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Friday, October 16, 2009

Interview with Helen Hollick

Please welcome Helen Hollick, author of the re-telling of the King Arthur Trilogy: The Kingmaking, Pendragon's Banner, and Shadow of the King. My review of Pendragon's Banner is here.

(Helen) My pleasure to be here!

1.) England's history is so vast and storied. Why the early Middle Ages? Was there a specific event, person, or something in particular which led you to choose this time period?

I have always been drawn to Roman Britain – ever since reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel Eagle of the Ninth as a young teenager. I “discovered” Arthur as a post-Roman warlord in Mary Stewart’s books the Hollow Hills and the Crystal Cave – she mentioned in her author’s note that if Arthur had existed (it is not certain that he actually did) he was more likely to have lived between the going of the Romans and the coming of the Anglo Saxons; 450 – 550 A.D. As I had never liked the stories that set Arthur in the 11th/12th century this really caught my interest.

2.) Do you have a mentor, now or ever? Someone you can go to, who can guide or remind you of the intricacies of Middle Ages England.

From the writing point of view I think it is essential for an author to have someone to trust to talk things over with – an agent or an editor. Someone who will tell the truth – it is no good being told “oh that scene is fantastic” if it isn’t. For authors who are self published this is even more important as the book is entirely theirs from concept to publication. I discuss my books a lot with my present editor – Jo Field (who has also taken the plunge and written her first historical novel.) I discuss plots and character development with her (and with a few very close friends) and Jo is quite knowledgeable about history too.

3.) Arthur has been widely debated and written about throughout the years. How and why did you decide to choose his history to write about? (see above, question 1) Were you nervous since Arthur is so well loved and been told countless times?

No, I didn’t really think about it. Basically, I wanted to write what I wanted to read! I had not found a story of Arthur that I could say “yes, that is how it was” – so I wrote my own. Arthur, I think, is one character who can be written about over and over again, and in any genre.

4.) I had read somewhere that the Kingmaking took you 10 years to write. How long did Pendragon's Banner take? Did you envision three books from the beginning?

Yes, it took me about ten years, though not all of that was solid writing – and the manuscript ended up as the Kingmaking and half of Pendragons Banner, so I suppose Banner only took me about a year. I had no idea that I had written what was to become a trilogy. My agent (now ex-agent) when she took me on announced that the manuscript I’d sent her would make a trilogy. You could have knocked me down with a feather!

5.) How excited were you over the Staffordshire Hoard and have you seen it yet?

Oh it sounds fabulous! What a lucky find! I plan to see it in November, I haven’t time at the moment. I have seen the Sutton Hoo treasure in the British Museum though.

6.) Now for some not so serious stuff. What books are you currently reading?

I have just finished Suzanne McLeod’s fantasy novel Sweet Scent of Blood – second in the series. ( ) “Magic Just Got Murderous” is her tag line. A “who-done-it” with witches, goblins, vampires, set in London. Great fun – for adults, and not meant to be taken seriously!

7.) Bookmark or dog ear?

Bookmark! (dog ear? Eek!!!) While working in the library I once found an uncooked rasher of bacon used as a bookmark!

8.) Any hobbies?

My daughter’s horses, walking the dog – I live near Epping Forest, lovely this time of year (when it isn’t raining!) I do a bit of gardening but I’m not very good at it. I forget what I planted, and then have to guess what things are if they bother to grow.

9.) What would be an ideal vacation for you?

If I had a wish - sailing (as a passenger, not crew!) on a tall ship. Preferably somewhere that has nice weather, or in reality, I love Devon and Dorset in the UK – the beach and the sea, Park me by the sea and I’ll be happy! One day I will have a holiday in Cornwall – I have never had a holiday there (well apart from when I was 4 – but I don’t remember that!)

10.) You have truly made Arthur and his companions come alive, made them become tangible.

Thank you

Is there another time period, or historical person you would like to tackle?

I am enjoying the Golden Age of Piracy and my adventure-fantasy pirate-based Sea Witch series – and I am getting interested in the period after the English Civil War (Charles II – mid 1600’s) but whether I will write about that…? I do plan on doing a third Saxon book to follow on from Harold the King, (1066 and the story of the Battle of Hastings) but that will have to wait until next year to be started.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I am really enjoying your book and feel connected to the characters. Gwenhwyfar and the other women are just as strong and passionate as the men in the story.

I haven't had the chance to read The Kingmaking yet, (shameful, I know) but I instantly picked up the story, knew where the characters were coming from. Your writing is amazing. I look forward to reading The Kingmaking and the conclusion In the Shadow of the King. And your other books too. They sound interesting too, and if they are anything like what I'm reading now...excellent!

(Helen) Thank you, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself as your guest!


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I hope you all enjoyed that interview and thank you very much for stopping today.

I 'd also like to thank Paul from Sourcebooks for sending my review copy and assistance with this interview.


Blodeuedd said...

Great interview Jenny :)

Oh I would enjoy a book about Harald I think

Lucy said...

Hi:) Loved the interview! It's always fascinating for me to read insights from the author's life. Wonderful book and great author-Thanks:)

Darlene said...

Fantastic interview ladies! I love your idea of the perfect vacation Helen!

Staci said...

I loved this interview...these books sound like they are right up my alley!!

Teddyree said...

Wonderful interview Jen, I really enjoyed it and it just makes me more impatient to get my hands on one of Helen Hollick's books.

Anonymous said...

Bacon as a bookmark?! That's one I've not used before :)

Jenny Girl said...

Bacon?! I know me either. My dog would snatch it right out of there.

Ladies: Thank you very much for stopping by today. Glad you enjoyed it.

Helen Hollick said...

hello everyone, thank you so much for your lovely comments and for making me feel so welcome here on this blog!

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