Historical Fiction Cover Competition September 2019

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

Welcome to my monthly historical fiction cover competition. I hope you find some new books and authors for your ‘must read’ list. If a cover interests you, just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Competition September 2019”

A Conversation with Author D.K. Marley

Today in the Library we have D. K. Marley, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

You are very welcome, D.K., please introduce yourself

Hi, my name is D. K. Marley and I am a historical fiction author specializing in Shakespearean themes. A literary agent called me the “Shakespearean Madeline Miller” since my Fractured Shakespeare Series is all about transforming the plays of the Bard into historical fiction adaptations. I was introduced to his works at the age of eleven by my grandmother, who was an English Literature professor, and since then his words have entranced me and influenced my own writings. I travelled to England three times over the past twenty years on research trips, attending debate lectures at the Globe Theatre, and immersing myself into the secrets behind the sonnets and hidden clues within the plays themselves. I am a blogger, and I have written articles for the Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, attended the Writer’s Retreat Workshop in 2006, and am President of a local author’s group. I live in Georgia U. S. A. with my husband, an English Lab and a Scottish Terrier named Molly McScottie.

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I write historical fiction. I must admit I am hooked on research when writing in this genre. The sheer act of delving into the past as if you are stepping through a portal in time is quite intoxicating and I have to remind myself to get back to writing.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

Historical fiction is my favorite genre to read, as well, but I do love literary fiction, historical fantasy, and every once in a while, I will indulge in a dystopian.

Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?

I am a self-published author with hopes to go into traditional publishing at some point in my writing career. Many people ask me why I don’t dive into the deep waters of the traditional world and my answer is always the same. I chose to go the self-publishing route five years ago when my husband and I suffered a horrific tragedy in our family – my daughter and son-in-law were killed by a drunk and drugged driver running from the police. Grief changes you in ways you cannot imagine, especially when losing children. Not only has writing been a source of therapy for me, but I feel I have taken a bit of control over my life by self-publishing my own novels. It is really hard to explain, but I truly feel a small sense of happiness in being an Indie author. I am not sure if waiting, perhaps years, to see if my manuscripts might be accepted by an agent or traditional publisher would have brought me the measure of therapeutic release I needed at this time in my life. Four and a half years have passed since they died and I have written and published four novels. To me, this is a success for now.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

First and foremost, my grandmother who shared with me her love of writing. Second, my eleventh grade English teacher, Ms. Jeanne Centa. She helped me develop my love of writing and was a huge encouragement to keep pushing forward. I even went back to visit her years after graduation to share with her some of my writings. Third, the incredible staff of editors, writers, and agents of the Writer’s Retreat Workshop, especially Lorin Oberweger and Bill Luse, who have mentored me and encouraged me through the years. I still hear both of their voices in my head of things I could do to improve and to never give up on my dream of writing. Last, my husband. Without his support and love, especially with all that we have gone through over the past four years, not a single story would have made it from my mind to the page.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

Interesting question. I have to answer an emphatic ‘NO’. I have always felt that I live in the wrong place and in the wrong generation. I live in the Southern United States, and with the exception of my one novel, “Child of Love & Water”, I truly have no interest in writing about the South. I am a true Anglophile, so I feel that the history of Great Britain has influenced my writing more than anything.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

The most difficult aspect of writing for me is not having enough time to write. I would love to do this full-time. As I am working on one book, I already have at least another three to four in my head, and since I am limited in the amount of time I can write, I do find myself getting a bit frustrated and depressed at times. I have to make myself step back and focus on whatever my current WIP is, take a deep breath, and stop doing word counts at the end of the day.

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

Never give up. A writer writes, good or bad, and sometimes it is more bad than good, but never let that get you down. Not every story will be great and you will never be able to please everyone with your writing – so write what you know, love what you write for yourself first, be flexible enough to make needed changes (Yes, even if it means scraping entire chapters), and don’t let criticism take you out of the game.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

Yes, I love to write at night when everyone is asleep. The house is quiet, the crickets outside are chirping, and my brain is focused on the tapping away of the keys on the keyboard of my computer.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I love photography! For a while, before my daughter died, I was a wedding photographer, as well as a conceptual art photographer. I still take pictures from time to time now, but more as a hobby instead of a job.

If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?

This is an easy question as I have thought of this for quite sometime about every single one of my novels.
Blood and Ink – Benedict Cumberbatch as Christopher Marlowe, Tom Hiddleston as William Shakespeare
Prince of Sorrows – Liam Hemsworth as Hamlet
The Fire of Winter – Scott Kyle as Macbeth, Saoirse Ronan as Lady Macbeth

If you could live the life of a historical figure for one day, who would you choose and what would you get up to?

I would want to live the life of Queen Elizabeth the First. I would love to know her mind, the things she thought about, her choices and decisions about love and marriage, about the state of her country, her fears and worries, as well as her passions.

If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?

Even though I love the Tudor era, I think I have to choose the Regency period. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and I adore the idea of living in an era surrounded by simple elegance and exquisite manners.

You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be?

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte; The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley; and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein

Please tell us about your latest published work

My latest published work is The Fire of Winter. The story weaves the play by William Shakespeare with the actual history of Macbeth and his Queen in 11th-century Scotland.
“…a woman’s story at a winter’s fire…” (Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV)

She is known as Lady Macbeth. What leads her down the path of murder? What secrets fire her destiny?

Gruah, the granddaughter of King Cìnéad III of the Royal Clan Alpin, marries two men in less than six months, one she loves and one she hates; one in secret, the other arranged by the High King of Scotland. At the age of eighteen, she lays her palm upon the ancient stone of Scone and sees her destiny as Queen of Scotland, and she vows to do whatever necessary to see her true love, Macbeth macFindlaech, beside her on the throne. Amid the fiery times and heated onslaughts from Denmark and England, as the rule of Scotland hangs in the balance, Gruah seeks to win the throne and bring revenge upon the monsters of her childhood, no matter the cost or amount of blood tainting her own hands; yet, an unexpected meeting with the King called the Confessor causes her to question her bloody path and doubt her once blazing pagan faith. Will she find redemption or has the blood of her past fire-branded her soul?

“This beautifully written reworking of the Macbeth tale told from Lady Macbeth’s point-of-view flows from the page and you quickly become immersed in the politics and intrigues of feudal Scotland as she fights for her rightful place and her true love! A mesmerising read that grips from start to finish and Gruah is now one of my all-time favourite literary crushes.” – Iain Leonard, ARC Reviewer

The Fire of Winter is on a book blog tour from July 22 – August 19, 2019 – a giveaway for the chance to win one of three signed hardcovers and a special gift with each, plus reviews and spotlights from 24 different historical fiction bloggers.
Link: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thefireofwinterblogtour/
Amazon US Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SGYFZT8
Amazon UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07SGYFZT8

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/dkmarley.author
Author Website: http://www.dkmarley.com
Author Blog: https://themingledyarnoflife.wordpress.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theRealDKMarley
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/d-k-marley
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4091669.D_K_Marley
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/DK-Marley/e/B003MS4JPE

Historical Fiction Cover Competition August 2019

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

Welcome to my monthly historical fiction cover competition. I hope you find some new books and authors for your ‘must read’ list. If a cover interests you, just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Competition August 2019”

Historical Fiction Cover Competition July 2019

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

Welcome to my monthly historical fiction cover competition. I hope you find some new books and authors for your ‘must read’ list. If a cover interests you, just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Competition July 2019”

1886 LADIES’ FASHION

Peterson's Magazine Sept 1886

The mid 1880s were notable for the increasing size of bustles, often made of steel with horsehair padding. Some were even collapsible to enable ladies to sit down! Intricate folds of fabric were draped over these structures, adding even  more volume.

Peterson's Magazine Jan 1886

Postcard_depicting_Liane_de_Pougy,_dated_1886
Liane de Pougy, French Actress 1886

Drama was the order of the day with exaggerated silhouettes, lush and expensive fabric and highly decorative details. Long trains on evening dresses, particularly for married women, and v-necklines were also extremely popular.

Patterned fabric added drama, ranging from checks, plaids to stripes. Colour, as ever, played an important part with strongly contrasting colours, such as stripes of red and blue being utilised. Although, some ladies preferred more muted colours.

And the bling? That was provided by lots of silk ribbon, braiding, tassels and beading. Embroidery incorporating precious stones and metallics gave dresses that extra pizzazz.

In No Stone Unturned, my heroine Lucy Lawrence attends a Christmas Eve banquet at her family home. This is her impression of the fashionable people present:

“It was as if the salon had been invaded by a flock of exotic birds, each displaying their plumage in a kaleidoscope of colour. Every conceivable shade of silk, satin and velvet was on display and it appeared likely the jewellery boxes of Yorkshire had been emptied for the occasion. It almost hurt to look upon so much glitter and sparkle in such a confined space. Thankfully, the gentlemen in full evening dress were perfect foils for their more vibrant companions.”

♠♠♠♠♠

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

NoStone-EBOOKA suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward; who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

Amazon Buy Link

Penny Dreadfuls – Only a Bit of Fun?

If you enjoyed a good old execution in the 18th or early 19th century, it was possible to buy a crime broadside at the hanging which was produced by specialist printers. These would feature a crude picture of the crime and the culprit, a written account of the crime and trial proceedings and a doggerel, thrown in for good measure. Most of the poor could not read but they enjoyed the lurid pictures, and there was always someone on hand to read out the cautionary poem.

Varney_the_Vampire_or_the_Feast_of_Blood 1845During the Victorian era, however, literacy rates increased. Combined with technological advances in printing and the advent of the railways making wide-spread distribution viable, the demand for cheap, entertaining reading matter increased rapidly. This led to the first penny serials (originally called penny bloods) being published in the 1830s, and by 1850, there were over 100 publishers of penny-fiction. The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and were predominantly aimed at young working class men and boys. They usually had eight pages with black and white illustrations on the top half of the front page. Working-class readers could afford these and they did a roaring trade. In contrast, serialised novels at the time, such as Dickens’ work, cost a shilling (12 pennies) per part and were out of the reach, therefore, of most working class readers.

The subject matter of the penny horrible, penny awful or penny blood was always sensational, usually featuring detectives, criminals or supernatural entitles. Popular characters included Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber, first printed in 1846, who murdered his clients so his neighbour, Mrs Lovett, could cook them in her meat pies. Then there was the endless retelling of Dick Turpin’s exploits and his supposed 200 Pennydreadfulmile ride from London to York in one night! Supernatural characters, such as Varney the Vampire were extremely popular. But the most successful of all time was the Mysteries of London, first published in 1844. It ran for 12 years, 624 numbers (or issues) and nearly 4.5 million words.

Many famous authors began their writing careers writing penny dreadfuls including, GA Sala and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. She reputedly said “the amount of crime, treachery, murder and slow poisoning, and general infamy required by my readers is something terrible.” Many authors took the melodrama of the dreadful and infused it into their later very successful novels.

When highwaymen and evil aristocrats fell out of fashion, true crime, especially murder, was the most popular. These were then overtaken in the popularity stakes by detective stories with the focus on the police rather than the criminal. By the 1860s, the focus changed again and children became the main target audience.

It was easy for the middle and upper classes to look down on the penny dreadfuls as cheap, sensational nonsense. Some even went to far as to blame them for infamous crimes and suicide. But I suspect many read them surreptitiously – for who doesn’t enjoy a good yarn now and then?

In No Stone Unturned, Lucy’s maid, Mary, is huge fan of the penny dreadfuls and cheap sensational novels. Lucy, feeling obliged to look out for her maid’s moral welfare (so she claims!), often reads these books and thoroughly enjoys them, too. When the women’s lives are in danger, Mary comes to the fore with her penchant for intrigue and spying. Lucy suspects Mary’s favourite reading material may be at the root of it.

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

NoStone-EBOOK

A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

Amazon Buy Link

A Conversation with Author Judith Arnopp

This evening in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Judith Arnopp, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

You are very welcome, Judith, please introduce yourself:

JudithThank you for inviting me to your blog. I write historical fiction from my home overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales. I like to put myself in the shoes of the women who lived and breathed under the rule of the Tudors, sometimes my characters are members of the Tudor family, sometimes they are subjects but they all share one thing – the fight to survive the political upheaval of the day.

The Tudor novels include: Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace; The Beaufort Chronicles: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series); A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York; Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr; The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn; The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII.

Early in my career I wrote in the medieval/Anglo Saxon era and produced three novels, The Song of Heledd; The Forest Dwellers, and Peaceweaver. I also write nonfiction – my articles appear in several anthologies.

Books

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I write historical fiction, mostly in the Tudor period. I have always loved history so when I graduated from university it made sense to stay on a while longer and study for my masters in medieval/Tudor history. When I could find no more excuses not to leave full time education I began to write, turning my hobby into a career. My first novel, Peaceweaver, was published in 2009 and I am now writing my eleventh (I think). I live very quietly, and am a bit of a recluse so I feel much more at home writing in the Tudor period than I do in the present day.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

I used to read historical fiction exclusively but now I am an author I try to avoid it. I don’t want to taint my own voice or style so I read crime fiction, or classics. The book I most enjoyed last year was The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb, a rewrite of The Little Mermaid – I was totally gripped by it and sorry when it came to an end. Of course, there are always a few historical fiction titles I can’t resist and I am very excited to hear the Hilary Mantel has finally got around to finishing the sequel to Bring up the Bodies. I will certainly be reading that one.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

Time in which to get the first draft written. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours to do everything expected of an author today. I’d love to be able to just sit and my desk and write but if you neglect marketing, social media, keeping your covers updated and producing new attractive posters your current books will cease to sell. There are so many authors these days that is has become very difficult to be ‘seen’ and it can be disheartening to pour hours into a blog post that nobody reads or comments on. I’d love to have time to deal with all these things but the older I get the shorter my working day becomes, and something has to be sacrificed. I just do what I can. If my whole morning is spent marketing, I get very few new words on the page, if I spend the morning writing, I sell fewer books. I really need a team of enthusiastic marketing managers so I can just write but I am not rich enough. I just do what I can, when I can – my working life is a desperate muddle of seeing what can be achieved before I drop – I don’t have an answer to this difficulty.

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

I was advised to write, write, write, to hire an editor and to never believe I was good enough. I stick to this advice. I try to write every day. I have a fabulous editor Cas Peace, who ensures my commas are in the right place and hunts down the typos. Between us we produce something worth reading. The piece of advice I pass on to new authors is to never think I am good enough. This doesn’t mean one should tear out your hair and wail that your writing is rubbish – it means to strive to be better, always see the faults and failures in your own work (then you won’t be so disappointed when others call you out on them). Do the best you can and then, next time, try to do better still. Complacency has ruined many a fine author.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I write in the mornings while I am alert enough to think clearly. I start the day answering emails, tweeting and responding to social media messages while I fuel myself with coffee and cornflakes. Then I edit what I wrote the previous day before launching into the next part of the story. That is the plan anyway; sometimes I have to research, or life gets in the way in the form of grandchildren or appointments, or answering interview questions as I am today.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

That is a very good question. I have no idea. I can’t really see myself doing anything else. My side line is making French hoods, coifs and medieval bags etc. which I sell in my Etsy shop so perhaps I would do that in a more serious way. I could never work in an office or a shop. I like to work from home and have become used to being my own boss. Or perhaps I’d enjoy interior design, I do a lot of that and I am running out of rooms to make over at home. Or garden design – I love my own garden and have transformed the one we have now. Come to think of it, there are heaps of other jobs I could do but I have learned that if you turn a hobby (in my case writing) into a job inevitably some of the shine is rubbed off.

If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?

A movie! What a lovely thought. I am not very good at remembering the names of actors but I will give it a shot. If The Winchester Goose was being filmed I’d choose the following.  Francis Wareham is the main male character. He is very dashing and handsome but not very old so would need to be played by someone like, erm …Simon Woods who was Mr Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, the Keira Knightly one.

GooseI think Alex Kingston would make a brilliant Joanie Toogood, the ‘goose’. She did a great job with Moll Flanders and I think she has all the necessary credentials.

Isabella and Evelyn Bourne are gentlewomen from court. Emma Watson would be good as Eve or maybe Jenna Coleman, the girl playing Victoria at the moment,. The actress who plays Edith in Downton Abbey, Laura Carmichael, would make a lovely Bella. For Peter, who is a costermonger from Southwark it would have to be Rupert Grint – wonderful actor who played Ron Weasley in Harry Potter. Henry VIII would not be played by Jonathon Rhys Meyers (as gorgeous as he is) I think the role is better suited to Steven Waddington who played Lord Buckingham in the Tudors. As to Katherine Howard and Anna of Cleves, goodness, I have no idea. I will leave that to the directors!

If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?

This is an easy one to answer. I’d visit the Tudor period to see if I’ve got it right in my novels. I’d like to discover for myself what changed Henry VIII from a virtuous, golden prince into an embittered ‘monster’. At the start of his reign he had great potential yet something happened to change him after 1536. Some say it was a fall from a horse that damaged his mind, others that it was nurture and some believe he was born that way and the decline in his character was inevitable. I’d like to find out for myself at close quarters but not so close that he would notice me. I’d not want to end up on the scaffold.

Please tell us about your latest published work. 

SistersMy latest release is Sisters of Arden and it is set during the dissolution of the monasteries in Henry VIII’s reign. The plight of those affected by the dissolution has always intrigued me and I enjoyed revisiting the period. The records of Arden Priory are scanty but by piecing together what little we know with wider records of the dissolution and the Pilgrimage of Grace, I have explored the closure of the abbeys and the uprisings that followed from the perspective of a group of three insignificant nuns.

Sisters of Arden follows the path of Margery, Grace and Frances, after the closure of Arden. Their adventures take them the length and breadth of Yorkshire. They move from determination to despair, from hope to disillusion but, with their world in pieces, the only thing they can do is try to rebuild it.

Blurb

Arden Priory has remained unchanged for almost four hundred years. When a nameless child is abandoned at the gatehouse door, the nuns take her in and raise her as one of their own.

After the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536, the embittered King strikes out, and unprecedented change sweeps across the country. The bells of the great abbeys fall silent, the church fragments and the very foundation of the realm begins to crack.

Determined to preserve their way of life, Margery and the sisters of Arden join a pilgrimage thirty thousand strong and attempt to lead the heretic king back to grace.

Sisters of Arden is a story of valour, virtue and veritas.

Buy link: mybook.to/sistersofarden

If you would like to know more about Judith and her work, please check out her links below: 

Webpage

Amazon Author page

Blog