Author Spotlight: Helen Reynolds

 

Helen Reynolds

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you historical fiction author, Helen Reynolds. Helen not only scores points for writing about the 17th century, she gets bonus points for focusing on the Interregnum. This period of history, between the execution of the King and  the Restoration of the monarchy is dominated by Oliver Cromwell, and is rife with spies and intrigue.

Helen’s debut novel CONSPIRATESSA (still yet to be published), is an action adventure about a fledgling female spy who works for the English Resistance to help Charles II reclaim his throne. This is one novel that I can’t wait to read!!

I’ve asked Helen to stop by and chat with us about the 17th century and the Interregnum. Welcome, Helen!


Q-2

You’ve chosen to write about an era that has been traditionally overshadowed by the Tudors. What does the Stuart Age offer that the Tudors do not?

Helen: I’ve studied Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and admire them both but the Tudors was the last hurrah of absolute monarchy. With the Stuarts, things are more complicated, more nuanced. It’s a world in flux, with religious extremism from not only the Catholics but Protestants too. Also the Civil Wars divided England like no other conflict, killing more than one in ten of the population, which I believe is the highest of any war in our history.


Q-2CONSPIRATESSA takes place during the Interregnum. What draws you to that chapter of 17th century and how far back does your interest in it go?

Helen: The blame mostly lies with watching the BBC TV series BY THE SWORD DIVIDED at an impressionable age. It was a swashbuckling costume drama centred on a Royalist family in the Civil Wars and the beginning of the Interregnum.

English Civil-War-Rapier

I also grew up near the picturesque market town of Saffron Walden in Essex. Here the former Sun Inn, a favourite bookshop, had once been Oliver Cromwell’s headquarters. As a result the history of that period has always felt very immediate.

Sun Inn

Like most Brits I was vaguely aware of the Civil Wars, that Oliver Cromwell was in charge, then Charles II returned. Basically the lyrics of Horrible Histories’ inspired King of Bling song. But England was a republic, or rather a dictatorship with army backing, for ten years. When I first realised this, I was shocked that a whole decade could slip from the nation’s psyche so easily. But as a writer, it opens up so many possibilities.

[CB: I love Horrible Histories especially Charles II King of Bling. Thanks for suggesting it, Helen!]


Q-2If you had the opportunity to spend a day with either John Thurloe or Aphra Behn, which one would you choose?

Helen: Oh, that’s a tough one! As my novel is set in 1653, my head says my minor character John Thurloe, spymaster to Oliver Cromwell. Although I feel like I’ve spent a week with him already, given I’ve sifted through his secret papers that were hidden in his former law chambers until the 18th century. If you want to take a look, they’re online at British History Online.

No, I’d have to go with my heart and spend it with England’s first professional female writer. Reading about Aphra’s work as a spy when researching my Cambridge University dissertation was the spark for my novel after all. Where was she actually born? Did she have aristocratic parentage? Was she a Catholic? Was there a Mr Behn? What really happened in Surinam? Who bailed her out of that debtor’s prison? Whether this enigma would answer me is another matter entirely…


Q-2What was a surprising bit of history that you uncovered during your research?

Helen: I was amazed to discover, on a guest pass to the National Maritime Museum’s library at Greenwich, that in the 17th century there were treacherous rapids on the Thames. London’s then one and only bridge had ‘starlings’, like giant snowshoes, jutting out to stop debris colliding into its struts. This forced the water through narrow openings and, depending on the tide, could form torrents of water of six feet high or more.

The danger was such that there was a saying that London Bridge was “for the wise to go over, and for fools to go under”. This knowledge transformed my characters’ Tower of London prison break, much to my lead character’s dismay. She isn’t that keen on boats at the best of times.

The White Tower, Tower of London


About CONSPIRATESSA

Helen’s debut novel is set in 1653, with Parliament ruling England rather than the King. Those who will not swear allegiance to the new order are harried and persecuted. Those who try to leave are targeted by a deadly highwayman.

On the Continent the orphaned Lady Laurette Miles is desperate to return home, desperate to honour her father’s memory by helping the exiled Charles II regain his throne. Laurette volunteers to be a fledgling spy, secretly hoping her efforts may mean the king will reward her with her childhood home on his restoration.

However she soon discovers nothing goes to plan in the uncertain world of Oliver Cromwell’s England. A sudden military coup forces Laurette and her mentor to rely on the underground Catholic network to keep them safe. An unwanted attraction between herself and the enigmatic agent Carter further muddies the waters. When Laurette unearths a traitor, she must engineer a prison break from the Tower of London to prevent an assassination which could destroy their cause, and her own fragile prospects, forever.


H.J ReynoldsHelen Reynolds, writing as H.J. Reynolds, was born in Cambridge, UK. After living in New Zealand, Brighton and the Lake District she is now soaking up the historical surroundings of York. She was shortlisted in the Chanticleer Book Reviews 2016 Writing Contest and is part of the Historical Novel Society media team. CONSPIRATESSA is currently under submission.

Contact Helen through her Website (hjreynolds.co.uk), Twitter (@reynoldsauthor) and Facebook.

 

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Historical Perspective: Appealing to Modern Readers

I wanted to share with you a piece I wrote last summer for Mary Tod’s excellent blog, A Writer of History, about historical perspective and the modern reader.

A Writer of History

Cryssa Bazos and I met while attending a writer’s workshop in Toronto several years ago. We stayed in touch, occasionally checking in with one another on writing related developments while offering encouragement and empathy as needed. I’m delighted to host Cryssa whose debut novel – Traitor’s Knot – is receiving great reviews. Over to you, Cryssa.

Historical Perspective: Appealing to Modern Readers by Cryssa Bazos

In a work of fiction, you often find the following disclaimer included in the front matter: “This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental.” Historical fiction should include an additional notice to reader: “The opinions expressed by the characters do not reflect the opinions of the author.”

People of the past are both the same and uniquely different than our contemporaries. From a physical and behavioural perspective, we are still driven by primal needs: to love, to survive…

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Review – Traitors Knot by Cryssa Bazos

I’m extremely grateful for all reviews and especially when the reviewer takes the time to blog about it. I wanted to share this exceptional review by Chicks Rogues and Scandals. It’s not every day that your characters’ love for each other is compared to Cathy and Heathcliffe! Thank you Frankie for this very thoughtful review!

Chicks,Rogues and Scandals

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love…

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Historical Fiction Book of the Year

2017 saw the fulfilment of my dream to see my debut novel published. I had the pleasure and excitement to see it climb up in the Amazon bestseller charts, and most especially, hear what readers had to say about it. I think that was my biggest excitement this year, knowing that people were reading my novel and losing themselves in the world I had created.

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Which is why I am entirely thrilled to be awarded the 2017 Coffee Pot Award for Historical Fiction Book of the Year. I share this year’s award with another Endeavour Press author, Johanna Craven, author of The Devil And the Deep Blue Sea. To be selected by a reader, and a historical fantasy author, as one of the top historical fiction reads of the year is outstanding!

Thank you to Mary Anne Yarde of Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots for this award. I’m very honoured! To read the 2017 Coffee Pot Award announcement, click here. If you want to read Mary Anne’s review of Traitor’s Knot, click here.

 

About Traitor’s Knot

Traitors_Knot_4England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

Traitor’s Knot is published by Endeavour Press and is available in eBook and paperback through Amazon.

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The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas

C Baz 2A new land with the promise of a fresh beginning beckons—or does it?

Following on from the pages of Traitor’s Knot, find out what awaits James and Elizabeth Hart in the Netherlands. “The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas” is an exclusive short story written for and featured in the Diamond Tales advent series from Discovering Diamonds.

I really enjoyed writing it and having the opportunity to share with you how I saw their first month in The Hague. I hope you enjoy the story!

To read “The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas”, click here.

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Did Ollie really cancel Christmas?

Oliver Cromwell has gone down through history as the Grinch that stole Christmas. Is that a fair assessment? Christmas was abolished during the English Civil War and throughout the Interregnum, but how did it really happen?

I am participating in a Christmas blog series hosted by Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots where I discuss what happened. Click here to read my article, The Puritans Who Abolished Christmas.

 

 

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Diamonds Tales

Following the advent season, Discovering Diamonds is running Diamond Tales from December 3rd through to December 23rd, featuring a new short story or excerpt a day from Indie and traditional published authors. I’m really excited to have been invited to contribute to Diamond Tales. My short story “The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas” features James and Elizabeth from Traitor’s Knot in a new chapter in their lives.

Discovering Diamonds is a brainchild of Helen Hollick, a site that reviews mostly Indie and small press historical fiction (and all the sub genres). Helen has brought her passion for Indie authors from managing the HNS Indie Reviews into this new venture. It’s a great place to find your next read.

To kick off Diamond Tales, here’s a poignant story by Richard Tearle called “Diamonds” (click here to read).

Here’s the schedule for Diamond Tales:

3 December “Diamonds” by Richard Tearle

4 December “When ex-lovers have their uses” by Hellen Hollick

5 December “Britannia’s Diamonds” by Antoine Vanner

6 December “Diamond Windows” by Nicky Galliers

7 December “The Lost Diamond” by Denise Barnes

8 December “A Soul Above Diamonds” Elizabeth Jane Corbett

9 December “Murder in Silks” by Lucienne Boyce

10 December “The Curious Case of the Disappearing Diamond” by Julia Brannan

11 December “Sometimes It Happens” by Pauline Barclay

12 December “Hearts, Home and a Precious Stone” by Annie Whitehead

13 December “Edward, Con Extraordinaire” by Inge H. Borg

14 December “The Empress Emerald” by J.G. Harlond

15 December “Diamonds in the Desert” by Charlene Newcomb

16 December “A Suitable Gift” by Susan Grossey

17 December “Three Thousand Years to Saturnalia” by Alison Morton

18 December “Illicitly Familial Diamonds” by Nancy Jardine

19 December “The Stolen Diamonds” by Elizabeth St. John

20 December “Discovering the Diamond” by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

21 December “Diamonds in the Mud” by Anna Belfrage

22 December “The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas” by Cryssa Bazos

23 December “Diamonds . . . In Sound & Song”

Happy reading and happy advent!

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