Saturday, 3 February 2018

Diana talks to Toni Mount, creator of the inimitable Sebastian Foxley

Hi Toni. I am really happy that you agreed to pop in and talk on this leg of your Blog Tour. I enjoyed reading and reviewing you latest book, The Colour of Murder, so much. For people who want to follow Toni's blog tour, here are the remaining dates:
3/2/18 Author Interview 
7/2/18 The Tower of London - 
10/2/18 Royal Witchcraft 
17/2/18 George Duke of Clarence – 
24/2/18 Bedlam Hospital

First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked, so now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it! 

How and why did you choose the name Sebastian Foxley for your hero of ‘The Colour of ...’ series of medieval whodunits?
I saw a medieval painting of poor St Sebastian stuck with arrows like a pin-cushion. The expression on his face was of long-suffering but determination and I knew that’s how my hero should be so he became Sebastian. I invented the surname – I think foxes are clever, ingenious creatures and just added ‘ley’. Realising there might be a place called Foxley, I checked maps and found there are at least three villages with that name: in Wiltshire, Northamptonshire and Norfolk. I chose the last county for my hero’s place of origin because East Anglia was known for producing scribes of high standard in medieval times, so that gave me his family background.

What is the genre you are best known for?
Medieval whodunits, obviously, but my first publications were all non-fiction ‘popular’ history books with an academic slant.

If your latest book (The Colour of Murder, available on Amazon, published by MadeGlobal) was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
Eddie Redmaine would be great – if it happens soon before he grows too old as Seb is only 25.

What made you choose this genre?
As a reader, crime novels set in any era or location are my favourite. My passion and my work concern medieval history, so it seemed obvious to combine my research with a crime story.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
In my research, I use original documents known as Court Rolls. These are records of court cases, often incomplete, so we know the crime alleged and who stands accused but maybe not the verdict. Sometimes we are told the verdict and the punishment but not the crime. It’s fun to be able to fill in the gaps. Coroners’ records also give me ideas for ‘unusual’ means of dispatching a victim.

Favourite picture or work of art?
Not just one picture but a whole series and certainly a work of art: ‘The Hastings Book of Hours’ with its exquisite miniatures and marginalia that are so well observed from nature. Secretly, I know Seb Foxley probably produced it or one just like it. 

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Always loads of ideas... one already almost complete is a Victorian crime thriller: ‘The Death Collector’.

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 won a school prize for a story I wrote at Junior School when I was 11. Never really stopped since.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Love it.

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
No rituals or routines – never a creature of habit (too boring) but I do have a favourite mug with guinea pigs on it.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Family – except when I’m on a roll at my PC, then my characters take over.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
I’m doing all of them already – teaching and telling people and writing about history in a way that makes it fun.

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Coffee and Pink – I discovered White Zinfandel on holiday in California long before it became fashionable in England.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
I don’t do much planning but often start with a few disparate ideas for situations and characters I want to combine. A couple of pages of notes are my preliminary starting point. I’m of the ‘Stephen King School of Seat-of-the Pants Method’. That’s what he calls it: put a character in a situation and see what they do. The only ‘plan’ I use is a chapter by chapter note of what’s happening so I can refer back to earlier incidents and keep track but I write this up after a chapter has been written.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
Nothing fancy but quite large and well spaced to make it pleasurable and easier to read, as well as less daunting to look at than vast swathes of text.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
One that explains how King Richard III shipped the little ‘Princes in the Tower’ to safety in Burgundy – if such a thing exists.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
Oh, yes. That happens when the writing is really going well. They often surprise or occasionally shock me. If they do that to me then they’ll probably do it to the reader too, so I try to allow them their freedom and adjust the story as I go. It’s great fun.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
I’ve got folders and folders – both hard copy and on computer – of research that was done for teaching courses and writing non-fiction. And it’s not unknown for me to ‘google’ stuff as well. In the past, I’ve visited museums, libraries and countless historic venues in England and on the Continent. Last summer, we visited Foxley village in Norfolk to research the background for a forthcoming novella ‘The Colour of Death’ when the hero returns to his roots. Next summer, we’re off to Iceland where I have it in mind to set a story about medieval explorers – maybe.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
No. Real characters can’t be erased from history just to suit me. I might reduce their role or tamper a bit with their personality. For example, in some of ‘The Colour of’ series, Sir Robert Percy plays an important part. He really was a friend to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but not so well known. There is no description of him, so I made one up and also gave him a knighthood earlier in his career than actually was the case. In general, I like to keep to the facts and work them into the story.

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?
I prefer not to.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
I do have to be careful after a long stint of fiction writing to ‘switch over’ if I have a magazine article to write. For example, I’ve written about witchcraft and alchemy in my latest novel and also had a couple of articles about the same subject to produce. I had to forget any of the ‘invented’ facts I included in the novel. Mind you, the real story was whacky enough to be all fictitious.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
Love Seb – obviously. Came to loath Lord Lovell in ‘The Colour of Poison’, much to the distress of fans of Richard III since Lovell – the real person – was a close friend of Richard and in their opinion the beloved king could never have been friends with such a nasty piece of work. Sorry guys. This was one of those occasions when the character took over the story – nothing to do with me! (Lovell surprised me! but whilst his character in the book is not based on fact, it has made me reappraise my view of him. I will be looking at him again in depth with a different eye as soon as I have time. Diana.)

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Apart from crime thrillers etc. I enjoy reading recipe books, especially very old ones with quirky ingredients and, preferably, in modern books, ones with full colour pictures to tempt me. I never cook anything like them but it’s fun to imagine.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
A soothing hot chocolate since the story is set in snowy February and perhaps a brandy to restore the reader towards the end. Better not say more than that.

Last but not least... favourite author?
Lee Child – brilliant. What’s not to love about footloose Jack Reacher but Child doesn’t write fast enough so I supplement with Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope action thrillers always with a historical element. Still never enough though so Conan Doyle, J.D. Robb, C.J. Sansom, Ann Swinfen, Edward Marston and James Patterson are all high on my list and any other who catches my eye.


Hello! I'm Toni,

I'm a writer, history teacher and speaker, based in south-east England. I bring history alive with my books, courses and talks, based on thirty years of personal and academic study. I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for history and have academic, research and teaching qualifications - please browse these pages to find out how I can share our history with you...
To get updates on my Seb Foxley books copy and follow this link .My series of murder mysteries is set in the stinking streets of medieval London and features the talented yet humble artist, Seb Foxley.  

My first novel "The Colour of Poison" was a huge success and continues to receive praise from around the world. Readers asked for more stories, so now there are now short stories to read, such as "The Colour of Gold" and "The Colour of Betrayal" between the full length books "The Colour of Cold Blood" and the forthcoming "The Colour of Murder". You can now also follow Seb's adventures at his own website and download a free bonus book "The Foxley Letters".
My latest non-fiction book "A Year in the Life of Medieval England" looks at real events that occurred on everyday of a medieval year.

"Medieval Medicine" is the paperback version of my highly successful hardback "Dragon's Blood and Willow Bark..."

"Everyday Life in Medieval London" is my most popular non-fiction and made it to No.1 at, and "Medieval Housewives" was voted a "Favourite book" of that year.
I can sign your ebook at

After many years of teaching history to adults, several of my courses are now available online at

Please visit my website or follow me at or

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Toni Mount, 11th Dec 2017

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