I’m thrilled to welcome Helen Hollick, author of Shadow of the King to Peeking Between the Pages today. I reviewed Shadow of the King yesterday (my review here) and I loved it! Of course I loved the first two books as well: The Kingmaking and Pendragon’s Banner. Helen graciously agreed to take time out of her, I imagine, very busy schedule to answer some questions for me. So, let’s sit back and relax with a favorite beverage and see what she had to say…
Helen: Hello – thank you for inviting me on to your Blog!
1. Helen, before I started reading your books I had never really been interested in King Arthur. You really brought his world to life for me and it’s been fantastic! How did you become interested in the story of King Arthur? What was your inspiration?
I had never been very enthralled with the more familiar Arthurian stories – they never seemed “real”; knights in armour, Merlin, searching for a Holy Grail, it just wasn’t for me. The Arthur of those stories never captured my imagination. I suppose I never have been a great lover of knights in armour and I’m not especially keen on anything Norman. (Must add here, except for Elizabeth Chadwick’s wonderful books!) Then I read the Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, who placed Arthur in post Roman Britain – ah! That was more like it. I became intrigued and started researching the Roman-based Arthur – and I was hooked.
2. Have you had the opportunity to travel for your research of Pendragon’s Banner?
Yes. Mostly in the UK – England, Wales and Scotland. My poor long suffering husband and daughter spent many a wet afternoon exploring the remains of Roman places of interest. I also explored Glastonbury Tor and Cadbury Castle (Near South Cadbury in Somerset) an iron-age hill fort that was very possibly Camelot. You’ll find some photos on www.acorne.blogspot.com
I also went to France and Brittany to research Shadow of the King – Carnac, Avalon, Vezelay. There is a scene where Gwenhwyfar is at the convent at Vezelay and she sees a lizard scuttle across a wall …. I have only to think of that scene and instantly I am back there, sitting in the heat of an August afternoon with my dear friend Hazel laughing together. Sadly Hazel passed away a few years ago. She is much missed, but very close in my memory.
3. What do you find most challenging/rewarding about writing historical fiction?
Challenging? Getting the facts right. So many people know so much more than I do!
Rewarding? The ability to step from this world into that world, to – literally – time travel.
4. I have loved all 3 of the Pendragon books. I get so involved in them that I make sure I’m alone and can’t be bothered. They are wonderful novels to immerse yourself in. What kind of research went into the writing of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy and how long did it take you?
Thank you (blush) It took me ten years to write what eventually ended up as The Kingmaking and half of Pendragon’s Banner – I never thought I would be good enough to actually be published though (I’m still amazed 🙂 Apart from visiting places to see for myself – like river crossings and Roman forts on Hadrian’s Wall etc, I read everything I could find and immersed myself in Romano British History. Loved every moment of it.
5. I love Arthur and Gwenhwyfar as a couple; their loyalty and love is such a great part of the story. Did you set out to build their characters as you did or did they just evolve that way over the course of the novels?
Yes. I was annoyed by the Medieval stories of their relationship. I fully realise they reflected the time period they were written in, but I could not relate to a man who would sit by and allow his wife and best friend to cuckold him. My Arthur would have slaughtered Lancelot from day one! Also, the early Welsh legends of Arthur mention that he had three sons (Llacheu, Amr and Gwydre) but it seemed likely they never survived into adulthood. I could see no reason why Gwenhwyfar was not their mother. So I decided to write my story with Arthur and Gwenhwyfar being a couple who loved each other very much – but with a lot of temper and passion sparking between them. Theirs was not going to be an easy relationship.
6. I love the covers on all of the books – they catch the eye and the coloring is great. Did you have any input on the design of them?
Aren’t they wonderful? The design is all down to Sourcebooks Inc. I am delighted to have such stunning work for my books.
7. Now for a few more personal questions… What are some of your favorite novels – historical or otherwise?
Without hesitation. Rosemary Sutcliff, especially her Roman stories (Eagle of the Ninth, Frontier Wolf and Mark of the Horse Lord) If I can write half as well as Ms Sutcliff did I will be pleased. Elizabeth Chadwick, of course, and Sharon Penman – Here Be Dragons especially. I also like Dick Francis and maritime author James L Nelson, in particular his novel The Only Life That Mattered about pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read (warning, they are somewhat “adult” in places)
8. If you have any spare time, what do you like to fill it with?
My garden, not that I am a very good gardener… I plant things then forget what they are. I am convinced we have a goblin who goes around after me pulling up all the labels I put in. We are getting a greenhouse built so I won’t have to worry about the rain. My husband is convinced I am going to be sitting in it most of the time with my lap top. I’ve a feeling he may be right. My daughter has horses, so I spend a lot of time with her, going to shows, etc. She is learning to ride side-saddle at the moment, which is very interesting and exciting. We live near Epping Forest in Essex, so I take the dog for a walk there every day as well. A good place to think about the next chapter while walking among the quiet of the trees.
9. Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?
I am deeply honoured that so many nice people have contacted me to say how much they enjoy my books. When I started writing I didn’t realise that my novels would bring me the wonderful reward of so many new friends. Thank you.
10. Finally, what’s next Helen? Another time period or historical personality? I look forward to whatever may be next. You’ve definitely got a fan in me!
At the moment I am writing the fourth “Voyage” in my pirate-based adventure fantasy Sea Witch series; called Ripples in the Sand, my character hero, Captain Jesamiah Acorne gets mixed up with Devon Smugglers and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1719. Meanwhile his woman, a white witch, has to go back into her past to sort out a problem she is having. After that I hope to start another historical novel which will follow on from Harold the King, my novel about the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The prequel to Harold the King (UK title A Hollow Crown) will be published by Sourcebooks as The Forever Queen in November this year, with Harold following in Spring 2011.
Thanks so much Helen for both your wonderful books and for taking the time out to answer these questions for me and all those joining us at Peeking Between the Pages!
Helen: My pleasure – it’s been a delight to be here!
About the Book
SHADOW OF THE KING BY HELEN HOLLICK—IN STORES MARCH 2010
They knew what was coming.
Man and beast knew what lay ahead.
After the war cry.
Bitter the grave.
At long last, the peace King Arthur was born to usher in has settled over the realm. But Arthur was also born to be a warrior… and all true warriors are restless without a fight. Yearning for battle and ever-loyal, Arthur is easily deceived into setting sail for Gaul to defend its territories—leaving his country vulnerable and leaderless.
A beacon of hope in a land of desolation, he was to be the Lord of the Summer Land for now and forever. But first, the Pendragon must face the ultimate test, one that will take all his courage, strength of will, and honor to survive.
Because once destiny is fulfilled, can you ever truly win again?
About the Author
Helen Hollick lives in northeast London with her husband, daughter and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman / Saxon Britain and the Golden Age of Piracy–the early eighteenth century. You can Find Helen at the following places:
I have a wonderful giveaway for you all courtesy of Danielle at Sourcebooks. The whole entire Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy! Yes – all three books: The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner and Shadow of the King! Wow, this is fantastic! To enter:
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with a way to contact you.
- For 2 entries follow my blog. If you already do just let me know please so I can pass on the extra entry to you.
- For 3 entries, blog or tweet this giveaway and spread the word!
This giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Saturday, April 10, 2010. Good luck everyone!