My interview with author, Stephen Goldenberg, has just been published on The Displaced Nation website. Goldenberg has written and self-published a murder mystery set in France and thrillers set in Britain. He is now working on a novel about a man who modelled for the artist, Francis Bacon.
Stephen and I are talking about our novels at The English Library in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, France, on Friday 21 April, 5.30pm.
The English Library is a lending library for English readers with over 3,000 books. It is open on Thursday mornings and Friday afternoons and situated next to the 14th century Place de la Fontaine and the Urbain Cabrol Municipal Museum.
My interview with acclaimed novelist Simon Mawer was recently published on The Displaced Nation site. Mawer’s fiction has received a slew of prizes: The McKitterick Prize for his first novel, Chimera; The Glass Room was short-listed for the Booker Prize; and Tightrope won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. He has lived in Italy for many years and finds his imagination is fired by the extraordinary and the unfamiliar.
A beautiful new edition of Mary Renault’s classic novel, The King Must Die, the story of Theseus in Knossos, has just been published by The Folio Society. The book includes eight exquisite illustrations and cover design by Geoff Grandfield. Grandfield’s dominant black and terracotta palette references Cretan frescos and black-figure Greek pottery, which were, in their turn, inspirations for Renault’s own creativity. Renault surely features in most people’s roll call of significant historical novelists. Her Alexandrian trilogy fired my own imagination as a teenager. Renault’s vivid, sensuous depiction of Hellenic life drew on Arthur Evans’ excavations at Knossos. My review of the book has just been published in the February issue of Historical Novels Review.
For an article just published in Historical Novels Review, I asked four novelists to tell me about material they decided to leave out of their novels and how they approached being selective about their researched material. ‘You should fight the desire to include something simply because you find it interesting,’ said Livi Michael, who recently published a 15th century trilogy. S.G. Maclean cited cutting out loving descriptions of a 17th century apothecary’s shop and a Scottish bookseller’s shop from her novels, and advised ‘learning not to be self-indulgent, instead keeping the story focused’. French medieval mystery writer Andrea Japp reported: ‘I have to understand everything, even if I do not use it. It is a way to ground my story, so that my readers wish to accompany me back to these ancient times. There are many things that do not make it to my novels, just because they are a sort of substrate.’ Researching her 19th century music-hall novels, Kate Griffin visited Victorian cemeteries and is now immersed in researching Victorian stage machinery, make-up, props, and the mechanics of illusion.
You can read the full article online or in print by joining the Historical Novel Society. They have over 2,000 members worldwide who are historical fiction writers, readers and publishers. They publish Historical Novels Review quarterly, the online Historical Fiction Daily, and organise hugely enjoyable and inspiring conferences in UK, US and Australia.
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’.
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
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
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.
Friday 28 July 11am – Victoria Bookshop, Haverfordwest
A talk on the novel and booksigning.
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 11am – 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.