The RONA shortlists: Mary Fitzgerald on Love of a Lifetime
Mary Fitzgerald is shortlisted for the Epic Romantic Novel Prize. See the other shortlisted historical titles for the Romantic Novel of The Year. The winner will be announced on Monday 17th March 2014.
The idea for this novel came to me when my husband and I bought an eighteenth century farmhouse. I was intrigued with the notion of all the lives it had seen and started to write an imaginary life of just one of them. But quite soon into the writing Richard Wilde, the hero of my novel, began to change from being an ordinary farmer’s son. His passion for Elizabeth his brother’s wife, became the guiding force of his very existence, his hopes and dreams were invested in her and the loss and despair which followed remained with him. Because of that, my earlier idea of chronicling a farming life over the course of nearly a century, became merely a background. Strangely, after finishing the novel, I was chatting to an elderly woman in the village and she told me that the farmer’s brother, who had lived in my house had been in love with his brother’s wife. It was, to say the least, unnerving. I think I am most proud of the tragic moments in my novel, the ones that people say make them cry. I think it’s important to write sorrow and despair as well as one can.
History and romance, or romance and history?
I think I write history first, romance second. The setting, the time, the local and world events all make a background for whatever romance occurs. And that romance is inevitably altered by the circumstances and people who surround the couple. Romance was different a hundred, even fifty years ago. Young men and women generally behaved in a way proscribed by their parents and it took a deep and overwhelming passion for them to kick against the traces. An area of romance that I find myself unable to write is modern, urban ‘chic lit’. I live deep in the country and when I was a much younger woman and lived in London, I probably lived in the way that many of the girls in these novels do, but that was then and I write now.
Which writers have most influenced your work?
I love Daphne du Maurier and read and re-read her novels regularly. I also enjoy Mollie Keane, Anya Seton, Georgette Heyer, Barbara Pym, and Margaret Irwin. Lately I’ve enjoyed Hilary Mantel. I’m currently writing another novel set in the thirties. It was, in retrospect, a strange time between two devastating wars when modern thought was emerging alongside ‘new’ novels, movies and music. I think writers now manage to humanise their characters while staying true to historical fact.
Cathie Earnshaw or Elizabeth Bennett? Elizabeth Bennett
Shabby chic or National Trust? neither
Jamie Fraser or the Scarlet Pimpernel? Scarlett Pimpernel
Call the Midwife or Downton Abbey? both
Glastonbury Abbey or Wells Cathedral? Chester Cathedral
Dinner with… Tony Robinson or Dan Snow? Dan Snow
Movie or theatre? Movie
Wolf Hall or The Other Boleyn Girl? Wolf Hall
Rococco or Greek Revival? Greek Revival