Skip to content

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.

Bella Osborne

Bella OsborneBella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. In 2016, her debut novel,’It Started At Sunset Cottage’, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award. Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Her novels are often serialised in four parts ahead of the full book publication. She lives in The Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).

  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.
    Hi *waves* Thanks for having me on your blog.
    I live in Warwickshire with my husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. I have been jotting down stories as far back as I can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that I finished a full length novel. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s new writer’s scheme and after meeting my editor at the RNA conference I was lucky enough to sign with HarperCollins. My debut novel was published in February 2015 and since then I have had four best sellers and two novels short listed for the RNA Contemporary Romance Novel of the Year.
  2. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    My first thought is to include my favourite authors – Jill Mansell, Katie Fforde and Milly Johnson. However, these are all in the same genre and the joy of a book club is being able to read a variety of authors. So I would also invite Gail Honeyman because I loved ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ and A.J. Pearce who wrote Dear Mrs Bird for the same reason. I might invite B.A. Paris because her writing is brilliant but she’d have to promise not to scare me. Can I throw in Gary Barlow too? I know technically he’s not an author but there was an autobiography and he is rather lovely.
  3. Is there anything that you would change about your writing journey?
    I would have started it a lot earlier. I never thought for a moment that people like me became authors so it was just a hobby for many years. If only I’d known I didn’t suck at it I could have been doing the job I love for much longer.
  4. A Walk In The Wildflower Park

  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    It’s from ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’ by Jane Lovering – “You know you’re in for a bad day when the Devil eats your last HobNob”.
  6. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    One? Just one favourite book? That’s mean. Okay, let’s go with ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’.
  7. If you could rewrite any book, what would it be?
    ‘The Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel, because I loved the story until the last section when it brought the whole tiger experience into question. I’d end it where the tiger walks away.
  8. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    The shiny new idea stage where there are lots and lots of post-it notes.
  9. Why did you decide to write female fiction?
    It wasn’t a conscious decision it’s just where my characters took me and my publishers put a label on it.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Harry Potter’ omnibus edition if there is such a thing but if not book 3 ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’, ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and the latest Jill Mansell novel because I always save her books for holidays.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I think specifics will be personal to each writer but I believe all writers can benefit by surrounding themselves with like minded people. Only other writers know what it’s like and they are an incredibly supportive bunch. So my advice is to look up organisations for your genre and local groups and seek out your tribe.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Plenty of custard creams.
  13. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    My new novel ‘A Walk in Wildflower Park’ is out on 27th June and will be available from Amazon. It’s my fifth romantic comedy and I can’t wait to hear what readers think.

    Follow Bella Osborne on Twitter and follow her website

Haylen Beck

Haylen Beck

Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of Northern Ireland writer Stuart Neville, an acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author whose crime fiction has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and made best-of-year lists with numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.

  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
    My real name is Stuart Neville, I’m forty seven years old, and I live in Northern Ireland with my wife, two kids, and a very scruffy dog. I’ve been writing almost all my life, but it was around 2006 when I started to take it seriously. My debut novel, ‘The Twelve’, was published almost exactly ten years ago.
  2. Can you tell us a bit about your new book, ‘Lost You’
    ‘Lost You’ begins with the disappearance of a little boy in a holiday resort in Florida. His mother Libby is frantic trying to find him, but her greatest fear is not that he’s lost – but that he’s been found. When CCTV footage shows him being led away by another woman, she knows years of secrets are about to unravel.
  3. You are a successful author under your own name Stuart Neville, what made you decide to write under a pen name?
    It was mainly because of the change of setting from Ireland to America. Crime authors often become associated with a specific location – Ian Rankin is Edinburgh, Jo Nesbo is Oslo – and under my own name, I’ve become very much identified with Belfast. The first Haylen Beck novel, ‘Here And Gone’, really needed to be set in the States, and it was a somewhat different style than my previous books, so the pen name seemed like the right way forward.
  4. Who’s your favourite villain or hero?
    I like a good anti-hero, so if I can roll a villain and hero into one, it would be Jack Carter from Ted Lewis’s ‘Jack’s Return Home’, which was adapted for film as ‘Get Carter’, starring Michael Caine. That book was a huge influence on me, and Ted Lewis is terribly underrated.
  5. Why do you think Northern Ireland is so popular and successful for crime authors?
    When my first novel was published ten years ago, there was some resistance to fiction from Northern Ireland, and nowhere more so than in Northern Ireland! That resistance has really broken down over the last few years, with a lot if crime writers coming through, plus Anna Burns’s deserved Booker win. I think we’re now able to tell stories that aren’t necessarily rooted in the Troubles, which has opened things up a lot.
  6. Has there ever been a film that’s been better than the book?
    ‘Jaws’ is the big one. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made, but it’s not a good book! I’d also add ‘The Godfather’, parts I and II, which are better than Mario Puzo’s novel.
  7. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Probably my bandmates – Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Val McDermid, and Luca Veste – from the ‘Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers’. We have so much fun making music together, I’m sure we’d have a laugh talking books too.
  8. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “The rain rained.” from the above mentioned ‘Jack’s Return Home’.
  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    James Ellroy’s ‘American Tabloid’, Tom Wolfe’s ‘Bonfire Of The Vanities’ and Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’.
  10. Lost You

  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Simply writing more. A common mistake writers make is finishing one novel, then flogging it to death instead of getting on with writing the next one. Really, the only way to learn to write is simply to write.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A notebook. For every novel I start a brand new Moleskine A5 notebook and I scribble in them constantly when I write the first draft, then through revisions, edits, even up to the copyedit and page proof stage. I then use the same notebook for when I give talks about the book after it’s published.
  13. 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’m currently working on a new novel under my own name, which returns to my series character, DCI Serena Flanagan. Once that’s done, I’ve got a couple of screenplays I want to work on just for the hell of it, and I’ve plans for two more novels.

    You can buy ‘Lost You’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshop.

    Follow Haylen Beck on Twitter and his website for updates website

Jake Woodhouse

The CopycatJake Woodhouse is the Sunday Times bestselling author of ‘After the Silence’, ‘Into the Night’, ‘Before the Dawn’ and ‘The Copycat’ is the fourth book in the ‘Amsterdam Quartet with Inspector Jaap Rykel’series

  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 got into writing after waking up from an emergency operation to find a nurse checking the clipboard hanging at the bottom to the bed. She said, with a name like that you should be writing thrillers. Which was really weird because the truth is I’d always wanted to but for some reason, fear probably, I’d done many things (musician, winemaker, entrepreneur) but never written a word.
  2. Can you tell us a bit about your new book, ‘The Copycat’
    ‘The Copycat’ deals with two issues which are becoming hot topics and are often seen as being two sides of the same coin, mental health and drugs. However, in researching it, my opinions changed drastically and the novel is a reflection of this much more nuanced and less clear cut view.
  3. What made you decide Crime?
    Crime is universal really, most good stories whether they’re put in the crime genre or not have some element of ‘crime’ or disturbance against the natural order. That’s what all fiction is really about anyway.
  4. Who’s your favourite villain or hero?
    Tough one, I’d say Johnny Utah in the original ‘Point Break’. He was a member of the establishment who goes through a personal transformation which puts him in contact with a world he never knew existed, and one he ultimately will sacrifice everything in his old life for.
  5. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    T.C. Boyle, James Ellroy and Thomas Pynchon. Though I suspect it would be less of a book club and more of an all out wild ride.
  6. If you could rewrite any book, what would it be and why?
    I’ve never been asked this… I’m not really sure what book I’d want to rewrite, sounds like an arduous task which would inevitably offend the original author.
  7. What do you find to be the hardest part of the writing process?
    Everything which isn’t the writing!
  8. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    The opening of Don Winslow’s ‘Savages’ (you’ll have to look it up). Can’t get better than that. Also T.C. Boyle’s opening to ‘Drop City’

    ‘The morning was a fish in a net, glistening and wriggling at the dead black border of her consciousness, but she’d never caught a fish in a net or on a hook either, so she couldn’t really say if or how or why.’

    Out of context it makes very little, if any, sense. But in the context of who the character is and what’s she doing it’s a brilliant evocation of her state of mind and serves as a perfect setup for the novel to come.

  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Probably the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, hands down the most original, startling, weird and ultimately satisfying pieces of fiction ever to be committed to paper.
  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    There’s an oft-quoted but of advice which is something along the lines of, write what you know. This is terrible advice. Write about what you don’t know, and learn something in process.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My dogs (though really at my feet is better, they tend to get in the way on my desk).
  12. 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 do but they’re top secret so the old I-could-tell-you-but-I’d-have-to-kill-you thing would sadly apply.

For more information about Jake Woodhouse go to his website

You can buy ‘The Copycat’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

Helen Cullen

Helen CullenHelen Cullen’s debut novel, ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ was published in 2018. Before writing, Helen started her career with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) where she worked in radio broadcasting before moving to London in 2010. She subsequently worked for companies such as the BBC and The Times before her most recent role in Google where she worked before signing her publishing contract. Helen was also shortlisted as Best Newcomer at this year’s Irish Books Awards.

  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 am Irish but live in London. I had always wanted to write ever since I was a little girl but didn’t really have the confidence to try to write a book until I was in my thirties. Eventually the fear of never writing a book overcame the fear of not being able to and I joined a six month writing workshop that ‘The Guardian’ ran with the University of East Anglia with the amazing Michele Roberts as mentor. I feel so fortunate now that I had that amazing experience because the very first thing that I ever wrote became the first chapter of ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’!
  2. Can you tell us a bit about your new book, ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’
    The book is set inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, where William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries: Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

    When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’, however, his work takes on new meaning. Written by a woman to the soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives capture William’s heart in ways he didn’t know possible, and soon he begins to wonder: Are these letters truly lost? Or might he be the intended recipient-could he be her great love?

    Torn between his love and commitment to his wife and his romantic idealism, William must of follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

    This novel meditates on the lost art, and power, of letter-writing. It is concerned with the juxtaposition that often exists between the portrayal of romantic love in the media and the arts and the pragmatic reality of sustaining a committed relationship over a long period of time. In the Dead Letters Depot, these notions of magic and realism collide on a daily basis and William’s story unfolds.

  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    In my dream book club, presuming I am choosing from just writers that are still with us, I would love to spend time discussing books with Donna Tartt, Elizabeth Strout, Michael Chabon, Anne Enright, Ian McEwan, Sarah Winman, Edna O’Brien, Colm Toibin, Michael Cunningham, Andrew Sean Greer, Michele Roberts, Audrey Niffenegger, Alice Munro…that may be too many already but I could keep dreaming about this one all day!
  4. The Lost Letters of William Woolf

  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” – from Mrs. Dalloway by Viriginia Woolf.
  6. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    Oh it’s impossible to say – different books have meant so much to me at different times in my life!
  7. Who’s your literary hero/heroine?
    Without a doubt, Edna O’Brien. There is no doubt in mind that the reason I can walk through doors today with a published book that I have written in my hand is because Edna broke down so many doors first. I can’t recommend her work enough and am always buying ‘The Country Girls’ trilogy as presents for people.
  8. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    I love when the structure and story are set in stone and I can spend time polishing the text on a word by word, line by line basis without wrestling with the big picture at the same time.
  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
    ‘Anna Karenina’ by Tolstoy
    ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham
  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I think the most helpful thing a writer can do to progress is to persevere on finishing a complete draft to the end – afterwards then you can work on polishing, designing and editing – but persevering to the end is often the biggest challenge so developing that stamina is so valuable.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I type on a laptop but also like to have a notebook and pen beside me to write down ideas that occur to me for later or reminders to myself to go back and fix something later!

  12. 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 am just finishing my second book, ‘Leave A Light On’, and if readers are curious about what I’ve been working on, they can read the first chapter in the paperback edition of ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’. I am so excited that it will be released in spring 2020 and am looking forward to hearing what folks think!

    Follow Helen Cullen on Twitter and follow her website

You can buy ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.