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The Worm Hole Podcast Episode 07: E C Fremantle (The Poison Bed)

Charlie Place and E C Fremantle (The Poison Bed) discuss changing pen names, a horrific murder case in the Stuart nobility, coping as a new mother in a one-of-a-kind situation, and the historical line between witchcraft and ‘simple’ superstition.

Liz and Charlie’s previous conversation (YouTube)
The painting of Frances Howard by William Larkin, included in Liz’s blog post.

Release details: recorded 16th January 2020; published 27th January 2020

Liz’s social media: Twitter || Facebook || Website

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Show notes:

Question Index
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Question Index

00:59 You’ve changed your pen name…
02:41 Are you going to be E C Fremantle for a while?
12:51 Can you tell us about the history of this story and what made you want to write about it?
15:22 Was it a difficult writing it?
16:57 Was the way Frances felt closer to the reader compared to Robert planned?
18:09 Who was Robert Carr?
21:01 Do you think there was love between Robert and Frances?
24:43 Do you think your version of Frances would have come to like her baby?
26:54 [Spoiler questions] 1) Were you ever tempted to change the history? 2) Can you tell us the story of Anne Turner?
34:23 Who was Northampton and did he work alone?
36:47 Did any other stories, films, media inspire the book?
39:02 Had you read Gone Girl?
40:24 Where did the line fall between what was witchcraft and what was not witchcraft?
43:11 What else can you tell us about your next book?
45:24 Queen’s Gambit adaptation
46:37 They introduced themselves to us earlier – how long have you had your poodles?

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For ease of reading, ‘umms’ and similar, as well as sentence false starts, have been left out.

[intro music]

Charlie: Hello and welcome to The Worm Hole Podcast. I’m Charlie Place and with me today is the author of the historical novels Queen’s Gambit, Sisters of Treason, Watch the Lady, The Girl in the Glass Tower, and The Poison Bed. Welcome E C Fremantle, otherwise known as Elizabeth.

Liz: Hello.

Charlie: So, just to let you all know, today we’re going to be focusing on The Poison Bed, because five books would be quite a lot to cover in the time that we’ve got. But Liz and me did do an event in Southampton a few years ago, where we covered her first four books, and that conversation is available on YouTube. I will put the link in the episode description for you. It’s not great quality – it was a case of better than not having it recorded – but it is watchable.

Charlie: So, on with the show, and Liz, you’ve changed your pen name.

Liz: I have, yes. Well, Elizabeth seemed a very appropriate name – I’ve always been known as Liz and it was actually my American editor that said she wanted me to be Elizabeth because she felt it was an ideal name for a historical fiction writer. However, when I was writing The Poison Bed, though it’s very much in a similar tone to my previous novels – it’s thematically very similar – it is however cast in a different light. It’s much, much, more of a thriller, a straight thriller, it’s about a murder, it’s structured as a thriller, it’s more pacey, and my UK publishers wanted to differentiate it from my other books; it was their idea and I was very happy to go along with it because I agree, it is a slightly different book. I don’t know if you agree, because you’ve read them all, so I don’t know if you agree if there’s a distinctive atmosphere to The Poison Bed which is different from the previous four?

Charlie: It is definitely a lot darker, yes. But no, there is something about it that – yes, the atmosphere, I suppose, is a good way of putting it. It’s definitely your book, but there is a difference there, yes.

Liz: So, and I don’t know if it has confused people or not; it kind of appealed to me to have a gender-neutral name, but it wasn’t my decision, but I was happy with it.

Charlie: So are you going to be E C Fremantle for while, do you think?

Liz: Yeah… Well, that’s a really good question. It hasn’t been discussed further with my publishers but really those kind of decisions are down to them, I don’t feel super strongly about it. You know, if they felt that that wasn’t something that really worked – it’s all about marketing really, the name on the cover – and if they’ve felt like it worked well for marketing, then we’ll stick with it, I suppose.

Charlie: So you’re going to keep with these more crime-related, darker, books?

Liz: I mean, certainly, my next book, which is called The Honey and the Sting, is a kind of companion piece to The Poison Bed, or certainly that’s how I’ve written it. It’s different again – The Poison Bed’s very much a psychological thriller – and this is more or a suspense novel with a strong theme of revenge in it, so I’m still back in that dark, Jacobean drama kind of world. But yes, there’s a relationship to The Poison Bed, yup.

Charlie: I kind of want to ask what the relationship is, cos I’m thinking, she’s not gonna keep us in Frances’ head again, is she? [laughs] That was quite a place to be.

Liz: No, we’re not with Frances, we’ve got a completely different setting, actually. It’s completely away from the court; I wanted a novel where my protagonists were not privileged courtiers and so I’ve set it around three completely fictional women. They’re all outsiders in their own way, each one of them; one is a woman who has visions, she can see the future and in fact she would nowadays called schizophrenic but she’s a woman who hears voices and sees visions; and there’s a half-sister who is part mixed-race; and there’s the eldest sister who has a son, and the son is the son of the Duke of Buckingham who was George Villiers in The Poison Bed, and he is trying to take his son back; and so it’s their story about how they have to go into hiding to prevent him from kidnapping his son. So the relationship there is, you know, we still have the workings of this idea of the royal favourite, of James’ favourite, another of James’ lovers, and actually George Villiers was really the one who became the most powerful of all James I’s favourites, and became far too powerful for his own good. So, you know, I’m talking about influence and power, misplaced power, women’s position in society, so they are themes that I always return to but they’re in a slightly different setting which is away from the court.

Charlie: That sounds very, very fascinating, it’s gonna be a good book, I think. So, shall we start with The Poison Bed, you’re got the prologue there. Shall we have a reading?

Liz: There are two protagonists to the novel, there’s the female, Frances, and a male, Robert, who are a couple. They’re married. And they are both each telling the story of how they came to be in the Tower of London, accused of murder. So I’m going to start at the beginning, and this is Frances, just to set the scene really.

[Reading excluded to respect copyright.]

Charlie: I’m listening to that and I’m thinking my goodness, now I’ve finished that book, and, I don’t want to spoil it but there is a change somewhere in that book that surprises you, potentially – and having got past that and got to the end and now hearing this prologue again it just shows the value of re-reading and just how much has gone into these characters.

Charlie: On that note, the book has been called a historical Gone Girl, which is an accurate description. The Poison Bed’s an absolutely awful book, it’s an awful horrible book, and I’d give it top marks [laughs]. Liz, can you tell us about the history of this story and what made you want to write about it?

Liz: Yes, I certainly can. And I find it kind of funny you calling it an awful book, because it really is about the most mendacious, vile, and horrible people, but somehow they are compelling. [Charlie: Oh definitely.] The story behind them is really a compelling story, it’s a true story of a true murder that took place in the Tower of London in 1613. A courtier called Thomas Overbury was found dead in his cell and this whole web of lies and cover-up kind of unfolded around this murder. And Frances, who we’ve just heard from, she was the daughter of a very, very, influential family, the Howards – I mean they were one of the most powerful families in England at the time, and she had been extracted from a marriage to somebody else, the Earl of Essex, the son of the more famous Earl of Essex who launched a coup against Elizabeth I – and in a kind of scandalous divorce or annulment case, actually, they had to have her marriage annulled because they wanted to marry her to Robert Carr, who was basically James I’s lover and favourite. And the whole thing was so completely scandalous, including the murder, and it just made for this incredibly tense thriller; there was no way I could’ve written this as a straight history because it’s just such a dark story and it’s so much about lies and I think that that was what I wanted to bring out about this story – it’s a novel that tries to untangle a series of lies. And by the end we kind of understand my take on what really went on, although we don’t really know what went on. And I can’t reveal too much because I don’t want to spoil it.

Charlie: So, I know you’ve said writing the book was difficult, you say in the acknowledgements, ‘it arrived kicking and screaming’. Obviously it’s a difficult book to read and you’ve said the story is quite nasty really, was it difficult writing it?

Liz: Well, spending so much time with such manipulative people as my characters, was a challenge, because the Howard family – particularly Frances’ great-uncle is a really dark character – and, you know, then we’ve got this play-off between the two protagonists who are – it’s hard to work out if their victims or not of their situation, and in some ways they are and in some ways they aren’t. But I think what was most difficult about it was the technical aspects of writing the book, so structuring it – I mean, in as much as it’s a thriller, you have to slowly drip-feed the facts to the reader and there is a kind of disparity between what the reader knows and what the characters know, and what secrets there are between the characters that the reader does or doesn’t know about. So all those technical aspects were really, really challenging, because they take over and then you lose atmosphere and my writing is particularly about the atmosphere and the characters and I didn’t want that to be sacrificed for the plot. That was the most tricky thing about it.

Charlie: You say about structure, that was something I noticed. At the start I was thinking oh, I’m not sure who these people are, I’m going to get into it, and I had the wrong people in my head because I’d just read another book on the Essexes and it was different people, so that probably made it more difficult for me. But I noticed that Frances feels closer to you as the reader, Robert’s more distant, was that part of your planning?

Liz: Yes, I mean really it is Frances’ story primarily, but I think his story is really important, but I think because she’s really at the heart of the story. So he’s sort of a supporting actor to her lead role, in a way, but his voice is a large part of the book, but I think also so much of his voice is about his obsession with her, whereas her voice is less about him and more about all the other elements of the story; his voice is nearly all about her. It really makes her so central, and makes us understand her from all these different perspectives.

Charlie: You saying that, yes, that’s very interesting. So, lots of people are going to know a lot about the Howards due to Catherine Howard, you know she’s possibly the most famous person. Who was Robert Carr?

Liz: So Robert Carr was son of a very minor gentry Scottish, but he wasn’t raised in Scotland, I think, for a lot of his youth he was raised in the west country – I’m trying to remember, I get confused with my characters when I move on to another book. And then I think both his parents died and he was sort of taken under the wing of another courtier close to James I – well, James VI of Scotland, so in Scotland at that point – and he met this chap, Thomas Overbury, who’s the murder victim in the book, and they were very close associates and Overbury kind of took him under his wing a little bit. And he was introduced into the court and almost immediately caught the eye of James I because he was a very pretty boy, Robert Carr. And he fell off his house at a jousting festival, very close to where the King was sitting, and came to the King’s notice and he broke his leg and the King made a huge fuss about it and visited him every day. And from then on he was made a gentleman of the bedchamber, and you know, the usual trajectory for men or certainly James’ favourites. I say, and I characterise him as the King’s lover – a historian would say we don’t know he was the King’s lover. For me there is sufficient evidence to make it really plausible to say; and that’s what fiction can do. They certainly had a very, very passionate friendship, an intimate friendship, whether they actually had a physical relationship or not. I mean James I was known to kiss his favourites on the mouth, kind of proper French kissing, in public, he wasn’t coy about his proclivity for men. So, he had a string of favourites and Robert Carr was the main one. And of course this caused a lot of jealousy because he was a man from nowhere, he wasn’t from a noble family, but of course the Howards, very powerful, they saw how powerful Robert Carr was becoming as a result of being the King’s favourite and they wanted to align their family with him, so hence the marriage between him and Frances.

Charlie: Do you think there was, at least at the start, love between Robert and Frances?

Liz: Well… I think probably yes, you know there’s certainly – I mean are you talking about in my novel or historically speaking?

Charlie: I suppose historically speaking, I mean, yes, it’s more likely they were pawns, but do you think there might have been something there or was that a fiction, I suppose?

Liz: It’s very, very, hard to get to the truth, I mean she’s been depicted as a manipulative little hussy, but I think yes, there was an extreme attraction there. And they were very much the ‘it’ couple of the curt, they were both known for their looks, and actually there are only one or two portraits of Robert Carr and in one of them he looks really, really strange, but you read descriptions of him and he was very, very blonde, blonde curly hair – I imagine the two of them as being almost in what Freud would have labelled a narcissistic object choice, relationship, I wanted them almost to look like each other, so she looks in some ways quite androgynous and so does he, and so they look at each other and see themselves, and they’re both sort of in love with themselves as well. So that was what I tried to do with it but I think, yes, there was certainly a powerful attraction and I don’t think they could have effectively arranged the marriage for Robert Carr who was also a bisexual man, clearly; he really, really wanted to be married to Frances and that was, I believe, because he really, really fell for her. The difficulties in getting this marriage through were so great, he had to really have been in love with her and besotted with her. Whether she was as besotted with him, I don’t know. And you see in the book, he’s more besotted than she is, so, yeah, it’s hard to know the real truth though.

Charlie: I’m just going to say for anyone listening to this podcast, I’m going to include a picture of Frances Howard in the show notes, because it’s a very interesting picture of her, I can’t remember who it’s drawn by, I will put that in there as well-

Liz: Larkin? Is it the Larkin one?

Charlie: Yes, yeah, the one on your blog I think it was. [Liz: yeah.] But I found that fascinating, the dress she’s wearing and how much you can see, let’s say.

Liz: It’s very low, isn’t it. Although I have to qualify that with you know, the way we look at it now and think ‘that’s a bit racy!’, but in fact many, many noble women were painted in dresses that low-cut, it was the fashion at the time, and in fact there’s a really amazing account from earlier, a couple of decades earlier, of – maybe it’s the Spanish ambassador coming into an audience with the quite elderly Elizabeth – and commenting that he could actually see her breasts, because her dress was cut so low. So it’s easy for us to look at that and think, oh! We can tell what kind of woman you are by that dress, but actually in context it’s a little less shocking than it is for us.

Charlie: Yeah, we do have an idea of everything, maybe we think a bit too much about how people were purer, I suppose, but yeah, that’s an interesting thing to hear.

Charlie: So, talking more of Frances, and completely different subject, but she has a baby and you don’t actually know whether it’s hers at the start or not, which I thought was really interesting, because it could’ve been Nelly’s, but Frances always calls it ‘it’. Do you think your version of Frances may have come to like her baby?

Liz: Well you know, I think that was very deliberate on my part. And the daughter, she grew up to be a seemingly well-adjusted young woman [laughs], but I think Frances, the situation she was in when her child was born – ’cause her child was born during the time when she was under house arrest and the child was tiny, and still, when she was taken to the Tower. So we’re looking at a woman in a postpartum situation, extremely fragile time for a woman, and in my mind it was plausible to imagine she wouldn’t want to bond with the child because she didn’t know what the outcome of this trial would be, whether she would be executed. And the idea of bonding with the child would be too painful [Charlie: umm]. So, in a sense, the way she refers to the child as either ‘the child’ or ‘it’, there’s this distance there, was, for me, a way of protecting herself because she thought either the child would be taken off her or she would be executed. So I think that was tied up in her relationship to it. And it’s plausible too that she may well have had a certain amount of postnatal depression or slight mania and she has terrible, terrible, after all she’s been locked in the Tower of London, it’s not surprising. Yeah.

Charlie: I’m going to talk about the ending a bit, so listeners if you haven’t yet read the book, skip to 32:24. Were you ever tempted to change the history as it was, for your book?

Liz: No, actually. With this book, that never really came up because historically we don’t really know what happened. There are court transcripts, we’ve got all of that but we do not know what kind of plea bargains were struck, what cover ups there were. A lot of it looks dodgy, you read it and you think, there are things that are not completely clear. And a court case in those days, you know, it comes to a court case at the end, it wasn’t like a court case now where you really, really hope to get to the bottom of something, though that does not always happen as we know. In those days it was not really a means of getting to the truth but a means of getting a judgement and usually the judgement somebody in power wanted. There was certainly reasons that the King didn’t want Robert Carr on the witness stand giving away some of his own secrets. So we’ve got all sorts of reasons why people might’ve not been telling the truth, even in the trials. So, that freed me up to give it whatever kind of ending I wanted.

Charlie: There was a very bad ending both in your fiction and factually for Anne Turner, who was Frances – well, it’s hard to say, really who she was, because Frances is so secretive – but can you tell us the story of Anne Turner because I did look briefly and it sounds very, very sad.

Liz: She’s a really interesting character, Anne Turner, and history’s not been kind to her because she became deeply embroiled with the whole scandal, the marriage, the murder; she was a very close associate of Frances . But she’s a very interesting woman, she was a widow but she was very impoverished and she’d fallen for some chap who wouldn’t marry her. At court there was this great fashion for gold ruffs, and of course the rich courtiers had ruffs that were made of real gold, gold thread, but of course that was extremely expensive. But Anne Turner got this patent for a special starch, a special method of starching with saffron that made ruffs that were simply cotton, look like these gold ruffs, and they became a huge hit at court. And Frances and her had a kind of business, and it was Anne Turner’s business – I touch on that a bit in the book, because I think it’s a really interesting idea that this woman, you know she was sort of a businesswoman but people thought was a madam and she did arrange for the couple in love to meet under her roof so she’s basically running a kind of brothel. So it’s a juicy little slice of underworld with Anne Turner, but of course she gets so deeply involved with this case, and is guilty – basically this chap Overbury is poisoned, and she is found guilty of handling the poisons and not administering them but having them sent into the Tower where they were given to him to eat in various jellies or jams. And she was hung, as were a couple of others around the case; they didn’t come off too well. But Anne Turner is an interesting story and she could’ve merited a novel of her own, actually.

Charlie: I was horrified when I was reading; I did briefly look at the Wikipedia page before I’d quite finished the book because I was like, I’d quite like to get a ph- not a photograph, what am I saying… – a painting of them in my head, of these people, and I happened to see the list of the people who were killed and thought, goodness, the two people who may well have done the deed escaped. And I mean, okay, it’s not a particularly long list I suppose, but in context it’s a long list of people who died and it was horrific.

Liz: Yes, they were really all the pawns of more powerful people. And I think the one that really got off, scot free, because he died earlier, and his death is something I did invent, although I’m not going to talk about it in detail because it’s a shame to give it away, but the manner of his death is something that I invented for the purposes of the novel. Is her great uncle, Frances’ great uncle, who died before the whole murder case came to light, and I mean there’s no question that he was deeply embroiled in it, certainly one of the perpetrators, yeah.

Charlie: Spoilers end here. Shall we have the second reading, which is from Robert’s point of view?

Liz: Certainly. So, this is just a short reading, but it gives us a taste of his voice and his primary obsession, which was Frances. So this is also from early in the novel, it’s actually our first introduction to Robert.

[Reading excluded to respect copyright. During the reading, we can hear Liz’s dogs barking, which she remarks upon, saying that we’ve got sound effects.]

Liz: And then it goes on to recount where he first met her – it’s a kind of love at first sight. He’s more the romantic certainly, in this story. She has to be more of a pragmatist because she has to deal with more challenging situations as a young woman.

Charlie: I know I switched who I was hoping would be okay; no – I can’t say that without spoilers, I’ll leave that bit [both laugh].

Liz: It’s one of them [both laugh].

Charlie: So, to go back to the uncle, Northampton – he is the man who seems to be running the show, the patriarch of the family. Who was he and did he work alone in that sense?

Liz: Well I think he was the head of the Howard family. So he was the uncle of Frances’ father who was also a very powerful nobleman and they all feature in the book, her mother and father are rather unpleasant as well. I think there were nine children, loads of brothers, and they were all important. But Northampton, he is a really ruthless power-monger and I think what we have to accept the context of the Howards at that time, they had crawled their way back out of obscurity because of course they fell out of favour in the Elizabethan period when there were two Howards – Elizabeth executed one who was the elder brother of Northampton, I’m trying to get my history straight, I think it was his eldest brother who was executed and all the land and titles were taken away – so they had to crawl back from this, and of course James I coming to the throne was an opportunity for them to really, really, re-establish themselves, I think they’d vaguely re-established themselves but this was a kind of complete change of monarch and they got back in there. In my mind, he controlled the whole thing like a Mafia don, and actually I looked at Mafia stories – I re-read The Godfather, and books like that as a way to get a sense of that ruthless, clannish, power, that idea of the family that they want to hold onto their power at any cost. And there is no respect for life, and no respect for anything except a kind of interior code by which they work. And that, for me, was very much like the Mafia. So that’s how I saw the Howards, and he was the head of the Howards, so he was never going to be a particularly sympathetic character.

Charlie: So you said about The Godfather, which is fascinating to hear, you watching that in this context. Were there any other stories, films, media, anything, that inspired this book?

Liz: Actually, yes, though there was one book and it’s called The Book of Evidence and it’s a John Banville book. And if you read it you’d think there’s nothing like it. But it’s about a man – and it’s a very literary novel – who commits a crime, sort of through force of circumstance. He kills somebody, almost banal, there’s this tone in it, it’s a kind of confessional tone, and a lot of The Poison Bed is confession, is the two protagonists making their confession to the reader in some ways. The book, it didn’t really influence it in terms of getting the tone of the novel, of the voices and that sense of this murder having been convenient, that came from that book – that book really helped me understand that. And I also read around from very unexpected other sources when I’m doing – I don’t only read history books and I’ll read other novels, and for The Poison Bed I read a lot of contemporary psychological crime to get a sense of the pace, ‘cos I wanted it to be a little bit more parred down than the usual historical fiction, because I wanted the psychological story to take precedent over the historical setting. So yes, I read lots – I’m trying to think of examples of contemporary crime, all the kind of big psychological thrillers, I read extensively. I do read an awful lot, I think that’s how I can be a writer because that’s how you keep reminding yourself how books work is by reading them.

Charlie: Had you read Gone Girl?

Liz: I had not read Gone Girl, I had seen the film of Gone Girl. And when I knew about the structure of Gone Girl, and then of course when I started writing this, there are things from the structure of Gone Girl that are quite similar in that it’s two people telling the story, alternatively. And neither one really has the full picture of the other one’s story, and they’re telling the same story. And so I knew that there were similarities to the way Gone Girl was structured. And then I thought I should read Gone Girl, and then I thought no I shouldn’t read Gone Girl because I don’t want to be over-influenced by that. So I didn’t read it until afterwards.

Charlie: It’s interesting because it is a perfect description to say that it is a historical Gone Girl, and I kind of had that in my mind when I was reading it, I want to see why it was called the historical Gone Girl. And particularly as it gets towards the end, I thought yeah, it was absolutely perfect, so I had wondered, if that had been something that you said, oh, you know, my book is like Gone Girl.

Charlie: So I have one more question about this book, if that’s okay. Frances reads palms and uses pendulums and she states during the book herself that it isn’t considered witchcraft. And obviously at this time in history witchcraft was big and women were being put in the river for you know, nothing really. [Liz: yeah] Where does the line fall between this idea of witchcraft and it not being witchcraft?

Liz: Well I think also, the thing about Frances was she was in a privileged position, she could do pretty much what she wanted, and her kind of palm reading and pendulums and all that was a kind of party trick, and taken as that. And those kind of things went on at court, whereas out in the wider world, when if a woman really transgressed badly and was then deemed a witch or deemed to be involved in witchcraft, it was the casting of spells that was the taboo. So had she been – and I think there’s a preoccupation with whether she would be accused of casting spells, because that’s the thing. And there’s an incident which I don’t want to talk about too much either because I don’t want to spoil it for people, but she goes to a woman who basically makes a living out of casting spells for people, and she’s sort of inveigled into visiting this woman, and she’s terrified because the woman offers to cast a spell for her and she’s desperately saying, no, you can’t, you can’t do this, I don’t want a spell cast for me. So that was the line, and that was the line that was drawn back then, again as well, the casting of spells was witchcraft. And anything else wasn’t really. And we have the man – I can’t remember his name now, Dr… it’s terrible, he’s the one, the apothecary-type man – and they go and he’s involved in all the dark arts, but he is sort of set up as a kind of doctor where people go to have their astrological charts read and to make decisions on their future and their health. There were all sorts of practitioners like that in those days and they weren’t thought of as witches or performing witchcraft, but it was a fine line. And it’s a fine line that she’s afraid of traversing on many an occasion in the novel.

Charlie: It surprised me because I thought there was a lot less tolerance, I suppose, for anything of that, if you even stepped towards it – so that was something that really surprised me. Yes.

Charlie: So, when I contacted you about coming on this podcast, you were finishing your latest novel, and you’ve already introduced it. Is there anything else you can tell us about it – when can we look forward to seeing it?

Liz: Okay, well I don’t have a definite date for it, but it will be this year, and it’s most likely to be in August. And that was from a conversation with my editor only a couple of days ago, that’s the latest date for it at the moment. Those things can change; but I think it’s very likely it will be in the summer and not later than that cos then we get into all the big run-ups to Christmas, the big biographies and things, and so summer’s a good time for fiction so August is where they’re looking at at the moment, yes. And it’s called The Honey and the Sting, which is a Francis Bacon quote, and a very good one I think!

Charlie: Does it refer to anything in particular?

Liz: Well, it is, yes, Francis Bacon uses it when he’s giving advice to George Villiers about how to be a good statesman, really, as you have to use, on the one hand you have to be sweet to people, and on the other hand you have to be ruthless. And I’ve applied this to my central female character, who’s called Hester, and who discovers that she can’t just be nice, she has to in some way be ruthless if she’s going to save her son from being kidnapped by his really thoroughly unpleasant father. So that’s her trajectory really is moving from the person who sees herself as always and only ever good, kind of compromising her own morality in order to achieve what she needs to achieve. That all sounds a little bit abstract but it’s hard to talk about ’cause I just, just, finished it.

Charlie: Abstract’s good for now, it will make us excited about what’s to come.

Charlie: So Queen’s Gambit, your first book – there is going to be an adaptation for it, I believe. Can you tell us more?

Liz: Yes – I can’t tell you very much more but it is still in the pipeline and there’s now a screenplay that everybody’s happy with, that I have read, but I really liked it though it’s very different, so I think some purist fans of Queen’s Gambit might feel it’s a bit of a departure. But I think the Catherine in that, it’s my Catherine, so I’m really pleased with that. But they’ve focused very much on the political thriller aspects of the story which I really like, so it’s a very tense and tight, dramatic, script. So I’m excited about that. I don’t know when they will really get the proper go-ahead to start filming, and I think they’re working on who’s to be cast at the moment, so that’s a kind of watch this space, really.

Charlie: Something to put down as a note to check later, listeners. That and the newest book which may be August, but keep an eye on it.

Charlie: So, I think one of them introduced themselves to us earlier – how long have you had your poodles?

Liz: [Laughs] Well Tommy, who is the noisy one, who just barked, he is nine, and I’ve got Lola, who’s twelve. So they’re not young dogs but they behave like naughty toddlers most of the time.

Charlie: So, The Poison Bed is out in paperback, links to buy copies of it as well as Liz’s previous books are in the episode description. If you have enjoyed our conversation, do subscribe to the podcast for future episodes, we will likely have Liz back when she has her next book out. Liz, it’s been awesome talking to you again, and having you here, and I’m excited to read your next book, I am. Thank you very much for being here.

Liz: thank you so much, it’s been a great pleasure, Charlie, and I’d love to come back and talk about anything else, if there’s anything exciting going on.

Charlie: Join me on Monday the 10th February when I will be talking to Andrew Blackman, author of On the Holloway Road, and A Virtual Love.

[production credits]

Photograph used with the permission of the author. Credit: JP Masclet.


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