My first literary accolade was a creative writing prize at primary school and from that point on I wanted to be a novelist. I was always reading as a child and often made up stories for my brother and sister on long car journeys. I was also a huge Enid Blyton fan and by ten I was writing my own (doubtless terrible) boarding school novels. Perhaps inevitably, I took my degree in English literature and it was at Cambridge, specialising in medieval literature, that I first discovered what has become a true passion for ancient history.
I took a sidestep after university to work in a wonderful textiles factory in Lancashire - a move that led me to my lovely husband, but didn't satisfy my yearning to write. Married and living in Derbyshire, however, I took up my pen again in the sparse hours available between raising my two stepchildren and two more of my own. At that hectic time, I primarily wrote shorter fiction and I've had well over 200 stories and serials published in women's magazines. Now though, with the older two leaving home and the younger two at secondary school, my time has opened up and it's been a joy to fill it with my historical trilogy - The Queens of the Conquest.
I find the Saxons, Vikings and Normans absolutely fascinating. The more I research their world, the more I realise how cruel the term 'dark ages' is, as these people had hugely sophisticated clothing, jewellery, art, poetry, economics and judicial systems. They were also just people, as we are people and I firmly believe that they must have largely felt much the same as we do. Amusement, embarrassment, grief, hatred and - perhaps above all - love are not modern inventions and I have loved creating a cast of, hopefully, believable characters to help readers experience this fantastic era for themselves.
My trilogy is about the amazing stories of the three women vying to be Queen of England in 1066 - Edyth of Mercia, wife of King Harold; Elizaveta of Kiev; wife of Harald Hardrada; and Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror. I am thrilled it is being published by PanMacmillan and very much hope that readers enjoy these too-little-known women's stories.
Do feel free to contact me via twitter - @joannacourtney1, facebook - joannacourtneyauthor, or my website - www.joannabarnden.co.uk.