Sunday, March 8, 2015

Isolde Martyn: A few of my favourite things...

The next author in the ‘Few of my favourite things…’ 2015 HNSA Conference interview series is Isolde Martyn. She will be appearing on a panel on how historical novelists weave history into fiction: Tall Tales and True: How Story Tellers Imagine History on 21 March 2015.

Isolde Martyn grew up in London. A visit to the Tower of London as a child ignited a lifelong love of history and at fourteen she came across mention of an anonymous woman spy in the Wars of the Roses and became determined to one day write a novel about her. It took a while. She read History Honours at the University of Exeter where she could specialise in the Wars of the Roses. The Maiden and the Unicorn, her debut novel about the woman spy, won ‘Best First Novel’ from Romance Writers of America and the inaugural R*BY (Romantic Novel of the Year Award) from Romance Writers of Australia. Booksellers never know quite where to place her books as although love stories feature in most of her novels, the sub-plots are political. Her recent novels Mistress to the Crown and The Golden Widows have centred on famous historical women and The Devil in Ermine is about Richard III’s coup in 1483 narrated by his cousin, Buckingham.

You can contact Isolde on her website or Twitter or Facebook.

These are a few of my favourite things….

Book as a child and as a teenager?
This is asking a voracious bookworm! My favourite novel when I was ten years old was Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Queen Elizabeth Story. I also remember borrowing  Geoffrey Trease’s Crown of Violet  many times from the library.

I still have aged paperbacks of Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer and Margaret Campbell Barnes foxing on the bookcase. My guru was Dorothy Dunnett and it was a great thrill to interview her when she visited  Sydney. Unfortunately I don’t think any of the Arts editors had ever heard of her so I never got the article published to spread the word to those who had yet to discover her fabulous writing.

Period of history?
I’ve written four books set during the Wars of the Roses and all but one have real life heroes and heroines. The great thing about any era when there is great upheaval is that it offers challenges and adventures for the main characters. That’s the reason I also like the French Revolution, too, and wrote Fleur-de-Lis. I wanted to examine where the revolution lost its way as well as depict life in Paris in 1793.

Character in one of your own books?
Oh, goodness, I fall in love with all my heroes. Maybe, Raoul, the republican deputy in Fleur-de-Lis.

Scene you enjoyed writing?
Most of the scenes between Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Henry, Duke of Buckingham, in The Devil in Ermine. Bringing real historic people to life on the page so as the reader feels a sense of truth and authenticity can be challenging but so enjoyable.

Place to write?
We are talking about pulling hen’s teeth here. I have a very cluttered study, not enough bookshelves and always lack of time or inclination to cull the paper piles building up.
I knew one writer who gained inspiration standing next to the washing machine, her Celtic cauldron! Doesn’t do it for me! But we have lots of lovely bushwalks nearby and that’s when the magic happens, when my mind’s at rest.

Step in the process of writing? E.g. researching, drafting, editing etc
Researching! Standing on the battlements at Amboise or Richmond, Yorkshire. Walking on the moors above Conistone or working how long it takes to get from the Jardin des Tuilleries to the Marais in Paris without taking the metro. Burying myself in Morte d’Arthur and making a list of the jargon used. Finding a list of the rebels’ horses and possessions brought in after the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 in the University of Sydney’s Fisher Library.

Method of writing i.e. longhand or typing?
Aren’t we lucky to have laptops! Oh, the finesse required to blob white across the typo and when it had dried, turning the typewriter knob to align properly. Fat chance!
   I used to write the dialogue for scenes in longhand and then gradually add tags, narrative etc but not anymore, wheee!

TV program /movie?
The three-part drama series The Hour from the BBC about the making of a current affairs programme in Post-war England.

Comfort food?
It used to be custard.

Featured book:

England 1461 Two young women on opposing sides find their lives wrecked by battle

As sister to Warwick the Kingmaker and cousin to the new young King Edward IV, Kate Neville finds herself on the winning side but she has just lost her father, her young husband and four other close kinsmen during the recent battles.  Now she is under pressure to marry again. Kate’s brother wants to ensure her new husband will be someone he can control, but the man he suggests has a reputation as a womaniser and Kate wants a man who won’t betray her like her first husband did. She also feels that as a mother, she should be the one to safeguard her baby daughter’s inheritance. Can she thwart her brother’s plans for her?

Forget Anne Boleyn!
Elysabeth Woodville is a beautiful young woman, much adored by her husband, Sir John Grey. But when he is killed in battle on the losing side and named as a traitor, his estate is seized by the Yorkists and Elysabeth finds herself penniless and friendless. In her desperate struggle to restore her sons’ inheritance, she finds she must kneel before her enemy, the king who impoverished her. And the rest is history!

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

21 March 11.15-12.15 pm Session Three
Tall Tales and True: How Story Tellers Imagine History
How do historical novelists weave history into fiction? What draws an author to choose a particular era, and what research do they undertake to bring past times to life? Jean Bedford talks with Isolde Martyn, Johanna Nicholls, Juliet Marillier and Craig Cliff about these choices.

For more information on all our panels, please visit our site for program 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 Murder.

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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