What made you choose such an intriguing subject as focus for this novel?
I have been fascinated by Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, or Sisi, since my childhood. I saw a picture of her dressed in a white ball gown with diamond stars adorning her hair and it has stayed with me ever since. When I found out a bit more about her extraordinary life and in particular her relationship with an Englishman, Bay Middleton, I knew I had to put her into a novel.
Would you describe yourself as a romantic woman?
Definitely. Although my fiction is set in the past, I put everything I know about life and love into my characters. Writing a book is a bit like falling in love; it is all consuming, but the difference is that there is such a sense of relief when it is finished.
Do you secretly yearn for a return to past manners, mores and courtly love?
Great question. There are moments when I am writing about stately homes when I think how nice it would be to be able to ring for the butler, and I have secret hankerings to waltz the night away wearing a diamond tiara and opera gloves. But while, for those lucky enough to have money and position, there was ease and elegance in the past, there is no doubt in my mind that it is better to be a woman today than at any time in history. I once spent the whole day wearing a Victorian corset to get a sense of what it would have been like for the female characters in my book, and it was excruciatingly uncomfortable.
Will you stay in this genre with your next novel?
My next novel is set at the court of Queen Victoria, so yes; it is another book that mixes fact and fiction. I loved writing about Queen Victoria so much in THE FORTUNE HUNTER that I thought I would return to her. She was such an interesting, if often monstrous, character.