I wanted to be a writer from a very early age and wrote my first novel at ten – a doubtless torturous boarding school book, a la Enid Blyton, about a heroine called Daisy, now sadly lost to the mists of time!

Blood Queen

Blood Queen

I studied English at Cambridge and specialised in medieval literature – partly because it fascinated me and partly because the professor was hot!

I’m a huge fan of Blackadder and can recite large chucks of it off by heart. Recently I’ve embraced Upstart Crow in a similar way.

My favourite films, however, are ridiculously girlie: Dirty Dancing and Pretty Woman. I should probably pick something more arty and historical but you’ve gotta love a classic chick-flick!

I’m a bit of a speed-freak. I love a good roller coaster and, when driving, I’m a girl-racer off the lights – much to my kids’ mortification.

I used to be a fairly serious rower. I started at college and got back into it when I moved to Nottingham in my twenties. It was meant to just be a way of making friends but there was an amazing new coach there and next thing I knew, I was training six times a week and dieting down to be a lightweight! Still, I did get two Henley gold medals and some wonderful friends and memories from it and intend (once I stop running my kids to their sports) to get back into it one day.

My idea of a great Saturday night is having friends round to the house for food, wine and music. My favourite bands are The Housemartins and The Proclaimers and it’s not unknown to find me at midnight doing ‘500 miles’ around our kitchen island!

As of this year, I also write contemporary fiction as Anna Stuart. I love the plotting freedom this gives me but history is my first love.

I go mad for a castle. My kids always quake if I spot one on a journey somewhere as they fear a long diversion coming up! I’m just fascinated by being within the same walls as people who lived a long time ago.

In fact, I first got the history bug on a visit to Holyrood Palace with my grandma as a child. I can still picture the blood stain on the floor where Lord Darnley killed David Rizzio. OK, so it had been artfully touched up over the centuries, but I was still mesmerised by standing on the spot on which that event had actually happened. I’ve had a very strong sense of history as a living thing ever since and it’s that, above all else, that I strive to capture in my novels.

MORE: My top ten tips for researching a novel by Joanna Courtney