Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Barbara Gaskell Denvil: A few of my favourite things....

The next author in the ‘Few of my favourite things…’ 2015 HNSA Conference interview series is Barbara Gaskell Denvil who is participating our panel discussing What is it about the Tudors? An exploration of the phenomenon of ‘Tudorphilia’ on Sunday 22nd March 2015.

Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Barbara has been a writer all her life. Born in Gloucestershire, England, she soon moved to London and quickly built up a career publishing numerous short stories and articles while also working as a literary reviewer and critic for ‘Books and Bookmen’, a literary editor, publishers’ reader, and television script writer.   She then spent many hot and colourful years sailing the Mediterranean and living in various different countries throughout Europe. When her partner died, she moved to rural Australia where she still lives amongst the parrots and wallabies, while writing full time. With a passionate interest in the late medieval and Tudor periods of English history, she has now published three novels set in this era.  Satin Cinnabar is self-published on Kindle, while Sumerford’s Autumn and The King’s Shadow are published in Australia by Simon and Schuster, and are available both online and in all Australian bookshops.   All three are novels of adventure, mystery and romance with a strict adherence to historical accuracy.

You can find more about Barbara’s books here

You might also like to follow her blog where she writes fascinating posts about her research. And connect with her on Facebook.

Barbara, please share with us what is or was your favourite…

Book as a child and as a teenager?
My earliest memory of loving any particular book was with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and that youthful discovery was sheer delight. I still consider it a remarkable book, and most of the rest of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series is equally brilliant (though some more than others!) My love of mystical fantasy was born – and continued, for as a teenager I was immediately split between the pleasures of the Regency romance – especially Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer which was an absolute joy for those bursting hormones – and the more thoughtful genius of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I still believe that the magic of Middle Earth is unsurpassed, whereas Georgette Heyer also remains an occasional pleasure when I’m feeling despondent. Reading Tolkien when despondent would certainly not lighten the spirits – whereas the Marques of Vidal surely does. Soon afterwards I read Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series and that set me off with a passionate love of historical fiction. I’ve moved on to a thousand other books and some of them have become huge favourites, but those early experiences remain in my heart. I was unaware of being influenced at the time, but I now realise that I most certainly was.

The list would be too long. I admire anyone who has written a book from the heart in whatever genre, but my two particular passions are historical fiction and fantasy. Dorothy Dunnett is the pinnacle for any lover of history along with Mary Renault – whereas there is also the absolute wealth of non-fiction to explore; a beautiful as well as necessary bottomless pit for writers of historical fiction. For non-fiction I greatly admire Annette Carson and Ian Mortimer, but there are many others. One of my greatest loves is Shakespeare, and most of the classics are amazing, but I also love a hundred of the new authors, especially those who are branching out in the worlds of fantasy.


 Satin Cinnabar

Period of history?
My time-machine would be kept very busy. I have loved so many eras – the Regency – the Tudor – the Vikings – the Restoration – and of course, not only am I fascinated by all these eras and their amazing characters, but I would also be determined to discover the truth of all those historical mysteries we are now left with. The huge characters of the past grip me most. What was Henry VIII really like? How about the incredible Earl of Rochester? The Duke of Wellington? Shakespeare himself? Oh I could go on and on. I hope Amazon delivers my time-machine as soon as possible, I’m waiting impatiently! But my very first turn of the dial would take me back to 1483. That would be my absolute dream and I would love to meet Richard III and discover as much as possible about him. He is a minor character in my new book The King’s Shadow – while his presence is a major part of the background. The late medieval is such an intriguing period in history and definitely my favourite.

Character in one of your own books?
Without a doubt, my favourite character in my own books is Jasper, better known as Vespasian, who called himself after Emperor Vespasian for various reasons, the hero/villain in my novel Fair Weather. He was enormous fun to write and I came to know him very well. In the end I felt he was writing himself. He is by no means a normal romantic hero, and that makes him more interesting to me. However, I love all my characters, even the villains. Ludovic is the young handsome hero of Sumerford’s Autumn, and I loved to write about this arrogant young man who experienced such difficulties and suffering that throughout the book he grows and matures. Then there is Andrew, my hero in The King’s Shadow. He is very different to Ludovic, for Andrew is not a handsome man but he is highly skilled, very confident, mysterious and definitely unusual. Meet him, and you know you are safe, whatever challenges you face.


Sumerford's Autumn

Scene you enjoyed writing?
Now that’s really hard, simply because I enjoy them all. Sometimes, which sounds really awful, I most enjoy writing the sad scenes or the horrible scenes – simply because I get extremely engrossed and try very hard to express the emotions I feel myself. For instance, the bitter suffering so many people experienced – from battle, disease, the abuse of their families and monarchs and the harsh conditions of everyday life. The terrible pain of the past is really not appreciated by so many comfortable folk today. So I almost feel a duty of care to those who suffered long ago, as if I need to explain properly what they went through so that we can truly sympathise with them, and appreciate the improved conditions we have now. I think it sad when I read a book which describes the awful truth of the Plague with just a couple of lines – usually getting the symptoms wrong – and diminishing the appalling pain. So I try to write the truth about these things. I feel I owe it to those long gone. In both Sumerford’s Autumn  and The King’s Shadow there are scenes of suffering or torture, violence and pain, and I don’t relish writing about these things, I simply feel I must. But both books also have scenes of considerable romance and loving, and those are much more fun to write.

Place to write?
My eyes are very bad, so I cannot use a tablet. I have a large screen desktop – and behind my desk is a large window looking out on the swathes of trees, bushes and flowers in my garden – resplendent with parrots, cockatoos and other wildlife. I encourage birds and wildlife into my garden and I can write about England 500 years ago while gazing out at Australian beauty at the same time. All this distracts me from the real world. Escapism! I confess to being an escapism addict.

Step in the process of writing? E.g. researching, drafting, editing etc
Very slow steps, I’m afraid. The research is a permanent affair and has been for years, but while I am writing it is common for some small question to arise, so I need to look up and confirm the facts. So off I go to the bookshelves, I find the right one – or switch to Google and the net – and I’m lost for an hour or more. I do tend to write for 7 or 8 hours most days when I can, but I also re-write over and over and over. Every word matters to me. Then once the book is finished, I try and leave it a month or so in order to gain a somewhat more detached and objective point of view, and then I start again. I re-write from the beginning to the end. Then off the manuscript goes to my beta-readers, members of my family and others who are kind enough to read and give me criticism and feedback, and also to some who are historical experts on the relevant era. When those reports come back then it’s ‘here we go again’ – the last re-write. I edit as I go along, but luckily the publisher also has a wonderful editor as well. So from beginning to end (and I write long books) it usually takes an absorbing 7 to 9 months.

Method of writing i.e. longhand or typing?
Oh, definitely computer. I can enlarge the print and increase the back lighting which really helps because of my poor eyesight. As for those old days of the typewriter – gosh – I used to tear up pages over and over – or ruin them with huge splodges of liquid white. I love my computer, even though I’m no technological expert. Sometimes it drives me mad but I couldn’t write without it.

TV program /movie?
I’m a Game of Thrones fan – yes, it has many faults, but I’m in love with the characterisation and the absorbing unpredictability. I have a million favourite films, but perhaps The Lord of the Rings trilogy stands out in recent years. Escapism again, and so full of atmospheric magic. I am most interested in the transposition of word to film.

Comfort food?
Must I confess? Sadly I run to all the bad things. Mashed potato, cream cakes, fresh crusty bread with lots of butter, and puddings with custard. And – of course – that greatest bliss of all – chocolate. But I like the real thing; dark and rich and intense. I must also admit to being overweight – whereas for practically all my life I was skinny with a very high metabolism. I still ate everything and it didn’t affect me. Now it does! But my greatest comfort isn’t food at all – it is escapism into the amazing atmosphere and intrigue of the past and the joy of making that past come alive on the page.


The King’s Shadow

Andrew Cobham is a man of unconventional behaviour, his home is unusually grand, and he answers no questions. But as he keeps his own secrets safe, so he works to uncover those of others.

It is 1483 and King Edward IV sits England’s throne, but no king rules unchallenged. Often it is those closest to him who are the unexpected danger. When the king dies suddenly without clear cause, then rumour replaces fact – and Andrew Cobham is already working behind the scenes.
Tyballis, when orphaned young, was forced into marriage with her neighbour, a bully and simpleton. When she escapes his abuse, she meets Andrew Cobham, and gradually an uneasy alliance forms. This is a friendship which will take them in unusual directions as Tyballis becomes embroiled in Andrew’s work and the danger which surrounds him.
Eventually it is a motley gathering of thieves, informers, prostitutes and children that joins the game, determined to help Andrew uncover treason. Abduction, murder, intrigue and political subterfuge come to a climax as the country is thrown onto the brink of war.
But meanwhile within the privacy of their domestic life, Andrew and Tyballis discover something neither had planned.

Barbara will be appearing at the 2015 HNSA Conference in the following panel:

9.45-10.45 am  Session Two
What is it about the Tudors?
The world’s appetite for historical fiction set in Tudor times continues to grow. What is it about this particular royal house that is so compelling? Are publishers ‘playing it safe’ by not encouraging novels set in other eras? What impact has Tudor fiction had on the popularity of historical fiction as a genre? Natalie Grueninger, Wendy J Dunn, Barbara Gaskell Denvil and Lauren Mackay will explore the phenomenon of Tudorphilia.

For more information on all our panels, please visit our site for programme details. And you can buy your tickets here.

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And please take a look at our FREE BOOK OFFERS!

The first 30 ticketholders to purchase a ‘Standard’ Whole Conference Ticket will receive a free copy of either The Lace Balcony by Johanna Nicholls, The King’s Shadow by Barbara Gaskell Denvil or The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans.

All ticket holders will receive a Momentum ebook bundle in celebration of Felicity Pulman’s launch of Unholy Alliance.

The first 50 fully paid ticket holders will receive a copy of Sherryl Clark’s new book Do You Dare – Jimmy’s War in celebration of her launch. 

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