The Friday Slot - author Philippa Gregory
There can be few people who don't know the name Philippa Gregory by now - she is the woman who made the Tudors fresh again and spawned a minor industry in Tudor novels, by way of her superb 2001 novel about Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, in The Other Boleyn Girl.
I first met Philippa in 2005, when I was asked to interview her for the Herald newspaper. She is a real force of nature - forthright, energetic, curious, hard-working, impeccably researched, passionate about her work. She picked me up from the train station in her blue Porsche and within minutes was quizzing me about my earnings. Not as nosey as it sounds - she used to freelance too, and she told me I had to set down an appropriate rate-per-hour (when she asked me what my hourly rate was, I had no idea...), as she was worried about me and my finances!
She was right to be worried - freelancing is a hard business and money is always tight. Philippa had enough of that struggle early on in her career, and she has worked hard for her success. Another writer I admire just as much is Kate Mosse, another incredibly hard-working writer who manages to fit a million things into her life before breakfast. They're a great example to the rest of us, of what can be achieved beyond writing, too - in 1993, Philippa founded 'Gardens of Gambia', a project providing water for wells in the gardens of rural schools in the Gambia (you can find out more about it here, on her official website: http://www.philippagregory.com/)
But it's Philippa's books I love - I grew up on Jean Plaidy novels, starting them when I was eleven years old, with The Young Elizabeth and The Young Mary Queen of Scots. I recently returned to one of Plaidy's novels and was disappointed by the standard of the writing - perfect for an eleven-year-old, not so much now I'm an adult! Which is where Philippa comes in for me - she is that rare thing, a popular writer who is also a high quality writer, too. Her prose is as clear as Maggie O'Farrell's; her understanding of narrative superb.
Her latest novel, The Kingmaker's Daughter, is the fourth in the 'Cousins War' series that started with The White Queen, continuing through with The Red Queen and The Lady of the Rivers. The series moves away from the Tudor court to the earlier era of the Plantagenets, a family with as much scheming and treachery as the Tudors ever had. It's just been announced that the BBC will be making a ten-part series of The White Queen, which is superb news.
But nothing quite beats the books themselves. So, with no more preamble, I shall hand over to Philippa to tell us more about them!