Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Blog Tour Q&A: Written in Their Stars by Elizabeth St. John

Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth St. John to Let Them Read Books! Liz is touring the blogosphere with her new novel, Written in Their Stars, book three of the critically acclaimed Lydiard Chronicles. I've had the pleasure of working with Liz as an editor and cover designer, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about researching and writing this series. Read on and enter to win a signed copy of Written in Their Stars!

London, 1649. Horrified eyewitnesses to King Charles’s bloody execution, Royalists Nan Wilmot and Frances Apsley plot to return the king’s exiled son to England’s throne, while their radical cousin Luce, the wife of king-killer John Hutchinson, rejoices in the new republic’s triumph. Nan exploits her high-ranking position as Countess of Rochester to manipulate England’s great divide, flouting Cromwell and establishing a Royalist spy network; while Frances and her husband Allen join the destitute prince in Paris’s Louvre Palace to support his restoration. As the women work from the shadows to topple Cromwell’s regime, their husbands fight openly for the throne on England’s bloody battlefields.

But will the return of the king be a victory, or destroy them all? Separated by loyalty and bound by love, Luce, Nan and Frances hold the fate of England—and their family—in their hands.

A true story based on surviving memoirs of Elizabeth St.John’s family, Written in their Stars is the third novel in the Lydiard Chronicles series.


Hi Liz! Thank you for visiting Let Them Read Books!

The heroine of your first book, and whose children we follow in subsequent books, Lucy St. John, is your ancestress. Can you tell us a bit about her and what inspired you to write her story?

Lucy’s name jumped off the page in a 17th Century memoir I discovered in Nottingham Castle. I was researching our family genealogy at the time, so I followed the thread and came upon the story of her life, recorded by her daughter Lucy Hutchinson. Although written almost 400 years ago, her daughter’s account of her mother read like a novel:
She was of a noble family, being the youngest daughter of Sir John St.John, of Lidiard Tregooze in the county of Wilts; her father and mother died when she was not above five years of age, and yet at her nurse’s, from whence she was carried to be brought up in the house of the Lord Grandison, her father’s youngest brother; an honourable and excellent person, but married to a lady so jealous of him, and so ill-natured in her jealous fits, to anything that was related to him, that her cruelties to my mother exceeded the stories of stepmothers.
Reading further, I learned Lucy St.John lived in the Tower of London for thirteen years, survived England’s terrible civil war, and that her children fought on opposite sides in the conflict. Hooked.

Written in Their Stars is the third book in a trilogy. What sort of challenges does writing a series present, particularly in bringing everything together in the last installment?

Writing biographical historical fiction has its positive sides – one of which is that you cannot deviate from real-life timelines. This is also one of the biggest challenges, for bending fact to suit fiction is not what I wanted to do. The full timeline of the lives of the family looked pretty even when I diagrammed it for the series. Once I started writing, I realized that as with any life, there can be long periods of inactivity and sudden bursts of action. Add the fact that you’re researching events that are 400 years old, and a main challenge is to keep the pace and tension balanced and compelling for the readers while still creating stand-alone novels that can be enjoyed by themselves.
I always knew where I was going to end the trilogy, for in my mind there was a natural arc to Lucy, Luce, and Allen’s story. What I didn’t bargain for was Nan Wilmot stepping into the action in Written in their Stars and taking over. That was as a result of a hugely significant piece of research I came across just as I was finishing By Love Divided – so you never stop looking!

You spend a lot of time at Lydiard Park, the ancestral home of the St. Johns. What makes that place so special?

My family has lived at Lydiard back to the 14th Century, and I first visited as a child who loved Narnia, Alice, and The Secret Garden. The old house and tangled parklands, the ancient walled garden with a hidden door, and the sense of previous residents just a step beyond reach captivated me. I’ve never lost that sense of wonder, and today, with Lydiard Park thriving through careful curation and heritage grants, the church of St. Mary’s undergoing a restoration of national significance, and my role as Ambassador of the Friends of Lydiard, the magic remains. The ground floor of the house is a fascinating museum of the family and life in a country house and is open to the public. More than 850,000 visitors a year enjoy the 250 acres of parkland and lake and all the events that are held, from charity runs to theatre in the park. Lydiard is truly a wonderful blend of past and present. And when I stay there, and walk alone through the moonlight, the memories of six hundred years gather close.

Which authors/books have had a significant influence on you as a writer?

My mother loved the English historical fiction authors of the mid-20th century, so Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton, Elizabeth Goudge were hugely influential as my first forays into the genre. Then, reading the Brontes, Austin, Dickens all created rich environments from the past. Recently, I love Hilary Mantel, and richly detailed authors such as Margaret George and Kate Mosse; biographers such as Antonia Fraser, Roger Lockyer, and Charles Spencer are inspiring in their techniques of humanizing their subjects.

What are you working on now?

I’m not actively writing, but enjoying catching up on my reading. However, few days go by that Nan Wilmot, John Wilmot, or Barbara Villiers don’t give me a nudge, so I am spending time on researching their lives. Seems I may be staying in the 17th Century for a while. Although there was a medieval Elizabeth St.John who led an extraordinary life . . .

About the Author:

Elizabeth St.John spends her time between California, England, and the past. An award-winning author, historian and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it’s hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth’s family still occupy them – in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that’s a different story…

For more information, please visit Elizabeth St. John’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Written in Their Stars is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two signed copies of Written in their Stars! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on January 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen. Written in Their Stars


  1. Thanks for having me Jenny! Great questions, and always a joy to be with you.

  2. What a great interview! Thank you so much for hosting the blog tour & Elizabeth!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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