Saturday, 9 December 2017

Diana talks to Christine Hartweg

Hi Christine. Thank you for coming on *Diana Talks To...*

Let us get started. I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!

 Do you really like Queen Elizabeth I? 
– Not sure, really. The circles I grew up in considered her an overdressed, bewigged old hag who presided over an unprecedented cultural flowering. It took me years to understand that she was a real human being (seeing her as a 12-year-old in a red silk dress was a healthy shock in this respect); my respect for her grows daily.

What is the genre you are best known for?
– That would be historical non-fiction; I hope if people know me at all, they know me for my research into John & Robert Dudley of Tudor England (the Duke of Northumberland and the Earl of Leicester, respectively). (Christine's excellent books are available from Amazon: John Dudley, Amy Rosbart )

What made you choose this genre?
– Clearly my fascination with said people. It started in the late 1990s and was rekindled in about 2007 after reading a book on the Earl of Essex, Robert Dudley's stepson (I also like Essex).    

Favourite picture or work of art?
– That's so hard, as I love so many, literally thousands. But if I have to choose one, the Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese in the Louvre.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
– I sort of drifted into writing about the Dudleys due to my interest in them, and at some point I started a blog and some friends said I should write a book. I don't think that I ever wanted to be a writer, although I've always loved writing and there were moments when I thought it would be great to be able to write a biography on this or that person. As a teenager, I wanted to make films.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
– Never tried it. ((What??? Shocked face!! Diana))

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
– I don't hear music while writing, nor do I have any rituals except to open the file and actually get started. But I need the writing space I am used to. For most of the year this is me sitting on my bed with my laptop; in summer, the weather allowing, this is a small table on the terrace (also with my laptop).  

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
– I've always wanted to be a pharmacist.

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
– I don't drink any of those, actually, my favourite beverage is Coke.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
– Writing non-fiction, I think working hard on a chapter plan is essential. Still, there always come up important new aspects or facts while writing, so you never know at the start what exactly the book will be like in the end. You never know what you'll find, that's exiting.  

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
– I'm happy with Times Roman (and Georgia for some elements).

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
– No, I am certainly not prepared to do this, ahem; but I know that moment when something you believe did happen would fit very nicely into the story and then, upon checking the sources again, you notice it didn't happen at all. I guess cutting the whole passage is best, although it may be hard and entail some rewriting.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
– I think writing about people automatically makes them more likeable. On the other hand, of course I needed to “fall in love” with my main characters in order to keep up the research on them.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
– I try to read all I read for pleasure, I have serious trouble reading things I can't get into. My favourite stuff is historical non-fiction, not necessarily about the Tudors, and also art books.  ((Same here!))

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
– Coke, of course.

Last but not least... favourite author?
– Let's say Robert Louis Stevenson and William Shakespeare.

Christine Hartweg

© Diana Milne January 2017 
© Christine Hartweg November 2017

Christine Hartweg lives in Berlin and was born in South America in 1972. She has researched the Dudley family of Tudor England since 2008 and has advised the BBC and other TV channels. She wrote "John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey's Father-in-Law", and her new book is "Amy Robsart: A Life and Its End". Christine runs the specialist blog


  1. I've been following Christine's blog on the Dudleys. Great stuff. I'm gratful for all her hard work in doing the research. Thanks!

  2. .. oops grateful!! Thrice grateful!

  3. If you could speak to Robert Dudley's children I would much appreciate it. I know about Fernando and a brother but both died out in Italy with the exception of a root you may know of by the name: Scarfone, perhaps an illigitimate line by one of the boys? My father told me we are 9th great grandsons of Dudley (who is our 2nd maternal cousin) by a man named John Perratt 1565 born during the queens absence from Court November 1565 9 mos. after she made Dudley master of the Queens horses. They were out of sight for 4 or 5 days together according to the History of Parliment on line. D. Charles Rice 1948 matching DNA to Dudley 2nd cousin 23/25 and 6th cousin 59/67 markers on Y chromosome.