The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Philippa Gregory

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Philippa Gregory

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Summary: Robert was blown away by Changeling and Stormbringers so he was delighted when author Philippa Gregory popped in to see us.
Date: 23 August 2013
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Robert has been blown away by Changeling and Stormbringers so he was delighted when author Philippa Gregory popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Philippa Gregory: I never close my eyes to imagine my readers! I am usually busy imagining my characters.

  • BB: As readers of my reviews will know, Luca, Frieze, Isolde and Ishraq are one of my favourite groups of characters for a long time. Outside of your own writing, who are your favourite group of fictional friends?

PG: I like the Cromwell household in Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies.

  • BB: You made your name as a hugely successful author of adult historical novels. How does writing for teens differ from writing for adults?

PG: There is very little difference. I think I perhaps maintain a faster pace and make sure that the books are page-turners, but I think the requirements for convincing dialogue, engaging characters and accurate historical research is just the same. My YA series has fictional people in fictional adventures whereas my adult novels are more like fictionalised biographies.

  • BB: Your first novel was published back in the late 1980s. How do you think writing and publishing has changed since then?

PG: Since then we have had the arrival of the e books and this has made a tremendous difference to the publishing business. For the writer the same issues remain, trying to write the best quality material that I can, it doesn't really make a difference how the reader obtains it.

  • BB: You’ve written about a host of intriguing characters from history – could you possibly pick a favourite?

PG: I think the huge characters remain very attractive, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth 1, Mary Queen of Scots. But I have become fascinated by the histories of characters that are less well known - like Anne Neville in The Kingmaker's Daughter, or the heroine of my new book The White Princess.

  • BB: The Other Boleyn Girl has twice been adapted for screen, while The White Queen is currently showing on the BBC. What’s the best thing about having your work transferred to screen? Are there any drawbacks?

PG: There are huge drawbacks - you lost control over the material and you have to work at the pace and with the direction of others. But it is really wonderful to see a good film version of a well-loved book.

  • BB: And, following the success of The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen, is there any chance we could see The Order of Darkness brought to screen?

PG: I am working on this right now. I have seen the first draft of the script and it looks terrific. It will be a long-running tv series. I think it's going to be very exciting.

  • BB: You mention in a note at the end of Stormbringers that at least one event in the novel didn’t actually occur. How important do you think historical accuracy is to someone writing in your genre?

PG: It's very important that readers understand that the events and people in the Order of Darkness series are fictitious - though they are set in a realistic time and place. That's one way of writing historical fiction and I have found it very freeing, and an interesting way to explore questions such as magic, superstition and the ideas of crusade and jihad. My fictional characters experience some real historical events and are going to meet real historical people, but they are fictional and it is, of course, a work of fiction. The adult novels are much closer to the historical facts since they are based on the records of real people and try to describe authentically historical periods and places. For me, I think historical accuracy is very important - but these are novels. Ideally I think the name should describe them they should be half and half: historical fiction. The history side of it should be accurate, the fiction side of it should be a good novel.

  • BB: If you could host a dinner party and invite six people from throughout history, who would you choose?

PG: Mary Hays (an eighteenth century feminist and my great great great great great aunt). Thomas More, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Buddha, Mary Queen of Scots, John Dee the alchemist.

  • BB: What's next for Philippa Gregory?

PG: Next is a new book in the Order of Darkness series that I am thrilled by: Fools' Gold, and then after that there will be another book in the series. The next adult historical fiction book will be the story of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

  • BB: Thanks for chatting to us, Philippa - there's a lot to look forward to there.

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