From the Author
Pepys's view of the women in his life was what you would expect - they were very much supporting characters in his story. Like all diarists, he is essentially egotistical in his presentation of events. But in Pleasing Mr.Pepys, I wanted to give the women centre stage, and Pepys provides plenty of inspiration and documentation for me to do so. One of the notorious highlights in the diary is Pepys's passion for his maid, Deb Willet, and I wondered how she felt about the situation, and so began to unpick Pepys's Diary for clues.
The inspiration for the novel came from one description. When talking of Deb, the diary says that Pepys felt 'she might be a little too good for my family.' Further research revealed she was very well-educated, having been schooled at a girls' school in Bow--an education that was unusual for a girl of that era. Perhaps she might not be the archetypal downtrodden maid and have an agenda ofher own? So the idea for a novel about Deb Willet was born.
Samuel Pepys's wife, Elisabeth, had little education so I could well imagine tensions arising between the two women. At the time too, England was at war with the Dutch, so I wondered if the intelligent Deb could somehow be involved in espionage for the enemy. After all, she was in an ideal position to do it. I had heard of Aphra Behn, the actress and playwright, who played a similar role in the same period. Samuel Pepys had access to vital information about the English Fleet, and in his diary, he had been frank about the antics of the libertine King Charles II and his court.
Research introduced me to a fascinating Restoration world of spies and rebels,whores and priests, and I tried to populate the spaces between the lines of Pepys's Diary with this plausible but entertaining history. But at the heart of the novel is the innocent maid, who is not quite as innocent as she seems.
(This was originally an article on the blog, 'Let Them Read Books'.)