Hi G.K., welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Hope the gorgeous spring days are starting to bloom in the UK as they are here on the East Coast of the U.S.! How has life been treating you?
G.K.: Hi Erin. First of all, thank you for taking the trouble to interview me. Spring is putting in a welcome appearance here; flowers and blossom appearing and of course, the longer days. All very welcome.
Erin: I love history of course and I enjoy fiction from the medieval ages quite a bit. I’m looking forward to asking you a few questions! Shall we have tea? I’m having English Breakfast Tea today, steeped strongly for my week, with 2 sugars and cream. What type of tea would you prefer?
G.K.: English Breakfast please, with milk but no sugar, thanks.
Erin: Let’s get started then, have a seat and let’s discuss!
Q: First of all, what is your inspiration for your novel 1066: What Fates Impose?
A: I knew something about King Harold from my school days and stories my Dad had told me, so when I found a biography about Harold by Ian Walker, I was intrigued enough to buy it. I found the book really opened my eyes to the era. Once I’d finished it I couldn’t believe the story of the end of the Anglo Saxon era hadn’t been covered more in films, TV and, of course, books. So, I decided to do something myself. I researched everything I could about the period, including court etiquette; sword manufacturing techniques; everything. I also visited many of the locations that appear in the book. Once I’d done all that, and it took quite some time, I wove together the facts and the fiction to produce the novel.
Q: When and how did your obvious love of the medieval ages begin?
A: You know, I can’t actually remember when it started. Perhaps I was just born that way! I’ve always been a great history fan and not just of the medieval period. I’m as happy reading about Spartans or American Frontiersmen as I am Henry V. When I was a kid I always loved anything featuring knights, especially Robin Hood and stories about Richard the Lion Heart.
Q: The book takes place in the thick of the medieval ages. How did you research this era with the historical detail that you did? It certainly shines through. But it must be hard to find much information from 1066?
A: Finding information about 1066 and the Battle of Hastings isn’t as hard as you might think. There are accounts of the Battle of Hastings written at the time and not long after. It’s getting hold of information before that date that’s the problem. Fortunately quite a lot of academic work has been done in that area so I was able to make use of that and other sources like the Bayeux Tapestry, the Anglo Saxon Chronicles and the Domesday Book.
Q: Fate is a huge underlying theme in your novel. Why did you decide to have this so greatly influence your characters, especially Harold?
A: The more I researched the more amazed I became about how events played out. For Harold, everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and I’m not just thinking of the power struggles in the north. For instance, Edward couldn’t have died at a worse time. For William the opposite is true, even when he has what appears to be bad luck it works out for him or he makes it work out. One of the times I’m thinking about is when he first sets foot on English soil and falls flat on his face. He stands up with two hands full of soil and says, ‘By the splendor of the Almighty, I have seized my kingdom; the soil of England is in my own two hands.’ You have to admire his quick thinking. But it’s not just one or two things, there’s a long, long list of things both in England and on the European continent that fell into place for William. To top it all, a comet even puts in an appearance! So, the underlying question in the novel is; how much in control of our destinies are we?
Q: Harold has to fight against so much corruption and power-hoarding in 1066. Why, in real historical terms, do you think that everyone was so covetous even though they said that jealousy was a sin?
A: They had a lot to be covetous about. Think about what’s at stake. England, in the mid eleventh century was the second richest country in Europe. The Kings of England had immense power, wealth and control. Imagine if the President of the United States was elected for life, had complete control of the armed forces and personally owned half of the real estate and industry in America. Don’t you think there would be a few takers for the position if it became vacant? Perhaps even help create the vacancy. The more that’s up for grabs the more grabbers there will be and the greater will be their efforts at grabbing. Of course, all this would be justifiable by those in competition. Hypocrisy is not the sole possession of eleventh century England.
Q: This book takes place well before much of Britain’s history. Before the most well-known family that everyone knows like the Tudors, what families ruled England during 1066 and what are they well-known for?
A: The House of Godwin was the most powerful. Godwin, Earl of Wessex, rose to be the most powerful of the English earls in King Edward’s time. His daughter, Edith, was Edward’s queen and his son, Harold, inherited the title Earl of Wessex before going on to become King of England. Godwin’s other sons, Tostig, Gyrth and Leofwine became Earls of Northumbria, East Anglia and Kent, Essex and Middlesex respectively. This meant at one time the family controlled most of the country.
The House of Leofric was another important family. Leofric was Earl of Mercia, which was roughly the Midlands today. Not many people have heard of Leofric but his wife is world famous. She is none other than Lady Godiva, famous for the naked horse ride through the streets of Coventry and seen only by the eyes of Peeping Tom. Isn’t it an irony that she’s famous for something she never did? The naked ride is just another bit of Norman propaganda.
Finally, the House of Siward of Northumbria controlled the fractious north. Because of the poor quality of the land and the instability brought about by blood feuds and clashes with Scotland, Northumbria never became as powerful as her southern neighbors.
Q: What is your writing process like? Do you use an outline and detailed research, notes, or just write as free flowing as possible?
A: My writing process is an exercise in how not to do it! I knew where I was starting from and where I was going to finish. As I worked my way through the novel ideas would pop into my head and they would end up in the book. I would discover interesting characters, perhaps minor ones and they would find a place in the story. The first draft was 297,000 words. I sent it to an editor who more or less said, ‘you need to make some cuts – I suggest you use an axe’. So I cut it down to 200,000 and sent it to another editor, and after taking her advice, my book is now down to a slim 160,000 words! A mere novella!
Q: What do you feel is the most challenging part of writing historical fiction?
A: I like to stick as close as I can to the events and be as true to the characters as possible. So for me it’s important to get the research right. I want the reader to have confidence in the story; to know what they’re reading is the real thing. OK, I admit to taking a few liberties, but they are very few and far between. Once the research is done the next challenge is to blow the dust off the history and bring the characters to life in a way the modern reader can relate to.
Q: Who are your favorite writers to read? Who inspires your work? What are some of your best loved books?
A: For fiction it has to be: – Richard Ford, The Sportswriter Trilogy. Pat Barker, The Regeneration Trilogy. Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach. William Boyd, Any Human Heart and Flan O’Brien, The Third Policeman. Oh, I’m also very fond of Bill Bryson’s work
For History then Juliet Barker, Agincourt. Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August. Ian W Walker, Harold The Last Anglo Saxon King and finally, Max Hastings, All Hell Let Loose, which I’ve only just finished reading.
Q: Are you in the process of writing any other new fiction or non-fiction? What do you hope to write for the future?
A: I’m 55,000 words in to the sequel to 1066. There was a lot going on in the English Resistance and plenty of heroes and villains to engage the reader while they learn a bit of medieval history. They will also find out what happened to some of the characters in the first book.
Q: Favorite place to eat where you live? Describe the food for us armchair tourists.
A: I’m not much of a foodie but I’m very fond of the Brasserie Blanc in Bristol city centre. It’s in an old Georgian Meeting House for the Religious Society of Friends. It later became the Bristol Registry Office and has the dubious honor of being the place where my wife and I were married. How many people can say they were married in their favorite restaurant? But that’s not the only reason I eat there. The Restaurant is owned by Raymond Blanc, so the food is French and delicious – as is the wine. There’s also the option to eat outside in the summer.
Q: How can readers and writers connect with you?
A: They can reach me through my publishers, firstname.lastname@example.org or at Glynn Holloway on Facebook.
Erin: Thank you so much, Glynn, for being here today, G.K. It was wonderful to discuss your book with you!
G.K.: Thank you Erin, for giving me the opportunity. By the way, you make a lovely cup of tea.
*Thank you to my son, Nassem of Seize the Moment, for some of these questions as he has a great deal of interest in this time period and had also read the book.*
Publication Date: March 4, 2013
King William then utters the following words to the room: ‘I appoint no one as my heir to the Crown of England, but leave it to the disposal of the Eternal Creator, whose I am and who orders all things. For I did not attain that high honour by hereditary right, but wrested it from the perjured King Harold in a desperate bloody battle.’
England is in crisis. King Edward has no heir and promises never to produce one. There are no obvious successors available to replace him, but quite a few claimants are eager to take the crown. While power struggles break out between the various factions at court, enemies abroad plot to make England their own. There are raids across the borders with Wales and Scotland.
Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, is seen by many as the one man who can bring stability to the kingdom. He has powerful friends and two women who love him, but he has enemies will stop at nothing to gain power. As 1066 begins, England heads for an uncertain future. It seems even the heavens are against Harold.
Intelligent and courageous, can Harold forge his own destiny – or does he have to bow to what fates impose?
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Author G.K. Holloway, Biography~
I have been interested in history since I was a boy, which I suppose explains why, when I came across a degree course in History and Politics at Coventry University that looked tailor made for me, I applied right away.
In my first year at Coventry I lived in the halls of residence within a stone’s throw of the Leofric Hotel. In the opposite direction, just a short walk from my halls, is the bell tower that houses a clock, which when its bell chimes the hour, produces a half size model of naked Lady Godiva riding a horse for the titillation of tourists. Above her, Peeping Tom leans out of a window for a better view. In all of the three years I was there, it never once occurred to me that I would one day write a book featuring Earl Leofric and his famous wife, as key players.
After graduating I spent a year in Canada before I returned to England to train as a Careers Officer in Bristol. Later, I lived and worked in Gloucestershire as a Careers Officer and then in Adult Education as an Education Guidance worker.
After I met my wife, I moved back to Bristol to live and I worked at Bath Spa University as a Student Welfare Officer for a number of years. It was about this time I read a biography about King Harold II which fascinated me so much I read more and more about the man and the times. I found the whole pre-conquest period of England so interesting I couldn’t understand why no one had written a novel about it. So, I decided to write one myself. Now, after many years of study and time spent over a hot keyboard, I have finally produced thatnovel.
1066: What Fates Impose is the result of all that study and hard work and is the first book I’ve written. I am now working on a sequel.
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