Tag Archives: British history

Interview with G.K. Holloway About British History, Harold I, Writing, and Fate

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!

1066 What Fates Impose

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, emails@troubador.co.uk 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.*

1066 What Fates Impose1066: What Fates Impose, Synopsis~

​Publication Date: March 4, 2013
Matador Publishing

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?

Buy the Book

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository
iTunes
Troubador Publishing
Waterstones

Author G.K. Holloway, Biography~

GK HollowayI 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.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/1066whatfatesimposetourandbookblast

Tour Hashtag: #1066TourandBookBlast

1066_Tour Banner _FINAL

 

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1066: What Fates Impose, by G.K. Holloway, is Education Piece on Turing Point of England’s History

1066 What Fates ImposeThe medieval ages were tumultuous times in Europe and England. The entire area always seemed involved in one uproar after the other. But during the year of 1066, when England’s King Edward (the Confessor) was dying with no heir, and Harold I was going to ascend the throne, William the Conqueror of Normandy decided that since he wasn’t going to be given the throne he was promised, he was  going to invade England. 1066 became that year of battles as he fought Harold for the throne, ultimately killing Harold I (he took the famous arrow in the eye), and becoming the first Norman King of England.

1066: What Fates Impose, by G.K. Holloway, is a historical fiction narrative that gives a more detailed glimpse of the history of this turning point in history from the viewpoint Harold I.  He doesn’t seem to align quite as much with William the Conqueror (which I  must, since my direct maternal ancestral line includes a man given a baron title during this time period for assisting William in his successes–of course, it doesn’t mean William wasn’t really an oaf).

I found the book to be well-researched and that it gave a fresh look and more detail on a time period in British history much taught in the UK, but maybe not as well understood here in America. Either way, it gives a broader glimpse into Harold’s side of the fight for the throne, as well as a better understanding of the family. The characters have excellent dialogue and there are lots of visual and visceral battle scenes (not for those who don’t like brutality) that create suspense and angst for the reader. We understand the physical as well as mental struggles for the Crown and what that time period in history means for Britain even today.

There aren’t flowers, romance, or fluff. Holloway loves history, and it shows, and he wants to teach us a new side of the altercations of the time. He does so successfully and in the reading the book I came away quite educated. If the historical accuracy is verified enough for some, this would make a great book for those pursuing history degrees. It’s an enjoyable read for true history aficionados of the time period but also intelligent and educational.

Though with the educational angle, I’ll say it does offer explanations that fate has a hand in most things, and asks questions that readers can ponder, such as Harold’s destiny. It let’s readers think about the point of view of this time period from someone other than William the Conqueror. I am not sure that Harold should be considered more courageous and better than William (and that William won due to his increased military experience), but it’s great to take a look at both men. I believe that even William did honor Harold’s body and erect a proper burial site for him (which has probably allowed him to rest in peace quite a bit more than William, whose body has been dug up quite a few times and is mostly missing). It’s a great ode to a man, Harold I, who fought for what he believed in.

I would highly recommend this book for those who love British medieval and monarchy history, military history, and straightforward historical narrative and/or reenactments. I look forward to reading the sequel.

1066 What Fates Impose 1066: What Fates Impose, Synopsis~

​Publication Date: March 4, 2013
Matador Publishing

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?

Buy the Book~

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository
iTunes
Troubador Publishing
Waterstones

Author G.K. Holloway, Biography~

GK HollowayI 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 that novel.

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.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/1066whatfatesimposetourandbookblast

Tour Hashtag: #1066TourandBookBlast

1066_Tour Banner _FINAL

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Never Be At Peace, by M.J. Neary, Shows a Fresh Look at Irish Independence Movement

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailI have been so excited to review M.J. Neary’s newest book, Never Be At Peace! I have always been interested in Irish history and culture, especially considering my name, Erin, means Ireland! I had a guest post with her last month about her writing Irish history and  you can view it HERE!

Never Be At Peace takes place in Ireland around the turn of the 19th century, at a time when the Irish independence movements were gaining speed. The novel’s main protagonist, Helena Molony, works to liberate Ireland, overcoming obstacles such as her gender and the entire British Empire that would have made a weaker person crumble.

This novel is fresh and new because it shows us the beginnings of the IRA and Sinn Fein, of the times of Michael Collins. Most of us know solely of the IRA and Sinn Fein in the 1970s and 1980s, when London was being bombed at an alarming rate. It is a look at the rebellious streak that defines the Irish.

All of Neary’s characters are well-formed, with hopes and losses, with love and death. We feel all of their emotions within ourselves as we read. Never Be At Peace is also fast-paced, where the military scenes are captivating. They are not sugar-coated nor overly gruesome, just enough that we know what is going on. We learn a lot of the strategy the IRA used at this time in trying to form their own independent Ireland and the toll the battles put on the independence fighters.

We see a whole new side of this story in Never Be At Peace. We have all heard the British side in our own lives, most of us anyway. We also have heard about the terrorists that made up the IRA in the 70s and 80s, but in this novel we see the members in the early days of the Irish Independence Movement on a human level. We remove the veil of violence and hate and see all as humans, with flaws and all. This is the greatest thing I took away from Neary’s book and I believe that all who read this will be better for it.

I would suggest this book to a fan of military history, but also to anyone who likes British or Irish History. The hostility between the British and Irish still has not ended, making this book timely and one that we all need to read to understand the past so that we can prevent the same type of death we saw then from happening in the future.

Never Be At Peace, Synopsis~

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailA pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom – and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies.

After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices.

In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

 Author M.J. Neary, Biography~

Neary author photoA Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin. Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history.

She explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. Her debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal.

With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

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UK Book Blast: UK Release Of Nancy Bilyeau’s The Chalice!!

20140217-204635.jpg

For my readers in the UK, check out the details of Nancy Bilyeau’s paperback release!! If you missed it last year, get it now without delay. Nancy is a favorite of mine!! 🙂 US readers, watch for the news coming next month! Please note that the covers are different in the UK and the US!

The Chalice, Details and Synopsis~

Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Paperback Publication Date: February 13, 2014
Orion Publishing
Paperback; 432p
ISBN-13: 978-1409135807
Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Two
Genre: Historical Mystery

20140217-204824.jpgA curse to kill a king, a fight to save a nation. Follow young Joanna Stafford right into the dark heart of King Henry VIII’s court in this stunning Tudor thriller.
England, 1538. The nation is reeling after the ruthless dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.

Cast out of Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford – feisty, courageous, but scarred by her recent encounter with rebellion at court – is trying to live a quiet life with her five-year-old charge, Arthur. But family connections draw her dangerously close to a treasonous plot and, repelled by violence and the whispered conspiracies around her, Joanna seeks a life with a man who loves her. But, no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny. She must make a choice between those she cares for most, and taking her part in a mysterious prophecy foretold by three compelling seers.
Joanna embarks upon a testing journey, and, as she deciphers the meaning at the core of the prophecy, she learns that the fate of a king and the freedom of a nation rest in her hands.

Praise for The Chalice
“Expect treason, treachery, martyrs and more.” — Choice magazine

“A time in which no one at all can be trusted and everyday life is laced with horror. Bilyeau paints this picture very, very well.” — Reviewing the Evidence

“Bilyeau creates the atmosphere of 1530s London superbly.” — Catholic Herald

“Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna Stafford’s character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader’s interest on every page. — Historical Novel Society

“Joanna Stafford is a young novice caught up in power struggles familiar to readers of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but with elements of magic that echo the historical thrillers of Kate Mosse.” — S.J. Parris, author of ‘Heresy,’ ‘Prophecy’ and ‘Sacrilege’

“Second in this compelling and highly readable Tudor thriller series following the 16th century adventures of (now cast out) nun Joanna Stafford. Treason, conspiracies and a dangerous prophecy draw Joanna back from the quiet life she had made for herself after being cast out of Dartford Priory – but she isn’t prepared for the gravity of the situation she finds herself in or the responsibility she now holds. Nancy Bilyeau has followed up her impressive debut with an accomplished historical thriller perfect for fans of C. J. Sansom, Philippa Gregory and S. J. Parris.” — Lovereading UK

“Sharply observed, cleverly paced and sympathetically written, this book more than fulfils the promise of THE CROWN, itself named as last year’s most impressive debut novel by the CWA Ellis Peters judges. If Joanna Stafford is to return to see out the final years of Henry’s tempestuous reign and the accession of his Catholic daughter Mary, I am sure I will not be alone in waiting eagerly for her.” — crimereview.co.uk

“A stunning debut. One of the best historical novels I have ever read — ALISON WEIR

THE CHALICE offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England’s most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don’t let you go even after the last exciting page” — KAREN HARPER, bestselling author of MISTRESS OF MOURNING

“Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII’s reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed.” — C.W. GORTNER, author of THE QUEEN’S VOW

“Bilyeau paints a moving portrait of Catholicism during the Reformation and of reclusive, spiritual people adjusting to the world outside the cloister. This intriguing and suspenseful historical novel pairs well with C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution (2003) and has the insightful feminine perspective of Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Heretic’s Wife (2010).” — BOOKLIST

“As in The Crown, Bilyeau’s writing style means that the story reads almost flawlessly. The narrative really makes the reader throw themselves into the story, and makes it so the book is really difficult to put down. I was really very impressed with Bilyeau’s writing (As I was in The Crown), and honestly can’t recommend this book highly enough.” — LOYALTY BINDS ME

“THE CHALICE is a compelling and pacey time machine to the 16th Century. And when you’re returned to the present, you’ll have enjoyed an adventure and gained a new perspective on a past you’d wrongly thought to be a done deal.” — Andrew Pyper, author of THE DEMONOLOGIST

“The Chalice is a gripping, tightly-plotted mystery, with a beguiling heroine at its heart, that vividly conjures up the complex dangers of Reformation England. Bilyeau’s deftness of touch and complete control over her complex material make for a truly exciting and compelling read.”— ELIZABETH FREMANTLE author of QUEEN’S GAMBIT

“THE CHALICE is brimming with sinister portents, twisted allegiances, religious superstition and political intrigue. It’s a darkly fascinating Tudor brew that leaves you thirsting for more.” — PATRICIA BRACEWELL, author of SHADOW ON THE CROWN

Watch the Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oh3KzykQR0&feature=player_embedded

Buy the Book
Amazon UK
Book Depository
Orion Publishing
Waterstones

Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

20140217-204317.jpgNancy Bilyeau has worked on staff at InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013.

Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy’s ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough’s founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Author Links~

Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Goodreads

Sign up for Nancy Bilyeau’s Newsletter.

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Interview with Historical Author Cynthia Sally Haggard: What Inspired Her War of the Roses Collection?

Cynthia Sally Haggard, author of Thwarted Queen, has graciously stopped by the blog for an exclusive interview. Find out about her motivation to write about Cecylee Neville and Richard, Duke of York, as well as where she’d like to travel, if she misses England, and how she became a writer!  With Thwarted Queen being her debut collection, I look forward to more novels to come from Haggard in the future.

Thwarted Queen cover

Erin:  Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for coming by to speak with me at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!  We are happy to be able to talk to you about your life and your books.

Cynthia:  Hello! Thank you for interviewing me.

Let’s make some history of our own and get started!

Q:  What was your inspiration for Thwarted Queen?

A:  A documentary made by Tony Robinson on BBC 4, in which he talked about the Princes in the Tower, and casually mentioned that British historian Michael K. Jones had been going through the archives of Rouen Cathedral and turned up evidence that King Edward IV might be illegitimate. It seems that Richard, Duke of York was away during that long hot summer of 1441. In his absence, his wife Cecylee, Duchess of York had an affair with a well-favored archer on the Rouen garrison.

Erin comments:  That is all so very interesting. It seems the case in many of these historical figures, when historians or writers are doing research they turn up all kinds of juicy things that make great stories and get the creative juices flowing!

Q: How would you describe this novel, beyond the synopsis, to potential readers?

A: This is a fictionalized biography that covers 71 years of Cecylee’s life. It starts in 1424, when Lady Cecylee Neville is 9 years old, and is about to be betrothed to 13-year-old Richard of York. It ends in March, 1495, a couple of months before her death. So it has an enormous story arc. I see things in colors, so the beginning of the novel is the golden color of sunlight, that gradually becomes darker and darker.

Erin comments: I love the color analogy, Cynthia, and now that you said that, I can see it within the novel. Very well done.

Q:  Will this be a stand alone or have a sequel?

A: THWARTED QUEEN in its entirety (all 495 pages) is a stand-alone novel. However, it is also available in as a 4-volume e-series (THE BRIDE PRICE, ONE SEED SOWN, THE GILDED CAGE and TWO MURDERS REAPED) and as a 3-volume paperback series (ROSE OF RABY, THE GILDED CAGE and TWO MURDERS REAPED). The reason for doing that is because the novel naturally falls into 4 books, and I didn’t want people to be intimidated by having to read the whole of a large novel. The reason why the paperbacks are in a 3-volume series, is because Books I and II are too short for me to put the titles on the spine, so I combined them into ROSE OF RABY.

Q: What other books have you written? Can you tell us about them?

A: The only books I have published are THWARTED QUEEN and the THWARTED QUEEN series, as described above. However, I have 3 novels that are works in progress.

Q:  Where do you hope your writing takes you in the future? What do you have “in progress”?

A: What I actually have in progress are a 2-novel sequence set in the earlier part of the 20th-century (between 1921 and 1944), and a third novel that is set in the early middle ages (around 830 AD). As you can see, I like to write about very different periods. Part of the reason for this is because I like to have two very different projects going at once. I find that they feed off of each other. I hope to continue to build my career as a writer. To that end, I’ve applied to take an MFA in Creative Writing.

Q:  I read that you found a love for fiction writing during a university class project and never looked back.  Is then when you first started to write, why or if not, when?

A: I started to write fiction after I decided to make the transition from research scientist to science writer. I thought that taking fiction classes would help my writing. So yes, I did find my love for fiction writing during that class project, and I have never looked back.

Q:  What is your process for writing like? Do you schedule, outline, or write as the inspiration arises?

A: I actually do both. I do a great deal of reading before I write a word. Then I usually write what I refer to as “Act I” where I set the story up. At that point, I may let it rest awhile before I continue. During that first draft I usually write to inspiration, because there is something so magical about discovering your story as you write. And I like to give myself that treat. On subsequent drafts, I do a lot of editing, organizing and planning.

Erin Comments:  I can appreciate that. I tend to also write from the heart first, getting it all down and then go back and revise later. I think you can funnel a lot of emotion into writing that way. Though I know different things work for different people.

Q:  What has been the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome on your writing journey?

A:  The biggest problem I face (like all other writers) is, how much can I get away with before the reader notices or minds? There are all these rules we are supposed to obey, like “Show, don’t tell.” But the fact is that you can get away with telling the reader things, if you know how to do it without annoying the reader. (Jane Austen knew how to do it).

Q:  Where is your favorite place to travel or that you would like to travel? And why?

A: I do a lot of traveling, and I always have travel plans. So I don’t have a favorite place yet, because I’m in the process of discovering the many marvelous places in this world. So far, I’ve confined myself to traveling around the US and in Europe. But one day, I hope to find the courage to visit non-European cultures.

Q:  I was also born in England and my mom’s ancestors originate there. I can’t wait to go back and do some further research for some upcoming novel ideas. What brought you to America and how much do you miss the UK? Why and/or why not? Do you find inspiration in family history?

A: I came to America thirty years ago when I married my first husband. It took me ten years to settle down here because I missed England so much. I still miss England, but I am now happy here. Yes, I do find inspiration in family history. I would like to do a fictionalized biography about Grandma Stephanie, who was quite a colorful character. (I talk a bit about her on Spun Stories, as she was a person who inspired me to tell stories.)

Q:  What other historical time periods are you interested in?

A: All historical time periods interest me, but I particularly gravitate to those periods in which a transition is happening, like the early years of the 1920s, or 1938 on the cusp of the second world war, or the ninth century just as Sicily was being taken over by the Saracens. I love those transitional times because that’s when conflicts erupt and interesting things happen.

Erin Comments: I concur. Though I don’t normally like American History, I do tend to like those major transition periods most and have lately been getting into early 1900s history.  I think it would be great if you looked into writing a novel on ninth century Sicily!

Q:  What authors have, or do, inspire you? What books do you like?

A: I love historical novels. But I have also been influenced by authors such as Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov.

Q:  What is your best loved hobby outside of writing and reading?

A: I love to dance, do yoga, hike and now I’ve taken up karate! I spend a great deal of time doing physical exercise, principally because I suffer from chronic back pain and that is how I treat it. (Better for my health & wellbeing to exercise rather than pop painkillers. J )

Erin Comments: I also struggle with a condition that brings chronic pain and I do a lot of yoga and hiking. I commend you for being so physical, I agree it does help!!

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A: The best place is my website, http://www.spunstories.com

Erin:  It was lovely to host an interview with such a wonderful woman such as yourself!  Thank you and I do hope to talk to you further another time!

Cynthia:  Thank you for asking such interesting questions! It was a pleasure to get to know you.

 Thwarted Queen Synopsis~

Thwarted Queen coverPublication Date: October 29, 2012 | CreateSpace | 498P

THWARTED QUEEN is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.

Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up.

The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.

But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War – during which England loses all of her possessions in France – and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.

SEE MY REVIEW of THWARTED QUEEN HERE! There’s a GIVEAWAY there until March 4, 2013!

Cynthia Haggard, Biography~

CynthiaSallyHaggardBorn and raised in Surrey, England, CYNTHIA SALLY HAGGARD has lived in the United States for twenty-nine years. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Why does she write historical novels? Because she has been reading them with great enjoyment since she was a child. Because she has a great imagination and a love of history that won’t go away. And because she has an annoying tendency to remember trivial details of the past and to treat long-dead people as if they were more real than those around her.

Cynthia’s biggest influence was her grandmother, Stephanie Treffry, who had a natural story-telling ability. As a widow in 1970s Britain, Grandma Stephanie didn’t drive a car, so would spend time waiting for buses. Her stories were about various encounters she had at those bus-stops. Nothing extraordinary, except that she made them so funny, everyone was in fits of laughter. A born entertainer, Cynthia tries to emulate her when she writes her novels.

In case you were wondering, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of SHE and KING SOLOMONS’S MINES. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of her great-grandfather.) Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society.

You can visit her website at www.spunstories.com.

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