This week Armitage Authors Network is thrilled to bring you our interview with Elizabeth Hanbury, who tells us about her most recent book, Christmas At Rakehell Manor, which Georgette Heyer hero she’d love to hear Richard Armitage read, and what she likes most about Armitage’s fandom.
Armitage Authors Network: Tell us about your connection to Mr. Armitage. When did you discover him?
Elizabeth Hanbury: As I mentioned in the recent 10 year North & South anniversary post, I started watching the 2004 BBC adaptation of North & South. I’d always enjoyed period drama and had read the book so I’d probably have watched anyway but there was very little pre-publicity; I happened to catch a trailer and there was an article in the Radio Times.
I was hooked immediately and wanted to find out more. The intensity of that response still astonishes me. Yes, we all fell in love with John Thornton/Richard Armitage but it was more profound than that. It was this adaptation, with this cast, this script, this director, this soundtrack…. Sounds a cliché but I felt a connection. It was just one of those ‘wow’ moments when everything comes together perfectly to create a moment of magic. It happened again last summer with The Crucible in which Richard played John Proctor. I was lucky enough to see it and it turned out to be another sublime combination of cast, play, director, venue, sound, lighting etc. Like N&S, it will live long in the memory as a result. I’m so pleased it was captured on film.
I’ve followed his career closely since N&S, something I’ve not done with any other actor. Why? I’m going to go into more detail here than I have before because it’s something I’ve been reflecting on since the anniversary; ten years is a long time to stay interested in someone I’ve never met.
I guess it started with him sending that message to the BBC message board. He appreciated us appreciating his work and took the trouble to let us know. Remember, this was in 2004 long before social media like Twitter or even Facebook. Most of us were internet neophytes and Richard probably was too. But he took time out to get in touch. I liked that and liked him as a result, what he had to say and the humourous, self-deprecating way he said it (Brad Pitt in the flesh LOL). So, as much as you can ever know someone you only ‘know’ through his messages (more’s the pity, I’d love to sit down and have a chat although I’d have a list of questions as long as his legs haha!), his responses to fan mail, letters, requests for signatures, charity raffle prizes, interviews, articles and so on, he hasn’t done anything since to fundamentally change my opinion of him, forged when reading his first message.
Apart from being a great actor, he seems a charming, funny, intelligent, generous, genuinely nice guy. He’s not perfect – who is? – but he always tries to do the right thing as far as I can see and for me that’s what matters.
I’m loyal too, so unless fame and success change him and he stops appreciating his well-wishers, then I’ll continue to follow his career and hope he goes from strength to strength, finding both professional and personal fulfillment.
AAN: Were you already writing fiction at that time? What impelled you to write?
EH: Yes, unlike most other authors you’ve featured on here, I had already written fiction before North & South. I started writing because I needed an outlet, something to channel my creative energy into. I enjoy art, and draw and paint, but I also love reading, especially historical fiction.
I’d written some original fiction but, as so often happens, I had put it away in a drawer. North & South, then C19, made me take it out, dust it off and look at it again. I posted some of it on the writing board on C19 and having immediate positive feedback encouraged me to post more and it went from there. It was scary initially to share what I’d written but over time I’ve realised it’s important because there are people out there who enjoy it, and perhaps even find it an escape from their own difficulties and encourage them to be creative in turn.
AAN: Did you ever try your hand at writing fan fiction? Did you read it?
EH: I never wrote fan fiction – never felt compelled to as I liked creating my own characters – but I read a lot of it! The standard was amazingly high.
Elizabeth Hanbury, photo used with her permission
AAN: You’re an avid fan of Georgette Heyer. You must love Richard’s audio work of her works. Which Heyer hero would you absolutely love to see Richard play?
EH: Ah yes…I’ll always be grateful to him for narrating those audiobooks which combined two of my favourite things. He did it beautifully, too.
Heyer is a vastly underrated author. Her phrasing, her dialogue, her research, her style and her plot structure are wonderful. She made it look easy which is a sign of her skill. I think her contemporary critics were dismissive because she wrote romance, a genre that has never achieved the status it deserves, but she was actually read by as many men as women.
Which Heyer hero? There are many but it would have be Sir Waldo Hawkridge from The Nonesuch. He’s handsome, intelligent, romantic, humourous, a gentleman, a philanthropist, and he has some great put-down lines – what’s not to like? Kudos to Heyer for making me love a guy called Waldo! He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he’s three-dimensional without being rude, unpleasant or overbearing. There are few romantic heroes you’d want to meet, let alone live with, outside the pages of a novel, but Sir Waldo is an exception and I’d love to hear Richard voice him.
AAN: Tell us about your writing genre and some of your works.
EA: The Regency period is endlessly fascinating to me. It’s become synonymous with elegance and refinement but it was also a dynamic time of innovation in science and technology (which I’m also really interested in) as well as advancements in the arts. It was a society on the cusp of reform on all levels including social welfare.
I love the paradoxes of the era and believe they make the genre enduringly popular.
I’ve written five novels and several short stories, published with both UK and US publishers.
AAN: What’s you most recent release?
Christmas at Rakehell Manor. It started off as a novella but ended up as a novel because I had heaps of fun throwing together a deeply conflicted and troubled hero with a practical heroine who disrupts his carefully planned Christmas!
AAN: Can you give us any hints about what you might be working on next?
EH: A short story about a mysterious man who lives upstairs from the heroine. Then I’ll move on to the next book in the Cavanagh Family series, which will feature a Duke as the hero. I know, I know, Dukes have been done to death in historical romance ;0) but I couldn’t resist and he will be based in fact.
AAN: How would you sum up your experience as a long-time fan of Richard’s? What has been most enjoyable or rewarding in being connected to other fans?
EH: It’s been a blast and I’d like to thank him for being the catalyst for many positive things. I’ve made some fantastic friendships because the overwhelming majority of people who follow Richard’s career are warm, friendly and very generous. You can’t help but enjoy spending time and exchanging ideas with them, be it in real life or simply on line.
Also the creative energy he sparks is amazing. I saw it from the start with the fan fiction and my own writing, but it’s continued and now there is so much wonderful fan art, fan fiction, original fiction and artwork to enjoy. It’s something unique as far as I know, and I’m sure he must be secretly delighted, as any artist or performer would be.
Last but not least, I rarely mention personal stuff on line for various reasons but I have a close family member with a chronic health condition so being able to interact with other fans has helped me through some difficult times.
AAN: What would you like Armitage fans to know about you or your work?
EH: I find it a bit weird and difficult to talk about myself – it seems self indulgent and conceited – and therefore sometimes I think I come over as reserved. But people who know me in real life know that I’m an inveterate giggler with a wicked and mischievous sense of humour. I’ve been told that side of me comes through in my writing and I hope it does.
Elizabeth Hanbury’s works are archived here. She blogs at Elizabeth Hanbury: Wickedly Captivating Historical Romance. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Hanbury and her Facebook page here.