The WIP

Carol McGrathHistorical Novelist Carol McGrath kindly tagged me in her blog last week, and asked me what I’m working on. Carol, by way of reciprocal introduction, writes wonderful novels about the royal women of King Harold’s court in the years before and after the Norman conquest. Her book ‘The Handfasted Wife’ was a finalist for this year’s Romance Novelist Association’s historical award. Click the icon for more details.

Carol asked me several questions:

What am I working on?

I’m at the final draft and editing phase of a thriller with a supernatural twist. When newly affluent businessman Paul Devlin and his girlfriend Fiona buy a barn conversion near Halstead Hall, they think they’re buying a rural idyll. They are met by a wall of resentment, and are drawn into a conflict that has its roots in Dark Age, pagan times. There’s a fuller overview under ‘Current Projects’. I’ve also posted the first two chapters here and here.

What inspired you to write this?

Two years ago my wife and I visited the lovely Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, which dates from the 12th to the 17th centuries. In the valley below there are traces of the ‘lost village’ of Nether Haddon, visible now only in ridge-and-furrow field patterns, tracks that are just patterns in pasture, and some exquisite wall paintings in Haddon Hall’s chapel. No-one knows for sure why the village disappeared, some time around the 14th century.

Wall Painting2Those wall paintings made the lost village seem more human. History is always written about the great families, the Vernons and the Manners of Haddon, but what about the peasant kneeling in the grass? What story might he tell?

So I had the idea of a rural dynasty that was born, over six hundred years ago, with a terrible oath that bound the Bonnevaux family to the soil and people of Halgestede, the ‘Holy Place’. In the present day, the Halstead estate is crumbling and the oath has been forgotten by the Bonnevaux but not, it seems, by the families that have served them for centuries. Families that might, perhaps, have inspired Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Land:

His dead are in the churchyard – thirty generations laid.

Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made.

And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line

Have seeded, rooted, fruited in some land the Law calls mine.

What’s your writing process?

I’m not sure I’ve defined it yet. It involves a lot of staring into space, inhabiting the world I’m trying to create. In the summer I write in an arbour I built in the garden, where I’m most productive. In the winter I replicate that as much as possible in my study by playing background ‘music’ of birdsong. As I come close to finishing a book I become very focused and tend to ignore all other tasks. Bills, jobs, even friends. At the beginning of a project it’s like wading out into a river, slow and sticky. Then the current takes you and nothing else matters.

Carol: Who would you like to introduce?

dave new pic mono copyDave Weaver‘s writing ranges from YA fantasy to literary fiction. He is married to a Japanese lady, and his fascination with Japan has produced some stunning work. He describes his love for the ‘beautiful colours of its landscapes and the subtlety of its culture, for its contradictions and certainties, intelligence and passion, spirit and diversity. Yet beneath all these things lies another Japan; one of ghosts and shadows, unspoken secrets, demons from the past and uncertain visions of the future. It’s what makes this intriguing country ultimately unknowable, unique, Nippon…

Dave will blog next week at http://daveweaver-unreal.blogspot.co.uk/

photo for WIP blogLibby McGugan and I share the same publisher, Solaris. Her fast-paced, intelligent novel ‘The Eidolon’ came out just after Saxon’s Bane. Libby grew up with an ambition to join the Rebel Alliance in a Galaxy Far, Far away, or get a job in film production (it was a tough choice). Instead she studied medicine and worked as an emergency physician. A travel junkie, she’s been trekking in the Himalaya of Bhutan, inter-railing round Europe and backpacking in Chile, USA and Borneo. She plays the fiddle and loves TED talks. Her biggest influence was probably Yoda. Libby will blog next week at http://libbymcgugan.com

toby_frostToby Frost always wanted to be an astronaut, but somehow reality got in the way. He trained to be a barrister, but decided to follow a career writing about spaceships instead. He is the author of four comedy novels, published by Myrmidon books, about the misadventures of British space captain Isambard Smith and his somewhat dysfunctional crew as they travel the galaxy conquering space and making tea. In 2013, his science fiction novel Straken was published by Black Library. The fifth Space Captain Smith novel, End of Empires, is due out in August 2014. Toby’s website, which contains details about the books along with other content, is at: www.toby.frost.com.”

Published by

Alex Chiltern

Author of DRACA; a novel of the sea, a war-damaged marine, and a vintage sailing boat with a mind of its own.

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