Jenny Barden

I’ve had a love of history and adventure ever since an encounter in infancy with a suit of armour at Tamworth Castle. After that, at about six years of age, I began to draw suits of armour chiefly notable for their peculiar diminution in size as they progressed, perhaps because I was small and knights seemed to me to have big feet and tiny heads.





Aged around 10 having breached the defences of the Black Knight and rescued a damsel (my sister)


I will freely admit to being horrendous as a child since I was always role playing. On one memorable night, when my mother was out, I blackened my brother’s hair with boot polish (I was a red Indian chief and everyone knows red Indians have black hair); then I daubed both him and myself with war-paint from a tin of old turquoise gloss I found in a cupboard, and hid with my brother under the bed sheets when I heard my father coming up the stairs. (He got his revenge later with a scrubbing brush and cold water.) As a wizard I made a magic potion from potassium permanganate and earthworms in the tea pot, and as a World War II bomber pilot I destroyed the neighbour’s Brussels-sprouts with a heavy bombardment from a Lancaster (actually an old pig sty at the bottom of our garden). I was threatened with Borstal for that, but managed to escape, and redeemed myself eventually through hard work at school.


As well as role playing, I was often painting pictures, and that probably led to my decision to train as an artist, which was rapidly followed by a switch to law after I realised that learning to produce abstracts like Rothko wasn’t really what I wanted to do (I wanted to paint armour like Caravaggio). So I obtained an LLB at the University of Reading, where I’d gone to study Fine Art, and completed my academic studies to qualify as a solicitor at the College of Law, Guildford. I began my practical training in my home town, Burton upon Trent (where I was articled to a cousin of WH Auden), and finished it in the City of London where I worked as a solicitor specialising in company commercial law – for a while…


Four children followed in rapid succession, and my early dream of becoming a knight had never been displaced; I also continued to paint and haunt art galleries. That led to my first efforts at writing (I have a bottom drawer novel about Carel Fabritius, a prodigiously talented artist, student of Rembrandt and colleague of Vermeer, who died young when the Delft gunpowder arsenal blew up). But travels in South and Central America, coupled with an undimmed fascination with the Age of Discovery, led eventually to the realisation of a dream and the writing of my publishing debut, Mistress of the Sea. 


‘Segovia’ – one of my paintings


I am active in many organisations, having overseen the Get Writing conferences hosted by Verulam Writers’ Circle for three years, moderated the Reader Awards for the UK’s inaugural Festival of Romance, and accepted the challenging but hugely rewarding task of co-ordinating the Historical Novel Society’s London Conference 2012 ‘the global event of the year for readers and writers of historical fiction’. I’m a graduate of the New Writers’ Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and I was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award under that scheme in 2013. Most recently I’ve taken on the co-ordination of the 2014 Conference for the Romantic Novelists’ Association.


After a recent move from Hertfordshire, I now live in Dorset with my long-suffering husband, a loving Labrador and a deadly Bengal cat plus my new companions: an assortment of cream legbar chickens, three East India ducks, two Norfolk Black turkeys and a Vietnamese pot bellied pig. Last year I fulfilled one of my lifelong ambitions and acquired a working caliver (a type of Elizabethan firearm which developed from the arquebus and was a precursor of the musket). I like to think that I will soon be possibly the only female author of historical romantic adventures who can say with conviction: ‘Avast! For God and St George!’