I’d like to introduce you to David Pilling this morning. I hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as I have.
Writing is such a challenging endeavor. What got you started on it and what keeps you doing it?
For as long as I can remember I’ve had ideas for original stories swirling around in my head. The setting of my childhood no doubt helped a great deal: I was brought up in rural West Wales, a wonderfully evocative area, and spent many years dragging my poor parents up and down every ruined castle in the country. I always enjoyed creative writing at school, and then there was a significant lapse during my teens and early twenties. I started writing short stories again about four years ago and since then the floodgates have opened!
What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Did you still have them?
The earliest stories I wrote at school are either mouldering away in a cupboard somewhere, or long since lost in the rubbish. Probably a good thing! My earliest attempt at a full-length novel, a truly awful attempt at fictionalizing the life of William Marshall (a famous 12th century knight) has gone missing somehow – again, probably a good thing! My second, an ever-so-slightly less awful effort based on the life of Hereward the Wake, is still extant. And no-one shall ever read it!
What made you choose to write in the genres/time periods you write in?
I generally write fiction based in the medieval era, or Tolkien-esque fantasy: I choose those thanks to my lifelong obsession with all things medieval (probably stemming from all those Welsh castles) and my early exposure to the Lord of the Rings and TH White’s The Once and Future King. I still rate White’s book as the best version of Arthurian legend I have ever read.
What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?
The creative process is the most enjoyable, particularly those moments where fresh ideas suddenly occur to me, and the putting together of a storyline. The least enjoyable, though absolutely necessary, is editing and proofreading. These I find a major headache.
If you write in multiple genres how do you make the switch from one to the other? Do you find it a welcome change, crazy-making or a little of both?
I find writing fantasy a welcome change from history – mainly because I don’t have to do any research and am free to make things up! But historical fiction is my first love.
Historical fiction takes a lot of research. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?
The research for battle conditions during The Wars of the Roses – the era of my current novel – was both eye-popping and terrifying. How anyone had the courage to stand and fight on a medieval battlefield is beyond me, considering the lack of medical knowledge and the appalling injuries men suffered. There was absolutely nothing romantic about warfare back then.
What do you do to keep all your research information and plot ideas organized and accessible?
I tend to collate the most relevant bits of information and major plot points on a series of Word docs, but only as a handy reference: I chop and change a lot. It just helps to have a framework.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
It’s a cliché, but ‘never give up’ is probably the best advice a writer can receive. There are so many naysayers and armchair critics out there. Self-belief and inner drive is crucial. I have been fortunate in the response to my work so far, but every so often someone does stick the knife in, and it’s often difficult to pretend that doesn’t hurt.
Tell us a little about your current project.
My current novel, The White Hawk, is the first of a trilogy set during The Wars of the Roses in 15th century England. Book One: Revenge follows the fortunes of a minor gentry family, the Boltons of Staffordshire, in their attempts to survive and prosper in an increasingly brutal and uncertain world. I wanted to weave a story around the contrasting fortunes of individual members of the same family, and how the savage politics of the time could affect ‘ordinary’ people. It is available on Kindle and paperback.
What’s up next for you?
My next novel, Nowhere Was There Peace, is due to be published by Fireship Press, and I have another story in the pipeline based on the exploits of King Arthur’s (fictional) grandson…
He can be found on Twitter at @RobeH2.