Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Louise Rule Interviews Paula Lofting

Below is the transcript, (warts and all), of my live interview with author, Paula Lofting. 
If you would like to listen to our interview, please click onto this link 
which will take you to the recording on SoundCloud.

Paula is kindly gifting a free e-copy of her book, Sons of the Wolfto the first person drawn from the hat. To be in with a chance, just leave a comment here on the blog or on the blog page.

Author Louise Rule interviewing Author Paula Lofting

LR - Welcome to my interview with Paula Lofting. Paula is a re-enactor in Regia Anglorum, and author of Sons of the Wolf, the first book in an exciting series set in the 11th century. Apart from writing novels, Paula's day job is a psychiatric nurse, and in her spare time she is a prolific blogger on social media.

Welcome, Paula!

PL - Thank you, Louise, it's really good to be here.

LR - It's lovely to have you.

PL - Thank you.

LR - Could I ask you first, would you like to start by telling us a little about being a re-enactor in Regia Anglorum, and how did you become involved?

Paula ready for battle
PL - Well, when I thought about writing a book in the 11th century, I was doing some research on the net, and I stumbled across a website of the re-enactment society, Regia Anglorum, who re-enact the Dark Age, and in the period in which I was hoping to write about. I emailed them and asked them if they were going to be at the big Battle of Hastings, that year, because it was the 2006 anniversary. And they said they were, so I went along, and I was really impressed, and thought, I really need to do this. It looked like great fun, and I've been with them ever since, and they've been a great source of help to my writing, and to recreate scenes, you know, from the 11th century that I'm writing about. I've got that knowledge to pull on now, from living history and battle recreations. So it's been a really good experience.

LR - Sounds wonderful.

LR - Your first book, Sons of the Wolf, which was first published in 2012, is set in the 11th century. I understand that you intend this to be Book One in a series. Could you give us an outline of what the book is about?
PL - Yes. It's basically centred around a blood feud between two men who live in the area of Sussex at the time, and one is a thegn, and one is a land owner. And also, we see the events and the politics of the time; the events leading up to The Battle of Hastings as a back drop, which includes historical characters as well. The two main protagonists are fictional characters. I had thought about writing about Harold Godwinson, who was obviously, you know, the big hero of the time, but seeing as a lot of other people had already done that, I thought I'd like to show what impact The Battle of Hastings, and the Norman Conquest, had on the ordinary folk in England at the time. So I chose to write it about one of the middle-to-ranking members of the nobility of the time, instead of the ruling classes.

LR - It sounds really interesting, and it's quite a different angle from what other people write, isn't it?

LR - What was it that drew you to write, Sons of the Wolf?

PL - Well, I'd read a book by David Howarth, called, 1066 The Year of the Conquest, and it shows the events through the village that he was living in at the time, which was also documented as being around the 11th century. So this particular village, and its people, would have experienced the events that happened, and the invasion. They would have had first-hand experience of that, because they were there along the coast where William invaded. So this book actually inspired me to write from the ordinary person's point of view, and I wanted to show people how the impact of The Battle of Hastings impacted on the people who lived on the land, really.

LR - I think that's good really, because most people know how the main characters are in that point in history, but to see it from the ordinary person is quite unique.

LR - Sons of the Wolf, has been republished, and relaunched this spring. Could you say why you felt that you had to republish, and what do you think you gained from the experience?

PL - I first had, Sons of the Wolf, published through an assisted publisher, and after a time I thought that this was a very expensive form of self-publishing; and I realised that I was never going to be able to publish the next in the series, because of the expense. So, I withdrew my book from them, and decided that I would go it alone. I republished the book myself, with a new cover and a new edit and, The Wolf Banner, which is the next one, is going to be published soon. I think what I have learned from this process is, that you can actually do it yourself, with very little cost, apart from the cost that you actually need to produce a decent cover, and the price of an editor. And, that you don't actually have to spend the thousands that I spent on the original copy, so I've learned that. And, I've learned how to do things myself, like upload to Amazon, create the actual mobi itself, through the site, and it's been a really interesting experience. I've yet to actually produce the hard copy of the book, yet, but I'm looking forward to that process, too.

LR - That's wonderful!

LR - The Wolf Banner, is the next in the series. When do you hope to publish it, and was it more difficult to write, being part of a series?

PL - I'm hoping to publish The Wolf Banner, in early May. It was written as part of the whole book. Originally, when I wrote, Sons of the Wolf, it was as big as two books really, but I was advised to cut the book in half to make two books. So, the second half had already been written by the time I'd published the first half; but it was just a question of going through it, padding it out a little bit more, to make it a book the size of, Sons of the Wolf. And, just getting it all ready really, so, in terms of how hard it was, it's been quite hard in the way that I've had to try and piece together some scanty evidence in what happened in one of the years that I'm writing about. So that was quite difficult to get there, and actually make it fit the story. But apart from that, it's been a really rewarding experience.

LR - It sounds like you've been really resourceful.

PL - (laughs) Maybe...

LR - The cover for your, Sons of the Wolf, novel is totally amazing! Could you tell us how it was created, and is, The Wolf Banner, going to have a similar cover?

PL - The cover is really, really... Oh I was really chuffed with it. I was really blown away when I received the proof of, Charlie Kirkpatrick, who drew the horseman for me, I was absolutely blown away when I saw it. I had asked him because I'd seen him do somebody else's cover, and I thought, I want one of those! So I asked him if he could draw me a horseman, and I had given him very specific details of how I wanted the horseman to look, because, I didn't want it to look anachronistic from the 11th century warrior. So when the result came back, I was just totally amazed that he'd got every detail perfect. And what you can see on the front cover of Sons of the Wolf, is the exact replica of an 11th century horseman. I then sent it to the wonderful Dave Slaney, who created the actual design for the cover, and that's how it was done. It's the collaboration of three people.

LR - It really does look wonderful!

PL - Yes, and I really love it, and I'm going for the same look with, The Wolf Banner, obviously to keep the style the same.

LR - Do you feel that the series should have a continuity about the cover?

PL - Yes, I think that is the general consensus these days, that, you know, you make your brand and you stick with it.

LR - After all, we do need a brand as authors, don't we.

PL - Yes.

LR - Going back to the beginning, what was it that made you become a writer, was it inspiration from other books, or have you always wanted to be an author?

PL - Right from when I was a little girl, I was... felt the need to write. I had a very vivid imagination. I was always playing pretend, even on my own. You know, gradually as time went by, I became more interested in history. My Dad was one of the first people to inspire me, to take an interest in history, and also reading Rosemary Sutcliffe's books; they are wonderful for young people, and children. They really inspired me to love history, and to be curious about it. So, as I grew up, my games I used to play, my pretend games, became more historical with time. And many authors have inspired me, like Sharon K. Penman, Bernard Cornwell, Mary Steward, Elizabeth Chadwick. They inspired me to write books, but it's sort of taken a long time to actually get my feet off the ground and start actually writing.

LR - I expect trying to fit it in between working full time as a nurse has made it difficult?

PL - Very difficult, very difficult, but I'm getting there.

LR - Yes. Good.

LR - Indie authors sometimes get a 'bad press' when compared to traditionally published authors. Why do you think this is, and how does it make you feel?

PL - It doesn't really bother me, to be honest. I've seen such good stuff written about, and talked about Indie authors anyway. The bad press is out there, I guess, but it's not really in the world that I inhabit. I see a lot of positive stuff about Indies, and most of the books of people I know have written, are Indie anyway. So, I don't really know many people who have written for a main-stream, but there are some friends of mine, but, mostly, I live in an Indie world, so...

LR - So, Indie you are, and Indie, you'll stay...

PL - I think so, yeah.

LR - You are a prolific blogger, and are the founder of the group, The Review, on Facebook. Would you like to tell us how that little acorn grew into the successful blog that it is today? What do you feel its strengths are in comparison to other book-related groups?

PL - Well, as an author I was always looking for a book group that I could join, where I could interact as well as share my stuff, and promote my book. I couldn't actually find one that didn't have lots of links, that people were posting their Amazon links to 'buy my book', that sort of thing. But nobody was interacting, so I thought I may as well create one myself, and I had this idea that we use reviews as a way of promoting ourselves. We're not going to actually spam the timeline with lots of links 'to buy my book' - it's about, you know, showing people what other people have thought of your books. And it was that that I think was that what really made us different from other book groups, as well. And the fact that, we, as a group, have always encouraged interaction, and discussion. We discuss loads of things, loads of topics, and, you know, about writing, and about books, and anything creative, really. And then one day we decided to make a blog, so we could post reviews and to support authors of all kinds, really, not just Indie authors, so that's how it kind of grew. We've streamlined it a little bit, now, because most of us in The Review, most of the Admins in The Review, are involved in their own individual projects as well, so we've cut down on the submissions process. We've just re-opened it out of interest, to members of the group this time, only because we felt that most of the books that we were reviewing from our submissions process were from outside the group, rather than within the group. So, we decided to, you know, show loyalty to the people who have joined the group and have been loyal to us.

LR - That's as it should be, really, isn't it?

PL - Yes.

LR - Longship Publishing, which is in its embryonic stage, is a new venture for you and five other like-minded friends. Would you like to say what your hopes are for this venture?

PL - Well, at the moment we are just finding our way. I hope that with many individual talents one day we can make it a successful concern. But I'm not sure what that's going to look like, really, but who knows? I like things to create themselves, really, to go with the flow, and see what happens.

LR - If you don't dip you toe in the water, you're not going to know, are you?

PL - Absolutely.

LR - Your love of writing, and history is evident. What plans do you have for the future regarding your writing?

PL - Well, I hope to do more writing, but obviously working full time, and having lots of fingers in different pies, makes that difficult. I know that the more you write the better it is for your writing career, but it's finding the time. You've got to, you know, keep pounding on and keep trying to write, really.

LR - Yes, it can be a problem, I'm sure.

LR - Finally, where do you see yourself five years from now? Do you still see yourself writing, or do you see yourself doing something else?

PL - Definitely writing, definitely writing. I hope to have reduced my hours at work, and having written at least ten more books.

LR - That would be nice! (laughs)

PL - I have lots of ideas in the pipeline, so, you know, I want to just keep going, and eventually, in five years' time, hopefully, I can't ever see myself being able to give up work full time, being an author, but to at least being able to carry on my work as a nurse and an author as well.

LR - That's wonderful! Thank you very much for coming to see me today.

PL - Thank you, Louise. I think it's time to put the kettle on.

LR - I think it is! You'll excuse us while we have tea...

Paula Lofting is the author of, The Sons of the Wolf, and soon to be published, The Wolf Banner.
You can read Paula's blog here - and find her on Facebook on this link.

Louise Rule is author of Future Confronted

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Sharon Reviews: Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen by Samantha Wilcoxson

The author has kindly donated a signed paperback to one lucky reader. To be in with a chance of winning, leave a message in the comments section below, or on our Facebook page. The winner will be drawn on 27th April 2016. Good luck!

She was the mother of Henry VIII and wife of Henry VII, but who was Elizabeth of York? Raised as the precious eldest child of Edward IV, Elizabeth had every reason to expect a bright future until Edward died, and her life fell apart.
When Elizabeth's uncle became Richard III, she was forced to choose sides. Should she trust her father's brother and most loyal supporter or honor the betrothal that her mother has made for her to her family's enemy, Henry Tudor?
The choice was made for her on the field at Bosworth, and Elizabeth the Plantagenet princess became the first Tudor queen.
Did Elizabeth find happiness with Henry? And did she ever discover the truth about her missing brothers, who became better known as the Princes in the Tower?
Lose yourself in Elizabeth's world in Plantagenet Princess Tudor Queen. 

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen is a delightful novel portraying the life of England's first Tudor Queen, Elizabeth of York. Well written and researched, the author's passion for her subject shines through on every page, drawing you into every aspect of Elizabeth's life, from the men in her life, to her siblings and her children. Samantha Wilcoxson's novel immerses you in every aspect of Elizabeth's life; indeed it draws you into the Queen's own thoughts and feelings; into her inner turmoil surrounding the fate of her brothers, the Princes in the Tower, and her desperate desire for her eldest son, Arthur, to succeed his father as king.

I have to admit that I was initially uncertain of the direction this book would take. I was worried that  it would be another of the formulaic 'Richard III good, Henry VII bad' novels that we see all-too-often these days? However, Samantha Wilcoxson goes far beyond the superficial portrayals we see of the rival kings, examining their personalities through the eyes of the queen who knew them both. With great skill, the author has portrayed not only Elizabeth the Queen, but also her thoughts, emotions and inner conflicts, giving us a complex woman who had to make compromises and judiciously pick her battles, in order to help not only her children, but also her Plantagenet family. The book is a wonderfully sympathetic portrayal of the first Tudor queen, showing a deep understanding of the events and emotions that shaped Elizabeth's life ... and the future of the Tudor court.

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen immerses you in the world of the fledgling Tudor dynasty. Surrounded by wonderful palaces and the splendour of the royal court, we are taken on a journey through the life of a remarkable woman, a queen who bridged the gap between the Medieval World and the emerging Renaissance, between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians and became the matriarch of England's most famous ruling dynasty. Samantha Wilcoxson skilfully guides us around the Tudor palaces, the customs and etiquette of the day, in order to bring the world of 500 years ago to vivid life.

The author does not shy away from the controversies of the day and explores, not only the disappearance of the princes in the Tower, but also the effect this has on their sister and the rest of the family.  We are treated to Henry's insecurities and Elizabeth's doubts and anxieties over the Pretenders to the Tudor throne, both Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck:

Almost as an afterthought, Elizabeth asked, "The boy, who was he really?"

Henry released her and returned to his chair with a shrug. "He is nobody. Lambert Simnel turns out to be his name. A simple baker's boy. A pawn."
"What happened to him?" Elizabeth asked, hoping that the young boy had not been sacrificed in battle to grown men's whims.
"I have brought him back to London with me." When Elizabeth turned her face away, he knew she believed the boy imprisoned. "I have put him to work in the kitchens."
Elizabeth's eyes lit up as she turned her face to Henry's. "Truly? He is not in the Tower? Will not be tried for treason?"
"I see no point. He appears to be no older than eleven and understood little of what was going on around him. He does, however, seem to have learned some more desirable skills from this baker."
"Thank you, Henry." Elizabeth went to him and put her arms around him. Maybe he did not understand that she could not bear the death of one more boy, but he had saved this one nonetheless. She loved him for it."

I cannot recommend Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen highly enough. My one criticism would be that it races through the 'Princess' years; it would  have been nice to see more of Elizabeth's relationship with her father and of her childhood in general. However, it does a wonderful job of exploring Elizabeth's years as Tudor queen, bringing her to life, not only as queen, but also as a wife, mother, sister, daughter and cousin. Elizabeth is portrayed as the link that holds everyone and everything together; she is dutiful, conciliatory and loving, with an inner determination. A heroine in the greatest sense of the word.

Samantha Wilcoxson has found her own path through the stories of the Richard III and the Wars of the Roses. The book is thoughtful, insightful and inspiring, with thrills and surprises on every page. Her diligent research and love of her subject shine through, shining a spotlight on Elizabeth of York, one of the most remarkable and underrated women to have ever been England's queen.


Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. Her novel, 'Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen', looks at the transition from the Plantagenet dynasty into the Tudor era through the eyes of Elizabeth of York. This book has been named an Editors' Choice by the Historical Novel Society. Samantha's next novel, 'Faithful Traitor', will continue to look at the Plantagenet remnant by featuring Margaret Pole.
During rare moments when Samantha is not reading or writing, she enjoys traveling and enjoying time at the lake with her husband and three children.

Sharon Bennett Connolly has been a reviewer for The Review since 2015. Fascinated by history for over 30 years she has studied the subject both academically and just for the joy of it - and has even worked as a tour guide at historical sites. She is now having great fun passing that love of the past to her 10-year-old son; visiting abbeys, hunting dragons in medieval castles and searching for fossils at the beach. Sharon writes a blog, History . . . the Interesting Bits, and has just signed a contract with publishers, Amberley, to write a book on Medieval women; Heroines of the Medieval World is due for release in 2017.