According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!
Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.
My stories take place between 1066 and 1090. The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy was inspired by a trip to Bayeux where I saw The Tapestry and a small film depicting Edith Swan-Neck, King Harold’s handfasted wife discovering his ruined body in the carnage of an eleventh century battlefield by marks only known to her. It was a moving scene and it is probably the most important scene in The Handfasted Wife. The image has huge emotional impact. There is one other scene I think very important, inspired by The Tapestry itself. This is The Burning House. I originally began the novel with Edith’s home on the borders of Kent and Sussex being attacked before The Battle of Hastings as in the Tapestry vignette of The Burning House, and moved it to the end of the first section of the novel for more dramatic placement. Early drafts of the novel do have its original placement. I also have many director’s cuts in which there are scenes I love but which did not make it into the final edit. A scene I think significant and kept is when King William takes her youngest child hostage. This five year old boy is the story’s stolen child. I must point out here that the book has been researched thoroughly in primary and secondary sources. That process of investigation and what I discovered is, however, for another time.
Do I have a mild-mannered secret identity? Well, it would not be secret if I told. At the moment though, I can reveal, I am about to inhabit a medieval queen’s identity. Was she mild-mannered? Yes, she could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing but to all appearances she is very elegant and sedate and French!
My partner in crime is currently my editor, Greg at Accent Press. However, for The Handfasted Wife and her daughters, it was jay Dixon who is a commissioning editor at Accent. Her power is that she corrects my mistakes. She took time to research jewels so I could not have rubies as they were too rare. Garnets sufficed. Her help has been invaluable in getting The Handfasted Wife, The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister to successful publication.
My superpowers appear at odd times, even when I am reading a book, walking in The Island Pond Wood near my Oxfordshire home and particularly when I can write uninterrupted in my writer’s house in the Greek Mani-peace, quiet and the sea. What imaginings I have here by the Aegean’s shores of far flung medieval times.
Oh that brings me to my secret lair. It is tucked away at the end of a country lane in Southern Greece. It is stone. Bougainvillea and honeysuckle crawl around its lower windows. There are olive trees outside in the garden and the ever changing sea can be seen from the small patio outside the high ceilinged living room. I either sit upstairs in a bedroom with a table working as it has lots of light and superb views or I work at a desk downstairs. I often move to the kitchen table, a very well-liked lair, indeed, with coffee and honey biscuits.
I train daily by researching and reading. I ran a huge conference recently in Oxford for The Historical Novel Society. That was very good training, keeping me aware of the publishing industry’s trends and the importance of networking with other authors. It was a lot of work but also a joy. I don’t ever think that I am better than my last novel. I just don’t take anything for granted and I value my readers. Sometimes, I long though for films of my books. Who doesn’t cast their heroines? My super powers don’t stretch to realising this to date.
My super hero costume might be my last heroine Elizabeth’s prettiest Tudor frock, stitched from silk and damask and with silver embroidery on the overdress. I want it to be a deep blue, its flowing sleeves trimmed with velvet and I also want her cascading silvery hair please.
This brings me to my latest book, The Woman in the Shadows. It is finished and will be published in summer 2017. The novel is Elizabeth Cromwell’s story, her marriage set against the pageantry of early Tudor London. It is different, filled with tension as well as domestic detail, a must read, because it shows a different side to a very famous man since it is written from Thomas Cromwell’s wife’s perspective. I found it interesting that he never married after her death. She died before he reached the zenith of his power and his involvement with Anne Boleyn and King Henry.
My kryptonite is all the stories that history has to offer, and that I want to explore, but there are so many in my head that I will run out of time before I can get them on paper. If I had to start again, I would have gone to a café when my children were small and not allowed so much of daily life to get in the way. I would have been writing as well as teaching and raising small children. This said, my children are my life and an inspiration.
I love researching and writing these books. The new Trilogy, The Rose Trilogy, is exciting and already commissioned. I shall bury myself in delicious research for a while and then get down to writing.
Thank you, Maria, for such fun and interesting questions and the opportunity to appear on your blog.
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