From her study window in a converted hay loft, she could gaze out at Penhill – “I couldn’t work anywhere without a view,” - and get down to work, usually at 4am, finishing her latest book. “The swallows would swoop in and around and out again as I worked.” It was her love of research that started her own writing career. Her first and only “proper” job after leaving Oxford where she studied History, was as librarian and curator at The Bronte Parsonage in Haworth. “I would see writers coming in and researching for their books, but most of them them just looked at what other people had written. They ignored all that mass of original material we had there just waiting to be looked at.”
As part of her decade of research - as if it wasn’t enough that the Bronte family left a terrific amount of written material, much of it in tiny writing, very testing for the eyesight - Juliet spent read two years reading local newspapers of the time. “Addled my brain, but gave me so much information about the Brontes in the community that no one had ever bothered with before,” she says.
The Brontes ended up as a stonking great book, winning awards and establishing her as a writer who really knew her stuff. Despite its scholarship, it’s wonderfully readable.
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