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ABC Interview Brings Fanny’s Story to Households Australia-wide

An unexpected call from ABC radio personality Suzanne Hill asking about “the wife of the famously one-armed victor of the Battle of Trafalgar” led to an excellent opportunity – and a fascinating peek into the world behind the microphone for this historic author.

Authors quickly learn that writing is only the first stage of launching a book. Preparing it for publication requires attention to all sorts of edits and that is before the business side of publication is dealt with. Those of us who have decided to self-publish using the wonderful new publishing platforms and administrative systems which make this possible, know only too well that there is much, much, more ahead.  The mountain which comes into view has two peaks called “marketing” and “promotion.” This blog is not about either but suffice it to say that both are costly to climb in terms of time and money.

Fascinated by the Twist in the Story

It was therefore a delight to be contacted by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to be interviewed on Nightlife with Suzanne Hill. It was for the Sunday night This Week in History program which is broadcast around Australia. A friend who listens regularly read my blog about the pending anniversary of Fanny and Horatio Nelson’s wedding and sent it in via the ABC website. March 11, 1787, was when my ancestor Fanny, a widow with a young son, wed British naval officer Horatio Nelson on the small Caribbean island of Nevis. The event is still celebrated by local Nelson admirers each year.

I readily agreed to a pre-interview meeting in which Suzanne expertly drew the main elements of the story of this historic marriage and what happened afterwards.

Fanny Nelson was my Great Great (times five) Grandmother and from my childhood I was caught up in her story. As my readers know this led to me publishing two works of historical fiction – the first about Fanny and Horatio and the second about Fanny’s son (Nelson’s Folly and Nelson’s Lost Son). The story I described to Suzanne caught her imagination too and she invited me to the ABC offices in Ultimo, Sydney, to be interviewed for the show – which would be broadcast a few days later under the title: 'Reinventing Fanny Nelson, Lord Horatio Nelson's much maligned wife'.

She was particularly interested in how the story had changed over time and aptly summarised it thus: the fervour with which Lord Horatio Nelson was feted meant his love affair with Lady Emma Hamilton was forgiven, with Nelson’s long suffering wife blamed for driving her  husband away. That was until the discovery of a cache of long lost letters almost 200 years later which informed the stories told by her Australian descendant.

Image: Fortress ABC Ultimo

Inside the ABC Ultimo

I gathered my thoughts and went for my interview. Getting into the building was complicated. There were five gates to be accessed. Security was tight. But once in the right studio Suzanne got to work. She had done her own preparation – checking what I had told her earlier and adding to it. We sat in a small sound proofed studio looking at each other across a bank of monitors. Just two of us – no technicians or anyone else around. The 45 minute interview went quickly but I was able to include most of the details I thought would be interesting to listeners, based on audience feedback from my public speaking presentations so far.

Suzanne explored how Horatio’s admirers had undermined Fanny story so that the “hot blooded hero” was excused his shameful abandonment of her and her son. Emma has been the favoured woman ever since. When I was a boy, such was the venom some felt that a warrant officer guide on “Victory” described Fanny to me as a “cold hearted bitch!” In recent times a trove of letters found in the attic of Horatio’s prize agent has led the story to be re-examined and Fanny is now recognised as a very different person from the woman in much of the literature – although she had to wait over two hundred years for her vindication!

When we had finished the interview I heaved a sigh of relief, said goodbye and made my way to the lobby where I took the inevitable ‘Selfies.’ Arming myself with a coffee I made my way back through Security – much easier when you are leaving!

Image: In the 1940s film, ‘That Hamilton Woman’, Lady Nelson was played by Gladys Cooper while glamorous Vivien Leigh played Emma, the mistress.

Sharing the Inside Story

The show was broadcast a few days later for half an hour – a long time on radio - on Sunday 10th March. My segment wasn't until late but Suzanne told me later that there had been plenty of people listening in to our discussion. She said that a listener who said he was related to Horatio had texted her as well. (I joked I hoped it would not end in pistols at twenty paces!)

A few days later a call from a publishing friend who heard the talk assured me that such an opportunity to promote a book was rare and a valuable assist in gaining the attention of the wider public. Hopefully it will lead to some more speaking opportunities! Any ideas anyone?

The interview 'Reinventing Fanny Nelson, Lord Horatio Nelson's much maligned wife' is now a podcast available to anyone on the ABC Listen app or their website at:

I must say, I was impressed with the efficiency and quality of Suzanne and her team. “Aunty” is alive and thriving!

“People found your story very interesting Oliver so thanks so much for coming on!”

Suzanne Hill, ABC Nightlife

 Image: The portrait of Lady Frances “Fanny” Nelson was created by the English engraver and painter Daniel Orme in 1798.

 ABC Listen: enjoy the interview on the ABC Listen App or on your computer at:

Experience Nelson, Fanny and Josiah's adventures from a new perspective - order your copies or sign up to ‘stay in touch’ on my home page. 'Nelson's Folly' is now also available as an audiobook.


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