Today’s guest post features an author I’ve grown to admire and I am a huge fan of many of her books. With the upcoming release of Sarah-Beth’s latest book I couldn’t wait to ask a few questions. Links to my reviews of the books I have read so far are at the end of the post.
Sarah-Beth Watkins grew up in Richmond, Surrey and began soaking up history from an early age. Her love of writing has seen her articles published in various publications over the past twenty years. Working as a writing tutor, Sarah-Beth has condensed her knowledge into a series of writing guides for Compass Books. Her history works are Ireland’s Suffragettes, Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of King Henry VIII, The Tudor Brandons, Catherine of Braganza, Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots: The Life of King Henry VIII’s Sister, Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII’s Unwanted Wife and The Tragic Daughters of Charles I.
I’m very excited to see you have a new book coming out 11th December. Can you tell us a bit about it and what intrigues you most about the mystery of Amy Robsart?
The Death of Amy Robsart: An Elizabethan Mystery is a look at the questions surrounding Robert Dudley’s wife’s death. It’s part of the Chronos Crime Chronicles series – a series of short books that look into an historical crime. Amy’s death has always fascinated me. It’s one of the great mysteries – accident, suicide or murder? I hope this book will give readers food for thought and help them to make their own conclusions. Without giving too much away, the book looks at each scenario – but if it was murder – who had reason to want her dead? I have some suggestions!
Having read a few of your books I find it incredible that you manage to stay focused on the person in question. How do you manage to do this?
I’m quite disciplined with research and have to work to a chronological timeline so I chart a person’s life – the main events – before I even start writing. It gives me focus on them as an individual. I’ve read so many biographies that have little about the actual person but lots of background. I try to illuminate my subject’s lives without taking heaps of detours.
Of all your historical books which was the most difficult to write and why?
They’ve all had their moments! I think I always get to a halfway point and go – no, I can’t do this! Then I just get on with it! Margaret Tudor had tricky research moments trying to decipher the Scottish dialect in old primary sources and then with Anne of Cleves there was so little on her life after her marriage ended.
If you could have a conversation with any individual from history who would it be and why?
There’s the obvious like Anne Boleyn to know her version of events and of course Amy Robsart to find out what was going on in her life in those final days. It would be so fascinating to actually know the answers to some of history’s mysteries. But then it would be brilliant to just talk with women of the era and find out more about their normal lives as so much of women’s history hasn’t been recorded.
I note you also write about lifestyle coaching, can you tell us a bit about those books?
The coaching books come from my work as a writing tutor. I’m a qualified lifecoach, NLP and CBT practitioner and I just wanted to help people who are also writers with some tips and techniques.
Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, are you able to give a hint of what we can look forward to?
Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex is out next year. Then I’m time-jumping to the Restoration period for my next book which I’m currently writing. I have two more books planned after that – one Tudor, one Stuart so that’s pretty much me sorted for the next few years!
Your book on Francis Bryan is possibly my favourite! He doesn’t seem to be covered as much as others from that era, so what made you write about him?
Bryan is a bit of a man of mystery and I wanted to find out more about him. I was so surprised that he never fell foul of Henry VIII yet he seemed to be involved in everything from diplomatic duties to court intrigues. He has a name for himself as a womaniser but there isn’t really the evidence to back that up. Also there are a lot of people who claim descent from him but I could find no evidence of him ever having children apart from one reference to an illegitimate son. He’s just such an interesting character!
Which of your historical books was your first and what inspired you to start writing history?
Lady Katherine Knollys was my first history book. I’ve always loved history – the places and the people and I’m usually sparked off by reading other books and wondering what else the person did and what more could I find out. I started researching her and the notes built up so I thought I’d write it all down. That’s sort of the way I’ve done it ever since. I focus in on a person and start researching. If there’s enough information, it turns into a book!
Name a book everyone should read
It’s just too difficult! If you like Tudor history then Alison Weir, Eric Eves, John Mathusiak, Antonia Fraser – they are all good authors to start with. For a primary source, Letters & Papers and The Lisle Letters are also an amazing insight into Tudor history. For the Stuart period – the diarists are great – Pepys, Aubrey, Evelyn. I’m reading a lot of John Harold Wilson’s books about the Restoration period at the moment.
What’s been your favourite fiction and non-fiction you’ve read this year? And are there any books you’re looking forward to reading that are due to be published?
I relax in the evenings with a good fantasy book – something completely different to what I’m writing about myself. It’s usually the latest Benedict Jacka or Ben Aaronovitch. The best non-fiction I’ve read so far this year are Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain by Andrea Zuvich and The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. One I’m looking forward to is Anne Seymour by Susan Higginbotham.
You can find Sarah-Beth’s books here
My reviews of Sarah-Beth’s books so far:
I am very much looking forward to reading the upcoming The Death of Amy Robsart: An Elizabethan Mystery which publishes 11 December 2020 (ideal Christmas present!!!!). I received my advance copy at the weekend and have been so excited to start reading it! Next year Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex will be published 26 March 2021.
Thank you to Sarah-Beth for joining me here on my blog and thank you again for my advanced copy of The Death of Amy Robsart.