Today in the Library we have Elizabeth St. John , who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
Here’s a little bit about Elizabeth:
Elizabeth St.John spends her time between California, England, and the past. An acclaimed author, historian, and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Lydiard Park and Nottingham Castle to Richmond Palace and the Tower of London to inspire her novels. Although the family sold a few 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 legacy. And the occasional ghost. But that’s a different story.
Having spent a significant part of her life with her seventeenth-century family while writing The Lydiard Chronicles trilogy and Counterpoint series, Elizabeth St.John is now discovering new family stories with her fifteenth-century namesake Elysabeth St.John Scrope, and her half-sister, Margaret Beaufort.
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
I have always loved history and my favourite books growing up were The Children of the New Forest, The Secret Garden and, of course, The Chronicles of Narnia. The ability to travel through time to discover adventures and people that face the very same challenges we do – who fall in love, fight in wars, raise families and form life-long friendships – creates a thread through the centuries that I find incredibly reassuring and inspiring. Whether kings and queens, or commoners and those whose voices are seldom heard, I am fascinated by the human stories that lie under the surface of the historical facts.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Without a doubt, my family. I’m really fortunate to have a colourful and well-documented family history, and so my stories are inspired by my ancestors. At the same time, my mum was a voracious reader, and some of my earliest memories are of our trips to the library and talking of books. My daughter is a gifted storyteller and editor, and she has been such a great sounding board as I embarked on this career late in life. My husband listens patiently and takes care of all the 21st century chores when I’m deep in a book, and my brother and sister-in-law have clambered over more ruined castles and tramped through more muddy fields than I could possibly number in the pursuit of long-lost St.Johns.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
That’s actually changed over time. When I wrote my first book, The Lady of the Tower, I’d been carrying the story around inside me for so long, that filling the empty page was easy and editing every precious word was agony. Now, I love editing and find writing the first draft the most challenging, especially starting out. I have to have a stern word with myself to just get the words down and remind myself that I don’t have to share this rubbish with anyone else! Once I’m going, then it starts to flow.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I prefer early morning, before the day catches up with me and mind fills up with all the other distractions that can break concentration. But I have taught myself a discipline that I can block two hours at any time and shut out the world. I actually enjoy writing on flights (I used to travel frequently before lock-down) – unless there’s a good movie or two I haven’t seen. After all, I may find inspiration for a hero in Henry Cavill, right?
You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be?
Well, because they’re on my kindle, I’m going to cheat and bring a couple of collections. My worst nightmare would be running out of things to read.
The Lord of the Rings, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, The Collected Stories of Dylan Thomas, Outlander and Wolf Hall.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
I wanted to share the second book in The Lydiard Chronicles, By Love Divided. Set against the backdrop of the English Civil War, I was really inspired during my research to discover how my family managed to keep their deep love for each other intact, even when fighting for opposing beliefs. Perhaps this gives us a little hope in the conflict we are encountering in today’s world.
London, 1630. Widowed and destitute, Lucy St.John is fighting for survival and makes a terrible choice to secure a future for her children. Worse still, her daughter Luce rejects the royal court and a wealthy arranged marriage and falls in love with a charismatic soldier. As England tumbles toward bloody civil war, Luce’s beloved brother Allen chooses to fight for the king as a cavalier. Allen and Luce are swept up in the chaos of war as they defend their opposing causes and protect those they love.
Will war unite or divide them? And will they find love and a home to return to—if they survive the horror of civil war. In the dawn of England’s great rebellion, love is the final battleground.
A true story based on surviving memoirs, court papers, and letters of my 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.
By Love Divided
If you would like to know more about Elizabeth and her work, please follow the links below:
Follow me on Twitter @ElizStJohn
Facebook: Elizabeth J StJohn