About the Novels
My first novel came about when a very fine 18th century house in my seaside birthplace of Bognor Regis was being threatened with demolition.
Its history was unique as it had been the home of the founder of the town, a rich merchant, who in 1784 had invested his fortune into turning the tiny fishing village into a grand seaside resort, which retains its fine sea-bathing to this day. So I told the story of the house through the life of a young girl growing up amid all the changes that were taking place and I called it SOVEREIGN’S KEY.
When the book was published in 1970 the local bookshops sold out the first day and people stood in line for me to sign their copies.
I had no idea then that later the same would happen with readers of subsequent books in the U.S.A when I was invited to talk about my writing as far apart as Alabama, Washington and Florida.
SOVEREIGN’S KEY did much to rouse local public support for the house and brought about its restoration. SOVEREIGN’S KEY also set a pattern for all my future books in being a fictional story against an authentic historical background.
In the early days of my career I continued to write short stories as well as serials. During this time I was asked to write three teenage books, which had originated as my serials in a magazine called Petticoat. Readers had flooded the publishers with requests for more, apparently having fallen in love with my dashing heroes. I wrote them under my own name, Barbara Ovstedal. These books were entitled RED CHERRY SUMMER, VALLEY OF THE REINDEER and SOUVENIR FROM SWEDEN. I could have gone on writing for teenagers, but I was also writing a travel book NORWAY for Batsford, again under my own name. From 1975-78 I wrote four Gothics under the pseudonym of Barbara Paul, which I used exclusively for St.Martins Press, U.S.A, with the titles THE SEVENTEENTH STAIR, THE FRENCHWOMAN, TO LOVE A STRANGER and DEVIL’S FIRE, LOVE’S REVENGE. But historicals had become my first love and by this time I was also writing for Doubleday, U.S.A as Rosalind Laker, which was my great-grandmother’s name. From then onwards my books began to be translated into many languages, including Russian. My French publishers, Presses de la Cite, have published many of my books ever since BANNERS OF SILK in 1981, which appeared in France under the title MADEMOISELLE LOUISE. As I have French Huguenot ancestry it always gives me particular pleasure when my books appear in France.
The Readers Digest Condensed Book Club had begun taking my books and when two were taken consecutively it was the first time that had ever happened in its long history of publishing – and then a third in line was taken, making it a truly unique record.
THIS SHINING LAND was my tribute to the extraordinary courage of the Norwegian people throughout the Nazi Occupation of their country. Admiration for the work of Vermeer inspired THE GOLDEN TULIP. As for my WARWYCK trilogy, that was originally inspired by one of my ancestors, who had been a champion bare-knuckle pugilist, and I have drawn on my family history for much that has appeared in my books. Then, like everybody else, I fell under the spell of glorious Venice at first sight and wrote two very different books that were set in that Supreme City.
I have always found people kind and helpful when one is engaged in research. Many doors have been opened for me throughout the years of my writing, right from my first book when a retired boxer instructed me in the art of fisticuffs. One of many other examples was when I was researching the dress designer Fortuny in Venice. I arrived at the entrance of his great palace only to be told by workmen that it was closed as preparation for a large Fortuny exhibition, which would be taking place in three weeks time when I would have returned home. So I took photographs of the exterior and then went down a long calle at the side of the palace to look at the water entrance where gondolas would also have brought customers. It was then that a big man in a white suit called out to me from the head of the calle.
“Are you the English lady writing a book about Fortuny?" When I replied that I was he said, “I’m the director of the exhibition and I will show you around." So I saw everything in the palace, including rooms that were not being opened to the public and at the same time I gained some valuable research information that would have been virtually impossible to discover elsewhere.
I had written THE FRAGILE HOUR in 1996 when my husband was taken ill and I put everything aside to be with him.
Fortunately he made a full recovery, but it took a long time and I did not return to writing, although loyal readers continued to write to me.
Then it was Presses de la Cite wanting to know why they had not received a Rosalind Laker for such a long time that finally brought me back to a new computer with the encouragement of my husband and also Juliet, my agent.
So I wrote NEW WORLD, NEW LOVE and my writing career began all over again.