Simon Mawer, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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I’ve recently published two articles.

An interview with Booker short-listed novelist, Simon Mawer, is published in my regular column for The Displaced Nation. His novel, Tightrope, set in 1950s London, won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Mawer had a peripatetic upbringing and now lives in Italy. He says that not feeling at home anywhere fires his creativity.

 

My review of a new book on the artists Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, has just been published in the Times Higher Education.

‘Nothing but devils, buttocks and cod-pieces,’ declared the 17th-century Spanish poet, Francisco de Quevedo, on the paintings of Bosch. In his new book, Joseph Leo Koerner writes that the delectation of Bosch’s The Garden of Delights, ‘draws us like bees to blossom’, whilst Bruegel offers us views ‘that so far exceed our capacity to look that we can never feel finished looking’.

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Land of Cockaigne, circa 1567, oil on panel.

The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=148469

2017 Book Events

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I have a series of book events coming up this year, talking on and presenting my new historical fiction trilogy, Conquest, which is set in 12th century Wales, England and France. I’ve been researching early medieval toilets, nuns, clothes, castles and some rather salacious poetry by clerics and dukes. The first book came out last year. I’m working on the second one now and it will be published in the autumn.

Saturday 25 March – LibraryLit at Parisot Library, 82160, France

10.30am-12 noon followed by aperitifs

I will be talking about the first book in the series, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King, in the context of other historical fiction and my work as a writer for Historical Novels Review magazine. The event is part of a new series of author-talks linked to the annual Parisot Literary Festival.

Friday 21 April – The English Library, Villefranche-en-Rouergue, 12300, France

5.30-8.00pm

I will be presenting alongside crime writer Stephen Goldenberg. I’m planning to discuss  the impacts on my writing from living part of each year in France. The landscapes, histories, art and literature of southern France have played a large role in my writing. I’m currently researching the establishment of the great ‘women’s’ abbey at Fontevraud and imagining the lives of some of my characters there.

And coming up later in the year:

Thursday 8 June 6-8pm – The Guildhall Library, London

I will be focusing on Henry I’s London and the role of early medieval literature as inspirations for my fiction.

Sunday 30 July 1pm – Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales

I’m delighted to be participating in a day celebrating the life of Nest ferch Rhys – the heroine of my Conquest trilogy. I will talk about the history behind my fiction and the various castles that featured in Nest’s life. Taffire Theatre Company will be presenting open-air drama about Nest, who lived at Carew Castle. Their performances in the castle courtyard will take place at 11am and 3pm.

24-26 August – Charroux Literary Festival, 86250, France

I’m excited to be speaking here alongside a wonderful line-up of other writers including Barbara Erskine, Jackie Bennet, Andrew Lownie, Nick Inman, Jane Lythall, Diana Morgan Hill, Vanessa Couchman, Alison Morton, James Vance, Harriet Springbett and publishers Stephanie Zia and Chuck Grieve.

But I’m also excited about it because Charroux was at the heart of the old medieval county of La Marche where my first heroine, Almodis, came from. I’m now working on a biography of Almodis and her two sisters, Lucie and Raingarde.

Saturday 23 September 10am-4pm – Narberth Book Fair at The Queen’s Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire, Wales

I lived in Narberth for several years and my Conquest stories about the Welsh princess, Nest ferch Rhys, were first incubated here so I am delighted to be returning for the inaugural Narberth Book Fair.

Saturday 30 September – Tenby Library, Pembrokeshire, Wales

A talk on my Conquest novels, the Welsh princess Nest ferch Rhys and the Normans. Coinciding with the Tenby Arts Festival.

Saturday 14 October 10.30am – Pembroke Dock Library, Pembrokeshire, Wales

To coincide with National Libraries Week, I will be giving a talk on my Conquest novels. The second book is published in October and is mostly set at Pembroke Castle where Nest and her husband Gerald FitzWalter of Windsor were based.

 

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Dreaming Ireland

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Dreaming Place is a new ebook by Anna Keleher with illustrations by Anna Keleher and Claire Cote. The two artists made two journeys wild-camping in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark which straddles the Ireland/Northern Ireland border. They talked with lots of local people about the relationship between the land and their dreams. They recorded local musicians, storytellers, potholers, artists. They wanted to find out about both old and new approaches to off-grid living.

They made a series of radio programmes, a mobile listening and recording studio and now this book.

The book includes 25 line drawings by the artists and is a lively, humorous and vivid read.

It is available from Amazon for £2.75 or free on Kindle Unlimited. I highly recommend it for Christmas presents, accompanying a journey to Ireland, or cosy armchair travelling.

Castle Escapes

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My blogpost on Gerald FitzWalter, a Norman frontiersman in south Wales in late 11th and early 12th centuries, has just been published on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog.

One of Gerald’s many colourful exploits included an escape down a latrine chute during a Welsh attack in 1109 on his castle of Cenarth Bychan. The latrine chute may have resembled the one shown above, and Cenarth Bychan was very likely the castle in Wales now known as Cilgerran.

Gerald is one of the main characters in my recently published novel Conquest I: Daughter of the Last King, and I am writing more about him now in the sequel, Conquest II: The Drowned Court, which will be published by Impress Books next autumn.

[Photo above of Peveril Castle via Wikimedia Commons. By Dave.Dunford]

As Above So Below

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Tracey Warr, Meanda. Photo: Yohann Gozard for Exoplanet Lot.

As Above So Below is an arts and astronomy project at ACA in Allenheads, Northumberland, UK, coinciding with the building of a new community observatory.

Earlier this year I ran a future fiction writing workshop with schoolchildren and installed a ground text around the Armstrong Hydraulic Engine in Allenheads village. My future fiction novella, Meanda, and the outcomes of the children’s workshop will feature in next weekend’s finale exhibition, along with the work of 17 other artists,  28-30 October 2016. Full details:

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Good questions on the writing process

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I am currently on a Blog Tour for my new novel, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King and have been tackling some very good questions from bloggers about researching, writing and publishing processes, as well questions about the novel itself. See some of my answers here:

Trip Fiction, 16 October 2016

The Cosy Reader, 10 October 2016

Wee Reader, 8 October 2016

Portobello Books Blog, 3 October 2016

The Writing Desk, 1 October 2016

 

Photo: Salla Lahtinen.

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