Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Interview with Geoffrey Gudgion

Geoffrey Gudgion is the author of one of the best books I read this summer, Saxon's Bane, and he has kindly agreed to an exclusive interview with The Review Blog today. As a published writer of historical fiction I am always curious about what motivates a writer, the books he/she reads, research methods and especially the writing process, particularly redrafting. A novel is, of course, a journey for the writer and for the reader. The following interview with Geoffrey about writing his debut novel is fascinating, interesting and informative.

Geoffrey Gudgion

Saxon's Bane is one of the most atmospheric books I read this summer. What inspired your novel Saxon's Bane?

Several ideas that came together and gelled. I wanted to write a story that brought the past alive in the present; the kind of atmospheric tale which stays ambiguous about whether something supernatural is happening.

I've always been fascinated by the history buried in the English countryside. Many villages in my part of the world can trace their origins to some Saxon warlord who felled a clearing in the forest, and chose that spot to settle down. Then I came across the Saxon legend of the warrior Aegl and his wife Olrun, the swan-maiden. That gave me the setting; the present-day village of Allingley, whose name meant 'the clearing of Aegl's folk' in Anglo-Saxon, on the banks of the Swanbourne stream. Add in the discovery of the peat-preserved body of a ritually-murdered Saxon warrior, and I had the makings of a story! The hard part was to interweave the Saxon era with the present day in a plausible way, and to bring the two threads together in a worlds-collide climax. That was fun!

As a writer myself I am curious about the writing habits of others. Can you say a little about your writing journey especially the redrafting process? For example are you a planner?

I always start out with a sense of direction, i.e. a beginning and an end, but I allow myself the freedom to wander off track. In my current WIP, I wrote a plan at the beginning, rewrote it at 30,000 words, and again at 75,000 words. Part of the joy of writing is letting your characters shape the plot, but they can't take over until they're already fully formed as people, well into the writing.

Geoffrey, you work in a time consuming job by day. When do you write? How long did the book take?

Saxon's Bane took 2 years from first pen-to-paper to being accepted by an agent, including several re-writes. I write best in the mornings, fuelled by lots of coffee, and become more and more easily distracted with each hour. By the afternoon I'm better off researching, and in the evening I like to be entertained by someone else's book, preferably with a glass of wine to hand!

I am curious about writers' inspiration and if direction changes mid-novel. Did it change much from your original vision? How easy or difficult was your research?

I research as I write, reading widely around a concept - in this case Saxon England - then home in to detailed research around elements that are crucial to the plot. Saxon's Bane's beginning and ending, and its underlying concept, did not change much during writing, but I had one idea in mid-stream that took the body of the book in a new direction. I was researching Anglo-Saxon runes and I came across the verse in the epic poem Hรกvamรกl, where the god Odin says I can carve and colour the runes / So that [a dead] man can walk and talk with me. That gave me a very useful idea.

I suspect that you are an avid reader, Geoffrey, so do reveal your recent favourite books. What books do you enjoy reading? Do you have a few favourites?

I'm reading Alan Garner at the moment, although I only discovered him when my publisher (Solaris) compared our writing. That was immensely flattering. Ditto Robert Holdstock. As a child I devoured J R R Tolkien, but I can't point to other authors who influenced me. It would have been easier to position the book if I had; the spectrum from Garner and Holdstock to Kate Mosse is pretty broad.

The big question is where do you go from here. Saxon's Bane was published earlier this summer and it is already very successful. What is your next book? Is there one in progress?

I'm about 3/4 through another time-slip thriller with a supernatural twist, which again weaves together stories from two eras. It's set on a crumbling country estate which has been in the same family for nearly 700 years; in the 14th century the founder of the dynasty makes a terrible oath to a dying holy woman. In the 21st century his descendants have forgotten the oath, but it seems the oath has not forgotten them... I'm at the exciting phase of bringing it all home to a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes you have to write a lot of words before you find out what's really going to work.
Thank you for this very engaging and informative interview, Geoffrey. I am really looking forward to reading your next novel which I have no doubt will be as wonderful a reading experience as Saxon's Bane has been. Hurry up and finish writing it please. I am hooked already! And good luck too!



  1. Well done, Carol! As someone who has never read Gudgion, this is a great introduction to his work.

    1. He is delightful and I hope he goes from strength to strength as he deserves success.

  2. Great Interview Carol. And boy is this Geoffrey a very handsome man! Good luck Geoffrey with your work. Of course its all about the book!!!

  3. All thanks to Geoffrey. I am looking forward to his next as I like edgy time slip novels.

  4. An enlightening interview. I enjoyed it very much. Definitely a book that I shall be reading.

    1. I hope you enjoy it. He is an excellent writer. Suspenseful.

  5. A really interesting interview, Carol and Geoffrey.

    Having met you in person at the HNS Conference, 2012, Geoffrey, and having just read this interview, I can't wait to read Saxon's Bane.


  6. Great interview Carol...and anyone who quotes the "All-Father" is fine by me! Another definite addition for the "to read" list.

  7. A very intelligent debut novel. You too Rob are entered for the draw. Will pull out of the hat on Sunday. You could win a signed copy!