My first literary accolade was a creative writing prize at primary school and from that point on I wanted to be a novelist. I was always reading as a child and often made up stories for my brother and sister on long car journeys. I was also a huge Enid Blyton fan and by ten I was writing my own (doubtless terrible) boarding school novels. Perhaps inevitably, I took my degree in English literature and it was at Cambridge, specialising in medieval literature, that I first discovered what has become a true passion for ancient history.
I took a sidestep after university to work in a wonderful textiles factory in Lancashire - a move that led me to my lovely husband, but didn't satisfy my yearning to write. Married and living in Derbyshire, however, I took up my pen again in the sparse hours available between raising my two stepchildren and two more of my own. At that hectic time I primarily wrote shorter fiction and had well over 200 stories and serials published in women's magazines. With the older two left home, however, and the younger two at secondary school, my time has opened up and it's been a joy to fill it by writing historical novels.
I find ancient history absolutely fascinating and was delighted when, in the course of research for my Queens of the Conquest trilogy, I came across mentions of King Macbeth and, more importantly, his wife. I was intrigued to learn that they had been real rulers who ruled Scotland wisely and well for about fifteen years. These were not the cruel, frantic, half-mad characters of Shakespeare's wonderful play. I had to know more.
Further research unveiled other great Shakespearean women lurking in the wings (where women in the 'dark ages' are so often consigned). History from these times is sparse but it is there when you mine deep enough and I was able to dig out some gems: Hamlet was a real Danish king in around 600 AD, with Ofelia as his consort and shield-maiden; Lear was a Midland's warleader around 450BC and his daughter Cordelia a Boudicca-style warrior princess. These, then, were stories that had to be told.
Dearly as I love Shakespeare, I knew that these three amazing women had to be freed from the shackles of his brilliant but restrictive narratives and allowed into the world as they truly were. Blood Queen, the first in the Shakespeare's Queens trilogy will be published by Piatkus in September 2018, with Fire Queen and Iron Queen to follow.
Feel free to contact me via twitter - @joannacourtney1, facebook - joannacourtneyauthor, or my website - www.joannacourtney.com