An Interview with Christina Courtenay

Christina Courtenay Nicola here! It's my very great pleasure today to welcome back Honorary Word Wench Christina Courtenay! Not only has Christina's first historical novel, Trade Winds, recently been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association Historical Novel Prize, her second book, The Scarlet Kimono, is set for publication at the beginning of March. Today Christina is here to talk about The Scarlet Kimono and the fascinating setting of 17th century Japan. Christina writes:

"Thank you very much for inviting me, it’s great to be back on your lovely blog again!

 I thought I would tell you a little bit about the research for my second historical TheScarletKimono_front romance, The Scarlet Kimono, which is coming out soon.  The story is largely set in 17th century Japan, a time when hardly any Europeans had ventured that far east and those who did were either missionaries or merchants.  The Japanese were very reluctant to receive foreigners and although Portuguese and Spanish priests were allowed at first and some of the locals converted to Christianity, they were soon being persecuted.  The traders were confined to the port of Hirado near Nagasaki (and later on a small island called Dejima) and usually weren’t allowed to venture any further.

 There was one exception to this, however, the Englishman Will Adams, whom many of you might know about from James Clavell’s novel The Shogun, (whose hero I believe was loosely based on Adams).  He seems to have become a protégé of the shogun (ruler) Tokugawa Ieyasu, and stayed in Japan until his death.  I decided that it would be interesting to explore this theme, but with a female foreigner rather than a male, and so my heroine was born.

 As a teenager, I lived in Japan for a few years, and naturally this helped me with a lot of the basic research such as the language, food and customs.  However, being young, there were a lot of things I didn’t notice so a couple of years ago my family and I went back for a visit and this time I concentrated on taking note of everything I needed to know for my story.  One of the things I’d never done while living there was to go and see a Japanese castle and since one features in my novel, this was a must.

 Himeji3 In Tokyo there is only the Imperial Palace, which doesn’t allow visitors except in the gardens, so we had to venture further afield.  As we wanted to go to Kyoto anyway (a lovely city with a much more “laid-back” feel than busy Tokyo), we decided to take the bullet train, the Shinkansen, and make an extra stop along the way in the town of Himeji.  I’d read that there was a wonderful castle there, not far from the station, and this proved to be the case.

 Himeji is one of the finest (if not the finest) surviving examples of 17th century Japanese castle architecture, and I believe it’s also the largest and most frequently visited.  It was one of the first recognised UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan and is a national treasure.  The word ‘impressive’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, as we soon discovered!

 Coming out of the station, we wandered along a high street that sloped up towards this magnificent castle built in the traditional Japanese style.  Situated at the top of a hill, with a large central multi-storied keep, it has high roofs with the corners turned up and some sort of mythical tiger-headed fish (!) as decorations.  Surrounded by lots of smaller buildings and high walls, all white-washed above solid foundations of perfectly fitted stonework, it is a formidable place and definitely the kind of castle I had in mind for my hero, who is a samurai warlord.  We were doubly lucky in that we happened to visit during cherry blossom season and the entire castle compound was surrounded by trees covered in sakura, the delicate white petals so beloved of Japanese poets.  It seemed like a magical place to live – how could my heroine not fall in love with both it and its owner?  I certainly loved it.

 Inside, we were allowed to climb to the highest floor of the central tower building, the tenshu.  The HimejiBlossom floors and staircases (some quite steep!) are all of gleaming wood, polished smooth by thousands of feet no doubt, and I immediately got that lovely feeling of stepping back in time.  At the top, the view over the surrounding countryside is breath-taking – that sounds clichéd, but there really is no other word for it.  As the castle is so high up, the views are far-reaching and I doubt any enemy army could ever have surprised the inhabitants.  All in all, it is quite simply perfect.

 I have to admit to being a great fan of castles of any kind – I’m sure my fascination with fairy tales as a child had something to do with it – and although the Japanese variety are built in such a different style to ours, I think the feeling of awe induced in any visitor is the same.  The grandeur, the sweeping views and the sheer scale of the buildings are always a thrill, at least to me." 

Christina, thank you very much for sharing some of your research with us today. I loved Trade Winds and I am looking forward very much to getting my hands on The Scarlet Kimono and reading about such a fascinating historical background. Here is a little bit more information about the book to whet the appetite!

The Scarlet Kimono is published by Choc Lit on 1st March, ISBN 978-1-906931-29-2 and is available on www.amazon.com or www.bookdepository.co.uk (post free worldwide).  For more details see www.choc-lit.co.uk

TheScarletKimono_front Blurb:

 Abducted by a Samurai warlord in 17th-century Japan – what happens when fear turns to love?

England, 1611, and young Hannah Marston envies her brother’s adventurous life. But when she stows away on his merchant ship, her powers of endurance are stretched to their limit. Then they reach Japan and all her suffering seems worthwhile – until she is abducted by Taro Kumashiro’s warriors.

 In the far north of the country, warlord Kumashiro is waiting to see the girl who he has been warned about by a seer. When at last they meet, it’s a clash of cultures and wills, but they’re also fighting an instant attraction to each other. 

 With her brother desperate to find her and the jealous Lady Reiko equally desperate to kill her, Hannah faces the greatest adventure of her life. And Kumashiro has to choose between love and honour …

 My website and blog are at www.christinacourtenay.com

Christina is offering a signed copy of The Scarlet Kimono to one lucky commenter and I know her question is one that will get the discussion going! "I’d love to know which castles have inspired other authors or, as readers, which are your favourites?  Also, which ones you’d love to visit if you had the opportunity – next on my wish list are the German ones along the river Donau.  You can’t get more “fairy tale” than that! If you’d like to win a signed copy, please leave a comment below about your favourite castle (or castles?) and why you love that one in particular." Over to you! 

110 thoughts on “An Interview with Christina Courtenay”

  1. In 1986, we visited Kyoto Castle during sakura time and it still remains one of my favorite castles. It was very easy to feel history come alive while walking around the building. Later in Nagasaki, I visited the house of the English “gaijin” (foreigner) which sits up on a hill. There was a diary from the lady of the house – a woman who was 16 at the time and had come out from India. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but I thought she must have been quite formidable to live in Japan at that time.

    Reply
  2. In 1986, we visited Kyoto Castle during sakura time and it still remains one of my favorite castles. It was very easy to feel history come alive while walking around the building. Later in Nagasaki, I visited the house of the English “gaijin” (foreigner) which sits up on a hill. There was a diary from the lady of the house – a woman who was 16 at the time and had come out from India. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but I thought she must have been quite formidable to live in Japan at that time.

    Reply
  3. In 1986, we visited Kyoto Castle during sakura time and it still remains one of my favorite castles. It was very easy to feel history come alive while walking around the building. Later in Nagasaki, I visited the house of the English “gaijin” (foreigner) which sits up on a hill. There was a diary from the lady of the house – a woman who was 16 at the time and had come out from India. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but I thought she must have been quite formidable to live in Japan at that time.

    Reply
  4. In 1986, we visited Kyoto Castle during sakura time and it still remains one of my favorite castles. It was very easy to feel history come alive while walking around the building. Later in Nagasaki, I visited the house of the English “gaijin” (foreigner) which sits up on a hill. There was a diary from the lady of the house – a woman who was 16 at the time and had come out from India. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but I thought she must have been quite formidable to live in Japan at that time.

    Reply
  5. In 1986, we visited Kyoto Castle during sakura time and it still remains one of my favorite castles. It was very easy to feel history come alive while walking around the building. Later in Nagasaki, I visited the house of the English “gaijin” (foreigner) which sits up on a hill. There was a diary from the lady of the house – a woman who was 16 at the time and had come out from India. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but I thought she must have been quite formidable to live in Japan at that time.

    Reply
  6. Welcome back to the Wenches, Christina! Himeji looks stunning! I have always wanted to visit Japan and your photos are inspiring. My favourite miniature castle is, of course, Ashdown House (no surprises there!) but I think the place that I would love to visit if I had the opportunity is the Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France. It’s very beautiful! Also Castle Fraser in Scotland.

    Reply
  7. Welcome back to the Wenches, Christina! Himeji looks stunning! I have always wanted to visit Japan and your photos are inspiring. My favourite miniature castle is, of course, Ashdown House (no surprises there!) but I think the place that I would love to visit if I had the opportunity is the Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France. It’s very beautiful! Also Castle Fraser in Scotland.

    Reply
  8. Welcome back to the Wenches, Christina! Himeji looks stunning! I have always wanted to visit Japan and your photos are inspiring. My favourite miniature castle is, of course, Ashdown House (no surprises there!) but I think the place that I would love to visit if I had the opportunity is the Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France. It’s very beautiful! Also Castle Fraser in Scotland.

    Reply
  9. Welcome back to the Wenches, Christina! Himeji looks stunning! I have always wanted to visit Japan and your photos are inspiring. My favourite miniature castle is, of course, Ashdown House (no surprises there!) but I think the place that I would love to visit if I had the opportunity is the Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France. It’s very beautiful! Also Castle Fraser in Scotland.

    Reply
  10. Welcome back to the Wenches, Christina! Himeji looks stunning! I have always wanted to visit Japan and your photos are inspiring. My favourite miniature castle is, of course, Ashdown House (no surprises there!) but I think the place that I would love to visit if I had the opportunity is the Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France. It’s very beautiful! Also Castle Fraser in Scotland.

    Reply
  11. Kyoto castle is lovely, MJ, I agree! I especially liked the famous ‘nightingale floor’ there which really does squeak a lot.
    Nicola – yes, I’d love to go to both of those as well and I can’t believe I haven’t been to Ashdown House yet! Must do that soon. So far, my favourite Scottish castle is Eilean Donan though, so picturesque.

    Reply
  12. Kyoto castle is lovely, MJ, I agree! I especially liked the famous ‘nightingale floor’ there which really does squeak a lot.
    Nicola – yes, I’d love to go to both of those as well and I can’t believe I haven’t been to Ashdown House yet! Must do that soon. So far, my favourite Scottish castle is Eilean Donan though, so picturesque.

    Reply
  13. Kyoto castle is lovely, MJ, I agree! I especially liked the famous ‘nightingale floor’ there which really does squeak a lot.
    Nicola – yes, I’d love to go to both of those as well and I can’t believe I haven’t been to Ashdown House yet! Must do that soon. So far, my favourite Scottish castle is Eilean Donan though, so picturesque.

    Reply
  14. Kyoto castle is lovely, MJ, I agree! I especially liked the famous ‘nightingale floor’ there which really does squeak a lot.
    Nicola – yes, I’d love to go to both of those as well and I can’t believe I haven’t been to Ashdown House yet! Must do that soon. So far, my favourite Scottish castle is Eilean Donan though, so picturesque.

    Reply
  15. Kyoto castle is lovely, MJ, I agree! I especially liked the famous ‘nightingale floor’ there which really does squeak a lot.
    Nicola – yes, I’d love to go to both of those as well and I can’t believe I haven’t been to Ashdown House yet! Must do that soon. So far, my favourite Scottish castle is Eilean Donan though, so picturesque.

    Reply
  16. Spisz castle in Slovakia or Niedzica, near Zakopane, Poland. Visited both on subsequent days last summer. Very atmospheric and did not come away feeling “castled out”

    Reply
  17. Spisz castle in Slovakia or Niedzica, near Zakopane, Poland. Visited both on subsequent days last summer. Very atmospheric and did not come away feeling “castled out”

    Reply
  18. Spisz castle in Slovakia or Niedzica, near Zakopane, Poland. Visited both on subsequent days last summer. Very atmospheric and did not come away feeling “castled out”

    Reply
  19. Spisz castle in Slovakia or Niedzica, near Zakopane, Poland. Visited both on subsequent days last summer. Very atmospheric and did not come away feeling “castled out”

    Reply
  20. Spisz castle in Slovakia or Niedzica, near Zakopane, Poland. Visited both on subsequent days last summer. Very atmospheric and did not come away feeling “castled out”

    Reply
  21. The castles I most enjoyed visiting in fiction have been those ones with interesting (and sometimes scary) tunnels and passageways, like in Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances from the early 70s. And Julie Garwood’s RANSOM, and THE PRIZE had castles with secret passages, as well as Lisa Jackson’s TEMPTRESS. Finally, my favorite castle was depicted in Robert Crichton’s novel TIMELINE. That really brought the medieval era of warfare and the reality of the times alive. I would someday love to see a real Scottish castle, I so adore reading those Scottish medieval romances.:-)
    Laurel

    Reply
  22. The castles I most enjoyed visiting in fiction have been those ones with interesting (and sometimes scary) tunnels and passageways, like in Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances from the early 70s. And Julie Garwood’s RANSOM, and THE PRIZE had castles with secret passages, as well as Lisa Jackson’s TEMPTRESS. Finally, my favorite castle was depicted in Robert Crichton’s novel TIMELINE. That really brought the medieval era of warfare and the reality of the times alive. I would someday love to see a real Scottish castle, I so adore reading those Scottish medieval romances.:-)
    Laurel

    Reply
  23. The castles I most enjoyed visiting in fiction have been those ones with interesting (and sometimes scary) tunnels and passageways, like in Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances from the early 70s. And Julie Garwood’s RANSOM, and THE PRIZE had castles with secret passages, as well as Lisa Jackson’s TEMPTRESS. Finally, my favorite castle was depicted in Robert Crichton’s novel TIMELINE. That really brought the medieval era of warfare and the reality of the times alive. I would someday love to see a real Scottish castle, I so adore reading those Scottish medieval romances.:-)
    Laurel

    Reply
  24. The castles I most enjoyed visiting in fiction have been those ones with interesting (and sometimes scary) tunnels and passageways, like in Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances from the early 70s. And Julie Garwood’s RANSOM, and THE PRIZE had castles with secret passages, as well as Lisa Jackson’s TEMPTRESS. Finally, my favorite castle was depicted in Robert Crichton’s novel TIMELINE. That really brought the medieval era of warfare and the reality of the times alive. I would someday love to see a real Scottish castle, I so adore reading those Scottish medieval romances.:-)
    Laurel

    Reply
  25. The castles I most enjoyed visiting in fiction have been those ones with interesting (and sometimes scary) tunnels and passageways, like in Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances from the early 70s. And Julie Garwood’s RANSOM, and THE PRIZE had castles with secret passages, as well as Lisa Jackson’s TEMPTRESS. Finally, my favorite castle was depicted in Robert Crichton’s novel TIMELINE. That really brought the medieval era of warfare and the reality of the times alive. I would someday love to see a real Scottish castle, I so adore reading those Scottish medieval romances.:-)
    Laurel

    Reply
  26. Fascinating post, Christina. What an interesting time period—your storys ounds wonderful! (Another book to be added to the TBR pile)
    I’ve always wanted to visit King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. He’s been called the Mad King, but many agree that he simply lived in his own little dream world. I mean, one has to like a man who says “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others.”

    Reply
  27. Fascinating post, Christina. What an interesting time period—your storys ounds wonderful! (Another book to be added to the TBR pile)
    I’ve always wanted to visit King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. He’s been called the Mad King, but many agree that he simply lived in his own little dream world. I mean, one has to like a man who says “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others.”

    Reply
  28. Fascinating post, Christina. What an interesting time period—your storys ounds wonderful! (Another book to be added to the TBR pile)
    I’ve always wanted to visit King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. He’s been called the Mad King, but many agree that he simply lived in his own little dream world. I mean, one has to like a man who says “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others.”

    Reply
  29. Fascinating post, Christina. What an interesting time period—your storys ounds wonderful! (Another book to be added to the TBR pile)
    I’ve always wanted to visit King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. He’s been called the Mad King, but many agree that he simply lived in his own little dream world. I mean, one has to like a man who says “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others.”

    Reply
  30. Fascinating post, Christina. What an interesting time period—your storys ounds wonderful! (Another book to be added to the TBR pile)
    I’ve always wanted to visit King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. He’s been called the Mad King, but many agree that he simply lived in his own little dream world. I mean, one has to like a man who says “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others.”

    Reply
  31. The only castle I’ve visited was Shimabara Castle, which is in Nagasaki. My mother’s family is from Nagasaki, but I have to say, I don’t remember a lot about the visit except the steep stairs. I’d love to visit an Irish castle one day (I’m Irish on my father’s side).

    Reply
  32. The only castle I’ve visited was Shimabara Castle, which is in Nagasaki. My mother’s family is from Nagasaki, but I have to say, I don’t remember a lot about the visit except the steep stairs. I’d love to visit an Irish castle one day (I’m Irish on my father’s side).

    Reply
  33. The only castle I’ve visited was Shimabara Castle, which is in Nagasaki. My mother’s family is from Nagasaki, but I have to say, I don’t remember a lot about the visit except the steep stairs. I’d love to visit an Irish castle one day (I’m Irish on my father’s side).

    Reply
  34. The only castle I’ve visited was Shimabara Castle, which is in Nagasaki. My mother’s family is from Nagasaki, but I have to say, I don’t remember a lot about the visit except the steep stairs. I’d love to visit an Irish castle one day (I’m Irish on my father’s side).

    Reply
  35. The only castle I’ve visited was Shimabara Castle, which is in Nagasaki. My mother’s family is from Nagasaki, but I have to say, I don’t remember a lot about the visit except the steep stairs. I’d love to visit an Irish castle one day (I’m Irish on my father’s side).

    Reply
  36. My clan actually has a castle – which I have yet to visit. How much more inspiration could a writer need? I will get to Caithness one day and visit it!

    Reply
  37. My clan actually has a castle – which I have yet to visit. How much more inspiration could a writer need? I will get to Caithness one day and visit it!

    Reply
  38. My clan actually has a castle – which I have yet to visit. How much more inspiration could a writer need? I will get to Caithness one day and visit it!

    Reply
  39. My clan actually has a castle – which I have yet to visit. How much more inspiration could a writer need? I will get to Caithness one day and visit it!

    Reply
  40. My clan actually has a castle – which I have yet to visit. How much more inspiration could a writer need? I will get to Caithness one day and visit it!

    Reply
  41. GJ – I hadn’t thought of Slovakia or Poland, but of course they must have lovely castles too. Will add the ones you mentioned to my wish list, thanks!
    Laurely – yes, I loved Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances too, lots of great castles in those. I have all her books, must re-read them one of these days.
    Cara – thank you! And Neuschwanstein sounds perfect, another one for my list.
    Anyone else have children who groan at the mere thought of castles or anything vaguely cultural though? I guess my two have been a bit “over-exposed” to historical homes 🙂

    Reply
  42. GJ – I hadn’t thought of Slovakia or Poland, but of course they must have lovely castles too. Will add the ones you mentioned to my wish list, thanks!
    Laurely – yes, I loved Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances too, lots of great castles in those. I have all her books, must re-read them one of these days.
    Cara – thank you! And Neuschwanstein sounds perfect, another one for my list.
    Anyone else have children who groan at the mere thought of castles or anything vaguely cultural though? I guess my two have been a bit “over-exposed” to historical homes 🙂

    Reply
  43. GJ – I hadn’t thought of Slovakia or Poland, but of course they must have lovely castles too. Will add the ones you mentioned to my wish list, thanks!
    Laurely – yes, I loved Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances too, lots of great castles in those. I have all her books, must re-read them one of these days.
    Cara – thank you! And Neuschwanstein sounds perfect, another one for my list.
    Anyone else have children who groan at the mere thought of castles or anything vaguely cultural though? I guess my two have been a bit “over-exposed” to historical homes 🙂

    Reply
  44. GJ – I hadn’t thought of Slovakia or Poland, but of course they must have lovely castles too. Will add the ones you mentioned to my wish list, thanks!
    Laurely – yes, I loved Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances too, lots of great castles in those. I have all her books, must re-read them one of these days.
    Cara – thank you! And Neuschwanstein sounds perfect, another one for my list.
    Anyone else have children who groan at the mere thought of castles or anything vaguely cultural though? I guess my two have been a bit “over-exposed” to historical homes 🙂

    Reply
  45. GJ – I hadn’t thought of Slovakia or Poland, but of course they must have lovely castles too. Will add the ones you mentioned to my wish list, thanks!
    Laurely – yes, I loved Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances too, lots of great castles in those. I have all her books, must re-read them one of these days.
    Cara – thank you! And Neuschwanstein sounds perfect, another one for my list.
    Anyone else have children who groan at the mere thought of castles or anything vaguely cultural though? I guess my two have been a bit “over-exposed” to historical homes 🙂

    Reply
  46. Annrei – I went to Nagasaki a couple of years ago, but not to Shimabara so will have to try and go back. I wonder if they all have steep stairs? The central keeps are fairly tall.
    Cat – wow, a clan castle, that sounds so romantic! I don’t even have a clan, not an ounce of Scottish blood in me unfortunately. Hope you get to go there soon.

    Reply
  47. Annrei – I went to Nagasaki a couple of years ago, but not to Shimabara so will have to try and go back. I wonder if they all have steep stairs? The central keeps are fairly tall.
    Cat – wow, a clan castle, that sounds so romantic! I don’t even have a clan, not an ounce of Scottish blood in me unfortunately. Hope you get to go there soon.

    Reply
  48. Annrei – I went to Nagasaki a couple of years ago, but not to Shimabara so will have to try and go back. I wonder if they all have steep stairs? The central keeps are fairly tall.
    Cat – wow, a clan castle, that sounds so romantic! I don’t even have a clan, not an ounce of Scottish blood in me unfortunately. Hope you get to go there soon.

    Reply
  49. Annrei – I went to Nagasaki a couple of years ago, but not to Shimabara so will have to try and go back. I wonder if they all have steep stairs? The central keeps are fairly tall.
    Cat – wow, a clan castle, that sounds so romantic! I don’t even have a clan, not an ounce of Scottish blood in me unfortunately. Hope you get to go there soon.

    Reply
  50. Annrei – I went to Nagasaki a couple of years ago, but not to Shimabara so will have to try and go back. I wonder if they all have steep stairs? The central keeps are fairly tall.
    Cat – wow, a clan castle, that sounds so romantic! I don’t even have a clan, not an ounce of Scottish blood in me unfortunately. Hope you get to go there soon.

    Reply
  51. I’d have to say that, while there are many amazing English, Scottish and Welsh castles that are pretty amazing to visit. Harlech standing proud of the Irish Sea lapping its foundations is pretty romantic. But you have to remember that the sea is cold there all the year round, so swimming is not recommended. Leeds castle in Kent stands in the middle of a great lake. Auckland Castle in County Durham is one of those castles that has been lived in continuously since it was built. Not by a family, but by the Bishops of Durham. That has some stunning things to see inside.
    But, unfortunately, I have to go overseas for my utter favourite castle of all time. That is the Alhambra in Granada in South Spain. It’s an extraordinary spectacle sitting on top of a cliff-sided promontory beside the city. There is the 12th century castle proper, then the glorious palace complex that everyone thinks of when they think of the Alhambra with its intricately patterned walls and ceilings, pools and fountains, and air of super luxury. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492, they lived in this palace for a while. Their successor, Emperor Charles V, built himself a huge palace, but it didn’t get finished until last century when they pout a roof on it and turned it into a fabulous museum. Next to the palaces are the pleasure gardens – the Generalife – that really play on the sight and sound of water contrasted with the colours and scents of plants. You can’t et away from this one. You have to visit it.

    Reply
  52. I’d have to say that, while there are many amazing English, Scottish and Welsh castles that are pretty amazing to visit. Harlech standing proud of the Irish Sea lapping its foundations is pretty romantic. But you have to remember that the sea is cold there all the year round, so swimming is not recommended. Leeds castle in Kent stands in the middle of a great lake. Auckland Castle in County Durham is one of those castles that has been lived in continuously since it was built. Not by a family, but by the Bishops of Durham. That has some stunning things to see inside.
    But, unfortunately, I have to go overseas for my utter favourite castle of all time. That is the Alhambra in Granada in South Spain. It’s an extraordinary spectacle sitting on top of a cliff-sided promontory beside the city. There is the 12th century castle proper, then the glorious palace complex that everyone thinks of when they think of the Alhambra with its intricately patterned walls and ceilings, pools and fountains, and air of super luxury. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492, they lived in this palace for a while. Their successor, Emperor Charles V, built himself a huge palace, but it didn’t get finished until last century when they pout a roof on it and turned it into a fabulous museum. Next to the palaces are the pleasure gardens – the Generalife – that really play on the sight and sound of water contrasted with the colours and scents of plants. You can’t et away from this one. You have to visit it.

    Reply
  53. I’d have to say that, while there are many amazing English, Scottish and Welsh castles that are pretty amazing to visit. Harlech standing proud of the Irish Sea lapping its foundations is pretty romantic. But you have to remember that the sea is cold there all the year round, so swimming is not recommended. Leeds castle in Kent stands in the middle of a great lake. Auckland Castle in County Durham is one of those castles that has been lived in continuously since it was built. Not by a family, but by the Bishops of Durham. That has some stunning things to see inside.
    But, unfortunately, I have to go overseas for my utter favourite castle of all time. That is the Alhambra in Granada in South Spain. It’s an extraordinary spectacle sitting on top of a cliff-sided promontory beside the city. There is the 12th century castle proper, then the glorious palace complex that everyone thinks of when they think of the Alhambra with its intricately patterned walls and ceilings, pools and fountains, and air of super luxury. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492, they lived in this palace for a while. Their successor, Emperor Charles V, built himself a huge palace, but it didn’t get finished until last century when they pout a roof on it and turned it into a fabulous museum. Next to the palaces are the pleasure gardens – the Generalife – that really play on the sight and sound of water contrasted with the colours and scents of plants. You can’t et away from this one. You have to visit it.

    Reply
  54. I’d have to say that, while there are many amazing English, Scottish and Welsh castles that are pretty amazing to visit. Harlech standing proud of the Irish Sea lapping its foundations is pretty romantic. But you have to remember that the sea is cold there all the year round, so swimming is not recommended. Leeds castle in Kent stands in the middle of a great lake. Auckland Castle in County Durham is one of those castles that has been lived in continuously since it was built. Not by a family, but by the Bishops of Durham. That has some stunning things to see inside.
    But, unfortunately, I have to go overseas for my utter favourite castle of all time. That is the Alhambra in Granada in South Spain. It’s an extraordinary spectacle sitting on top of a cliff-sided promontory beside the city. There is the 12th century castle proper, then the glorious palace complex that everyone thinks of when they think of the Alhambra with its intricately patterned walls and ceilings, pools and fountains, and air of super luxury. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492, they lived in this palace for a while. Their successor, Emperor Charles V, built himself a huge palace, but it didn’t get finished until last century when they pout a roof on it and turned it into a fabulous museum. Next to the palaces are the pleasure gardens – the Generalife – that really play on the sight and sound of water contrasted with the colours and scents of plants. You can’t et away from this one. You have to visit it.

    Reply
  55. I’d have to say that, while there are many amazing English, Scottish and Welsh castles that are pretty amazing to visit. Harlech standing proud of the Irish Sea lapping its foundations is pretty romantic. But you have to remember that the sea is cold there all the year round, so swimming is not recommended. Leeds castle in Kent stands in the middle of a great lake. Auckland Castle in County Durham is one of those castles that has been lived in continuously since it was built. Not by a family, but by the Bishops of Durham. That has some stunning things to see inside.
    But, unfortunately, I have to go overseas for my utter favourite castle of all time. That is the Alhambra in Granada in South Spain. It’s an extraordinary spectacle sitting on top of a cliff-sided promontory beside the city. There is the 12th century castle proper, then the glorious palace complex that everyone thinks of when they think of the Alhambra with its intricately patterned walls and ceilings, pools and fountains, and air of super luxury. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492, they lived in this palace for a while. Their successor, Emperor Charles V, built himself a huge palace, but it didn’t get finished until last century when they pout a roof on it and turned it into a fabulous museum. Next to the palaces are the pleasure gardens – the Generalife – that really play on the sight and sound of water contrasted with the colours and scents of plants. You can’t et away from this one. You have to visit it.

    Reply
  56. Wow, I love your description of Himeji! It sounds like an amazing sight. I had never really thought about castles in Japan. And what a great setting for a historical romance!
    Some of my favorite castles are the ones I visited in the Transylvania area of Romania. Bran Castle is an incredible place to visit, although most historians agree Vlad the Impaler didn’t live there. However, two other castles associated with him, Poienari and Hunyard, probably were occupied by him at some point and they were some of the most atmospheric and eerie places I have ever visited.
    Neuschwanstein is absolutely gorgeous and you get a feeling of such whimsy and sadness there in spite of the beautiful surroundings. Very ethereal.
    My absolute favorite castle (so far!) is Castle Anif near Salzburg. Here is a great photo.
    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/Austria/West/Salzburg/Salzburg/photo644280.htm
    You’ll see that it usually isn’t open to the public, but I was lucky enough to know someone related to the family and I got a tour. Just a precious little jewel of a castle!

    Reply
  57. Wow, I love your description of Himeji! It sounds like an amazing sight. I had never really thought about castles in Japan. And what a great setting for a historical romance!
    Some of my favorite castles are the ones I visited in the Transylvania area of Romania. Bran Castle is an incredible place to visit, although most historians agree Vlad the Impaler didn’t live there. However, two other castles associated with him, Poienari and Hunyard, probably were occupied by him at some point and they were some of the most atmospheric and eerie places I have ever visited.
    Neuschwanstein is absolutely gorgeous and you get a feeling of such whimsy and sadness there in spite of the beautiful surroundings. Very ethereal.
    My absolute favorite castle (so far!) is Castle Anif near Salzburg. Here is a great photo.
    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/Austria/West/Salzburg/Salzburg/photo644280.htm
    You’ll see that it usually isn’t open to the public, but I was lucky enough to know someone related to the family and I got a tour. Just a precious little jewel of a castle!

    Reply
  58. Wow, I love your description of Himeji! It sounds like an amazing sight. I had never really thought about castles in Japan. And what a great setting for a historical romance!
    Some of my favorite castles are the ones I visited in the Transylvania area of Romania. Bran Castle is an incredible place to visit, although most historians agree Vlad the Impaler didn’t live there. However, two other castles associated with him, Poienari and Hunyard, probably were occupied by him at some point and they were some of the most atmospheric and eerie places I have ever visited.
    Neuschwanstein is absolutely gorgeous and you get a feeling of such whimsy and sadness there in spite of the beautiful surroundings. Very ethereal.
    My absolute favorite castle (so far!) is Castle Anif near Salzburg. Here is a great photo.
    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/Austria/West/Salzburg/Salzburg/photo644280.htm
    You’ll see that it usually isn’t open to the public, but I was lucky enough to know someone related to the family and I got a tour. Just a precious little jewel of a castle!

    Reply
  59. Wow, I love your description of Himeji! It sounds like an amazing sight. I had never really thought about castles in Japan. And what a great setting for a historical romance!
    Some of my favorite castles are the ones I visited in the Transylvania area of Romania. Bran Castle is an incredible place to visit, although most historians agree Vlad the Impaler didn’t live there. However, two other castles associated with him, Poienari and Hunyard, probably were occupied by him at some point and they were some of the most atmospheric and eerie places I have ever visited.
    Neuschwanstein is absolutely gorgeous and you get a feeling of such whimsy and sadness there in spite of the beautiful surroundings. Very ethereal.
    My absolute favorite castle (so far!) is Castle Anif near Salzburg. Here is a great photo.
    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/Austria/West/Salzburg/Salzburg/photo644280.htm
    You’ll see that it usually isn’t open to the public, but I was lucky enough to know someone related to the family and I got a tour. Just a precious little jewel of a castle!

    Reply
  60. Wow, I love your description of Himeji! It sounds like an amazing sight. I had never really thought about castles in Japan. And what a great setting for a historical romance!
    Some of my favorite castles are the ones I visited in the Transylvania area of Romania. Bran Castle is an incredible place to visit, although most historians agree Vlad the Impaler didn’t live there. However, two other castles associated with him, Poienari and Hunyard, probably were occupied by him at some point and they were some of the most atmospheric and eerie places I have ever visited.
    Neuschwanstein is absolutely gorgeous and you get a feeling of such whimsy and sadness there in spite of the beautiful surroundings. Very ethereal.
    My absolute favorite castle (so far!) is Castle Anif near Salzburg. Here is a great photo.
    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/Austria/West/Salzburg/Salzburg/photo644280.htm
    You’ll see that it usually isn’t open to the public, but I was lucky enough to know someone related to the family and I got a tour. Just a precious little jewel of a castle!

    Reply
  61. Thanks, Peter, you’ve definitely made me want to visit the Alhambra now! Sounds magical.
    Louisa – wow, Anif is gorgeous! I’d never heard of it before, but it would make a fabulous setting for a novel. The Transsylvanian ones made me shiver though, whether Vlad lived there or not although I’m sure they’re beautiful. Some castles definitely have a very sad, haunted feel to them though – Hampton Court Palace is one of those. Those walls have seen so much!
    I’d love to visit some Welsh castles too, Louis, there are supposed to be some wonderful ones.

    Reply
  62. Thanks, Peter, you’ve definitely made me want to visit the Alhambra now! Sounds magical.
    Louisa – wow, Anif is gorgeous! I’d never heard of it before, but it would make a fabulous setting for a novel. The Transsylvanian ones made me shiver though, whether Vlad lived there or not although I’m sure they’re beautiful. Some castles definitely have a very sad, haunted feel to them though – Hampton Court Palace is one of those. Those walls have seen so much!
    I’d love to visit some Welsh castles too, Louis, there are supposed to be some wonderful ones.

    Reply
  63. Thanks, Peter, you’ve definitely made me want to visit the Alhambra now! Sounds magical.
    Louisa – wow, Anif is gorgeous! I’d never heard of it before, but it would make a fabulous setting for a novel. The Transsylvanian ones made me shiver though, whether Vlad lived there or not although I’m sure they’re beautiful. Some castles definitely have a very sad, haunted feel to them though – Hampton Court Palace is one of those. Those walls have seen so much!
    I’d love to visit some Welsh castles too, Louis, there are supposed to be some wonderful ones.

    Reply
  64. Thanks, Peter, you’ve definitely made me want to visit the Alhambra now! Sounds magical.
    Louisa – wow, Anif is gorgeous! I’d never heard of it before, but it would make a fabulous setting for a novel. The Transsylvanian ones made me shiver though, whether Vlad lived there or not although I’m sure they’re beautiful. Some castles definitely have a very sad, haunted feel to them though – Hampton Court Palace is one of those. Those walls have seen so much!
    I’d love to visit some Welsh castles too, Louis, there are supposed to be some wonderful ones.

    Reply
  65. Thanks, Peter, you’ve definitely made me want to visit the Alhambra now! Sounds magical.
    Louisa – wow, Anif is gorgeous! I’d never heard of it before, but it would make a fabulous setting for a novel. The Transsylvanian ones made me shiver though, whether Vlad lived there or not although I’m sure they’re beautiful. Some castles definitely have a very sad, haunted feel to them though – Hampton Court Palace is one of those. Those walls have seen so much!
    I’d love to visit some Welsh castles too, Louis, there are supposed to be some wonderful ones.

    Reply
  66. I’ve been to Tintagel, Cathy, and agree it’s very picturesque (and quite a climb to get up there!) – don’t you just love the name too? Kind of conjures up romantic visions 🙂
    Suomenlinna – my daughter went there last year and raved about it (even though she’s not into castles). It does sound very impressive!

    Reply
  67. I’ve been to Tintagel, Cathy, and agree it’s very picturesque (and quite a climb to get up there!) – don’t you just love the name too? Kind of conjures up romantic visions 🙂
    Suomenlinna – my daughter went there last year and raved about it (even though she’s not into castles). It does sound very impressive!

    Reply
  68. I’ve been to Tintagel, Cathy, and agree it’s very picturesque (and quite a climb to get up there!) – don’t you just love the name too? Kind of conjures up romantic visions 🙂
    Suomenlinna – my daughter went there last year and raved about it (even though she’s not into castles). It does sound very impressive!

    Reply
  69. I’ve been to Tintagel, Cathy, and agree it’s very picturesque (and quite a climb to get up there!) – don’t you just love the name too? Kind of conjures up romantic visions 🙂
    Suomenlinna – my daughter went there last year and raved about it (even though she’s not into castles). It does sound very impressive!

    Reply
  70. I’ve been to Tintagel, Cathy, and agree it’s very picturesque (and quite a climb to get up there!) – don’t you just love the name too? Kind of conjures up romantic visions 🙂
    Suomenlinna – my daughter went there last year and raved about it (even though she’s not into castles). It does sound very impressive!

    Reply
  71. Thanks Anne and everyone for your comments – I am so pleased you enjoyed the interview. I too love reading books with different settings and The Scarlet Kimono is a fascinating one. I’d like to thank Christina very much for joining us at Word Wenches!

    Reply
  72. Thanks Anne and everyone for your comments – I am so pleased you enjoyed the interview. I too love reading books with different settings and The Scarlet Kimono is a fascinating one. I’d like to thank Christina very much for joining us at Word Wenches!

    Reply
  73. Thanks Anne and everyone for your comments – I am so pleased you enjoyed the interview. I too love reading books with different settings and The Scarlet Kimono is a fascinating one. I’d like to thank Christina very much for joining us at Word Wenches!

    Reply
  74. Thanks Anne and everyone for your comments – I am so pleased you enjoyed the interview. I too love reading books with different settings and The Scarlet Kimono is a fascinating one. I’d like to thank Christina very much for joining us at Word Wenches!

    Reply
  75. Thanks Anne and everyone for your comments – I am so pleased you enjoyed the interview. I too love reading books with different settings and The Scarlet Kimono is a fascinating one. I’d like to thank Christina very much for joining us at Word Wenches!

    Reply
  76. I don’t know if this contest is still going on, but I would like to be entered if it is.. My favorite castle.. and you’re all going to raise your eyebrows.. is Glen Eyrie in Colorado. Seriously. I’ll explain..
    The man who pretty much built Co Springs, General Palmer, was very wealthy. He had a wife from England that he loved very much. He built her a castle and he imported 24 fireplaces from England to put in the castle.
    It still stands today next to Garden of the Gods. I had the pleasure of visiting it last month and the reason this is my favorite is because I wrote a novel due out February of next year.. and in my novel, the heroines spend some time at Glen Eyrie with a fictionalized version of one of General Palmer’s daughters. So I choose this castle.

    Reply
  77. I don’t know if this contest is still going on, but I would like to be entered if it is.. My favorite castle.. and you’re all going to raise your eyebrows.. is Glen Eyrie in Colorado. Seriously. I’ll explain..
    The man who pretty much built Co Springs, General Palmer, was very wealthy. He had a wife from England that he loved very much. He built her a castle and he imported 24 fireplaces from England to put in the castle.
    It still stands today next to Garden of the Gods. I had the pleasure of visiting it last month and the reason this is my favorite is because I wrote a novel due out February of next year.. and in my novel, the heroines spend some time at Glen Eyrie with a fictionalized version of one of General Palmer’s daughters. So I choose this castle.

    Reply
  78. I don’t know if this contest is still going on, but I would like to be entered if it is.. My favorite castle.. and you’re all going to raise your eyebrows.. is Glen Eyrie in Colorado. Seriously. I’ll explain..
    The man who pretty much built Co Springs, General Palmer, was very wealthy. He had a wife from England that he loved very much. He built her a castle and he imported 24 fireplaces from England to put in the castle.
    It still stands today next to Garden of the Gods. I had the pleasure of visiting it last month and the reason this is my favorite is because I wrote a novel due out February of next year.. and in my novel, the heroines spend some time at Glen Eyrie with a fictionalized version of one of General Palmer’s daughters. So I choose this castle.

    Reply
  79. I don’t know if this contest is still going on, but I would like to be entered if it is.. My favorite castle.. and you’re all going to raise your eyebrows.. is Glen Eyrie in Colorado. Seriously. I’ll explain..
    The man who pretty much built Co Springs, General Palmer, was very wealthy. He had a wife from England that he loved very much. He built her a castle and he imported 24 fireplaces from England to put in the castle.
    It still stands today next to Garden of the Gods. I had the pleasure of visiting it last month and the reason this is my favorite is because I wrote a novel due out February of next year.. and in my novel, the heroines spend some time at Glen Eyrie with a fictionalized version of one of General Palmer’s daughters. So I choose this castle.

    Reply
  80. I don’t know if this contest is still going on, but I would like to be entered if it is.. My favorite castle.. and you’re all going to raise your eyebrows.. is Glen Eyrie in Colorado. Seriously. I’ll explain..
    The man who pretty much built Co Springs, General Palmer, was very wealthy. He had a wife from England that he loved very much. He built her a castle and he imported 24 fireplaces from England to put in the castle.
    It still stands today next to Garden of the Gods. I had the pleasure of visiting it last month and the reason this is my favorite is because I wrote a novel due out February of next year.. and in my novel, the heroines spend some time at Glen Eyrie with a fictionalized version of one of General Palmer’s daughters. So I choose this castle.

    Reply
  81. P.S. And I forgot to mention, you can tour it. It’s owned by a relgious organization but they give tours and my best friend and I had tea there so that is ANOTHER reason I have to choose that castle. I actually have a happy memory of my own in it.

    Reply
  82. P.S. And I forgot to mention, you can tour it. It’s owned by a relgious organization but they give tours and my best friend and I had tea there so that is ANOTHER reason I have to choose that castle. I actually have a happy memory of my own in it.

    Reply
  83. P.S. And I forgot to mention, you can tour it. It’s owned by a relgious organization but they give tours and my best friend and I had tea there so that is ANOTHER reason I have to choose that castle. I actually have a happy memory of my own in it.

    Reply
  84. P.S. And I forgot to mention, you can tour it. It’s owned by a relgious organization but they give tours and my best friend and I had tea there so that is ANOTHER reason I have to choose that castle. I actually have a happy memory of my own in it.

    Reply
  85. P.S. And I forgot to mention, you can tour it. It’s owned by a relgious organization but they give tours and my best friend and I had tea there so that is ANOTHER reason I have to choose that castle. I actually have a happy memory of my own in it.

    Reply

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