Growing up in East London, I had two main interests. Books was my first love – Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde and F. Scott Fitzgerald transported me to glamorous worlds far removed from my own. Second was London; the majestic thoroughfares and quaint pubs in hidden alleyways. Awed by the history and architecture, I would spend hours pounding the pavements, discovering London for myself. My pocket money went a long way with free entry to so many wonderful places, such as the National Gallery, British Museum and the V&A.
It was never my plan to become an author. I left school at eighteen and worked in a bank for many years. But my early infatuation with books and history stayed with me. I started writing by chance, in 1999, when working for an internet company. I provided content for their website, writing about London, its history, architecture and places to visit. My articles were reproduced by the Evening Standard, British Airways and Transport for London. When the job finished, I continued to research and write for pleasure. I rummaged around in archives, attended regular creative writing classes, plus a residential writers course at the Arvon Foundation.
In 2010, I fulfilled a lifelong ambition by obtaining a Master’s in History (with distinction) at Queen Mary University of London. This helped to hone my research skills and taught me how to make the most of my primary source material. I like to work with private letters and diaries because they are a rich source of information. They seem to capture the heart of a person, revealing private thoughts and feelings. My research is not restricted to any particular era. I’ve worked on writings by a fifteenth century Carmelite Nun, an eighteenth century socialite, a Suffragette imprisoned at Holloway, and Margaret Thatcher.
Over the course of my research I have encountered many fascinating tales, but the one that kept resonating was the story of Catherine Tylney Long, heiress of Wanstead House. Her private letters and diaries were intriguing, but even more compelling was the transcript of a highly explosive court case. Affidavits from this scandalous trial greatly enrich my first book – THE ANGEL AND THE CAD: Love, Loss & Scandal in Regency England.
I am currently working on my second book, which is set in the nineteenth century, and flits between London, USA and Russia. It feels very intimate getting to know my heroine, reading through her private letters and diaries, uncovering her long hidden secrets. She led a remarkable life and I’m looking forward to telling her story.
Watch Geraldine’s interview on London Live
Listen to Geraldine’s BBC History Podcast on ‘Scandal’.
Read Geraldine’s interview in BBC History Magazine
Read Geraldine’s interview with Macmillan
Author picture © Geoff Wilkinson