Interview with Elizabeth St. John + Giveaway of By Love Divided

Happy Monday, dear readers! Today I am thrilled to be kicking off Elizabeth St. John's Blog Tour for By Love Divided today! I have an interview with the author and a chance for you to win a copy of By Love Divided!

Hello Elizabeth and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about By Love Divided!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and the Lydiard Chronicles?

Thanks Amy, and it’s lovely to be here. My writing is inspired by own family stories, and I am very fortunate that we have a rich, well-documented history. Growing up in England where the weather promotes reading and the countryside is full of castles and ancient churches, I spent much of my childhood buried in books, family papers and walking around ruins. My parents loved history and passed that gene on to me. Our favorite days were spent “St.John-hunting” where we would follow some thread in a family tree and end up in a forgotten churchyard or country house, face-to-face with an ancestor. As I started to think about turning the stories into a novel, it was a natural that I would name the books after Lydiard House, our ancestral home and my “magic place”.

The Lydiard Chronicles is based on the life of your ancestors, when did you get the idea to write a series on them?

Lydiard Park, the St.John ancestral home in Wiltshire is full of portraits and memorials of my family, and Lydiard House and adjacent Church of St. Mary's is a writer’s dream. Elizabethan monuments, Jacobean portraits and medieval wall paintings all provide a rich tapestry of images, calling across the ages for their stories to be told. I am currently on a research trip in England, and I was just visiting Cirencester Park, home of the Earls of Bathurst, who were relatives. As we walked through the beautiful rooms, pausing to look at portraits of the characters in my novels, I could feel them around me. It’s a connection that’s hard to explain, but a very tangible one. So, telling their stories is a natural progression.

Can you please tell us more about the Memoirs written by your grandmother that inspired the series?

I’m very fortunate since my family kept personal documents, and an extensive family tree, handed down by generations. Those records inspired me to want to write only relying on primary sources, and so I then visited museums and libraries where records might be stored. The Lydiard Chronicles draws on Lucy Hutchinson’s Memoirs, which are archived at Nottingham Castle. Lucy wrote these memoirs to vindicate the life of her husband, Parliamentarian Colonel John Hutchinson, who was a regicide during the English Civil War. She wanted to explain to her children the circumstances under which he decided to sign the death warrant of King Charles. The Memoirs are an extraordinary firsthand account by a brilliantly intellectual woman on the Civil War. When I first encountered them 20 years ago, they were hidden in a battered file cabinet in the castle offices, and by asking and poking around I was thrilled to see them first hand.

What other research did you undertake when writing the Lydiard Chronicles?

Once on the serious research trail, I discovered an extraordinarily rich and well-documented family history to draw on for my novels. When I came to write The Lady of the Tower, I felt I knew the characters intimately, because of my deep acquaintance with them, and that so many of their portraits are preserved at their country home of Lydiard House. I was also granted unique access to The Tower of London, and was able spend time in my heroine Lucy St.John’s home. That was an extraordinary experience. And, of course, there are so many records now available online from the National Archives, county offices and foundations. Digging through warrants, contracts, deeds, and wills can turn up some exciting finds. So although pretty much all my records are accessible to the general public, it can take a lot of detective work to find them.

Did you come across anything in your research that surprised or fascinated you?

I think the joy of research is in the surprises, and there were many occasions where I would be left breathless or jumping for joy when a particular trail yielded results. So often, it’s the connections that delight – as an author, you spend time “linking the probable” – who was in a certain place, or who knew who. Those interactions and coincidences are often what drive plot. When I was writing The Lady of the Tower, I had to fictionalize a strategic relationship based on coincidence and a “writer’s hunch” that they interacted. When I was about three quarters through the writing, I discovered evidence that proved that not only did the characters know each other, they had a deep relationship. Needless to say, that was one of those leap up from the desk and run around the room moments!

What would you like readers to take away from reading the Lydiard Chronicles & By Love Divided?

The consistent comment I hear from my readers is that “these people came alive” and I think that’s when you know you’ve succeeded as a writer. Although written about people 400 years ago, these were still people like us, who loved and laughed, cried and suffered. History is not a dry subject relegated to a text book, it is a living, breathing part of our every day. To have readers take away a sense of that, and to regard history from a deeper perspective would be wonderful.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

Ultimately, writing is a discipline, and unless you’re prepared to put the work in, you’re not going to get the results you want. Showing up every day, and forcing yourself to write, even if you think it’s rubbish, was the greatest challenge, especially when I had a full time job, and a family to raise. Setting aside a specific time every day that didn’t impact the other parts of my life was my solution – when I first started, I would get up very early in the morning and give myself two hours uninterrupted time to write. Some days would be more productive than others, but soon it became a work habit, and one that I still keep today.

What was the first historical novel you read?

Probably a Jean Plaidy – my mother’s favorite. I grew up in a small village in England, and I pretty much ran through the historical fiction section by the time I was ten. I have to say Katherine by Anya Seton made the most impression on me.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m currently in research mode for the next in the series, continuing By Love Divided’s story. I’ll be introducing some fascinating new St.John women, including Anne St.John, mother of John Wilmot the 2nd Earl of Rochester. Her husband accompanied Charles II on his flight after the Battle of Worcester. She was an extraordinarily clever woman, who managed to maintain and keep her family fortune through the Civil War. How she does so, while manipulating both her Parliamentarian and Royalist families is a compelling story.

And one I certainly look forward to reading! Thank you so much, Liz, for stopping by and sharing with us! The Lydiard series is wonderful, I do hope you will all check it out! Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of By Love Divided at the end of this post.

By Love Divided by Elizabeth St. John

Publication Date: October 12, 2017
Falcon Historical
eBook & Paperback; 381 Pages

Series: The Lydiard Chronicles, Book Two
Genre: Historical Fiction

Royalist Sir Allen Apsley thinks his choice is clear, but when his mother embraces the Puritan cause, and his beloved sister Luce falls in love with John Hutchinson, a Roundhead soldier, his loyalties are tested. Is it family first? Is it country first? As England falls into bloody civil war, Allen must fight for king and country, while Luce embraces Parliament’s radical views and confronts the very core of the family’s beliefs. And when their influential Villiers cousins raise the stakes, Allen and Luce face a devastating challenge. Will war unite or divide them? In the dawn of rebellion, love is the final battleground.

Based on surviving memoirs, court papers and letters of Elizabeth St.John’s family, By Love Divided continues the story of Lucy St.John, The Lady of the Tower. This powerfully emotional novel tells of England’s great divide, and the heart-wrenching choices one family faces.

"I am completely blown away by Elizabeth St. John’s follow up novel, By Love Divided. The depth of her characterization, the elegance of her prose (and dialogue) and the masterful way in which she presents the realities of the English Civil War such that we’re bleeding for both sides is nothing short of brilliant. If you want a compelling, exquisitely written story to immerse you in the past, By Love Divided is a must read! I consider it one of my favourite historical reads and it's earned a place on my keeper shelf! 5 plus stars!" -Cryssa Bazos, Author of The Traitor's Knot

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England and lives in California. To inform her writing, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and Castle Fonmon to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that's a different story...

By Love Divided, Elizabeth's sequel to The Lady of the Tower, follows the fortunes of the St.John family during the English Civil War, and is out now.

For more information, please visit Elizabeth St. John's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 19
Interview at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, February 21
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, February 22
Review at Clarissa Reads It All

Friday, February 23
Feature at A Holland Reads

Monday, February 26
Feature at A Bookaholic Swede

Thursday, March 1
Feature at Bibliophile Reviews
Guest Post at Clarissa Reads It All

Friday, March 2
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, March 8
Review at Donna's Book Blog


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of By Love Divided to one lucky winner! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & UK residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

By Love Divided #2

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