Lucy Jago’s debut novel, A Net for Small Fishes, is published by Bloomsbury on 4 February 2021.
Lucy kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about A Net for Small Fishes.
The story is about a friendship between two very different women, Anne Turner, a doctor’s widow, and the Countess of Essex, Frances Howard, daughter of the powerful Howard family. The friendship between them sparks the most sensational scandal of the 17th century. It is a fictional account based as closely as possible on real events that rocked the Jacobean Court and had long-term ramifications.
2. What inspired the book?
The women in the story inspired the book. They are incredible and I have never, not even for a moment over the past decade, felt bored researching or writing their story.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
For this book, definitely the former. Which is not to say that I haven’t ripped up very many plans and started afresh. For my next book, I suspect that I shall plan less, but it is still based on a real life.
4. Was there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?
How much fun it has been. I have been blessed with an extraordinarily brilliant editor in Alexandra Pringle, and her superb team at Bloomsbury. I am not exaggerating when I say that at every step of the process I have been bowled-over by their knowledge, their enthusiasm and their hard work – it’s been incredible.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I love writing, even when it’s hard, so I work quite a lot. I walk to relax, with dogs but rarely with other humans as I need some time alone, most days if possible, to think or to not think! I find reading a good book the quickest way to relax. During the pandemic, I have enjoyed finding series on TV to watch with my husband and three kids in the evenings, rationing our viewing to one episode a night (OK, sometimes two) to get that sense of anticipation so sorely lacking for kids at the moment.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
The complete works of Shakespeare – partly, because they will keep me going many years, but also because I don’t feel I know his work as well as I would like.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Would you like to meet Anne and Frankie?
I have thought about this a lot, just as I have thought about them a lot. In my mind, they are whole and complete – so it might be a terrible shock if they turned out to be vain, malicious and lustful after all! And would we understand each other? Our English would be quite different, our cultural references also. I would need a translator who could also teach me the complicated social etiquette of the Court. In short, I would need for myself what I hope I have done in the book – to get as close to Anne and Frankie as possible, but to translate their experience for our own times.
About the Book
Frances Howard has beauty and a powerful family – and is the most unhappy creature in the world.
Anne Turner has wit and talent – but no stage on which to display them. Little stands between her and the abyss of destitution.
When these two very different women meet in the strangest of circumstances, a powerful friendship is sparked. Frankie sweeps Anne into a world of splendour that exceeds all she imagined: a Court whose foreign king is a stranger to his own subjects; where ancient families fight for power, and where the sovereign’s favourite may rise and rise – so long as he remains in favour.
With the marriage of their talents, Anne and Frankie enter this extravagant, savage hunting ground, seeking a little happiness for themselves. But as they gain notice, they also gain enemies; what began as a search for love and safety leads to desperate acts that could cost them everything.
About the Author
Lucy Jago is an award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction and Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. Her first book, The Northern Lights, won the National Biography prize and has been translated into eight languages. She was awarded a Double First Class Honours Degree from King’s College, University of Cambridge, and a master’s degree from the Courtauld Institute, London. She lives in Somerset.