motivates her countrymen to fight.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
From an early age. I was about ten, probably, and wanted desperately to be a poet. In fact, I spent many years being exactly that before turning to prose - which is rather better paid!
Who are your writing inspirations?
It depends on my mood.
What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
I listen to music and also read. I walk most days too, and think while walking. Though with five children, I have a busy home life too.
What was the first historical novel you read?
I’m not sure. Perhaps Ivanhoe by Walter Scott. Impossibly dated now, alas, but a wonderful novel.
What is the last historical novel you read?
I’ve been re-reading Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel: some of the bits I skipped first time round. It’s that kind of book; very dense, very wordy, but with moments of brilliant illumination.
What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?
Regency, mostly romances. I often have only an hour late at night for personal reading, and when I’m in the middle of a novel I don’t want to plough through anything too heavy. Sparkling Regency wit and romance are a wonderful respite from some of the darker scenes I write. Mary Balogh and Sarah MacClean are favourites for re-reading, as is the perennial Georgette Heyer.
The genre has seen many trends come and go over the years, most recently there has been a surge of novels set in the 1920's. What trends would you like to see in the future?
I don’t have any preference, though it might be fun to see a return to the historic saga. That’s become rather unpopular in fiction these days, yet Downton Abbey is a perfect example of how superb it can be when done well.
If there was a soundtrack for your novel, what songs would we find on it?
It’s the End of the World As We Know It – REM
Jennifer She Said – Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Let Me Love You – Ne-Yo
Stickwitu – Pussycat Dolls
The Weakness in Me – Joan Armatrading
Guns and Horses – Ellie Goulding
Who’s Zoomin’ Who? – Aretha Franklin
About Her Last Assassin
Pub: February 27, 2014 | Bantam Press | Hardcover; 352p
Will love or loyalty conquer?
Lady-in-waiting Lucy Morgan is once again torn between her dangerous attraction to William Shakespeare and her loyalty to Queen Elizabeth I.
England is facing its gravest threat yet. The Spanish have declared war, and Elizabeth finds herself attacked by sea - and by Catholic conspiracy from within her own court. Master Goodluck goes undercover, tasked with discovering the identity of this secret assassin, leaving his ward Lucy not knowing if the spy is alive or dead.
Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth is growing old in a court of troublesome young noblemen, while Lucy is struggling to love a man whose duties lie elsewhere.
When the final challenge comes, these two women must be ready to face it. But there is one last surprise in store for both of them.
About the Author
Victoria Lamb lives in a farmhouse on the wild fringes of Bodmin Moor with her husband, five kids, two cats and a crazed Irish Red Setter. She is addicted to social media, and on dark nights has been known to sneak out and howl at the moon. She also writes poetry as Jane Holland. Her mother was the late romantic novelist Charlotte Lamb.
The Lucy Morgan (Shakespeare's Mistress) trilogy is set at the Elizabethan court: historical fiction combined with a spy thriller. 1 - The Queen's Secret. 2 - His Dark Lady. 3 - Her Last Assassin.
The Tudor Witch Trilogy is a paranormal romance series: a young Tudor witch struggles to escape the clutches of the witchfinder. 1 - Witchstruck. 2 - Witchfall. 3 - Witchrise.
Follow Victoria's Tour
Passages to the Past has one copy of Her Last Assassin up for grabs. To enter, please complete form below. Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on March 11. Good luck!
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