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Hayley Nolan

Hayley NolanHayley Nolan is the writer/producer and presenter of hit iTunes podcast series The History Review and its spin-off vlog series, which has gained more than one million views in its first 5 months. She is a graduate of London’s prestigious Royal Court Young Writer’s Programme, has trained in screenwriting at RADA and creative writing at Cambridge University, and has trained in screenwriting at RADA. An Anne Boleyn expert, her research has seen her working with the French and UK governments, partnering with some of the UK’s most respected historical organisations, and has garnered her the support of respected historians. ‘Anne Bolyeyn – 500 Years of Lies’ is her latest book.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
    I’m actually a trained scriptwriter as that’s the medium I have the most affinity with. After graduating from the Royal Court Theatre Young Writer’s Programme in London I went on to further train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Advances in Scriptwriting. It was my script work that lead me to then take a side-step into history, which I didn’t intend to be the huge career diversion it’s become, but when I discovered the incredible censorship surrounding Anne Boleyn’s story I realised there was a book in this that needed to be written!
  2. Out of all the historical icons, why did you decide to create a book about Anne Boleyn?
    It was the least conscious decision I’ve ever made, it kind of unfolded bit by bit. I first set out to understand, simply for my own interest, why Henry could do what he did to Anne; how after supposedly fighting for seven years to be with the woman they say he loved that he could decapitate her within three years of eventually marrying her. So it was through my research into the king that I discovered the truth about Anne hidden away from the general public, smattered across the pages of obscure history books and right there in the original source material the historians work from. When I started to piece the puzzle together and had those lightbulb moment I realised I simply had to share this with a wider commercial audience because so far they were just being fed the lies. This is how the podcast came to be…but after some reluctance I knew I had to bite the bullet and write a book. Something needed to be out there on a bigger scale to counteract the lies that get sold in the commercial history books, TV documentaries and dramas.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Hollie Kyte would be a great one, she has just released her debut book ‘Roaring Girls: The Forgotten Feminists of British History’ and we are so on the same page in terms of bringing the censored stories of powerful women into the mainstream. Similarly, Anneka Harry has written an incredible book coming out in 2020 called ‘Gender Rebels’, she’d have to be invited as she tells the world about 50 sheroes who, in her own words, had to change the rules and their identities to get sh*t done! Love it! Alya Mooro, the kick-ass author of ‘The Greater Freedom’ would have to be in there too. She’s challenging stereotypes about Middle Eastern women in her new book which is part biography and part social commentary, something we need if we are to truly become this progressive society we claim to aspire to. Oooh can I invite Danielle Jawando too? She is a scriptwriter and author with an epic book coming out in 2020, ‘And The Stars Were Burning Brightly’ is Young Adult fiction but inspired by her own experiences with bullying and suicide and, my God, this is something we need to hear. And, of course, I’d have to round off with Mary Beard for her manifesto ‘Women and Power’, the themes of which really came into play in my own book ‘Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies’ when I discuss why Anne’s story continues to be re-written and mis-told in this day and age and what it says about our perception of powerful women.
  4. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    I don’t think I’ve had a favourite book since I was a child – do you think that’s an age thing? Like when we used have our one ‘best friend’ as a children and now we have a whole group of people because they each bring us something different? I feel that’s the same with books. However, I can tell you my favourite script easily; Black Swan by Andrez Heinz, Mark Heyman and John J McLaughlin. That writing, my friends, is a work of absolute bloody genius and the film itself is my go-to feel good movie. Make of that what you will…haha!
  5. As well as being a writer and researcher, you also have a podcast series. Is there any part of your career that you enjoyed more than others?
    In general the writing process is always my passion, but if we’re talking specifically my historical work then actually the research was the most thrilling. When parts of the Anne Boleyn puzzle suddenly fell into place or I discovered evidence that everyone else had been dismissing when, for example, it was actually the real reason for her death, my Goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited by sixteenth century politics in my life! I felt like a detective, digging beyond the surface level research, not accepting the generic answers we’ve always been fed about Anne and Henry until I found the truth. It was such a thrill, and I made sure I kept that pace and excitement for the reader in the book because I wanted you guys to experience it too.
    Anne Bolyeyn - 500 Years of Lies
  6. Who’s you favourite literary icon?
    I think Phoebe Waller-Bridge is fast becoming my literary icon at the moment – I know, again with the scriptwriting, I think you can see where my heart lies! To be able to write something like Fleabag and then Killing Eve and make both just as searingly brutal in their respective genres is so inspirational! But just the way she writes real women; powerful yet broken, fabulous yet flawed, real, raw, unapologetically so – and we women feel we have to apologise for so much! I have to say, Phoebe’s characters remind me of Anne Boleyn – that’s why I can’t wait for readers to meet the real Anne in my book, not the one dimensional fictional character we’ve been fed who needs to fit within the Six Wives gimmick!
  7. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    It would have to be ‘This Is Going To Hurt’ by Adam Kay because I’ve shamefully still not read it and everyone says it’s hilarious, I think I’d probably need a little light relief if I was stranded alone. The second book would be my own, ‘Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies’ to remind me of my proudest achievement in life before I died a certain death on this ominous desert island you’ve placed me on. Also, there is just so much packed in that book, every time I’ve had to read it through for an edit or to record the audiobook without fail I’ve come across a section that has me saying “Oh God, I’d forgotten about that bit!” The third book would then have to be a blank notepad because I couldn’t not write for an extended period of time! Plus it would be just too much of a missed opportunity to not document my final dramatic days!
  8. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    There is so much that goes into getting a book published these days from whether there will be demand for it, how is your book different from others in the genre, could an agent sell it to publishers, will all departments of the publishing house see your book as a viable investment in the infamous ‘acquisition’ meetings? Frustratingly all this comes into play, and there are plenty of things you can do as an author to make sure the book you are pitching will appeal…HOWEVER when it comes down to it, it’s all about the writing. You can have an amazing concept but if the writing doesn’t live up to expectations then it won’t happen. So this needs to be your focus and priority. With writing it’s all about honesty…and editing!

    Everyone tells writers they’re looking for that ‘unique voice’, they say ‘tell the story only you can tell.’ And it’s so easy to try and second guess what ‘voice’ people will want or think will work. But as much as an agent or publisher would like to discover a ‘fresh new voice’ they basically mean they don’t want you to try and emulate someone else’s style, because if you are doing it, you can be certain hundreds of others will be too. This is where the honesty comes in, be honest with what your style is; how you enjoy to write, what comes naturally…then hone it. Sure, your voice won’t be right for some and that’s a shame but when it’s right for that magical one (and it only takes one, sod the bidding wars) they will be behind you 100% because you’re honest and not faking it. As a historian I know I could have followed the standard academic style for this book in order to fit in – but I also knew a bold book like this needed some bold words, so I decided not to put on any pretentions and instead write with a raw passion and fire that isn’t expected in the non-fiction history genre. Even in the edit when I warned that my tone and language might cause a storm, I refused to dilute my voice because the urgent messages in this book needed to be heard and I wanted the reader to know just how pissed off I was about it! Haha!

    So I know the usual advice is to read as much as you can, but also…just write. Keep writing. Re-read your old work and critique it. You’ll see why it didn’t work after some breathing space, any clunkiness, stilted language, anything that feels forced, and you will learn from your own mistakes and realise what is ‘you’. Then the magic happens when you match that writing with a unique concept and you’ll see it all take off from there…!

  9. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Lately it’s been a random one; a pot of fresh salsa and Dorrito Lime dippers! 
  10. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website
    I’ve got some incredibly exciting projects I’m working on at the moment but unfortunately I’m not at the stage where I can share them yet – sorry, typical boring response! But just know this, I’m only just getting started with correcting the lies about Anne Boleyn. I will keep going until the truth is as mainstream as the lies… so watch this space!

    Follow Hayley Nolan Instagram and her website website for updates.

Love Songs For Sceptics By Christina Pishiris

Love Songs For Sceptics”Love Songs For Sceptics’ is the latest book by Christina Pishiris.

When she was a teenager, Zoë Frixos fell in love with Simon Baxter, her best friend and the boy next door. But his family moved to America before she could tell him how she felt and, like a scratched record, she’s never quite moved on. Now, almost twenty years later, Simon is heading back to London, newly single and as charming as ever. With Simon back in town, Zoë is determined to finally pluck up the courage to tell him how she feels, but as obstacles continue to get in her way – Jess, Simon’s perfect ex-girlfriend, Nick, an obnoxious publicist determined to ruin Zoe’s career, and family pressure around her brother’s big(ish) fat(ish) Greek wedding – Zoe begins to wonder whether, after all these years, she and Simon just aren’t meant to be. What if, instead, they’re forever destined to shuffle around their feelings for each other, never quite mastering the steps. Is Zoë right to be sceptical about romance, or is it time she changed her tune?

Filled with drama, humour and sass, this book was a delight from the start to finish. Christina is a new author for me and is definitely an author I will be looking into.

Seen from the narrative of Zoe, a sceptic towards love and relationships, her brother has given her the task of choosing the playlist for his wedding. Unfortunately Zoe hates love songs and everything they stand for, so this is a difficult task. But when Simon, her first crush reappears in her life, she finds herself questioning her beliefs about love. Riddled with humour, sarcasm and loads of drama, this book was a really enjoyable read.

I loved Zoe, she was a brilliant character. She’s witty, determined and a great strong lead in this hilarious story. I loved her outspokenness and the actions of her attitude usually delivered entertaining results. I particularly loved the titles of each chapter, which were the names of famous songs throughout the years.

A hilarious new voice in female fiction, ‘Love Songs For Sceptics’ is the perfect reading companion for cynics of love, with wit, warmth and plenty of drama, this book is perfect for fans of Mhairi MacFarlane.

You can buy the ebook from Amazon and the paperback will be available from good bookshops from 30th April 2020.

Snowdrops On Rosemary Lane By Ellen Berry

Snowdrops On Rosemary Lane‘Snowdrops On Rosemary Lane’ is the latest book by Ellen Berry.

Lucy fell in love with tumbledown Rosemary Cottage as a child. So thirty years on, when she loses her city job and discovers the cottage is for sale, it feels like fate. She’ll raise her children in Burley Bridge and transform the cottage into a B&B with her husband. But a year can change everything. Now Lucy is juggling two children and a B&B, but on her own. Christmas looks set to be their last on Rosemary Lane – until she meets James, a face from her past and someone who might offer a different kind of future/ Should Lucy leave the cottage behind? Or could this winter on Rosemary Lane be the start of something new?

Ellen Berry is back with a new instalment in the Rosemary Lane series. This time it takes shape in the new bed and breakfast in the village, newly opened by Lucy and her husband and their two children. Just as they’ve settled into their new lives, tragedy strikes and Lucy finds herself alone with two young children and a new bed and breakfast. As Lucy adapts to a new life, she finds an old school friend called James who’s also going through a bit of a difficult time with a temperamental father. Together the pair of them embark on a new friendship now as adults and Lucy has to decide whether she wants to continue life in Rosemary.

I’ve come to love Ellen Berry, whether she’s writing as herself which is Fiona Gibson or Ellen, her books are always heart-warming, funny and emotive stories that tug at the readers heartstrings. In her latest book, we meet Lucy a kind woman who’s looking forward to beginning a new life in Rosemary Lane with her little family, but as she’s dealt a cruel hand, we see how she recovers from it and carries on with life, through new friendships, young children as well as her creativity that makes a popular character in the small village.

An enjoyable story from the first page, ‘Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane’ is an engaging and captivating story. With relatable characters and situations, the book is sweetly written and cleverly crafted with humour and warmth to really pull the reader in and is perfect festive story to curl up with.

You can pre-order ‘Snowdrops On Rosemary Lane’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 26th December 2019.

On The Up By Alice O’Keefe

On The Up‘On The Up’ is the latest book by Alice O’Keefe.

Sylvia lives in a flat on a council estate with her not-quite-husband Obe and their two young children. She dreams of buying a house on a leafy street like the one she grew up in. If she closes her eyes, she can see it all so clearly: the stripped floorboards, the wisteria growing around the door. It’s not ideal that she’s about to be made redundant, or that Obe, a playworker, is never going to earn more than the minimum wage. As sleep deprivation sets in, and the RnB downstairs gets ever louder, Sylvia’s life starts to unravel. But when the estate is earmarked for redevelopment, the threat to her community gives Sylvia a renewed sense of purpose. With a bit of help from her activist sister, and her film-maker friend Frankie, she’s ready to take a stand for what she believes in.

In her mid thirties, Sylvia finds herself looking at her life and comparing it to others. Living in Priory Court with her partner Obe and two children, she wants more from life.

One day, she decides to move house and finds the perfect family home that is way out of their budget. Currently on maternity leave and Obe on a low income, Sylvia finds herself scraping and saving to get by and Sylvia finds herself taking against Obe because of their situation. Once a happy couple, they are now in a place where they are pitted against each other due to their frustrations in life.

The story is well written and has complex and relatable characters. I really liked Sylvia and found myself sympathetic towards her and her situation. In the current climate, that revolves around culture and money, the story touches on the pressure that society puts on ourselves to succeed and to be on par with our peers.

As well as battling with poverty, Sylvia also has other struggles such has juggling two young children as well as her own health. Her relationship with Obe makes for interesting reading, occasionally witty, there is an element of sadness to their relationship.

The story focuses on poverty and mental health, as well as an exploration into relationships. An uplifting and insightful story about the struggles of life, relationships and health, ‘On The Up’ is a tenderly written and observational story about modern life and the struggle to keep up with the Jones’.

You can buy ‘On The Up’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Ex Girlfriend By Nicola Moriarty

The Ex-Girlfriend‘The Ex-Girlfriend’ is the latest book by Nicola Moriarty.

Finally, Georgia has found the one. Luke is kind, handsome, and makes her feel safe – which is what she needs after everything she’s been through. The only problem is his ex-girlfriend. Luke says Cadence just can’t accept the breakup, and that explains the texts, the emails, the notes. But then things start to go very wrong – will Cadence really do whatever it takes to get what she wants?

I’ve spent my day with my head in this book and it was a fantastic story. Cleverly written with relatable characters, this book discusses the complexities of relationships and obsession Georgia has just about given up on love after a doomed Tinder date, meets Luke who rescues her after unwanted advances from other men. She begins a relationship with Luke and everything seems perfect until Luke reveals that he has baggage in the shape of an ex girlfriend who refuses to believe that they are over.

Delighted to be in a new relationship, Georgia finds herself a victim of a hate campaign as Cadence plots against Georgia to make her life hell.

One of the many things that I really enjoyed about this book is the tricky characters, that make them so unreliable and for me this really kept me on my toes as I was second guessing their actions and trying to figure out who you could trust.

Riddled with suspense and drama, the story has many twists and turns that really made for dramatic and enjoyable reading. The perfect psychological thriller with just the right combination of romance and drama, ‘The Ex Girlfriend’ is a well crafted story about love, obsession and is most certainly, a creepy read!

You can buy ‘The Ex Girlfriend’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.