Irreverent Questions With… Charlotte Betts

This week we have the lovely Charlotte Betts, author of The Apothecary’s Daughter, answering our irreverent questions.  If you haven’t heard of this wonderful novel, you are missing out and should immediately go and read our review.  Then buy the book, you won’t regret it.

On with irreverence!

What would you be, or want to be, if you weren’t an author?
An artist. I used to love painting in watercolours but was never as good at it as I’d like to be.

Do you have any rituals or processes before you can start writing?
I always make a big mug of tea – builder’s tea, hot and strong, not lapsang souchong.

Describe your working environment right now.
I’m standing up at the kitchen counter – just arrived home from work and am cooking roast chicken for dinner while I write this! It’s a country kitchen, warm and cosy from the AGA, with big windows out to the garden and the woods beyond.

How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
It was a normal, frantic, day at the office. But I did take a few moments to stare out of the window, smiling to myself.

Whose opinion matters most to you?
For anything personal – my family. And then my readers.

Do you get fully dressed to write?
I always write a few words early in the morning in my dressing gown while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil. In the winter, when it’s cold, I wear furry slipper boots, jeans, double jumpers and a scarf. I feel the cold more when I spend hours sitting still in front of the laptop at weekends.

What gets you in the mood or inspires you to write?
I’m always in the mood to write but Life often gets in the way. I do write something every day, even if it’s only a sentence standing up in the kitchen.

Who would play you in the film adaptation of your life?
I’d like it to be Felicity Kendall but she’s too petite or Joanna Lumley but she’s too lovely. It’s hard to see yourself as others do.

What is the best experience you’ve had with fans?
I was at a book signing in my local Waterstones this weekend and a lady came to buy a book. She had seen an article about my debut novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter, in the Newbury Weekly News and said that she found my journey to publication really inspiring. She’s a writer herself and it was wonderful to be able to encourage her to fulfil her own dreams.

What do you value most?
Integrity and kindness. And good health.

How do you deal with negative comments?
I always listen to them but try to distance them from my emotions. If I can learn something that’s good, if not, I do my best not to let such comments bother me.

It’s movie night, the credits are just about to roll, Happy Ever After or Everyone Dies?
Happy Ever After. I’m the eternal optimist.

What do you do to relax?
Read or write. Or bake cakes.

Do you have pets, and if so, describe them?
I had a border collie dog, one of the most intelligent breeds. Megan died a year ago and I still miss her. We used to walk together while I worked out plot problems and she always looked so interested when I muttered snatches of dialogue as we rustled through the leaves in the woods.

What are your preferred conditions for writing, i.e. silence, background noise, TV?
Silence or birdsong from the garden.

What is your favourite type of music?
I always dread being asked this question! I’m embarrassed to say I don’t really listen to much music – there’s too much going on in my head to want any distraction. But sometimes I surprise myself. I was listening to Ladies in Lavender the other day and it almost brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes I can’t help but smile when I hear a pop song from my teenage years.

Do you have any phobias?
I don’t like stuffy, enclosed spaces. The thought of pot-holing gives me the shivers. Oh, and ants.

Do you find the time of year makes it easier or harder to write, are you inspired by spring or delayed by the summer heat for instance?
A walk in the sunshine, whatever the time of year, always lifts my spirits and brings joy to my writing.

Slippers, socks or barefoot?
Barefoot in summer, slippers in winter.

Huge thanks to Charlotte Betts for taking the time to answer our questions and if you want to know more, visit her Website, Facebook or Twitter!

Pictures provided by and used with permission of Charlotte Betts

Irreverent Questions is BookThing‘s fun, new feature where we ask a series of random questions that popped into Grete’s curious head. If you are an author and would like to take part, please get in touch!


The Apothecary’s Daughter

The Apothecary’s Daughter is a book I’d been hearing good things about, and while it might not be a part of my usual set of genres, I wanted to give it a try.  I started it this morning and absolutely could not put it down.  When I’d finished, I had to let it sit for a while so I could think about it.  It’s actually a very hard book to review, not because of the subject matter or that it’s an historical romance but because there are just so many layers.

Charlotte Betts created a rich setting, a stark and vivid London in 1665.  A time of plague and the great fire of London, where death, disease and sorrow were part and parcel of daily life.  She then brought her characters to life with beautiful writing, and they fit really well into the time and attitudes of the period.

Eventually it’s an extremely sweet romance, but to get there, Susannah Leyton has to go through several adjustments and compromises.  At a time when being a strong woman was not considered an asset, let alone an intelligent one who wanted to use the skills learned from her father, it made her all the more special.  She isn’t a woman chafing at her lot in life however, she doesn’t want to change the world, she just wants to live in it as best she can.  The thought of marriage and children are abhorrent to her after watching her mother die horrifically in childbirth, but her choices are limited when her father remarries and the new lady of the house wants her gone.  Unable to find a suitable position, she finally accepts the proposal from the cousin of a close family friend.

I think the thing I liked most about Susannah is that once she has decided to do something, she does it with all her heart.  Marriage may not have been her first choice but she enters into it earnestly, despite her fears.  She is compassionate and caring and the author made it easy for me to empathise with her, through simple but evocative words.

The pace of the story is well measured and at times can be very grim and sad.  The cast of characters change frequently with Susannah as the focal point, but one remains with her all the way through and was the last person I expected to sneak into both our hearts.

This is not a bodice ripper historical romance, nor is it a story about a woman who wants to be equal to a man.

It’s a wonderful, fluidly written and extremely gripping journey with Susannah, the apothecary’s daughter.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Charlotte Betts
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)