Fiona Mountain grew up in Sheffield and moved to London aged eighteen where she worked in the Radio One press office for ten years, handling the PR for presenters including John Peel, Mark Radcliffe and Steve Wright. She also travelled with the Radio One Summer Roadshow.
Her first novel, Isabella, tells the haunting love story of Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian and his cousin, Isabella Curwen. It was short-listed for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2000, the first debut novel to reach the shortlist. It was followed with Pale as the Dead and Bloodline, which combine history with mystery and feature ‘ancestor detective’, Natasha Blake. Bloodline is the winner of the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award.
Rebel Heiress, 2009, (first published as Lady of the Butterflies), marked her permanent return to historical fiction. This was followed by Isabella, Cavalier Queen and her latest novel Mistress Fawkes (due for publication in 2014).
She lives in a seventeenth century house in the Cotswolds with her husband, Tim, a musician, and their four young children.
Many novels contain a murder mystery element. Why did you choose to use this for “Bloodline”?
I’m primarily a historical novelist and I was intrigued by the similarities between the work of family historians/genealogists and detectives – both roles involve the piecing together of a puzzle – and in fact genealogists are sometimes referred to as ‘ancestor detectives’. I also liked the idea of a a contemporary crime with its roots in history, and the unearthing of those roots in order to solve the crime.
This book contains the same character as one of your previous novels, Natasha Blake. Who is she? Please tell us about this character.
Natasha in an ‘ancestor detective’ – a professional genealogist who loves history but also loves modern technology. She has her own very personal reasons for being interested in family history.
It has been optioned by TV producer Leonard Goldberg. Is this likely to happen, and what would you like a TV adaptation to be like?
With any film or TV project it’s a case of ‘don’t hold you breath’! It would be wonderful if it did happen. Initially I was asked to write an outline for the TV series which involved transferring Natasha from the Cotswolds of the novels to San Francisco so I think the TV series would be very different to the books.
Your other books Cavalier Queen and Rebel Heiress are set during the Civil War and the Restoration. What interests you about those times?
The seventeenth century is a wonderful period to write about because it was an era of great turmoil and change with great potential for drama. I also love the colour of the period – the fashion and the decadence etc.
As a writer of fiction, what prompted you to write historical fiction?
High Jeopardy, I think it’s called in the movies. Or high stakes. For instance, adultery could cause you to lose your head literally! Also I am fascinated by the past and how people don’t change all that much. What made people happy or sad, angry or jealous or ambitious, in the seventeenth century could do the same in the twenty-first century.
Are any of your characters based on yourself, for example Natasha Blake’s passion for history?
My sister says Natasha is my alter ego! All the things I’d like to be and have done! She studied history at Oxford which I’d have love to have done. She’s a ballerina, and though I loved ballet I was never very good at it. Her musical tastes – Nick Cave for instance – are definitely mine.
How much historical fact can a reader expect to learn from Rebel Heiress and Cavalier Queen?
Lots! Because I’m so fascinated by history I love researching my novels and weaving a story around real historical events or people. So readers may learn a lot about butterfly collecting and the scientific revolution as well as life on the Somerset Levels from Rebel Heiress and about the Civil War and the lives of Henry Jermyn and Queen Henrietta in Cavalier Queen.
Why did the change of title from Lady of the Butterflies to Rebel Heiress come about?
A certain supermarket chain demanded the change! They said they’d stock the book but only if the title was changed. The book will always be Lady of The Butterflies to me though.
From your research who was the most interesting historical figure to discover?
That’s a hard question to answer. What I love most is discovering a historical character who is only a footnote in history and bringing them alive. Eleanor Glanville who I wrote about in Lady of the Butterflies was a wonderful find. A lady who lived in a beautiful manor house on the wetlands who was accused of madness for being interested in butterflies but who was a pioneering lepidopterist respected by her peers at a time when women were not allowed to be interested in science, or natural philosophy as it was then termed.
What do you like about events most?
Meeting readers, because writing is such a solitary occupation.
What makes your event special, unique, or controversial?
You’ll have to come along and find out!
Thank you for your time Fiona, look forward to seeing you at The Thames Valley History Festival 2013.
Find out all about Fiona Mountain @http://www.fionamountain.com
Fiona will be speaking at A Nation Sundered, Sunday 17th November 11am, in Clarence Tea Rooms
Tickets are £7.50 (10% discount with advantage card) available in October.
If you buy tickets to two different events you get a third event free.