Saturday, 28 February 2015

Louise E. Rule Interviews Carol McGrath

First of all I would like to welcome Carol McGrath, author of The Handfasted Wife, The Swan-Daughter, and soon to be released, The Betrothed Sister.

Carol McGrath



A big welcome to The Review, Carol, thank you for joining me for this interview about your book, The Swan-Daughter.

How important was it for you, Carol, to have The Swan-Daughter, a stand-alone novel, considering that it is the middle book of a trilogy, the first book being The Handfasted Wife, and the last being The Betrothed Daughter?

The books are stand alone because they each tell individual stories concerning three different noble women. The novels have different focuses. The Handfasted Wife is about what happened to Harold’s wife and children during and after 1066. The Swan-Daughter is a true story of elopement and its consequences. The Betrothed Sister is about exile and a glittering marriage for King Harold’s elder daughter, Gita (Thea) with a great Kiev prince – a few battles too. They can indeed be read as individual stories although they possess an over-arching theme – a particular family’s destiny – that of the Godwins. They were a family which had either hoped to be or were chosen to form a new ruling dynasty after the death of Edward the Confessor. The stories in this series are told from the perspectives of three women, Harold’s handfasted wife and two daughters’ perspectives. How did they survive the regime change in 1066? What happened next? These were questions I answered in the context of three novels. Each is a different and thrilling survival story.

Gunnhild Godwinsdatter, as a woman, and from a woman’s perspective, comes across as having an extremely strong character once her husband, Count Alan of Richmond, is not around. How easy or difficult was it for you to create her, bring her to life, as you have done, given that there is so little that is actually known about her?

I think the events of 1066 threw many English women on their own resources. Gunnhild was King Harold’s younger daughter. Research indicated that she was nine at the time of the Norman Conquest and at the time she was a royal inmate of Wilton Abbey, there to be educated as had many other royal women before her. It is fact that Gunnhild eloped (there are letters from the Archbishop of Canterbury and Gunnhild surviving that indicate the elopement and a later relationship with his brother). Therefore, I considered that it is possible to portray her as a strong, independent personality, thrown on her own resources, particularly by 1075 when the novel opens, because her aunt had died. I knew also that she would be constricted in how her emotions could play out because of the religious and social conventions of the period. Gunnhild could have inherited her mother’s lands. Certainly, Alan, as recorded history indicates, acquired most of these. I portrayed her as na├»ve to begin with, a noble girl, deprived of and longing for lovely things to the extent that she will thwart convention and suffer for her actions. I portrayed her as maturing through the story. I have no idea what the real Gunnhild was like but I tried to make her plausible.

You say, Carol, in your Author Notes, that you had imagined that Gunnhild favoured calligraphy and drawing, rather than embroidery. That is extremely interesting, more especially as all three require a particular dexterity to perform, and a good eye for detail. So please could you tell our readers why you think she preferred these particular pastimes over embroidery?

I thought rather than Gunnhild being depicted as an embroiderer I would make her artistic and interested in writing. Women in earlier centuries had been monastery (nunnery) calligraphers so I revisited this notion. As a consequence, the Gunnhild I have imagined is artistic. She has a highly educated aunt in the widow of Edward the Confessor, the patron of Wilton Abbey, a woman revered for her intellect at the time. This is recorded fact. Aunt Edith was a renowned embroiderer. There was an embroidery school at Wilton; both Wilton and Winchester were noted for their calligraphy also. In fact there is an overlap in the two because the Bayeux Tapestry designs owe much to 11th century English manuscript work. Now, Gunnhild would be overshadowed by Aunt Edith’s stunning legacy as the best embroiderer in England if she was an embroiderer as well! Thus my Gunnhild has a latent talent of her own which is, of course, calligraphy. I do not suggest this was the real Gunnhild, but then, how would we actually know how the real Gunnhild passed her time, what she really thought or said?

Research is both an important and an absorbing part of writing an historical novel. How do you go about your research, Carol? Do you, for example, gather all your research together before you begin writing, or do you research as you go?

The historical world the Godwin women inhabit needs to be based in sound historical research in both primary and secondary sources. By this I mean archaeology, chronicle, books, museums, as well as art and poetry from that era. 
I conduct most of my research in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, in museums of all kinds, at re-enactments, in poetry from the period, stories rooted in the period, before I begin the novel. I have different notebooks for different aspects of research. I log every source’s details carefully, including page numbers as well in case I need to revisit them. It is an academic approach and disciplined. After a few months I have dropped into my novel’s world. Only then can I inhabit my characters. By the time I begin to write, I have absorbed the story’s alien landscape and its real and invented people. I have another A4 notebook in which I plan the novel. I also record character information, both invented and researched, in a notebook or two. I jot down phrases and relevant ideas for scenes, as they come to me. And I am old-fashioned as I do enjoy a mix of pencil and paper and computer files for information.

I can see that your cover design is very important to you, Carol. The Swan-Daughter has a beautiful resonance for me. There is a symbolism with the bulrushes, and with the two swans. The bulrushes are symbolic of how to live a humble life and about obeying the Church, as mentioned in Job 8:11: Can the rush be green without moisture. The swans are symbolic of love and loyalty, strength, grace and beauty. The colour of the font exactly matches the colour of the bills of the swans, and it creates a cohesiveness that can only draw the eye. Could you explain to our readers, therefore, how you went about designing your cover, and what it was you wanted to convey with just the viewing of it?

The cover is an illustration that can be viewed in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is The Swans and the Irises by Walter Crane. I loved the illustration and suggested it for the cover. I agree with the symbolism suggested in the question. When I discovered this picture, it was only the swans and what they stand for that occurred to me. Accent, my publisher, acquired the right to use it and designed the cover.

Questions that I always like to ask, Carol, are about an author’s writing routine. Could you tell us a little about your writing routine, please? For example, do you write at a particular time of the day, in a particular place? Do you work in a library, or at home, or both? Also, the editing, and proofreading processes are as equally important as the actual writing. How, then, do you go about these tasks, Carol?

I work best in the mornings and try to write most days. I write a scene and revisit it the next day before I write the next scene. It is good for continuity. There is a narrative plan to it, but this develops as I write. I have the novel’s beginning, middle and end before I start. I write chronologically through from beginning to end. Editing is absolutely crucial. It takes months. I go through the first draft three times thoroughly editing, thinking does the scene matter, is the character consistent, is each word the right word, or does a sentence, or even paragraph, sit in the right place within a chapter? Then, groan and joy both, there are three more edits with my editor, the manuscript going back and forth. It is wonderful to see it improve through this process to become the swan rather than the ugly duckling.

Is there anything else that you would like to add, Carol?

At the end of it all I do hope readers enjoy these stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them. And now they can listen to the first novel in the series as well, as it is available on audio. Hopefully The Swan-Daughter will follow. 

And finally, thank you, Paula and Louise for reading and reviewing my novels and for this interview.

 It's been a real pleasure chatting with you, Carol, and thank you for joining me for this interview.


************

Other books in the Daughters of  Hastings Trilogy by Carol McGrath

 
















************

Carol can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and on her website you will find many more social media links to Carol.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Guest Post by February's Book of the Month winner, Blythe Gifford.


Blythe Gifford kindly shares with us 
a post previously posted in 
"Unusual Histories" in 2013



Blythe Gifford
(Author photo by Jennifer Girard)



The King and The Pricker: Witch Hunting in Scotland


While the English "witch finder" Matthew Hopkins and the Salem, Massachusetts witch trials may be more familiar to many readers, some of the most horrific witch hunts of the 16th-17th centuries took place in Scotland. Several waves of witch hunting washed through the country over a period of roughly 200 years, resulting in a total of some 1,500 deaths, compared to perhaps 1,000 in England. Other estimates are that Scotland, with a quarter of England's population, executed three times the number of witches as England did.

There is much speculation and little certainty about exactly why that is so. I'll withhold theories, but today, I'd like to focus on two peculiarly Scottish contributions to the history of witch hunting: first, the direct involvement of the king and second, the phenomenon known as the "witch pricker."

Portrait of the Scottish King James VI
Painted by Nicholas Hilliard
The Scottish King James VI (son of Mary, Queen of Scots and later crowned as England's King James I), was obsessed with witchcraft, so much so that he authored an eighty page treatise on the subject, Daemonologie, in 1597. Although witchcraft in Scotland had been illegal and punishable by death since 1563, the persecution of witches did not really take hold until the king made it a personal crusade. (Among his "contributions" to the cause was to authorize torture.)

Why was he so obsessed? Because he was, for a time, convinced he had been a victim of witchcraft. During a visit to Denmark, home of his future bride, Ann of Denmark, he is said to have been exposed to a theory of witchcraft not yet prevalent in Scotland, one that focused on demonic compacts and groups of witches working together in league with Satan. This idea must have weighed on his mind as several rough sea crossings nearly prevented Anne and James from returning to Scotland alive. The Danish admiral blamed witches for working black magic against the royal couple. The king must have believed him, for soon persecutions in both countries began, and the accused included nobles of the Scottish court.

The title page of King James I's
Daemonologie in Forme of a Dialogue
Across a multi-year period, from 1590-93, the investigation culminated with the execution of
around 70 witches in North Berwick. The king took a personal interest in the trials, and even in the torture of some of the women. And interestingly, the charges included treason as well as witchcraft, indicating that the king believed he had personally been a target and the crime not only a religious, but a civil one. His subsequent authorship of the Daemonologie placed him firmly on the side of those who argued that rational men could, and should, believe that such evil existed, insisting it was possible for witches to "rayse stromes and tempestes in the aire, either upon land or sea, though not universally; but in such a particular place and prescribed bunds as God will permitte them so to trouble."

After he became England's king in 1601 and moved south, his views moderated significantly. Arguments as to why included the greater skepticism of the English and may also include his experience with Anne Gunter, a young woman who accused others of witchcraft and later confessed that she had made it all up.

A footnote for those who know "the Scottish play": The three witches in Macbeth are thought to have been modeled on some passages of the Daemonologie, as an attempt by Shakespeare to please England's new King James I.

No such moderation of views occurred in the Scotland he left behind. Witch hunts continued sporadically, with the largest wave in 1661-62. And the methods of witch hunting in Scotland were more brutal than those in England. Some claimed it was because of differences in the legal system, but the torture routinely practiced in Scotland was gruesome.

Which brings me to the other particularly Scottish contribution to mass witch hunts: the "witch pricker."

These finders-for-hire traveled the country, paid to search for witches and paid better when they found one. And while the methods of the English "witch finders" such as Matthew Hopkins were grim enough, the witch pricker had a particular slant on things.

The theory was that each witch would have a witch's mark, given to her by the Devil. The witch pricker examined the suspected witch (overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, a female) for the mark. (The theory was that Satan, in essence, seduced the women, so the mark would often be found near her most private parts.) This mark was supposed to be insensitive to pain, so that when jabbed with a sharp, brass prick, the witch would not flinch or cry out or bleed. If the point of the prick disappeared into the mark and the witch did not cry out, the witch pricker had then proven the suspect's guilt.

Witch-pricking needles
The descriptions of these processes, often witnessed by a crowd of observers, are chilling. More chilling, however, was the discovery that at least some of these pricks were designed with retractable points. In other words, to an observer, it looked as if the pin penetrated the skin and came out without so much as blood on it. In reality, the witch pricker had a perfect scam going. How many women were put to death because of this ruse, we don't know. When, finally, one of the most notorious prickers, one John Kincaid, was exposed, it marked a turning point in Scotland. Witches were still hunted and tried, but torture had to be authorized by point in Scotland. Witches were still hunted and tried, but torture had to be authorized by national councils instead of simply conducted by local authorities in the grip of fear and frenzy.

These "stranger than fiction" facts haunted me as I developed The Witch Finder. And while my characters are not identifiable historical figures, they do, I hope, carry the truth of that time and its lessons.


************

Blythe Gifford was hailed as "New and Noteworthy" in "Unusual Historicals" on 20th February 2015, as a direct result of her being the winner of The Review's February Book of the Month.

************

The Witch Finder is an independently published book.

************


About Blythe Gifford 
After many years in public relations, advertising and marketing, Blythe Gifford started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold her first book to the Harlequin Historical line. Since then, she has published ten books, primarily set in England and on the Scottish Borders, most revolving around real historical figures and events. Whispers at Court will be released in June, 2015. For more information, visit www.blythegifford.com.

************


Thursday, 26 February 2015

PAULA READS: THE SWAN DAUGHTER by CAROL MCGRATH

Ms. McGrath has kindly agreed to a signed paperback giveaway
See end of post for details of how to enter the giveaway


The Swan Daughter begins in 1075 and starts with the death of Queen Edith, wife of the old Confessor who himself has demised for almost a decade. Her 18-year-old niece Gunnhild, daughter of her brother and his wife Edith Swanneck, has been educated in Wilton Abbey with her aunt since she was a small girl. She has been longing for the day she can leave, but the abbess has other ideas for her and she is to take holy vows. Then her knight in shining armour arrives in the shape of Alan of Richmond, a Breton in the service of the Norman king, William. Alan convinces her that she must elope with him and Gunnhild sees this as a chance to leave the convent life behind.


I enjoyed this book; it is as a lovely romance as any. Ms. McGrath tells a wonderful story of a love triangle that is based on historical fact. McGrath uses her role as a historical novelist to weave a plausible explanation of why Gunnhild marries Alan 'the Black' of Richmond and then later lives with his half brother, Alan 'the Red'. These are the facts that are known to us; however, the circumstances of why are not within our grasp. Nonetheless it is easy to surmise and Ms. McGrath's ability to create an interesting story and her astute research into the period, in particular an investigation into the land holdings of Alan of Richmond and Edith Swannneck, provide us with all the evidence for a believable  story.


Though the framework of the tale is based in fact, most of the story comes from the imagination of the author. Gunnhild's travel to Brittany, her life there as the wife of a Breton count, her jealousy of Alan's mistress and other children, and how she meets and falls in love with the other Alan are  the conjuring of an inquiring mind, and an inquiring mind is a requisite in this era for the sources are scarcer that a teapot in a wine bar.

Gunnhild’s spirit comes to the fore in the beginning of the book; as time moves on, she becomes less a force of nature as she is molded into a more submissive version of herself. The stealing of her aunt’s dress, her refusal to take holy vows, her desire to shape her own destiny and not be forced into a sterile community where her spirit will fade, is what marks her out as different. Instead, she chooses another form of oppression, marriage to Count Alan the Red, who promises to make her a lady fit for the station of her birth.

She lives with the shame of her father’s so-called oath breaking and his ignoble death on the field of war. Her family’s diaspora and the loss of her mother and siblings' love fill her with profound sadness, but her character is such that she will not wallow in misery. She wants to be free, to live the life she was meant to have lived--as an English princess should. One day, she promises herself, she will leave this place (the nunnery) and when Alan reaches out to her, offers her a better, happier future, she clasps it with all her heart.

These were turbulent times--like many periods in the history of England. There had been many uprisings against the new regime: Harold's sons in 1068, Earl Waltheof, Edgar Atheling and the brothers Morcar and Edwin, Malcom Canmore, Eadric the Wild, Hereward (the Wake) 1069/70 and lastly in 1075 the rebellion of the Breton Earls, which saw Waltheof lose his life after unwittingly becoming implicated. It was around this time that William began to consolidate his hold on the kingdom.

For the women and children of this time the trauma of losing their menfolk, their property swept away from them because of the differences in culture and customs, this was a terrible time of displacement. Those women who owned their lands outright rushed into nunneries to avoid being forced to marry Norman knights who were desperately wanting lands. Being shut away from the world was bad enough, but being treated as economic objects of desire must have been frightening. Gunnhild was a woman who had grown up in a world where women's rights were protected. Even a slave woman had laws to punish her defiler. Women were often afforded equal status and some had been referred to as thegns. Obviously as a woman, it was unlikely that they should be expected to take up military services for the king, but by providing a man that could, she was fulfilling her military obligation as a landholding person. Edith Swanneck had many men commended to her; she was a very wealthy woman.



McGrath's characterisation of Gunnhild is well thought out, taking into account her status as a king's daughter, her years living in a convent and the traumatic loss of her family's ability to exist as a cohesive unit. Gunnhild longs to recreate the life she should have had, had that day in October at Hastings not gone the other way. Unfortunately, things do not follow as she would have expected them to after leaving her home in Wilton with the first Alan and travelling to a new life in Brittany; there are challenges that Gunnhild must face and humiliations to endure.

In the beginning, Alan of Richmond proves himself to be a man of principle. His word is his honour. He expects total loyalty and submission from Gunnhild. Gunnhild soon learns the hard way that her feelings, opinions and expectations do not count when Alan wishes to have his way. Gunnhild strives to please him but one day she crosses that proverbial line and there is no going back.

In Normandy and France, women were viewed very much as chattels on the whole but of course there were exceptions to the rule. The theme of this story is that of Tristan and Isolde. A tale of forbidden love that has inspired many tales such as Lancelot and Guinevere and others like the Romeo and Juliet-type love stories that have been told throughout the ages. This was also an era when the wonderful culture of the troubadours was emerging; courtly and unrequited love was the central theme of this ideology. Knights of the troubadour epics were seen in a very different light and unrealistically created images of a man whose core beliefs were those of protecting women, children and the weak and performing honourable deeds. They would go to the ends of the earth for a lady whose love they were unable to harness, just to get the knock back at the end. Ms. McGrath carefully embeds this Tristan and Isolde ideology into the story and when we reach the climax we are somehow enlightened and imbued with its spirit.



This is very much a story told from a woman's point of view; there are no exciting bloody battle scenes, nor is there much political intrigue, no swordfights or beheadings. What we do have though, is a light, heartwarming love story and a tale that evokes that old adage, that love can conquer all. When all that is left is love, what else can  human beings need?

About The Author
Carol McGrath


From a young age Carol's passion was reading historical novels and biography. Now she is writing them. Her debut novel The Handfasted Wife was published by Accent Press in May 2013. The Handfasted Wife is the first novel in a trilogy about the Norman Conquest from the point of view of the royal women. Its subject is Edith Swan-Neck, King Harold’s common-law/handfasted wife. The Swan-Daughter, the second novel in the trilogy will be published in 2014.

 Carol studied for an MA at Queens University Belfast’s Seamus Heaney Centre for Creative Writing. Later she worked on the MPhil in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. Life is not all about academic pursuits and writing books. She travesl extensively, enjoys photography and loves spending time with her two children, husband and their home and garden. Moreover, visits to a location here and in Europe that features in her books is the greatest excuse of all to lose oneself in the past.

You can find Carol in these places: 
You can buy her books:

This review was written by Paula Lofting for The Review. Paula is the author of Sons of the Wolf.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment here OR on our Facebook page at the link here.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Louise E. Rule Interviews February's Book of the Month Winner - Blythe Gifford

WELCOME TO 
BLYTHE GIFFORD
FEBRUARY'S WINNER OF 
THE REVIEW'S BOOK OF THE MONTH

Blythe Gifford
After many years in public relations, advertising, and marketing, Blythe Gifford started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold her Romance Writiers of America Golden Heart Finalist (unpublished) manuscript to the Harlequin Historical line. 
She has since published historical romances set in medieval England, Flanders, and on the Scottish Borders, most incorporating real historical events and characters. The Chicago Tribune has called her work "the perfect balance between history and romance." Her eleventh book, Whispers at Court, will be released in June 2015.

Thank you for joining me today, Blythe, and for agreeing to be interviewed about your indie published book, The Witch Finder, which I have chosen as February's winner of  The Review's Book of the Month.

You have written many books, Blythe, so could you tell our readers what the hook was that made you want to write about the fascinating subject of witch finders, especially as The Witch Finder is quite different from your other books?

There are several answers embedded in this question.  First, yes, this book is darker, more intense, and includes more of the “gritty” side of history than my other books.  But all my work is rooted in real historical events and people and this book remains an historical romance, as my other books are. 
As to what drew me, when I looked at my original notes on this project, I discovered I first noodled on this idea before I was even published, originally thinking to set it during the Inquisition. That means it was in my subconscious for ten years before I started writing. 
There’s a famous maxim on the importance of conflict in romance, attributed to multi-million selling author Sandra Brown:  “If your heroine is an arsonist, your hero better be a fire fighter.” I could think of no conflict stronger than that of a suspected witch and a witch finder. For me as a writer, the story combines several elements that intrigue me and turn up in much of my work: women and sexuality (that’s one!), religion, and politics. Although the last two are traditionally taboo, in an historical context, you can’t reflect the world as it was if you ignore them. One reason I write romance is that it makes the woman central to the story. In other genres, that is sometimes difficult to do.
Reading your book re-awakened an interest in the history of witch hunts in both the UK and in the USA, so could you let our readers know how you went about your own research for The Witch Finder?
Sometimes I think research is my favourite part of the process! I started broadly, originally thinking the story would be set in England, where the “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins reigned for more than three years, ostensibly responsible for the deaths of 300 “witches.” But I discovered that some of the most virulent witch hunting episodes occurred in Scotland, specifically in the Scottish Lowlands, where I had already set a book. In fact, the number of witches tried in Scotland far exceeded the number tried in England, so I gravitated to that era and location, though I kept England in my sights during the process.
Sinclair - Satan's World 1685
The Scottish witch hunts have attracted quite a bit of scholarship, and my shelves now overflow. Particularly helpful were Enemies of God by Christina Larner and The Scottish Witch Hunts in Context by Julian Goodare.  There is also an extensive archive/database online via the University of Edinburgh, here. To give Google Books credit, they have now digitized many original sources that used to require travel to distant libraries to access. My Google bookshelf on this issue alone tops 200 items.
But witch hunting is a subject that seems to attract sensationalist and speculative commentary, so I had to be cautious about my sources, both in print and online.
One of the trickiest parts of the research, interestingly, was not the witch hunts themselves. It was the political situation. The story is set in the immediate aftermath of the transition from the Cromwellian government to the restoration of the monarchy in England and Scotland. It’s a brief and specific moment in time and trying to nail down certain political and religious realities of those months caused me many months of frustration. These could not be glossed over because they were crucial to accurately portray who conducted the investigations and how they proceeded.
The Witch Trials
In addition, as always, trying to get enough of a handle on clothes, food, and housing so that you can walk around in the characters’ world is a challenge. Yet this is crucial if I am to immerse the reader in the world. I always write with a map and a calendar close at hand. The calendar was particularly important for this story, for it is paced more like a thriller, with the key action taking place over about ten days.
By the way, the Salem, Massachusetts (US) witch hunt took place about 30 years after this. I did not extend my research to the US except to re-read The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s amazing play.
Your characters are extremely interesting, and complex: Margret, for example, comes across as a very independent woman whose character is driven to protect her mother. It is Margret’s character that, for me, drives the story. How did you go about developing her?
One of the things I always say is that all my books are autobiographical, but not necessarily in the way you imagine. This one was a bit more direct. My mother died the year before I started the manuscript and the last couple of years of her life, our roles were reversed, much as Margret’s and her mother’s. My mother was not as impaired as Margret’s, my road certainly not as hard. But during those years, I had a constant sense of worry and frustration and helplessness that I translated to the page. I’m glad it brought her alive for you.
The character of Alexander Kincaid, on the other hand, is an enigma. What was your process for developing his complexities, which I found quite absorbing?
Making Alexander believable and relatable for the modern reader was one of my hardest tasks. Though it is true that “good people” in various times past believe things we now see as heinous, I felt I could not have an educated hero committed to destroying witches without giving him a very good motivation. That meant having a “witch” destroy someone he loved, at once proof and emotional justification.
That setup was the writer’s craft brain at work. But the unfolding of his deeper motivations and inner doubts came from the magic of writing the story itself. I thought of him as a man in search of justice, almost like a knight fighting a dragon. That allowed him to be believably open to change.
When writing, do you have a particular routine? For example, do you always write at a certain time of day, in a certain place?
I am a creature of habit because habit will keep you at the keyboard more effectively than willpower. After morning coffee and routine, I put on a playlist of music I develop for each book. This includes something rousing and atmospheric to start, followed by appropriate period music and/or soundtracks. Like Pavlov’s dog, when I hear it, my hands automatically go to the keyboard. (I’m listening to my soundtrack for this book as I write these answers.) I’ve also had a signature candle scent, for this book, a dark cedar/bergamot/amber mix.
When I began, I was strictly a morning writer, but I’ve trained myself to work morning and afternoon. Usually, a writing stretch is one and a half to two hours. While I have forced myself to write when I travel on (non-writing) business, I’m most productive in my office, at my desktop, surrounded by my research books and all my files.
Some authors write longhand and then transcribe their manuscript to the laptop. How do you write your novels, Blythe? 
I’m a draft writer, but for the most part, wedded to the keyboard. The first draft is about 100 pages of the “good stuff,” that is, the scenes that form the core of the story.  Sometimes, here and further along, I’ll scribble on a large drawing pad some of the themes or images and the drawing can unlock some connections the conscious mind has missed.  There’s been research before this, but the research continues throughout the process.  Interestingly, my opening scene rarely changes substantively.
How I write
The second draft creates more of a beginning, middle, and end. Well, that sounds more organized than it is. The point here is to create more words.  Eventually, I discover the story. All the way along, I’ll print out and edit with scribbles in the margin. I even cut and paste entire scenes into different places. I write short, so even at the end of this stage, I’m 40-50 pages shy of where I need to be.
The third draft is where it becomes a book. I mean that literally. Suddenly, the thing snaps into place. Everything tightens. (Which means I lose words and have to expand again.) Now each word matters.  (Before, it was just get something down!) I have ‘aha’ moments about the characters. The plot. Everything. And while I say “Draft Three,” the fact is that by the time the manuscript is ready for the editor, I’ve reviewed each page at least ten times. Draft Three can actually be Four or Five.  Or Six…
Editing and proof reading are the two most important tasks after the manuscript has been completed. Would you like to share how you go about these tasks?
Traditionally, I’ve been able to rely on my wonderful editor at Harlequin for these things, but when Harlequin passed on this book, I had to assemble my own team. I used a total of four editors--two for overview of the story and two for copy/proof work. It was very important to me to do it right, since indie publishing sometimes has a reputation for skipping those steps. That said, I probably don’t need four the next time! Part of it is finding people you gel with. There are online communities of self-published authors who are happy to recommend good people. Two of my four editors formerly worked at traditional publishing houses and such professionals are now available for freelance work.
As you are an indie author, Blythe, would you recommend it to other authors, and would-be authors, and could you tell our readers why you decided to be an indie author?
I decided to publish The Witch Finder myself after Harlequin rejected the book because I think it’s some of the best work I’ve done. I also thought it would be a learning experience in the brave new publishing world we live in. The reviews, like yours, and being a finalist in last year’s Bookseller’s Best competition, have validated my belief that the book was worth sending into the world.
Technically, I’m still a “hybrid,” publishing in both camps.  Secrets at Court was released by Harlequin last year and Whispers at Court will be out from them in June. Both of those are set in the court of Edward III of England and take place around the weddings of Edward’s son and daughter, respectively.
My advice? Be sure you understand the time and the breadth of skills demanded, many of which are entrepreneurial, not creative. I had to set up accounts with the retailers, find a cover artist, develop a cover, hire a formatter to translate the computer file properly for e-and print versions. And now there is a need to adjust pricing for VAT [value added tax] changes. Not to mention your own accounting for taxes!  It is like starting a small business.
More, in my experience, indie publishing favors the “predictably prolific.” Those who are making a good living as indies are releasing five to nine “projects” a year, usually in a genre fiction series. I would also caution that the landscape, even the royalty rates, can be expected to change. Change is inevitable throughout the publishing world these days. 
One of the biggest challenges for any writer, particularly an indie one, is getting the word out. How can people ever find your book among the millions now published every year?  So I am so grateful to you for shining this spotlight on The Witch Finder. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and support!
Thank you so much for a most interesting interview Blythe, and congratulations on winning February's Book of the Month Award. So well deserved.

Blythe Gifford can be found at her website, her Facebook page, Twitter, and Pintrest.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Book of the Month Winner for February - Blythe Gifford - The Witch Finder


Please see below for information about the giveaway!

The Witch Finder by Blythe Gifford – Reviewed by Louise Rule



Welcome to The Review's Book of the Month Series.

There will be no submissions to this as it is purely us, The Review Team, who will choose them from books we have read, either recently or some time ago, but they have to be independently published by an independent author.

The reasons why we are choosing these books is because they are works of excellence that make them shine above others. Every one of us will have our own tastes and ideas about what makes a good book. My ideas about what makes a good book concurs with Paula Lofting's ideas. They are:

  • Books have to be well written and have a unique and interesting writing style.
  • Great characterisation with lots of depth to them.
  • Plot development that makes the book a 'page-turner'
  • Good research and authenticity.
  • I like to be taken to 'other worlds' and lose myself in the story.


I am so thrilled to be presenting Blythe Gifford's novel, The Witch Finder 

as the winner of February's Book of the Month



I originally reviewed Blythe Gifford’s book on 29th January, 2014, for The Review. The book has stayed with me ever since. The story line, the characters, the subject matter tempted me into considering it even more, and because of this, it reignited my own research into witch hunters, a subject that has, from time to time, been an interest of mine.

Since writing my original review, I have read Gifford’s book several times. Each time that I read it, I find something new, a nuance that I had missed in previous readings, or a greater understanding of how the characters were feeling. I became more and more impressed with how the story as a whole came together with each reading. For me, when a book can be reread with enthusiasm, that is a sign of excellent authorship.

Gifford has the ability to bring the reader through the curtain of fiction, and into the realms of real life. The readers find themselves on the sidelines, watching events unfold. Now and then, as if there is a feeling of intruding, the reader may find that they try to duck out of the way, so as not to be seen, so cleverly has this been written.

Because Blythe Gifford’s novel is based on known facts about witch hunting, everything is founded on the realms of possibility. This is how Gifford projects the drama, the angst, and the relief throughout. We readers are on tenterhooks often, and the relief, or sadness, of the characters after such events is palpable.

The Book of the Month Award from The Review is a new event for us, and I leapt at the chance of putting forward Blythe Gifford’s book. I have read very many books over the past year, most of them have been exemplary, but when it came to me to select my book for February, I did not hesitate to choose The Witch Finder. It is different, not your usual witch hunting story. It’s not written for sensationalism, it’s written as an account of real lives being affected by those awful events. You feel the injustice, the terror, the panic. I found myself holding my breath on many occasions whilst reading, followed by exhalations of relief.

Since writing my original review, I have visited Scotland twice in the past year, and now understand more fully the Scottish dialectal words that Gifford has used, and the draw of that wonderful country.


Blythe Gifford’s The Witch Finder Review is below, with additional content.




Blythe Gifford

“It’s October 1661, Scotland, the Borders – Hoofbeats woke her, sending her heart tripping fast as the horse, even without knowing who rode. Nothing good rode at night.”

These are the opening lines to a story that will take you into the realms of the witch finder. The horror of not being able to make someone believe that you are innocent when they only see you as guilty, is unimaginable. Gifford cleverly draws the reader into the story, pitting the searcher against the searched.

The opening lines of a book, for me, are very important. They have to set the scene, hook me in, and make me want to turn the page. Gifford’s The Witch Finder does that for me. It is not a book that I would instinctively choose, but the cover intrigued me. First of all it has a teaser – “He’s a haunted man. She’s a hunted woman.” The title of the book overlays the picture in a bright yellow font that catches the eye, encouraging the reader to view the picture that sits behind it: a woman cloaked in black. So, being naturally curious, I had to read it.

Margaret is our protagonist, hiding her mother who has been sent mad through interrogation in Edinburgh by the witch finder called Scobie. They are living in a small, remote, barely furnished cottage out along the road from the village of Kirktoun. Here she could keep her mother safe and away from prying eyes and questions. Gifford has the reader feeling sympathetic towards both Margaret and her mother from the outset. We feel her panic as the witch pricker comes riding past her home. Will Margaret’s mother be found? Will Margaret be accused of being a witch? Nail-biting moments carry the reader page by page. We are taken into the realms of interrogation, and the bitter futility of declaring innocence.

The witch finder is Alexander Kincaid who had watched his mother die. We are told that she was the victim of a witch’s curse. It is because of this that he dedicates his life to finding witches. The Kincaid character is presented as vacillating between being absolutely certain of what he is doing to doubting it. His turmoil, for me, is pivotal, inasmuch as it demonstrates his conscience is fighting with his determination to find witches, no matter how.

Gifford has a sound knowledge of the era of witch finding in Scotland in the 17th century. The witch finder being referred to as the witch pricker, because of the brass pointed tool that was used to prick into the accused. If the accused felt no pain they were guilty; if they did not bleed from the wound, they were guilty. If they professed their innocence, then it was the devil putting those words into their mouths. They were literally damned if they confessed, damned if they didn’t. Either way the use of the witch pricker tool always proved the poor woman guilty.

There are some really poetic images running through the story, for example: 

‘…The flash of anger. But it rippled away like the sparkle of a fish in the stream, so quickly he wondered whether he had seen it at all.’ 

And: 

‘The moon, half eaten by clouds, looked down on them as wind rattled the trees, sending leaves scuttling across their steps.’

Since first reading The Witch Finder, I have visited Scotland twice, and I feel that Gifford has realistically used the Scottish dialect here and there where it has the most impact. I think had she written all speech in dialect the book would have become difficult to read. Writing in dialect is a difficult thing to do properly; I think that Gifford has achieved it. For example, 

‘Since I’m nae witch, I canna answer’;

She shook her head. “She’s a howdie with no bairns of her own. It’s unricht.”

The use of the word, ‘unricht’, I would presume means ‘wrong – “unright”’.

Gifford confidently carries the reader through the story at a great pace. There are breath-taking moments, breath-holding moments, and moments of great relief. I was sorry when it was finished. I don't know if Blythe Gifford intends a second book on this subject or not, but I consider there is scope for the story to continue, and I for one, would love to read another installment.

Author Blythe Gifford is also so graciously offering a FREE COPY of The Witch Finder as a giveaway. For your chance to win, simply comment below OR at this review's Facebook page here.



The Witch Finder can also be purchased in paperback and in e-book format here.

You can find Blythe Gifford here at www.blythegifford.com


*********

Louise Rule is author of Future Confronted.
View her Facebook Page here.
Find her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Louise E. Rule Interviews Louise Turner - Author of Fire and Sword

Louise Turner


From the back of Fire and Sword

Born in Glasgow, Louise Turner spent her early years in the west of Scotland where she attended the University of Glasgow. After graduating with an MA in archaeology, she went on to complete a PhD on the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management. Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and at a young age, she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story 'Busman's Holiday'. Louise lives with her husband in west Renfrewshire.

Welcome, Louise, and thank you for joining us on The Review to talk about your book Fire and Sword.

I am really interested how authors choose their book covers. I wonder if you could tell our readers how you decided on your dynamic book cover for Fire and Sword, for example, the choice of colours, the font of the title, and the images.


Fire and Sword was published via the traditional route, and I’ve been lucky that my publisher - independent small press Hadley Rille Books - is a rare example of a publishing house that still commissions original artwork for its book covers. They also engage their writers in every stage of the concept and design process. 

Their priority was to produce a cover that would be equally eye-catching and engaging as a thumbnail on a very small screen as it would be on the book itself – this, of course, was something that would never have occurred to me as a writer. I worked with regular HRB cover artist Thomas Vandenberg: he read the book then suggested both the scene that he considered to be the appropriate choice, and the concept of the mood and the palette of the colour scheme.
It was a really exciting process for me, because it was really the first sign that the book really was going to be published. Both artist and editor are based in the US while I’m in Scotland, so many late night e-mails were exchanged in which I forwarded all sorts of scanned images ranging from late 15th century armour to ideas for Scots medieval vernacular architecture. (Note, for example, the downwards-sloping quillons on John Sempill’s sword – that’s a typically Scottish form!) 

You clearly have a passion for Scotland and Scottish history. How did you decide on your starting point for your novel?

I suppose it was inevitable that I’d turn my hand to writing historical fiction eventually: I started out writing science fiction, studied archaeology to help find inspiration then ended up working in Scottish archaeology. Through the years, I’ve discovered many engaging stories round my neck of the woods that remain sadly unknown and unappreciated, and one of my prime motivations has always been to encourage more interest in the history and archaeology of the west of Scotland.
The Sempills were an obvious choice for source material. Since they were prominent in my local area, I was literally able to walk out of my front door and immerse myself in the landscape inhabited by them centuries ago. When I started to research their line, my interest was piqued by a brief throwaway line in a local historical account which stated how John, first Lord Sempill’s father Sir Thomas Sempill died defending the king (the murdered James III) at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488.  John, however, was made a lord of parliament a year later by James III’s successor, James IV. 
I wanted to see how someone could transform their fortunes so quickly, but this proved impossible by referring to the local accounts alone, because they’re often quite gossipy in their tone and they almost seem to ignore the historical and political context within which these events were taking place. It was only when I juxtaposed the local historical accounts with what was happening at the national level that I started to unearth numerous interesting possibilities and leads. Not enough to write anything more than the most speculative of factual accounts, but certainly enough to structure the narrative of a historical novel.

Writing historical fiction allows an author carte blanche to a certain extent, to mix fact with fiction. How do you go about creating a balance between the two; for example, the perceived knowledge of who they were, and the three-dimensional characters you create in your novel?

I make it my aim to stick to the facts, as they are known or have been recorded. However, the documentary sources for this particular period are fairly sparse, which is good news for a historical fiction writer because it allows more flexibility. 
The writing of Fire and Sword involved two main parallel avenues of research. The first investigated the historical events taking place at the time. However, the second was equally important: I had to try and get a handle on the characters, because it’s a whole lot easier to get your head around the history when it involves people you actually care about.
For the nobility, I used the genealogical accounts to establish a network of alliances – who were their parents, who did they marry, who did their children marry?  I also used any additional information I could find to try and build up a more detailed idea of these individuals’ personalities. John Sempill, for example, was a builder; he moved his family seat from a cramped 15th century towerhouse at Ellestoun near Howwood to what we can only assume was a more commodious building adjacent to the loch at Lochwinnoch. He built a collegiate church – was this because he harboured some deep-seated feeling of guilt and felt he needed to take extra care to avoid damnation, or was he just unusually pious?
He also founded a school for choristers and employed a harpist, so he was patron of the arts as well as architecture. Perhaps he made these efforts because he was trying to impress his contemporaries, or perhaps he was a man who had been touched by the humanist and renaissance principles that were beginning to take hold and he genuinely believed in trying to build a better world.
Hugh Montgomerie, by contrast, had been already acquitted of murder by the age of 30, and he regularly polished off those he considered to be a threat to him. And it’s never those loyal to him who are accused of these crimes – it’s invariably the man himself. Was he a psychopath, or just subject to rash decisions and a bit of a wild tearway? 
But he was also a very complex character, active in Scottish politics throughout the reign of James IV and into the reign of James V. He finally retired at the grand old age of 78 and at the zenith of his career in the 1530s, he’d served for a short period as vice-regent of Scotland. During his long lifetime he appears to have enjoyed a satisfying and fruitful marriage with his wife Helen Campbell. Of his many children, only one was illegitimate.  He was also the first secular, non-royal landowner in the west of Scotland to introduce glazed windows in his family seat. 
In creating the characters, I gathered together all these little tidbits, and added what was known about these individuals' military and cultural activities. Soon they started to take on identities of their own. All the while, I was researching the world in which they lived: the landscape, the literature, the music, the food. I studied a variety of sources, from Scottish burgh surveys and archaeological excavation reports, to historical syntheses and accounts written by a variety of authors and academics (indeed, the process is still ongoing).
Often I ended up with more questions than answers – how impoverished was Scotland during this period, how culturally backward, how closely did it emulate France as opposed to England – and there came a point when I just had to take a leap of faith and say, “Well, this is how I think it might have been.”
Once I finally got to know the characters, it was a case of just letting them do their own thing. So far, they’ve almost written the story themselves. And yet, at the same time, they’ve been quite happy to meet up at the appointed places, at the appointed times, and, more importantly, to behave in a manner that recreates events exactly as they are reported to have happened.

I would like to ask you about your female protagonist, Margaret Colville, who comes across as a very independent and interesting woman, but at the same time vulnerable. How did you go about creating her persona, with only her history to go by?

Margaret Colville is probably an ideal case-study by which I can illustrate the whole creation/recreation. Like many late medieval women, we know almost nothing about her.  She is recorded in historical documents as John,  first Lord Sempill’s first wife, and she appears to have borne him four children before her death in 1504.
We also know that she was the daughter of Sir Robert or Sir William Colville of Ochiltree – it’s sometimes difficult to establish how the relative generations relate to one another because the various accounts get things muddled sometimes. If you think things through in contemporary terms, all it takes is for one frazzled clerk under a lot of pressure to get the names mixed up at the time of writing, and the unfortunate historian is cursed with an insurmountable problem for the rest of eternity.
According to the genealogies I studied, she was the only daughter in a family of five, so I worked on the assumption that this might mean she was cherished and slightly over-indulged, but (perhaps more crucially) that she would have grown up able to hold her own amongst male siblings.
The broader historical narratives indicate that the secretary to Queen Margaret (James III’s wife) was a man named Robert Colville, and that he died at Sauchieburn fighting for James IV, while his son, also named Robert, was appointed director of Chancery immediately following James IV’s accession to the throne. Clearly, Robert Colville the courtier wasn’t directly related to the Colvilles of Ochiltree – he represented a cadet branch. We don’t know if he was a churchman, or a career lawyer – career lawyers were already well established in Scotland by this time, John Ross of Montgrennan being an excellent example.
Taking these known facts into account, it was time to explore the circumstances of the marriage. For this I was reliant very much on analogy with wider historical syntheses. The late 15th century was a very transitional period, still quite medieval in its outlook, but with modern resonances – were we dealing with an arranged marriage between two ambitious families, or were we looking at a typical example of the post-medieval Scottish model, where the groom marries very late and often puts financial advancement before securing succession by wedding a wealthy heiress? 
Clearly, Sempill was being politically astute by linking his line with the Colvilles (remember he’s having to re-establish himself after his family committed a serious faux pas by backing the wrong pony at Sauchieburn...), but was this opportunity the result of negotiations carried out by John himself, or by his family (traditionally, the mother is instrumental in choosing the marriage partner)? The Rosses were influential with King James III, the Colvilles with his queen – therefore, I concluded, it was quite possible that the match was made at an earlier date, before the hostilities broke out between James and his queen, and subsequently, his son Prince James.
The final link in the chain was the death of Sir William/Robert Colville of Ochiltree in the winter of 1488/9 – it seemed quite likely that the political disarray following Sauchieburn would have left the family who held the winning hand seriously reconsidering their options. But such an event may well have left a once-favoured daughter beleaguered and the next generation anxious to be rid of her.
Years later, I stumbled across another genealogy which suggested that Margaret had a sister named Janet. This of course threw the whole theory into disarray, but with known facts and historical opinions contradicting each other on a regular basis, I’m quite happy to stick with the version that suited the plot.

The writing routines of authors are many and varied. Perhaps you could tell us about your writing routines, Louise. For example, do you always write in the same place, at the same time of day?

I work in commercial archaeology by day, so my writing routine is ad hoc and sometimes sporadic, according to the demands of fieldwork, real life or whatever. This used to stress me a great deal, but I’ve learned that - for the sake of my sanity - I have to work to different timescales. If I feel like writing, then I’ll go with the flow – on a good day or night, I can write up to 2500, even 3000 words.  These days, this doesn’t happen very often, and if I’m not firmly "in the zone," I just don’t bother trying. 
There are plenty of things I can be getting on with: editing, working on publicity, whatever. With my second novel now lodged with the publisher and my third well underway, I’m in a position where I don’t have to madly chase my own tail trying to achieve impossible deadlines. As long as I can look back and see some progress every month, I’m happy. And if the Muse deserts me, I refuse to worry unduly, because it’ll be back sooner or later.
I think that sometimes one of the worst things you can do is force yourself to do something when you’re stressed or exhausted or just not in the mood. The term "flogging a dead horse" comes immediately to mind...

Did you write your manuscript long hand first, and then transcribe it to the laptop, or did you write straight to the laptop?

I was writing long hand onto paper throughout my childhood and teenage years but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. Now I find it much easier to work directly onto the computer, though I moved onto laptops only recently. But I do regularly carry notebooks around with me, so I can write notes, scribble down scenes, wrestle with synopses and the like.

Studying for and completing both an MA and a PhD, is a great achievement, Louise, so when you write, do you employ the same disciplines that you utilised for your degrees?

I think it was probably more intellectually challenging to write the novel, to be honest, because so much of the thesis involved observation and analysis of material objects, with theory forming just a small part of the whole. And when you’re writing a thesis, your field of interest can be very, very narrow.
But the underlying principles were definitely the same, and my archaeological background has been crucial as far as the novel-writing is concerned. As a student, I was raised in the world of theoretical archaeology  and post-processualism, the exponents of which don’t seek to impose meaning on the past, but rather seek to engage with the past so that any conclusions remain receptive to change and renegotiation as new information becomes available. 
The normative schools of the 1930s-50s and the processualist schools of the 1960s-70s broadly argued that the actions of human beings were constrained either by their physical environment, or by the cultural norms within which they were born and raised. Exponents of post-processual archaeology argue instead that while human agents are of course operating within the constraints of their physical and cultural world, at the same time they are both acting upon and within it, either reinforcing established ideologies, or challenging them, or even overturning them on occasion. This active participation eventually leads to transformation. 
 When this approach is used in historical fiction writing, it erases the idea of predestination which can so often flavour the narrative. I’ve read a lot of books where events seem to unfold through the eyes of an omniscient and fully informed observer who almost seems to be viewing events in hindsight. But the characters whose actions are making history don’t know what’s going to happen to them fifteen years, five years, even one month down the line –they’re just making it up as they go along, while at the same time they’re doing their best to do what they can for themselves and those closest to them. 

Proofreading and editing are as important as the writing, so how do you go about this; do you rely on an editor/proof reader?  
I spent years learning the craft of editing at the Paisley Writers Group, and it’s now something I’m very comfortable with. The process of transforming  a raw draft into a polished final product is a long and arduous one; it requires much hacking and burning, reading aloud, and endless re-reading and often re-writing.
But I’d be reluctant to unleash my work upon the world without the input of a good editor, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m very happy and relieved to be operating within a traditional publishing environment. It’s important to work with an editor who is sympathetic to your aims as a writer: when things work well, they’ll transform your work into the final product that you wish you’d written in the first place, and you don’t even notice what they’ve changed. 
As for copy-editing.... the more eyes you can spare to check your text, the better. And the more times you can read through it yourself to try and catch the waifs and strays, the better, too. No one is infallible... 
Thankfully, working with a small press means that I don’t have to worry about such matters, which is great!  My editor deals with these things, and I can spend more time writing...

Good and objective beta-readers are worth their weight in gold, as I’m sure you will agree. How much do you rely on their feedback?

I always viewed my fellow writers in the Paisley Writers Group as beta readers par excellence. In recent years, membership of the group has fallen away, and relying on critiques via a writers’ group can be problematic when you’re trying to generate new work on a regular basis.  
I think it’s important to rely on an editor for the bulk of the nuts-and-bolts editing, though I like to make sure that when I send my work out to be edited, I’ve already reached the stage where I cannot possibly see any way of making it better. I’d be embarrassed with anything less. But beta-readers are important for road-testing the work from the reader’s perspective, seeing whether it works in its entirety for such matters as consistency, pace, plot, etc.  
If you’re relying on your beta-reader to edit your grammar and punctuation, then you’re being unfairly reliant on their goodwill by expecting them to make up for your own lack of attention to detail. Though if they spot typos and the odd bit of repetition, it’s very useful, because there’s always something that slips through the net.

Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview Louise, for example, what lies in the future for Louise Turner?

Fire and Sword will, I hope, be the first in a series of books which charts the changing fortunes of the various local families who were actively involved in the politics of late 15th and 16th century Scotland.  Where will it end?  I don’t honestly know, because history never comes to an end and there are many events and individuals who have piqued my interest. The second novel in the series - The Gryphon at Bay - has been completed and is currently lodged with my publisher. It turns the focus from John Sempill of Ellestoun to Hugh, second Lord Montgomerie, charting his rather spectacular fall from grace in 1489.
Now Gryphon is completed, I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical from 15th century Scotland while I write a time-slip novel.  At least, I think it’s a "time-slip," though it may technically be "time travel…"  Anyway, it’s set variously in ancient Sparta and modern England and Wales.   wanted to turn the genre on its head slightly by having the hero come back from the past into the present, so the end result is almost like speculative fiction where the "alien" is from ancient Greece. 
It’s a bit of a menace to write, and I don’t even know what the final format will be yet, whether it’ll end up as just one novel, or several interlinked ones.  But it’s certainly a different beast from the straight historical novels, and it’s proving quite challenging, too.  In a good way...
In the shorter term, work’s currently underway on an audiobook version of Fire and Sword, which should be out later this year, and a companion story to Fire and Sword, entitled The Lay of The Lost Minstrel, has just been released on Amazon as a short e-book.
Thank you so much, Louise, this has been a most enjoyable, and, if I may say, a most educational interview. I wish you well with The Gryphon at Bay, and your venture with writing in the timeslip/time travel genre.

Louise Turner can be found on Facebook and on her website.