Connect with Joanna
I am a Scot, born and raised in Glasgow, one of the friendliest places in the world. Unfortunately, there were not many career opportunities in Scotland at the time I left University, and so I migrated to London. Living in England didn't stop me from hankering after the glorious wildness of the Scottish mountains and lochs, but short visits were the best I could do.
I have always been a history fan, fascinated by the detail of how our ancestors lived. I try to imagine the effects of working by candlelight rather than electricity, and how they coped with all that coal and water carrying, all that horse dung in the smelly, unswept streets. I marvel at the idea of scythe men creating a bowling green lawn, or seamstresses hand-sewing every stitch of a spider gauze gown. And I shudder at the extravagances of the rich, who could gamble away tens of thousands of pounds at a sitting, while the working poor subsisted on only a few shillings a week.
Like most writers, I have always scribbled. At school, I concocted a handwritten magazine with tiny writing that hardly anyone could read. I wrote stories and poems for school magazines and competitions. As an exchange student in France, I wrote reams of letters filled with pretty wild imaginings and some bad poetry (in rather suspect French).
When we were living abroad, I started writing children's stories. My children liked them, of course, but the publishers didn't. Then one day, I found Mills & Boon historicals, and I was hooked. I used to write on the commuter train to London and back, for about two hours a day. It was very peaceful in those days; most commuters were hiding behind their newspapers, and mobile phones hadn't been invented. At one stage, I spent several journeys playing piquet against myself with a miniature pack of cards, in order to be sure that all the scores I was quoting in my story were possible. My fellow passengers looked curiously at me out of the corners of their eyes, but nobody ever broke the silence to ask what on earth I was doing. Just as well, probably. What could I have said?
It took me nearly nine years of rejections to get one of my manuscripts accepted. It was published in 2001, as A Penniless Prospect, and short-listed for the New Writer's Award of the Romantic Novelists Association. I'm still writing Regencies, but I've been studying medieval history since I stopped working full-time, and I'm now planning stories set in that period, too.
When we moved away from London commuter-land a few years ago, we did try to find a new home in Scotland, but it didn't work out. We settled near the Welsh border instead. It's an ideal location. The countryside is full of medieval history – ruined castles, Offa's Dyke, cathedrals and churches, black and white villages – and some of the scenery reminds me of Scotland.
I have now indulged my love of Scotland a little by writing a book set there – Bride of the Solway. When I was researching the story, I spent some time in the Border country, visiting the ruined castles and admiring the spectacular scenery. I found it all fascinating, and I plan to write more stories set in Scotland.
The Taming of the Shrew (the Burton and Taylor version)