Today in the Library we have Penny Hampson, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
Hi, I’m Penny, and I came rather late to writing my own stories. After working in the Civil Service for several years I became a full time mum. With time on my hands when my oldest child started school, I decided to follow my love of history by studying with the Open University, where I graduated with honours, and then went on to complete a post-graduate degree.
A family move to a different part of the country led to landing my dream role, working with rare books and historical manuscripts in a world-renowned academic library. Nearly two decades later, I took early retirement to care for a family member, but this also meant I had some free time to do something I’d always dreamed of doing – writing my own stories.
Encouraged by family and friends, and with positive feedback from professional writers, I finally published my first historical romance novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, in July 2018. My second book, An Officer’s Vow, was released in February 2019.
I live in Oxfordshire with my family and when I’m not writing, I enjoy reading, travelling, and researching for my next book. I also enjoy a gin and tonic.
[Pam says: I recently read A Gentleman’s Promise, and really enjoyed it.]
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
I write romance. I love books that have a happy ending, or certainly a happy for now. Life today is challenging for many people, myself included, so I like to think my stories offer a bit of an escape to someone who is experiencing difficult times.
My intention was to write the sort of books that I enjoy reading when I’m feeling down – light and escapist, but based in a real historical landscape. I also wanted to create strong female characters, who, despite the restrictions imposed by society, were able to achieve their aims. Believe me, such women did exist in the past, their misfortune is that we are only just beginning to discover their stories
My first two books are set in England in 1810, shortly before Prince George became Regent, and when Napoleon was rampaging over Europe – turbulent times. I enjoy giving my characters a challenge and difficulties to overcome, and that period in history offered many challenges, particularly for females.
Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
Definitely! I used to read several books a week on my commute to work. These days I don’t get as much time, but I always manage to fit in some reading before going to sleep. I enjoy romance novels, of course, but I also love crime and mysteries, and trying to guess the culprit before their identity is finally revealed.
My favourite author is Jane Austen. I love her beautifully crafted novels, with their elegant prose, memorable characters, and intricate plots. Other authors that I enjoy reading are Georgette Heyer, for her wonderful Regency novels, Ian Rankin for his deft plotting and glorious sense of place (I so want to visit Edinburgh and see all the haunts of his fictional detective Rebus), and Kate Atkinson, who understands dialogue so well, and unfailingly comes up with unusual and gripping storylines.
Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?
I’m a self-published author. Although I received very positive feedback from several publishers, I was told there wasn’t much of a market for the type of stories I was writing. I therefore decided to take matters into my own hands and see for myself. I can only say that the publishers were wrong- there are lots of readers out there looking for well-written, feel-good stories. I also enjoy being in full control of the whole process, from the professional cover design, to the look of the typesetting, and the marketing. I also ensure that my books are professionally edited and proofed – there is nothing worse than being pulled out of a story by a historical anachronism or a spelling mistake.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Georgette Heyer, without a doubt. I first read her books when I was a teenager, and discovered them again when I was looking for some escapism during a difficult period in my life. Historically accurate, intelligent, and well-written, her stories nonetheless are feel-good reads.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
I would say so. Having always been interested in English history, I find travelling around the towns and cities of the UK an enormous source of inspiration for the settings of my stories. I live in Oxfordshire, so my first book was partly set there. I’ve used lots of real historical places in London, and my forthcoming book (also part of the Gentlemen Series) is set in Falmouth, Cornwall, a part of the world I love. Having said that, I wouldn’t rule out using foreign locations in future books. I’ve spent time in France and Italy, and recently visited Portugal for the first time. The Peninsular Wars are likely to feature in a future story.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it? Sometimes the plotting can prove problematic. I recently spent days working out how my female protagonist could plausibly escape from a certain situation without requiring superhuman powers. I got there in the end.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I’m just grateful for any time I get for myself and my writing. Sometimes I wake up early and try to write before the day catches up with me, other days I stay up late and squeeze the writing in before I get too tired.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
I can’t think of anything else that I’d rather be doing. I enjoy creating characters, setting them challenges, and trying to work out ways they can resolve them. I think I’m in control, but somethimes a character surprises me and takes the story in a completely different direction to the one I’d originally intended. I’m passionate about history, so I enjoy all the research required too, I love learning new things.
If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?
I would travel back to the Regency period, though I’d make sure I’d had all my vaccinations and a supply of antibiotics to take with me! I think life as a woman back then would be difficult – women didn’t have much say in how they lived their lives, so perhaps I’d go back disguised as a man.
The early 1800s were exciting and dangerous times – England was at war with Napoleon’s France, a war that continued until 1815, when he was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. Society was changing too, with innovations in industry and agriculture making many people unable to earn a living. But if you were wealthy, life was very different. The top echelons of society were cosseted from most problems, with servants to see to their every need. It is no surprise that this was a period when the arts flourished – the rich spent their wealth on the finer things in life, such as beautiful homes, artwork, extravagant clothes, and jewelry.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
The future looks bleak to Major Nate Crawford. Depressed after being sent home from the Peninsular Campaign as unfit for service, he contemplates ending it all. Then an unexpected opportunity for adventure beckons in the shape of a delightfully intriguing runaway heiress. He will prove his worth as an officer and a gentleman by offering his help. He has a plan…
Lottie Benham is desperate. Her life is in danger and she needs a place of safety until her next birthday. The unexpected proposal from this attractive, but intimidating officer could be the answer to her prayers. Not normally a risk-taker, she decides to gamble all by placing her trust in this charismatic gentleman, who she suspects might be more in need of help than she.
But the best laid plans…
Caught up in conflict, danger, and deception, will Lottie and Nate survive to find the perfect solution to their problems?
Visit Penny’s website and blog at: http://pennyhampson.co.uk/
Follow Penny on Twitter at: @penny_hampson
Find Penny’s books here: viewauthor.at/Pennysbooks