I’m pleased to be a part of Helen Hollick‘s book tour for her book “Pendragon’s Banner”. It’s the second book in her King Arthur trilogy. When I received the book, I was given the chance to ask her a few questions. Enjoy!
HH – I was in my early 20’s when I “met” Arthur (I am now in my mid 50’s) I had never been particularly interested in the more familiar Medieval tales about him, but then I read Mary Stewart’s Hollow Hills – and discovered that if Arthur had existed (it is not certain he did) he would have lived somewhere in between the years between 450-550 AD., between the Romans leaving Britain and the Anglo Saxons invading, a time of chaos and a breakdown of government – the Dark Ages. This seemed to make much more sense to me; Arthur as a post-Roman war lord, not a knight in armour.
V – What can you tell us about the research you put into writing this book?
HH – I started reading about the real Arthur purely out of interest. I worked as a library assistant then, so I had virtually an unlimited access to books. You name it I read it! From books I then started going to places connected to Arthur – Glastonbury Tor, for instance, and Cadbury in Somerset. If you are interested I have some pictures of these places on my blog site (link below) I decided to write my novels because I couldn’t find any that fitted my idea of Arthur.
V – What kind of research and writing process do you have?
HH – I read first, gathering information. I used to write the useful bits that I needed out, but now I mark pages with post it notes. I then make a rough sketch of the plot, a synopsis of the story and also a rough chapter by chapter plan, putting down the facts of what happened, where and when.
When satisfied with that I build around the bare-bones of the story, adding my characters and imagined scenes and situations. I’ll check the “facts” as I go – often referring to my character’s CV’s, which I also write before I start and add to as I go along. I keep these in a special note book. Hair and eye colour, date of birth, height, distinguishing features etc, that way as I’m writing I can check each detail. This is especially important when writing a series of books about the same characters.
I spend quite a while getting the first few chapters right, writing and re-writing until I’m happy – then I settle down to write the whole thing. When a chapter is finished I set it aside until the next day then re-read it through, usually finding it is a bit skimpy on detail, or there is too much unbroken dialogue, so I’ll add to this, alter, edit, then move on when I am fairly happy – although I don’t spend too long on chapters at this stage.
Most of my books have part one and part two (sometimes more) With the books I am currently writing (the Sea Witch series – pirate-based adventure fantasy) I usually complete the first part then send it off to my Editor, Jo Field, for her opinion so that we can discuss errors, faults and scenes that are not working. While she is reading I finish off the second part.
After an in depth discussion I do a complete re-write, being really picky. If a scene does not work at this stage I press the delete button. I am also checking continuity, too many point of view changes, repeated words etc. When I am happy with it Jo does her full edit, re-checking everything I have mentioned above, plus incorrect grammar, punctuation, spelling etc.
I then re-read, re-write where necessary, and then when finally pleased with it, send it off to my publisher. Where it is re-read and re-checked/edited. Once printed in proof form it will have a final check for errors.
And you can bet your life there will still be a few typos!
Review: Helen Hollick’s Pendragon’s Banner is a wonderful and moving look at the life of Arthur, Gwenhwyfar and their children. She brings him to life in a way I haven’t read before. If you are looking for a book that keeps you glued to the pages and up all night, this is the one for you. It’s a fat, juicy book packed full of exceptional storytelling. Even if you haven’t read the first book (like me), Pendragon’s Banner holds it’s own as a stand-alone.
If you would like more info on Helen Hollick’s book or would like to contact her, check these links:
http://www.helenhollick.net/culpa41.html my own hints and tips for aspiring writers.
I’d like to thank Paul from Sourcebooks as well as Helen for allowing me to be a part of the tour.