Elizabeth Grayson and I met during our first writer’s conference in 1984 and she has been one of my dearest writing friends in the years since.  Talented, generous and gracious, Elizabeth has introduced me to the joy of art museums, travelled with me to haunted castles in Ireland and shared all the triumphs and challenges of being writers in an ever changing market.  I have been eagerly awaiting her new book which will feature many of the things Elizabeth loves best:  strong, creative women, the art world and the ocean.

I know that THE SKETCH CLUB will fulfill all the promise that made me so eager to read it when Elizabeth, Eileen Dreyer and I were dreaming our new books in the Stone House on the Dingle Peninsula.  Be sure to check out her blog and her answers to ‘THE NEXT BIG THING’ at

My own answers to Elizabeth’s questions follow.  Here it is!  My NEXT BIG THING

What is the title of your book?  The Royal Menagerie

Where did the idea come for this book?  It began as a kind of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ mystery novel of court intrigue told from the point of view of a court fool.  While researching the subject I discovered historical character Jeffrey Hudson, Court Fool of Queen Henrietta-Maria, wife of Charles I during the tumultuous years of the English Civil War.  As I dug deeper into this fascinating character I learned that the queen had what she called ‘The Royal Menagerie of Freaks and Curiosities of Nature’—a collection which included tiny, perfectly formed Jeffrey, a seven foot six inch giant who was Jeffrey’s best friend and other fascinating characters.  Add to that one of the great royal love stories, dashing cavaliers, the scheming Duke of Buckingham and the real-life inspiration for Dumas’ Milady de Winter and the story was irresistible.  There were so many possibilities it’s going to be first book in a series.

What genre does your book fall under?  It has historical mystery elements, in the vein of Arianna Franklin’s The Mistress of the Art of Death.

How long did it take to write the first draft?  A year.

What actors would you use in a movie rendition of your book?

Kiera Knightly would be Dulcinea, the rope dancer, Robbie Coltrane as Will Evans, Jason Isaacs as Uriel Ware, Gwyneth Paltrow as Lucy Hay, Peter Dinklage as Robert Gibson/Robin Goodfellow, Clive Owen as Buckingham, Natalie Portman as Queen Henrietta-Maria and Rufus Sewell as Charles I.  Jeffrey would be Elijah Wood with help from CGI.

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?  Downton Abbey meets the Three Musketeers.

Is this book represented by an agency or self-published?  It’s represented by Andrea Cirillo at Jane Rotrosen Literary Agency and has been sold to Thomas Dunne.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  Curiously enough, it was a character in my last two novels, Lady Mary Grey.  She was called ‘Crouchback Mary’ and was—by common report—a dwarf.  I was fascinated by her— a princess of the blood, cousin to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, sister to Lady Jane Grey.  An outsider plunged in the center of court intrigues, seeing both the glamour and the underbelly of court life.  I wanted to take that concept further to explore the relationship between royalty and servants, how their lives were bound together.  How does a butcher’s son from the shambles in a small village survive being ripped away from everything he knows to be plunged into a world of unimaginable wealth and intrigue?

What other books in your genre does this compare to?  Arianna Franklin, The Crown by Nancy Bileyeau, Anne Perry.

What else about this book might pique your reader’s interest?  The Wizard Earl’s Daughter, friendship.

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