AS award-winning Herefordshire author Christina Courtenay’s fifth historical novel, The Gilded Fan, is published today, she has learnt that her previous book, The Silent Touch of Shadows, has been shortlisted in the historical category of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s romantic novel of the year award.

“I have wanted to be a writer for years and years, and had lots in my bottom drawer before I was ever published,” says Christina, explaining that it has taken time to hone her craft. “I submitted manuscripts to agents and editors for years without getting anywhere.

She started writing when her first child was born, having decided she wanted to stay at home with her.

“I thought I’d write a Mills & Boon, but that didn’t work.” When she did finally find a publisher, there was a certain irony in it coinciding with her daughter leaving home.

“Part of it is luck – you have to be in the right place at the right time. But I believe that if you persevere you will get there in the end. Like any job, you have to practise,” she says.

“When I look at the old ones I now see what was wrong.”

Christina has taken inspiration from her own background to create her historical fiction – she grew up in Sweden and spent three years in Japan as a teenager, becoming obsessed with the country.

Her first novel, Trade Winds, nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s award for best historical fiction, was set in 18th century Gothenburg, while the second, The Scarlet Kimono, drew on the fascination Japan held for her.

“I was especially interested in Japan’s reaction to the foreign traders and missionaries who arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries, but disappointed to find that they were all men,” she says, explaining the genesis of the novel.

“It started me thinking – what if a European woman had gone there?”

The Gilded Fan, which sees its heroine leaving Japan for England in the 17th century, is the – unplanned – sequel to The Scarlet Kimono, the idea for which grew from wondering what would happen to the children of the earlier novel’s characters. Research then told her that in the 1600s the Shogun banished all foreigners, even if half- Japanese and so the seed was sown for the latest novel.

“I have always loved history, even as a small child,” says Christina. “I was fascinated, and my dad pointed me in the direction of The Three Musketeers and The Odyssey, and then in my teens I discovered Georgette Heyer and couldn’t get enough. They’re a bit like fairy tales for grown-ups.”

In her own work, Christina is committed to providing a happy outcome: “I hate unhappy endings. I want to be entertained.”

The Gilded Fan is published by Choc Lit in paperback at £7.99.