Your face here

This is Queen Anne. Well, it’s actually Jude Claybourne. And for the right price, it could be you.

Jude is one of several improvisers who helped me to create my novel about Queen Anne. Not just with the characterisation and the storyline but with the illustrations too.

I asked Jude, and a few other impro friends, if they might be willing to lend their faces, as modern “masks” for the real historical figures in the book. I couldn’t have asked for a more generous response.

I asked Will Steele to take a picture on his phone that I could use for one of the great writers in my book, Jonathan Swift. My request was very specific, and totally unreasonable (see below).

Hermione Jones took several self-portraits for me to use as Mary, one of the few entirely fictional characters. Mary is a young lady in waiting to Queen Anne. She sees and hears more than the plotters around her suspect. I asked Hermione to hint at that knowledge with a sparkle in her eye. Almost at once, Will and Hermione sent these.

Will Steele (left) and Hermione Jones

This was what I asked Will: “Could you take a pic of yourself with the camera looking down at you slightly? Expression is bursting with pride inside but trying to hide it and slightly afraid that you might lose everything any minute.” I gave similarly impossible requests to the others pictured below.

I then set about distorting the modern portraits, posterising them, making them black and white, framing them, then placing them over a variety of contemporary portraits. Like this:

Will and Hermione, above, in disguise as Jonathan Swift and Lady Mary

Pernille Sorensen (above left, as Lady Masham) and Antony Quinn (Viscount Bolingbroke)

Ouardane Jouannot (above left, as James Stuart, The Pretender) and Daniel Dresner (Daniel Defoe)

Your face here

Now, having launched the crowdfunding for my novel’s publication, I’m offering would-be supporters the chance to appear in the book as a mask.

But I will only replace the pictures of my generous improviser friends if their original portraits (shown here) can be included, with something like the text here, as part of the “How this book was created” pages at the back of the book.

*So here’s your chance! How would you like to appear in my novel – and in every edition ever published? [update: I successfully raised the funds, and the book is published. See THIS PAGE

I’m looking for people willing to pull the right expression, and am not especially worried about getting the right age, gender or ethnicity. (At one point, when improvising scenes for this book, I played the wife of James II, who was played by a woman. It went very well.)

  • QUEEN ANNE Protestant daughter of the late Catholic King James II, whom she helped to depose. James cursed Anne and afterwards all 17 of her children died before her. As she is dying, she must decide how to make up for past wrongs – and choose between two hated successors.
  • DANIEL DEFOE Writer and spy. Has worked for years as a spy for the Earl of Oxford, under cover of his work as a merchant and all-round businessman. Even his wife has no idea. Best known today as the author of Robinson Crusoe.
  • LADY ABIGAIL MASHAM Senior Lady in Waiting. Lady Masham knows she will not keep her prominence after the Queen dies, regardless of who inherits the crown, so she steals from her mistress. A cousin of Oxford, whom she hates, and mistress of the much younger Bolingbroke.
  • JAMES STUART, THE PRETENDER Queen Anne’s half-brother. The only son of their Catholic father, James II, the Pretender was taken to France as a baby when James was deposed. Comes to England at great risk to meet Anne in person.
  • LADY MARY ARDEN Lady in Waiting. Lady Mary sees and hears more than people realise. Her Catholic father converted reluctantly to the Church of England, for her sake. (Her mother is dead.) Her sweetheart, Samuel Holland, is from a prominent Anglican family that make helped to make life hard for Catholics.
  • EARL OF OXFORD The Queen’s chief minister, a Whig minister in coalition with Tory Bolingbroke (whom he hates). A personal friend to many literary talents, including Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. (Defoe, socially an outsider, is not a friend but works for Oxford as a spy.)
  • VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE Once Oxford’s close friend, now a bitter rival. A great mind – and a philanderer. Lady Masham is his mistress.
  • JONATHAN SWIFT Church of England minister and talented writer. Propagandist for his friend Oxford. Dreads being sent home to a job in the church in Ireland- then regarded as the back of beyond. A loyal friend of Pope. Best known today as the author of Gulliver’s Travels.
  • ALEXANDER POPE Fashionable, successful poet – but a Catholic, and so excluded from many careers. Not even allowed to live within ten miles of London. Would prefer the Queen to be succeeded by her Catholic brother, but keeps that to himself.
  • SAMUEL HOLLAND Lady Mary’s sweetheart. From a prominent Protestant family who helped to depose King James, he knows Mary’s father will not want him as a son-in-law.