I write the kind of book I want to read myself. I write about history as a way to better understand my own times. I write about people who are far better, and (I hope)far worse than myself. And beautiful objects inspire me: the hand-carved combs, skilfully wrought swords, and gemmed goblets of the world of The Circle of Ceridwen Trilogy. Almost everything interests me; I’ve studied Anglo-Saxon and Norse runes, and learnt to spin with a drop spindle. My path has led to extensive on-site research in England, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Gotland – some of the most wonderful places on Earth.
In addition to the Circle Trilogy, my short story “Ride”, a retelling of the story of Lady Godiva, was published in Narrative Magazine Winter 2008, and was translated and published in Russian in 2013 in The Translator. An excerpt from my forthcoming novel about eminent Victorian art and social critic John Ruskin was published in Narrative Magazine Spring 2010 under the title “The Lamp of Truth”. I’ve been the fortunate recipient of fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Ledig House International, and Byrdcliffe.
In addition to my own website, which has about a hundred brief essays on every aspect of Anglo-Saxon and Viking life, I write a monthly blog post for the excellent English Historical Fiction Authors site.
What inspires you to write?
It is almost a necessity rather than an inspiration. I write to make sense of history, to explore and provide plausible answers for ancient mysteries, to entertain, educate, and console myself and others.
Tell us about your writing process.
I do an immense amount of research, augmented by travel. I read all I can, look at physical artifacts, walk the landscape whenever possible. I think. I think. I think more. I build a world, go into a sort of trance state. Then on a morning walk, a snatch of dialogue will come to me – and the actual writing begins. (And yes, I always have a tiny pad and a pencil in my pocket!)
I never write in sequence; the ending may come first, or an episode in the middle. But I do have a general idea of the narrative arc of the story, or at least the key dramatic conflict.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Oh, both. Certainly both.
What advice would you give other writers?
Always understand the deeper theme of your book, as it provides an invisible but very real support to your story. The deeper theme of The Circle of Ceridwen is “Who is my enemy?”
How did you decide how to publish your books?
The Circle of Ceridwen was represented by a very good agent, who nonetheless could not sell it to a publishing house. I believed in the book and the characters and could not let it rest, so I began publishing it serially on my website in 1998. Soon I had an immense number of readers from around the world. I followed it with Book Two, Ceridwen of Kilton, and then The Claiming. I’m gratified that the series has gained a rapid and ardent following since I bought it our on Kindle. Considering the long and convoluted history it seems a happy miracle I’m now working on Book Four.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
It shall be what we writers and readers make of it. Barriers to the marketplace have fallen, and quality works can now get easily into the hands of readers. The great challenge is having your work gain visibility when there are 10 million books on Amazon…
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
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