Today I’m pleased to welcome 5 wonderful historical fiction authors from Hodder and Staughton to the blog – in a blind questioning they all submitted one question to be asked and also answered one sent to them. It was quite a lot of fun to put together – here are the Questions, who asked, who answered and details on all of the books can be found at the end. They all look brilliant. Thanks to everyone for taking part.
(Author Image:Keely Hoad Photography)
S D Sykes, author of “The Butchers Bird” asked (and this one was posed to Antonia Hodges)
Are there any common misconceptions about your historical period that you’ve made a point of addressing in your novels?’
In my first book, I had to put a note at the front explaining that people really did swear in the 1720s. The old myth of the English stiff upper lip – the early Georgians wouldn’t have recognised that at all. Beneath the powdered wigs, this was an irreverent, passionate, politically engaged culture. The Beggar’s Opera, the most popular play of the eighteenth century, was first performed in 1728. Its hero was a highwayman, and its message was utterly subversive: that criminals were more honest than the political classes, because at least they admitted to being thieves. That’s the spirit I wanted to capture – irreverent, nuanced, witty. The filth and the splendour. The fact that no age can be summed up in one way.
Antonia’s Question (posed to Tony Riches) was:
How did you feel when you first heard you had a publishing deal?
‘It was all a bit surreal. I was working in southern Germany, in a place called Steinheim (literal translation ‘the home of the stone’), a village built on the central hillock in the middle of a wide crater created by a meteorite impact, the hillock purportedly being the resting place of the meteorite itself, and I was out walking the crater’s rim at about seven in the evening in the middle of a baking hot summer.
My agent called and gave me the news that an offer was in for a trilogy (the start of a series I already knew would run to at least a dozen books), from a publisher called Hodder & Stoughton. Having completed the formality of telling him to accept it I called my wife and gave her the news and, that done, wondered what to do next. But what was there to do but walk back to the village and rejoin my colleagues, whose reaction was primarily one of the ‘good excuse for another beer’ variety? And there’s the thing with securing a publisher for the first time – the writer’s state of mind is immediately and significantly changed, with the realisation of everything they’ve hoped for, planned for, schemed for and probably obsessed about over the previous months and years, and yet, in the context of daily life, nothing really changes at all, other than in the writer’s perception of what might come to change over the years that follow. And in my case, what was to follow was the most tedious and yet exciting year of my life, in that limbo between signing the contract and seeing the book on the shelf.’
Tony’s question (posed to Nick Brown) was
What’s the strangest thing (strange to someone who’s not an author) that you’ve ever done in the name of research for a book.
When I was still teaching, I once used a big playground to mark out one section of a fort for ‘The Siege’ – to better see the dimensions for myself. There were some strange looks from the pupils at the windows.
Nick’s question posed to Robyn Young was:
What is the hardest thing about writing a novel?’
I think, for me, it’s probably the deadline. It’s the beast lurking at the end of the tunnel, creeping closer, getting bigger, scarier. I find it can be a real creativity crusher if I let it. I dread coming to my desk with the thought – I must do at least 2000 words today if I’m going to keep to my schedule. I’d much rather sit down thinking I want to write the best that I can, whether that’s 500 or 5000 words. On the other hand, it’s a great whip. A deadline can motivate, galvanize and organize you, and without it there’s always a danger that you’d never actually finish the book!
And finally to take us back round to the beginning….
Robyn’s question (posed to S D Sykes) was:
“Do you plot your novel at all before you start writing, or do you see where the words take you?”
To which Sarah answered:
I am a committed plotter – though I will admit to giving the alternative a go, just because the idea sounded so seductive. Sadly for me, this ended with a couple of confused and meandering novels that eventually gave up the will to live at around thirty thousand words. So, never again! I now always write an outline for the novel before I start, using this stage of the process to really dig down into the story, trying to make sure that it works on all the levels essential to a successful crime thriller. To ensure that my characters are fully motivated; that there is sufficient conflict, jeopardy and suspense throughout the novel; that the crime story is intriguing, surprising and yet still believable. And crucially to ensure that the whole novel peaks with a strong climax and concludes with a satisfying resolution. Call me obsessive, but I even colour-code each plot line in this document, to make sure that my main plot and sub-plots are properly spaced throughout the novel. But look, I’m not a complete control freak. If better ideas occur to me as I write, then I most certainly use them. But I do like a map of my novel before I launch into a first draft. I couldn’t work any other way.
And that, as they say, was THAT.
About the books:
Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more – something the King himself has forbidden.
Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear.
You can purchase The Butcher Bird HERE
Late spring, 1728 and Thomas Hawkins has left London for the wild beauty of Yorkshire – forced on a mission he can’t refuse. John Aislabie, one of the wealthiest men in England, has been threatened with murder. Blackmailed into investigating, Tom must hunt down those responsible, or lose the woman he loves forever.
Since Aislabie is widely regarded as the architect of the greatest financial swindle ever seen, there is no shortage of suspects.
You can purchase A Death at Fountains Abbey HERE
The Tungrians have no sooner returned to Rome than they find themselves tasked with a very different mission to their desperate exploits in Parthia.
Ordered to cross the river Rhenus into barbarian Germany and capture a tribal priestess who may be the most dangerous person on the empire’s northern border, they are soon subject to the machinations of an old enemy who will stop at nothing to sabotage their plans before they have even set foot on the river’s eastern bank.
But after their Roman enemy is neutralised they face a challenge greater still.
You can purchase Altar of Blood HERE
Imperial agent Cassius Corbulo is about to go rogue. His bodyguard, Indavara, has been kidnapped and has seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. Having spent weeks trying to discover his fate, Cassius’s time is up: his superiors want him to return to duty.
But when an old ally’s daughter is enslaved, he feels obliged to repay a long standing debt. Refusing the offer of a prestigious post, Cassius – and his Christian servant Simo – join nomadic chieftain Kabir and a trio of warriors, determined to rescue the missing girl.
You can purhase Earthly Gods HERE
In the dying days of the Wars of the Roses a secret war is born. The battle for a crown is about to become a fight for the world.
Bastard son, mercenary soldier, protector of the rightful king, seeker of a secret more treacherous than any in Christendom: Jack Wynter is destined to live in dangerous times.
In England, the Wars of the Roses ended a decade ago with the fall of the House of Lancaster and the victory of King Edward of York. But peace sleeps uneasy in this divided realm and when the king dies unexpectedly it isn’t long before old blood feuds and ambitions are awoken.
You can purchase Sons of the Blood HERE