Sunday 14 February 2021

Sunday Guest Spot - Annie Whitehead

Continuing our Sunday Series
of taking a look at some fabulous authors!

Hello Annie, welcome to our Discovering Diamonds Guest Spot. Along with my readers and visitors I love to hear from authors who write wonderful stories. There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book in front of a cosy fire, box of chocs and glass of wine to hand. (Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case it’s still the wine, but a platter of cheese, crackers and grapes to hand, while stretched out in a deckchair in the garden on a warm, sunny, evening...)

Q. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself...
A. I’m Annie, and I’m an author and historian, with a special interest in (some might say obsession with!) the Anglo-Saxon era. In ‘past lives’ I’ve been a singer and a pre-school music teacher.

Q. Where do you live?
A. Quite near the English Lake District but the ‘quite near’ is important because it’s a little more off the beaten track.

Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. In this imaginary scenario can I be rich enough to own several houses? I’d love to have a base back in Norfolk where I spent my formative years, but I also love Wales, particularly North Wales. Mainly though, I’d be happy living anywhere that’s near the sea.

Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A. You’d think that being interested in history that I’d like an old house, or castle but actually I don’t think I’d be able to sleep in an old building – that’s where the ghosts live, isn’t it?

Q. Cat,  dog or budgie?
A. I’m currently employed by a cat and have had several feline bosses over the years, but I am very fond of dogs too. I’ve never been on first name terms with a budgie so I’d have to reserve judgement there!

Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. We always sat round the big family dining table when the kids were all still at home. These days there’s just the two of us here so it’s the kitchen table, with the TV on.

Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. I don’t watch the soaps as I find they’re addictive but I’ll watch just about anything else on telly except reality shows and crime dramas.

Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. It told the story of Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians. She was the daughter of Alfred the Great and ended up ruling in a country and leading the fight against the Vikings.

Q. What was your last novel about?
A. I went back even further in time and wrote the story of Penda, the last pagan king of Mercia. It was a story of love, blood feud and vengeance.

Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. So far I’ve only written fiction in one genre, but I do also write nonfiction books about history.

Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A. I have. In fact I’m currently outlining the plot for a contemporary novel. 

Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A. Just two? Hmm, difficult choice. I think I’d pick Alvar, from my second novel because there’d never be a dull moment with him, and Derwena from my third. As the wife of Penda she had to put up with much heartache but she was a very independent and strong woman.

Q. Where would you go / what would you do? With those two, I think there’d be a lot of drinking and merry-making, but I’d like to take them somewhere they’d both enjoy and that would be a modern fairground. They are both up for any kind of challenge, love adventure and I think they’d literally enjoy the ride!

Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. With my characters do you mean? I’d love to go by horseback actually, so they could show me the world from their perspective. Otherwise one of my favourite modes of transport is a narrow boat. There is something really calming about pootling along slowly, whilst being so close to nature. Canal banks are beautiful.

Q. You are out for a walk. You see a chap sitting on a wall, looking right fed up – but there’s something odd about him... What? And what  do you do?
A. It’s odd because he only has one shoe on. His other foot is bare and his toenails are painted. At first I assume he’s been on his stag night and abandoned but then I notice he’s crying. Not sobbing, or shuddering, but just a tear sitting on his cheek. I talk to him because he’s young and reminds me of my son. I know how fragile hearts can be at that age. He tells me that he and his girlfriend have had a big argument. I can’t help much but I listen, and go away hoping that they patch things up, and worrying very much about him. I realise, as I walk away, that he hasn’t lost his shoe at all, but that he was looking at his toe nails and remembering the laughs they had when she painted them. I hope they find that joy again.

We have a long-running Radio programme here in the UK called Desert Island Discs on which celebrities talk about their life and select eight of their favourite discs... so changing that slightly...

Q. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what eight books would you want to find left in an abandoned hut? (There’s already a Bible, the Quran, and the complete works of Shakespeare)

1. Flambards by KM Peyton
2. English Historical Documents Vol I 500-1042 by Dorothy Whitelock
3. The Reckoning by Sharon Penman
4. 1066 and All That by R. J. Yeatman and W. C. Sellar
5. Down with Skool by Geoffrey Willans
6. Flight of the Heron by D. K. Broster
7. King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
8. Walter de la Mere: The Complete Poems

Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A. I’d like a desert island because of the sun and clear blue water, but an island further north would give the changing seasons which might provide some variety, especially if I don’t get rescued for a while.

Q. And you would be allowed one luxury item – what would you want it to be? (a boat or something to escape on isn’t allowed.)
A. It would have to be something on which I could play, or listen to, music. A piano? Or an i-pod that never needed recharging!

Click HERE (and scroll down to 'W') to find our  reviews of Annie's books  on Discovering Diamonds

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  1. Thank you so much for welcoming me back to your blog Helen. It was such great fun answering those questions!

  2. A woman after my own heart, Annie! The Flight of the Heron by DK Broster is absolutely my favourite book of all time.

    1. Isn't it wonderful? My mum was talking about having read it many years ago so I tracked down a copy and read it before handing it over to her. I'm so glad I did! :-)


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