“You don’t look like somebody who would be into history.”
I get that a lot. I wasn’t aware that people who are ‘into’ history are supposed to look a certain way, but then I remember my merciless teasing of my long suffering history teacher Robin about his tweed jackets complete with elbow pads….and I think that maybe I do not have the right look. I remain totally uncaring of this. My name is Sara and I am ‘into’ history. (Sorry Robin)
As a kid I wanted to be (at different stages) a ballerina, a wolf tamer, a librarian, a vet, a writer and a nun. I’ve ever been capricious and am unlikely to change. However I do have one thing that had held my interest despite my fickle career aspirations and that is history. I was seven or thereabouts and found myself the extremely excited owner of a ten pound note. I dreamt about all of the sweets I could buy and spent it a hundred times over in my imagination. In the end I bought a book. My Mother was the member of a book club and I picked up the leaflet showing books for sale, I came across Antonia Frasers ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ in hardback, an absolute doorstep of a book and I decided that my ten pound note was going to be spent on that book. I bought it and I did read it, I don’t know how much of it I actually understood, but it was read and there began my interest in history.
I shall never apologise to my primary school teachers for using my exercise books writing short (very bad) stories about Kings or Queens of England. Nor shall I apologise to my classmates for putting them through ten minutes per week of my standing before them enthusiastically reading out facts of a King or Queen of England. I had a rabid appetite for the Tudors, the Stuarts, the Hanoverians and suchlike. My teacher had to ask me to let somebody else answer a question for a change. In secondary school and college I didn’t focus on history. I didn’t even take it as an option in my exams, studying performing arts at college and then (ever fickle) law and psychology. It was only when I was in my twenties and had had children (four not-very-angelic girls) did I started reading again. This time the Tudors didn’t get a look in. I went straight into the Wars of the Roses and a few years later I had fallen into a career in history and have never looked back. After returning to college and then university, I worked as a professional researcher and to date, my work has appeared in bestselling historical fiction, a TV series (and a forthcoming credit in academic history). I turned down a publishing deal for historical fiction (am still undecided as to whether that was a smart move or not!) and am now writing my first nonfiction book on the Mortimer family 1330-1425.
I am often asked on what it is that fascinates me so much about this particular family. The truth is, I don’t actually know. As part of a paid researching job on the Wars of the Roses I visited Wigmore Castle. I’d never shown any interest in the Mortimers before, mentioning them only in conjunction with their claim to the throne and the House of York. However the next day when I sat down to work I found myself falling into a Mortimer rabbit hole and I have not yet returned and am unlikely to do so. I am happily Alice lost in Mortimer Wonderland. Future projects include a graphic novel on the battle of Agincourt which shall be illustrated by renowned historical illustrator Matthew Ryan, and a possible collaboration on the early Mortimer family with a fellow author. As of March 2017 I am a trustee for the Mortimer History Society and will be giving a talk on ‘Sir Thomas Mortimer; the Mortimer Bastard’ on Oct 7th at the Ludlow Assembly Rooms as a part of the society symposium. (I shall post further details on this event in the future.)
I live in Winchester, UK but spent most of my life in Leicester and am an avid Leicester City fan. #Foxes (!) I’m always happy to talk about history so feel free to get in touch via this blog or you can find me on Facebook or Twitter as Sara Hanna-Black where I spend most of my time talking about football, shoes, politics, cats…. and…. occasionally history.