Q&A With Wendy Holden

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Q&A With Wendy Holden 

Today’s Q&A is with the British author of the bestselling The Windsor Women Trilogy which includes the novels The Governess which is about Marion Crawford the young Scottish teacher who was the close childhood confidante of the late Queen Elizabeth II.  The second book is The Duchess and the third and final book titled The Princess which is about the young Princess Diana. It comes out on August 17th this year. 

 Q: So Wendy, what made you choose to write books about Wallis Simpson, Marian Crawford & Princess Diana in particular? 


A: One led to another, really. I was first drawn to Marion Crawford’s amazing story after I discovered her autobiography in a second-hand bookshop. She dedicated her life to the young Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret and was with them through the Abdication, their parents’ coronation and the whole of World War II. But afterwards she was ostracized by the Royal Family after she wrote a harmless and deeply admiring book. They wanted to make an example of her so no-one else would write a book about them (that worked!). Wallis Simpson is a character in The Governess but I got so interested in her and liked her so much I decided to write an entire novel about her. That was The Duchess. And then I realized I had two novels which had an entirely new take on these controversial women, so why not do a trilogy and have the final novel about the most controversial Windsor woman of all! However, I wanted to write about the young Diana, the forces and circumstances that made her. The point at which the novel stops is the point at which she really emerged on the world stage, on the steps of St Paul’s in 1981. 

Q: When did you know that you wanted to write historical novels and that you wanted to be an author at all? 

A: I have always wanted to write historical novels, it just took me a long time to get around to it. I needed the right subject and in fact I’d wanted to write about the Windsors for years before I actually did it. They have always struck me as characters from a novel; huge personalities and all very different from each other. And the storylines are wild! As for being an author, it came about after many years as a journalist. Newspapers and magazines were good training in writing to deadlines and also spotting subjects that would interest other people.

Q: Did you get to see the coronation of King Charles III? Whether you did or not, what did you think of it? Here in America we don’t have kings and queens but some of us (present company included) love watching royal events. I think it has to do with how some countries have leaders from the same family for years whereas we have a chance to change or keep leaders every 4 years. 

A: I enjoyed the pomp and circumstance, quite literally, as the music was the real star of the show so far as I was concerned. The Abbey is beautiful and so incredibly old and historic. It was amazing to look at St Edward’s Chair and think that English kings and queens had been crowned on it for a millennium.  Henry VIII had sat on that chair, and Elizabeth I. And Anne Boleyn, who had her own coronation in 1533. Think of the stories that chair could tell!

Q: If you’re writing a new novel right now, which historical figure is it about this time around?

A: I’m considering a few possibilities but haven’t quite settled on one yet. I’ll let you know when I do!

Q: If you were to write in a different genre that isn’t history, which genre would it be and why?

A: For quite a long time I wrote romcoms and had great success; ten consecutive top ten bestsellers in both hardback and paperback, including a Number One. I really enjoyed writing them and in a way they led me to royalty because royal life has its comic side. The Princess has lots of jokes and fun in it because Diana was a funny person, she loved to laugh and didn’t take herself too seriously. Obviously her story was sad too but I really wanted to draw attention to the jolly side of her life, the years when she shared a flat in Kensington, London, with her friends and their goldfish who they called Battersea.

Q: What is the research process like when gathering information about historical figures? What’s your advice to anyone wanting to write historical novels? 

A: It depends who it is. In the case of Marion Crawford there were few sources beyond her autobiography. But for Princess Diana, there were hundreds of books, biographies, histories and the like. I think you need an idea of the story you want to write, and be original – all three of my Windsor novels have been a bit different from the accepted view of their subjects. With royalty, it’s all about the detail; some details can be really strange and revealing. In The Princess, I explored Diana’s obsession with romantic novels, which she read from an early age. Most commentators on her tend to dismiss this as stupid and childish, but I think it’s fundamental. She sought comfort in syrupy love stories of the Barbara Cartland variety after her parents’ toxic divorce. Gradually, they formed her world view. It’s the only thing that explains why, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, she insisted on seeing Prince Charles as a knight in shining armor who was passionately in love with her. That Barbara Cartland fixation had world-changing consequences, some of which are still playing out.

Q: Which royals and other historical figures would you want to cover writing a book about in the future and why?

A: Melania Trump? Just kidding!