Friday 28 June 2013


Tonight, I’m proud to say I’m talking to Sam Sweet, the main lady (I hope you don’t mind me calling you that, Sam? Oh, you do!) in Sarah England’s new book Expected, launched today by Crooked Cat. I have to admit I’m also a little bit nervous because Sam has quite a reputation and I don’t want to add to it! Well, not yet anyway! So here goes.

Sam, many thanks for joining us tonight. I know today has been particularly busy for you with the launch of your biography, though I understand your author Sarah England has done most of the work.  Still, the endless round of parties, press interviews and fan mail must be taking its toll. So, let’s talk about you rather than your biographer, because I’m sure there are things you’d like to tell us that aren’t in Expected. Comfy? Oh and please feel free to keep that second bottle of champagne. You’re right, it’ll probably stay cooler in your handbag.
Let’s get started.

I know you originally came from Weston-Super-Mare. A lovely town on the Somerset coast, but what was your childhood like? I imagine it must have been full of fun and frolics?

Fun and frolics? Are you serious? With a school so rough we didn’t have career advice – just classes on how to fill in benefits forms and what to do if you got pregnant. … And that was only if you survived the gauntlet of cigarette burns, gum stuck to your back, name-calling, drug pushing and general thieving on the school drive. By the time I got to senior school I’d wised up and got a mate who was the biggest girl you’ve ever seen – like the back end of a bus, my mother said – anyway, I used to hide behind her…

Ah, so just frolics then, Sam, but it sounds as though you rose above it all. Cutting to the chase, do you remember your first boyfriend and your first kiss?

Oh I see – straight to the mucky bits

No, no, Sam. Honestly, I just want to fill in your life story and it seemed a good point to start.

Yeh, they all say that!  It’s my chest, isn’t it Richard?  Hmm… well it was behind the Dog and Duck just after he’d been sick in the hedge on ginger beer. We were seven though, so there was time to learn.

Ah, the age of innocence! And I hadn’t noticed your chest honestly, Som…. I mean, Sam! I believe your dad left your mum some years ago, presumably while you were still in Weston-Super-Mare. That must have been tough for you, so how did you and your mother cope?

Listen, I don’t sound like Vicky Pollard, do I?

No, of course not. Ouch!

Only you will tell me, won’t you? Sorry what was that – oh yeah – well, Dad ran off with the post-mistress. She saw him sweeping up outside his greengrocers and said, ‘Blimey, that’s a big bum!’ I’d have given her a slap for that, but it seemed to do the trick for him. My mother said she was a tart – that she’d had that many men she couldn’t walk properly anymore. She’d be on the phone to the neighbours the minute the post turned up, nets twitching,  ‘Ooh have you seen her bow legs? Where’s the horse’ That sort of thing – actually that’s probably when Mum formed the coven. Eventually Dad had to emigrate to Spain. I suppose he knew about fruit, oranges and stuff … made sense. 

It sounds as though you had quite an eventful childhood. So your father went to Spain, and as an only child, living with a single parent, did you start feeling you wanted a brother, or sister... or even a baby of your own?


Well that was pretty emphatic, Sam, but perhaps the slap wasn’t totally necessary! Leaving that to one side then, you became a psychiatric nurse. What made you choose it as a career and where did you train?

Well despite the school I went to I managed to convince the other kids, with surprising ease, that I was stupid. But behind closed doors I worked quite hard and managed to pull off enough GCSE’s to get into nursing and off the estate. Then I realised that nursing meant I would have to mop up sh….I mean, sick and things… so I thought I’d do the psychiatric stuff. As my mother was clearly bonkers, I thought I might need it later as well.  I trained in Bristol.

That’s where I went to college too, but in different years.

Watch it!

No, Sam. I mean I’m older than you and you definitely do not have any wrinkles. You’re obviously a good looking woman and yet you seem to have trouble with the men in your life. Is it that you just pick the bad ones, or are you actually attracted to them, and I suppose them to you?

Are you hitting on me, Richard?  Because it won’t work  - I mean, you’re very attractive, but …frankly I’m in enough freaking trouble as it is…

Would you describe yourself as gullible?

Look – I was in a good mood before this. Can’t you ask me something nice like what’s my favourite colour or something? I am a star ya know….aren’t I supposed to have a PR person who interjects with ‘Sam can’t answer that…’ ?

I'm sorry, I don't do those sort of interviews, but you can interject as often as you need to. I'll clear up afterwards. Now I know your mum is mad keen to be a granny, and I expect that when you marry your husband will want kids. How many children would you like?

Flaming hell…

I had to ask, Sam, and thanks for not slapping me again quite so hard. Now, the most important question of all, would you ever resort to cosmetic surgery?

Are you saying I’m fat? Do I need lipo? Do I? OMG – I so cannot believe you asked me about surgery….really? is it my nose? Oh I get it – a boob reduction…you keep looking, you know, Richard. Well I suppose that might be on the cards – I nearly took my own eye out when I went jogging last week. 

Now that you mention it, Sam, I can see why your, er… assets might be a problem at times. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. Do you make friends easily and do you have someone particularly significant in your life at the moment?

Is there any more of that champagne – not that rubbish - the good stuff? Ta. Lovely. Anyway, you can’t ask me stuff about my personal life – I’m a star and I was told I’d get champagne, flowers, chocolates and a person who did my hair and make-up. Hmm…. Let’s just say that it’s in the book…actually it is very, very embarrassing what she’s put in the book….I might have to go into hiding for a bit.

I suppose what you’re saying is we have to buy Expected if we want to know about the more (how shall I put it) personal side of your life. By the way, you’ve eaten the chocolates, the flowers are with the champagne in your handbag and the make-up artist is still working on the cracks in the ceiling. You’ve had your problems, Sam, - money, men, chocolate. As a woman of the world, what advice would you give someone just starting out? .... and “don’t” is not an option!

Ha ha – are you really asking me for advice? Well, if someone is just starting out in their career or a relationship, I’d say what my old dad said to me on Christmas Eve when I was five – ‘Never expect anything and then you won’t be disappointed.’   
However, on the subject of chocolate – it is one of life’s supreme joys. But you will get fat.

Unlike you, eh Sam? Nurse to Va Va Voom woman! A bit of trivia, Sam. All the world’s most glamorous women have the same letter starting their first and last names.... Diana Dors, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and now Sam Sweet.  When you get married will you keep your surname, unless of course he’s called Smith?

Oh that’s a nice question. Well my author says I’m having a series! So it depends on what she is planning, but I imagine I will keep my surname. I like that – the world’s most glamorous women……Oh Richard, actually, now this champagne is going to my head a bit – um…you are looking strangely more attractive. Or is that just strange…?

(Looks around desperately for support). Are you going to let your biographer do a follow-up book?

Just said didn’t I? giggles…burp…hiccup….gonna be a star…do you fancy some chips?

Sarah EnglandNo thanks, I’ve still got a piece of pizza one of my previous guests left behind. Sam, it’s been a pleasure talking to you tonight. Your biography sounds like a must read book and from what I’ve seen it’s been particularly well written by your biographer Sarah England. So congratulations to her too.
You sit back and enjoy the champagne while I call a taxi. No, the third bottle is mine!

Give it here……Now! Richard….give it back….I mean, yes thank you (wrestles Richard to the ground) – lovely interview. Charmed. I mean it….

Sam’s biographer Sarah England has an excellent website at

Expected is published by Crooked Cat and is available either through their website at
or through Amazon on

and of course

Friday 21 June 2013


My interview tonight is with one of the world’s bestselling authors and a personal hero of mine. His Sharpe series, based on the Napoleonic Wars, became a tremendous success when transferred to television and his ability to combine wonderful fictional narrative with well-researched historical events makes each of his books a delight to read. His main characters whether Sharpe, Uhtred, Arthur Pendragon or Starbuck are all legends, or well on the way to becoming so, and after well over thirty books he continues to enthral his readers.

It’s a great pleasure tonight for me to talk to Bernard Cornwell.

Bernard, your books cover a wide range of time periods from prehistory with Stonehenge to the Sharpe series set in the 19th century. Is there a new century you would still like to explore?

There is, and I’m hoping to explore it this winter – a new series set in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries.

The late Tudor and Jacobean period? I'm presuming we're talking about England. Going back to your start as an author, the story has it that you got your first novel published by thrusting it in the hands of a publisher while watching a parade. A great way of evading the famous Slush Pile if it’s true! Is that what happened?

That’s not quite what happened. I was at a party watching New York’s Thanksgiving Day parade when a laconic English voice said ‘they do this sort of thing frightfully well’. He was a literary agent and I persuaded him (with difficulty) to read the novel I’d just finished, and for which I was having difficulty finding a publisher. Within a week I had a seven-book contract. He’s still my agent thirty something years later!

The Sharpe books were your first published novels. What made you choose the Napoleonic Wars as your debut on the writing stage?

You write what you want to read!  I was (still am)  a huge fan of the Hornblower series and it struck me as odd that so many writers were dealing with the naval side of the Napoleonic wars and none was writing about the land campaigns. It seemed to me to be a gap on the shelf!

I know you must have been asked a thousand times about Sharpe, but two quick questions. Asides from the time when Sharpe is in Portugal most of the series has been filmed for TV, but are there any plans to film Sharpe’s Devil?

I hope not, it’s not a book I’m fond of! 

The other question on Sharpe, of course, is will he feature in any future books?

Probably. I don’t know when, but I’ve kept back one splendid battle for a novel and one day I’ll get round to writing it!

It’s a great shame, but there can never be any further Arthurian Warlord books, for obvious reasons. The series has a special place for me and I find something new in its magic every time I reread it, but do you have a favourite Cornwell book, or series?

The Arthur trilogy is my favourite!  They were fantastically exciting to write, which is why I like them so much. But I have a lot of other favourites – I like Gallow’s Thief and The Fort, and for some reason Sharpe’s Siege.  But my favourite Sharpe book?  Trafalgar.

All of your books are historically very accurate from the point of view of geography and main events. How much time do you spend researching each novel, certainly at the beginning of each series?

It’s really an impossible question to answer, sorry! Research is a lifetime activity. I became fascinated by the Napoleonic period when I was a teenager and began to read widely back then, similarly I became incredibly interested in the Anglo-Saxons when I was at university, so between that period and actually writing Uhtred is a gap of what? Thirty, forty years?  And I was reading about the Saxons all that time, and all that reading is fed into the research. 

At the moment you bring out at least one book a year, you also act of course and you travel a lot. Do you have a strict annual routine you try to keep to?
I write between October and April!  And generally I refuse any invitation to travel in that period. From June to August I’m caught up in the Monomoy Theatre in Chatham on Cape Cod where, for my sins, I’m a member of the company. That leaves May, September and October! Not a bad life!

Very few internationally successful authors are as open as you on social networks, especially Facebook. Few also take the time to reply on their websites to fans’ queries and comments. Is keeping in touch with your fan base important to you?

I should imagine it’s important to any author!  You get a lot of ideas from readers!

You now live on Cape Cod, one of the most beautiful parts of the world and I love going whale-watching in Provincetown. Did you and Judy move there to write, or move there because you could because of your writing?

Because we could, because it’s a beautiful part of the world, because the sailing is good here! We actually split our time between Cape Cod (summer) and Charleston, South Carolina (winter). We own a house in the historic district of Charleston which is, of course, sensationally beautiful, and it’s in Charleston that I do most of the writing.

As part Canadian, born and brought up in the UK and living in America, do you now consider the United States as your “home” country?

I’ve lived in the US for half my life!  Yes, I consider it home, because it is, but I still think of myself as English and, of course, retain a huge loyalty and affection for Britain. But I married into the US, and there’s not much you can do when you fall in love except go with the flow, and as we seem to be very happily married and because Judy has family here, it’s just more convenient to live here. And I like it! Who wouldn’t like living in Cape Cod and Charleston?

You’ve done more than most writers could ever aspire to, but do you have one ambition you would still like to achieve?

To write a better book?  For a long time my ambition was to sail the Atlantic in a small boat, but I did that with two friends a few years ago. I’d like to play Prospero some time, and who knows? It might happen . . . .