13 September 2012

Pia Fenton writing as Christina Courtenay

HNS Conference Guest of the Day 

Pia Fenton is a committee member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and currently their Vice Chairman. Pia-Christina writes historical romance and her first novel Trade Winds was shortlisted for the RNA’s award for Best Historical. Her second novel, The Scarlet Kimono, won the Best Historical Fiction award for The Big Red Read and was shortlisted for the ‘Festival of Romance’ awards in the Best Historical category.

Thank you, Helen, for having me as your guest as part of the HNS Conference celebration. As we share a love of history, I thought I’d talk a little bit about that, and in particular about doomed causes. 

 I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fascinated by history ever since I was a child. I still remember my very first history lesson at school, when the teacher told us about Stone Age cultures and we were taken to see a sort of canoe or boat made out of a hollowed out tree trunk. I couldn’t believe someone had made that using only stone tools and from then on I was hooked.
As I was always a voracious reader, my father pointed me in the direction of things like the Norse sagas, the Odyssey and Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. I think at first I took them as real history, until I learned to distinguish between fact and fiction.  But they were the basis for my love of historical fiction and when it came to writing my own novels, there was never any doubt in my mind that this was the sort of thing I wanted to write myself.
Certain times in history seem more interesting than others, and also specific events. Personally, I love reading about doomed causes, the ones that in my opinion were just or right and should have succeeded.  Throughout history, there seem to be so many of these doomed causes, which could have turned out well, but for one reason or another didn’t.  These absolutely fascinate me.
I know you’ve written about King Harold, Helen, and his doomed attempt to keep the throne of England. He came so very close to succeeding, and I have to admit I would very much have liked him to. It’s the same with the English Civil War – I so wish the Cavaliers had won and by rights they should have done!  It’s only small consolation that they triumphed in the end through the restoration of Charles II.  Most of all, however, I’m fascinated by the Jacobites, which is why I couldn’t resist setting my latest novel in the Highlands (although some time after the defeat at Culloden).It seems Bonnie Prince Charlie could definitely have achieved a free Scottish kingdom, but he’d set his heart on the throne of England as well and so he failed. 

These “if only” moments stir up your emotions and you can’t help but take sides, I think. You ask yourself what if Harold hadn’t had to fight the Vikings first? What if King Charles I hadn’t been quite so unwilling to listen to good counsel? What if Bonnie Prince Charlie had been content with his Highland domains?  But you know you can’t change history, you can only lament what happened and weave your own stories out of what occurred.
But that, in itself, is the fun part of being an author, because even if your fictional characters take part in doomed uprisings or whatever, you can let them survive and live a long and happy life, unlike the real protagonists.  And apart from doomed causes, I love a happy ever after ending, so for me perhaps it’s best to stay in the world of make-believe I create myself.

Pia's Banquet Guests

I’d like to invite (I’m sure there are lots I’ve forgotten, but these were the ones that sprang to mind right away)

Jesus – I’m not religious, but I’d really like to meet the real historical figure and find out what it was about him that was so charismatic. I’d also like to clear up a few things that a lot of people seem to have misunderstood with regard to what he said/didn’t say, like the role of women within the church and so on.

Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar – I’d try to persuade him to tell me what secrets they were really hiding.  I know people laugh at all these conspiracy theories, but those guys were definitely onto something or they wouldn’t have become so rich so quickly, or flourished for so long. I hate unsolved mysteries, I want to know what it was! 

Prince Rupert of the Rhine – I have a thing about Cavaliers,  as I mentioned, and he sounds like a fascinating man, not just handsome (and a renowned ladies’ man), but also intelligent and inquisitive. I think he’d be fun to talk to. If only King Charles had listened to him before the battle of Naseby, he may not have lost! 
Prince Rupert

Bonnie Prince Charlie – here’s a man I’d like to talk some sense into!  If only he’d been happy with being king of the Scots and not insisted on the throne of the whole United Kingdom, he could have been king, lived happily ever after and Scotland would have been its own country again.  I would love to debate this with him! 

Jared Leto – at last someone who’s not a historical figure, I hear you say, although his performance as Hephaistion in the film Alexander often makes me see him that way.  Jared seems like a really interesting guy, a very complex character, and I’d love to chat to him about his various personas as an actor, singer, songwriter and film producer.  And if that fails, well, I could just look at him … :D

The Queen – I think she’d hold her own in any conversation and she looks like she has a great sense of humour.  It would be fascinating to hear her real views on the world.
Joe Elliott (lead singer of the band Def Leppard) – a bit of northern charm and down to earth attitudes would add spice to the table I think. Not sure he fits in with any of the other guests, apart from maybe Jared, but sometimes it’s good to have a mixture. And hopefully he could be persuaded to sing for us as well.

Roger Moore – I think he personifies the “English Gentleman” and he seems to have a great sense of humour too. I used to watch him as “The Saint” when I was a little girl and have liked him ever since – he’s my favourite James Bond of course.

Georgette Heyer – a very forthright lady, from all accounts, and one who could be counted on to stir up the conversation.  I think she was very sharp, very intelligent, and it would be fascinating to talk to her about her books.

Many thanks for having me here!
Pia/Christina's website

Highland Storms
ISBN: 978-1-906931-71-1
published by Choc Lit 
1st November 2011


  1. Thank you for having me as your guest, Helen - look forward to seeing you at the HNS conference!

  2. What a fun group! How I'd love to see the Queen, Georgette Heyer, and Joe Elliott interact!


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