Friday 31 May 2013


My guest tonight is a twenty-eight year old author, Anthony Price.
Tales of MerryvilleAs an avid reader and film fanatic, he was first published at the age of fifteen and since achieving his MA in Creative Writing, has had several short stories published in e-zines and anthologies. He is also the author of his own horror anthology entitled Tales of Merryville which is available to buy in e-book format on Amazon. 
His novel, The House of Wood, has been in the works for three years and started off as a small writing exercise on his MA before recently being published by Crooked Cat. Being a chair-bound writer, this novel is very special to him and especially as it made the top 100 list in its genre chart on Amazon.
Anthony is currently working on several creative projects to look out for in the future, 
including more horror novels, a feature film and a TV show.

Anthony, many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed tonight. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve talked to anyone who has had so many projects underway at the same time. Is this intentional?

I do always seem to have a lot of projects going on at one time.  It’s partly intentional, as I like to keep busy.  But it’s also to do with the fact that the ideas just keep coming to me.  When I get a new idea in my head, I have to start work on it immediately.  I’m getting better at sticking to one project at a time though.

I wish my brain was as active, but then you have the advantage of youth! Tell me about your background. Have you always lived in the Canterbury area?

Yes, I’ve lived here my entire life.  All twenty-eight years of it.  My whole family has lived in the area for generations.  It’s a nice place to live and it has quite a rich literary background.  I find it quite fitting.

And of course quite a history of murder, mayhem and revolts! Do you particularly like horror stories as a genre to both read and write?

I’m a massive fan of both horror literature and film.  I’ve been an avid reader of the genre for as long as I can remember, having my first taste of it with the Point Horror books.  In my late teens, I moved on to Stephen King and the late James Herbert.  Writing horror was a natural progression from that.  As it turns out, I enjoy writing it as much as reading it.  There’s just something about horror.  I guess it allows me to unleash my darker side.

I know you’re wheelchair bound with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2. Has this influenced what you write about?

Actually, it’s only recently that I’ve started to use my experiences as a disabled person in my writing.  I was always told to write what I know, but I always found that difficult and I preferred to be as far away from the subject I was writing about as possible, hence the reason why the main character in The House of Wood is a young, able-bodied female.  However, I’m starting to see the benefit of having a unique perspective and unique experiences when it comes to telling stories.

How important do you think social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook are to you as an author?

I think as an unknown writer, trying to build a platform, they’re absolutely vital.  I’ve made so many new friends and writing connections through social media that have been a real help.  They’re a great tool for marketing the work and getting your message out there.  I don’t think I would’ve done half as well without them.

When you start a book, are you organised from the point of view of characterization and plot, or do you let things develop as you progress?

When I first started writing, I never used to plan at all, but I would always get to a point and then get writer’s block.  A lot of my early short stories took me so long to write because I didn’t plan ahead.  Now I spend at least a week getting a list of characters together with brief biographies and a relatively detailed plot outline together.  Although, once I start the actual writing part, I tend to not stick rigidly to my outline, as that can also stop the creative flow and the writing becomes flat.  Sometimes you need to just let the characters run the show.  It’s quite surprising sometimes what comes out of it.

Do you try to set aside a set amount of time each day to write?

That’s a good question.  It really depends on my mood.  If I’m in the zone, then I have been known to work for up to seven hours a day, seven days a week.  I think that the more you write, the better you get at it.  Plus, a novel isn’t going to write itself.  Most of the time, I make sure I get at least a couple of hours down a day with a couple of days off to relax. 

How did you come up with the plot for The House of Wood?

The House of Wood started out as a small exercise on my Creative Writing Masters.  I was originally going to write it as a short story, but there were so many things that I could add to it and ideas just kept coming to me, that I couldn’t do it justice in a few words.  It had to be a novel.  The plot changed a lot over the course of the writing process, but most of those original strands can still be found in the book.  I managed to tie them all together, without having to change too much to make it work.  At first, I thought it would be too convoluted.  As it turns out, it actually works really well.  Thankfully.

Being taken on by Crooked Cat must have been a thrill. Will they be your publisher from now on?

It was very exciting when they agreed to publish The House of Wood.  They’re a great publisher and really know what they’re doing.   I’m hoping that we can continue working together for some time to come.

What authors have inspired you in the past and which continue to do so now?

I think my biggest influences would have to be Stephen King and James Herbert.  Stephen King single handedly saved the horror genre from obscurity by giving it a fresh, new take with Carrie.  James Herbert was the first adult horror that I read.  I admire them both very much.

What piece of advice would you give an aspiring author?

The best piece of advice I could give any aspiring author is to just go out there and do it.  Keep writing.  The key to success is perseverance and not giving up, no matter how many rejections you get.  A writer can learn from criticism as well as praise.

What would be the single most important thing for you to achieve within the next five years?

I have big ambitions for the next few years.  My main aim is to carry on writing and to have a few more novels published, but I also want to put any revenue that I earn through royalties into starting my own film production company.  It’s going to be a long hard slog, but I’ve always enjoyed a challenge.

Many thanks for joining us tonight. Good luck with everything you do. I look forward to seeing the launch of Price Productions!

Follow Anthony on:
Facebook -
Twitter - @anthonyprice84
and on his website -

Friday 24 May 2013


        My guest today is a British historian, author and former actress.
Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the MonarchyCapturing the Light: The Birth of PhotographyHer books include works on revolutionary Russia, as well as the Victorian era and as a fluent Russian speaker she’s translated Chekov into English and worked with major British playwrights, such as Tom Stoppard. Fellow historians recognise her as being an authority on her specialist areas which include the Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole, who went to the Crimea against all odds. Her book, Magnificent Obsession was published in November 2011 which just happened to be the 150th anniversary of its subject’s death.... Prince Albert. She  has just published Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, co-authored with Roger Watson, which tells the story of Henry Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre.
My guest has been interviewed many times, including by Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour, and I’m so pleased she has agreed to join us today.
Without a doubt, this multi-talented person could only be Helen Rappaport.

Helen, Many thanks for agreeing to join me tonight. I love your books and I see you as a "talking head" on television, but for many years you were on our TV screens as an actress. What made you give that up and concentrate on history and especially write about it?

I worked in TV and films as an actress after leaving university, mainly to exorcise a passion for acting that I had acquired performing in student theatre. It didn’t work out that well; I was broke, depressed and out of work for a lot of the time. But I had luckily kept my interest in Russian and history alive and had taken various freelance writing and translation jobs to keep my hand in. In the end it was a natural and logical change of direction away from acting into writing history, which I had always loved, though of course I merely exchanged one insecure profession for another!

I wonder if it's the actress in you that makes you empathise with your reader audience, because I certainly don't find your books purely didactic. You were once an editor. Tell me, ohw does that discipline help you in your writing
Hugely.   My work as an academic desk editor and copy editor was an extremely valuable grounding in how to write and not to write; in how to organize one’s narrative and present one’s research material and all the reference apparatus. It was instrumental in ensuring I set myself high standards in this regard when I turned to writing history full time. It also trained me to have an eagle eye for grammar, style and punctuation and the kind of inaccuracies and inconsistencies that plague history writing.

Those standards certainly come through in your writing. Do you have a set routine and place where you write?

No never. Routine kills inspiration. I never sit down and tell myself I must do so many words at such and such a time. Some days, if the ideas are flowing and I feel good, I will work very long and hard, though I try never to be at my computer after 8 pm because then I don’t sleep well as my brain is still churning. But on days when inspiration deserts me I never ever push it – I just find something else to do.

That's very wise and a good discipline. What is your aim as a writer, and what do you believe the role of a writer is today?

My aim is fundamentally the same as any other self-employed professional: to earn enough to live on; to receive a reasonable degree of commendation of my work from my intellectual and professional peers and most of all, to write history that reveals something new and interesting, even about well-covered subjects.  As for the role of the writer – I never think of myself in those terms. I write because it is what I can do; it’s my profession, how I earn my living. There is no mystique about it. Though I do love something Susan Sontag said about a writer needing to pay attention to things around them, to have a curiosity about the world.  That is essential because having that curiosity, one is always looking for something new to say, which in history writing is the essential thing. That curiosity is what certainly drives me.

A lot of your writing is about powerful women, but not necessarily about empowerment. Could you tell me more about your aspirations for women’s history?
There is nothing I love more than uncovering the lost stories of women in history, of women who till now have been a footnote in bigger books – such as the heroic army wives who travelled to the Crimea; or of discovering totally lost stories, such as that of the Victorian anti-heroine and con artist Madame Rachel.  I am always on the lookout for new, unknown or neglected female subjects.  The only trouble is that the trade publishers don’t normally share my passion for them!  Selling obscure women’s stories in the current economic climate is well nigh impossible.

It must be. Do you sometimes feel as though you are a pioneer in this field?

Well that’s a very flattering thing to say, I would certainly like to feel that I have trodden new ground and uncovered lost women’s history yes. But I always set out to do so with all my subjects, male or female.

You certainly did with your last project which was on Victorian photography. What made you chose that?

Louis Daguerre, the most famous of the founding fathers of photography.I didn’t – it was  suggested to me by my agent who brought me together with another of his clients, Roger Watson, Curator of the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock Abbey, to write the book. Roger is the photohistorian and good on the science; I am the social historian and trade writer. It was a very successful mix, I feel, as Roger is such a good and tolerant collaborator. But not all collaborations, of course, are as easy to handle and we were very lucky.

You were and I hope the book is a tremendous success. Do you know what your next project will be?

Yes, and it is written and has just been delivered to my editor at Pan Macmillan.  It is the untold story of the four Romanov sisters who were murdered at Ekaterinburg in 1918.  We know so little about the real girls behind the iconic public image of girls in white dresses and big picture hats. What I set out  to write was, effectively, a domestic life of the Romanovs, that reveals a lot of detail about the last Russian imperial family that many people will not be aware of.  So in that sense I very much set out to break new ground; I think and hope I will surprise people.

You usually do, Helen, and I'm really looking forward to the book coming out. What single piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer today?

I can’t be that pat about it. There’s lots to take on board. You need to be resilient, optimistic and work very very hard. Nothing falls into any writer’s lap unless you are unbelievably lucky. Nor is anything guaranteed beyond each book, as you finish it It is an extremely insecure profession, where the rewards for the  vast majority of writers are small, and getting even smaller. If you are looking for fame and fortune, this is not the profession for you. It requires a lot of persistence and absolute dedication to the craft.

One last question, Helen.  What one thing would you like to achieve during the next 5 years?

An obvious answer but like any writer I would love to have an international bestseller, not just for the kudos, but more importantly for the degree of financial security it might bring me.  Aside from that I just want to keep on writing engaging, narrative-driven, well-researched history until either I drop or lose my marbles.

Helen, I rather think your marbles are safe for many years to come! It’s been a pleasure talking to you and thank you so much for your time, as well as for agreeing to meet my blog community. Your books have always been a pleasure to read and I’m really looking forward to reading your next work.

You can find out about Helen and her books on her excellent website

Magnificent Obsession and Capturing the Light are available now
Helen's untold history of the four Romanov sisters will be published later this year