An Interview with Penny Hampson

Author Penny Hampson is joining me today to talk about her new novel, The Unquiet Spirit, and her writing journey. Thank you for taking time out to chat to me today, Penny.

Please tell my readers a little about yourself

I came to writing rather late in life, having spent most of my adult years bringing up my family and then working as researcher in an academic library. It was only when I made the difficult decision to give up working full time to enable me to care for a close family member that I decided to write my first novel. I’d been juggling both caring and work for ten years and it was beginning to get too much.

Of course, being a historian meant my first book was going to be an historical novel. I joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, who were very helpful in critiquing my work and introducing me to other authors. A Gentleman’s Promise was eventually published in 2018. I’ve now written three historical novels, the third to be published in October this year. The Unquiet Spirit is my first contemporary novel, but it won’t be my last. I feel I’ve got a lot of catching up to do having started so late!

What inspired you to become a writer?

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve toyed with the idea of writing, but real life always got in the way. There was always something more important that I should be doing. Then when my circumstances changed, I found myself with more free time — time to sit down and write. Since I started, I’ve never looked back and now I can’t imagine life without planning and plotting stories.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

I love being able to create characters and plotting their adventures – creating a story that somebody else will enjoy. That’s the biggest thrill for me.

What is your writing routine like?

Routine? Eeek! I don’t have a set routine for writing. I try to write everyday, but sometimes, because of other commitments, this isn’t always possible. I share a rather cramped office with my husband, so it can get a little difficult at times, especially when I’m trying to write a tense, emotional scene and he is swearing at his computer (we both do that!). However,  the good news is that I have been promised a study of my own; our spare bedroom will hopefully be transformed into a super-duper writer’s workspace, with room for all my research books, maps, and other bits and pieces.

How much time is spent on research?

I invest a lot of time on research if I’m writing an historical novel. It’s amazing the amount of time one can spend just tracking down one fact that might only appear in the story as a passing mention. But I do like to get things right. My contemporary novel also took a fair amount of research. As it is set in Falmouth, a place I know reasonably well, it still merited a another research trip. I also had to research portrait painters who were around in Bath at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as a mysterious portrait plays a large part in the plot of The Unquiet Spirit.

How much of the book is planned before you start writing it? 

I sketch out a basic plot when I start, but I’m very much a pantster. Things change as I write, in fact, very often the characters dictate which way the plot goes. All I can say is that, I know exactly where I want to my characters to be at the end of the story, but how they get there is as much an adventure for me as for them.

What is your latest book about? 

My latest book, The Unquiet Spirit, is about Kate Wilson, a historian who has just come out of a toxic relationship. Thanks to an unexpected bequest, she is able to start afresh in a new place, Falmouth. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan. Attempted break-ins, threats, and a hostile neighbour are just a few of her problems. The discovery of a hidden journal and a mysterious portrait point Kate to a secret love story from the past. With a little supernatural prompting, it becomes Kate’s quest to uncover the identities and the fates of the lovers – a task that leads her into life-threatening danger. 

What inspired it? 

Lots of things inspired The Unquiet Spirit. My husband suggested writing a contemporary story – he’s excellent at giving constructive feedback on my stories, but he’s not a big fan of historical novels, which all my previous books have been. One day I was browsing on the internet, as one does, and came across a house for sale – sadly, not one I could afford – and this became my inspiration for The Beeches. I wondered what it would be like to live in an old house, one with an interesting history, a few secrets … and perhaps a ghost or two. Even though I’d set out to write a contemporary story I was equally determined to work some history in. 
I also wanted to introduce elements of contemporary life that are sometimes overlooked or ignored. Issues that I feel strongly about that don’t easily fit in a historical novel. That’s why one of my secondary characters suffers from a chronic illness; I wanted to show how an issue like that can impact a whole family, something I have personal experience of as a carer.

How did you go about getting a publishing deal?

I’m a hybrid author. My historical novels are all self-published, but The Unquiet Spirit is published by Darkstroke. It’s good having total control over one’s stories and how they look, but the costs of professional editing, proofing and covers are significant. These are costs which I considered to be essential before releasing my books. However, I’m happy to say that my experience with Darkstroke has been excellent.

Any new books or plans for the future? 

Yes. I’ve got lots of things in the pipeline. My next book, A Bachelor’s Pledge, is already written and due to be released on 7th October. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it tells the story of government agent, Phil Cullen and Sophia Turner, the young lady he rescues from a notorious brothel. Both become embroiled in a plot to unmask a ruthless French spy and prevent a hidden cache of gold reaching French shores. Expect lots of adventure and action. Like The Unquiet Spirit, it too is mainly set in Falmouth and Bath, making my research trips to these places doubly useful!  Beyond that, I have more contemporary paranormal mysteries to come. I’ve plans for Freddie, a minor character from The Unquiet Spirit, to have his own encounter with the supernatural, and I’m also working on a modern short story about witches set in Glasgow.

What genre do you read most often?  

I’ll read almost anything providing it’s well-written and uplifting, though I do have a soft spot for romance. I enjoy historical novels because I’m mad about history, and it’s also a genre I write. I also love crime and police procedurals, possibly because I enjoy solving puzzles. Though I have to say, I’m not very good at guessing whodunnit!

Thank you so much, Val, for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions.

The Author

Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.

Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and  three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a traditional Regency romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.

But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.

Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

For more on Penny’s writing, visit her blog:


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