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An exciting month for Caroline Corby

This month is an exciting one for me as the third and fourth books in a series I have written for Walker will be published on the 6th July. Cleopatra, Escape down the Nile and Boudica, The Secrets of the Druids were published last summer and now it’s the turn of William the Conqueror, Nowhere to Hide and Pocahontas, The Prophesy of Doom.


To promote the books, I do a lot of school visits and children always ask, "why did you decide to become a writer?" I wasn’t always one. For years I worked in a bank but as my family grew – I have three daughters – I found I was spending too little time with them and so I became a stay-at-home mum. Six months later, my youngest started nursery and I had the mornings to myself. I knew I had to use the time to do something I’d always wanted – write a book.


The next question is usually, how do you come up with things to write about? The idea for my series, Before They Were Famous, came when I was looking for a book for my eldest daughter. As a child I loved historical novels and I wanted to find something similar for her but there didn’t seem to be much around. That’s when I decided to write one myself and I immediately picked the Egyptian princess, Cleopatra, as my first subject.


Someone invariably asks, how do you choose which characters to write about? The truth is, when I picked Cleopatra, I got lucky. Her childhood was fantastically exciting. The Romans were threatening to invade, Alexandria was in turmoil and her father fled, leaving her in the hands of a murderous older sister. I couldn’t wait to tell her story and the experience gave me some rules when picking other characters. They must have testing childhoods, full of adventures, or they weren’t for me. Boudica was a young girl when the Romans invaded. William the Conqueror was hunted down by ruthless uncles. Pocahontas was just eleven when English settlers arrived, causing havoc for her tribe. Lady Jane Grey (to be published in 2010), was repeatedly sold by her family, in a battle to capture the English throne. And finally there’s Julius Caesar, a boy who grew up in a time of civil war and went on to conquer the world (also 2010).


The trickiest question is always, how much of your books are true? The answer is I do hours of research using the internet, museums, history books and visiting ruins. I need to know who are the key characters and the history of the period. I find out about clothes, food, weather, religion, schools, toys, homes, medicine, trades, sports …in fact every aspect of my subject’s life. And that’s the easy bit. Turning it into an exciting adventure story is much harder. But my rule is, stick to what actually happened or what’s the point? I’m telling someone else’s story and I try to be as faithful to it as I can. Let me know how you think I’ve done.


Caroline Corby

  • 03/07/2009

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