Saturday, 22 July 2017

Diana talks to Louise Turner



Hi Louise. It is really lovely to meet you. I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
And here it is:-  What an earth possessed you to write about an obscure Renfrewshire family and an obscure period of Scottish history?
Er, because it seemed like a good idea at the time?   That is, of course, the wrong answer - there was much more to it than that! I’m passionate about the local history and built heritage where I live in the west of Scotland, and I wanted to try and make it better known and more widely appreciated. So I started writing a fictionalised biography of one our local late medieval personalities - John 1st Lord Sempill – and I soon found out that I’d unearthed a very interesting story set in very interesting times. It was only later (much later!) that I learned I wasn’t the first to tread this narrow, obscure path: the celebrated historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett featured the Sempills in both her Lymond Chronicles and her House of Niccolo series...
If your latest book The Gryphon at Bay was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?



Alas! I’d have to travel back in time to pull this one off…  The anti-hero of The Gryphon at Bay – Hugh, 2nd Lord Montgomerie – played the supporting role in my first novel Fire & Sword, which I started writing in the late 1990s.  From an early stage, I had a particular actor in mind for Hugh: Richard E. Grant.  I’d clocked him in the BBC series The Scarlet Pimpernel, and I’d thought then, there’s my man, but it was only when I watched Withnail & I that it really clicked: here was Hugh, on a very, very, very bad day…  He was around the right age in Withnail & I, too.  But time does not stand still, and, no offence to the marvellous and indefatigable Richard E. Grant, but I don’t think he’d cut it as a 30-something these days.
What made you choose this genre?
I think it chose me…  I had a passing interest in history as a child, when I went through a phase in which I was briefly passionate about the Ancient Greeks and the Romans (thanks, BBC adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of The Ninth). But I soon drifted off into reading and writing science fiction. I took up Archaeology in university in the hope it would inspire me to write better science fiction, and then in a roundabout way, I tried using fiction as a means of exploring history and archaeology in a different, more engaging manner.  What started out as a fairly academic exercise soon became completely addictive!
How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
As far as the straightforward historical fiction goes, I often just stumble across things in the course of the day job that trigger off a spark of interest. Because I write books which are (in most cases) a conjectural interpretation of what might actually have happened in the past, my characters are constrained by the legacy they left in the historical record.  It’s the process of reconstructing these individuals which I find both the most challenging, and the most enjoyable, aspect of the task.
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
I’m wandering off the beaten track as we speak with my current work-in-progress, which is a time-travel novel of sorts. I like to think of it as historical fantasy or even speculative fiction: I wanted to turn the standard time-travel fare of ‘heroine goes back into the past and finds romance with alpha male hero’ into something more along the lines of ‘hero comes from the past and decides that life was so miserable back then that he wants to seek political asylum in the future.’ The hero in question comes from Ancient Sparta, so I think he can be forgiven for wanting to try his luck at surviving in the modern world!
On a more serious note, during the time I’ve spent working on this novel, I’ve had excellent opportunities to explore all sorts of aspects of our perceptions of people in the Past and how they differ from ourselves. In the hero, Lysander, I’ve tried to recreate an authentic Spartan, whose mindset is, in many ways, quite alien from our own modern worldview. At the same time, he’s smart, and he’s adaptable: there’s still this preconception that people in the Past were a bit slow and stupid compared to ourselves. I think this is very unfair: if it hadn’t been for their ingenuity, we’d never made it past the Stone Age...
Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
I’m one of those strange people who have been writing for as long as they can remember.  I started off as a very small child writing an illustrated tale based on the adventures of some plasticine mice I’d made, and by the age of 13 I was writing a long convoluted piece of Lord of the Rings/Dungeons and Dragons fanlit (in the days before fanlit was invented...).  By my late teens I’d decided I wanted to be a writer, and early success only fuelled this desire: aged 19, I won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF short story writing competitions with a piece titled Busman’s Holiday, a dystopian future tale set in an independent Scotland run by bus companies and inspired by the madness which resulted at the time from the de-regulation of bus services in Glasgow.  
It’s been a long convoluted route, and like many practitioners of the art, I can’t afford to write full time. But I am writing, and I’m now getting to the stage where I bump into readers who tell me they enjoy my work, and that’s when it all becomes worthwhile, and something which younger me would have been over the moon about.
Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Lightly toasted brown bread, served hot, lashings of butter, a thin scraping of Marmite. An unbeatable breakfast treat! (YES!!!)
Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??  
I always have a soundtrack for my writing which is specific to what I’m working on, sometimes specific to the character or even to the scene. I’m one of those strange writers who can replay the same track over and over again, particularly when I’m creating new work, as I try to recapture the atmosphere and get things just right.
I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Oh, I wish I could say ‘the characters,’ but it never works out that way!  However much you want to sit down at the computer and just WRITE! reality always sticks its neb in.. There’s always something going on, whether it’s family, the day job, or whatever.
I suspect that those who are truly successful in this trade, as in any other, are those who just lock themselves away and get on with it, and to heck with anything else. Unfortunately, I prefer to have a life...
Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Well, I’m luckier than many in that I’ve been able to follow my chosen career path: archaeology.  For the last two decades, I’ve worked in commercial archaeology, which can seem more of a challenge than a pleasure at times, but I’d find it difficult to give it up for anything!
I suppose my dream job would be to be appointed Curator of Bronze Age artifacts at any regional or national museum, but it’s too late for that now, as it would have required dedicating my entire life to my studies which would have meant the writing was set aside long ago….
Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Coffee, unless the weather is very hot and the sun’s out.  Then a cup of tea’ll do nicely.  And red, most of the time, but these days I seem to be getting a taste for a good quality white, too...
How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
Usually I have a clear idea of where I’m going before I start to write. This is especially true of my historical fiction, where events are largely predetermined, and a detailed research phase is completed before I ever set anything down in writing. It always takes me several drafts to get all the characters to interact properly and to create all the texture and the subplots which are a crucial part of my work. It’s like reworking a painting, I suppose, you add extra highlights and shadows and create a more subtle final version.
If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?  
Because I’ve always been traditionally published, I’ve never paid much attention to this aspect of the craft.  I don’t suppose I’m that bothered with particular fonts, but I’d prefer it to be a) clearly legible, and b) traditional.  Times New Roman is the one that immediately springs to mind, but there a number of alternatives which are much less staid and boring, though I couldn’t possibly name any of these!  I tend to trust my publisher in these matters – he knows what he’s doing!
Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
I’d love to see something, anything which could tell me how Hugh, 1st Earl of Eglinton (Hugh,2nd Lord Montgomerie in my novels) managed to get through the Battle of Flodden without being killed!  Did he say, “S*d this, I’m not staying here to be killed,” and ride north before the battle? Was he even in the host as it rode south? He might have been waiting to liaise with the French reinforcements (which arrived wait), or even forming part of the acting government in the King’s absence. I’ve asked a number of historians, but they’re as much in the dark as I am.  I wish I knew!!!
Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?  
Usually the characters I’ve created in my historical fiction behave according to script – if they don’t I’m of the firm opinion that I’ve gone wrong somewhere in the research stage…  But in anything other than historical fiction, I usually let them do things their own way...
How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
I do an awful lot of research – Fire & Sword took about ten years to write and I was carrying out ongoing research in tandem throughout that time.  I’m still reading about the time period and the places, often during the course of the day job…  
I don’t think you ever stop learning.  Having completed a Ph.D. in an entirely different subject, I’d say that the amount of work involved is about the same.
As for the research trips…  Yes, I try whenever possible to visit locations and buildings in particular. I like historical fiction to be as honest as possible in geographical terms, because the landscape never lies.  Though it’s important to remember, too, that buildings and landscapes are never static, they’re as prone to change and alteration as much as anything else.  I always make sure I read up on climate and pollen analysis and other more archaeological aspects during the research process.
Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
In a word, no.  History is always sacrosanct!
Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?  
Again, no.  That’s not allowed. But I have been known to stretch the gaps between the facts pretty far. And if there are two conflicting accounts or interpretations, I’ll opt for the one which suits my story.  And this may not necessarily be the version which Historian-Me believes to be correct.  Historian-Me doesn’t always like this much, but Novelist-Me always takes a very big metaphorical big stick and succeeds in bludgeoning Historian-Me into submission. Strange that….

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?  
I try not to let them.  I have to keep reminding myself that what I write is not trying to be an actual replication of the Past, it’s an interpretation of that Past...  
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?  
I heard an author say once (I think it was Diane Duane, at a science fiction or fantasy convention I attended many moons ago) that every author is a little bit in love with all their characters, and at the same time, there is a little bit of the author in all their characters, too.  Which probably makes all authors narcissists to some extent, but I think there’s more than a grain of truth in the statement. And if it wasn’t Diane Duane who came out with that quote, then apologies both to Diane Duane, and to the author from whom the quote actually originated….
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
I’m drawn to specific authors, rather than genres, and to be honest, I find it difficult to enjoy a lot of books. I like a book which is complex, but fairly fast-paced. I don’t mind belting through it and being left thinking, “eh? I didn’t quite get that,” as long as the characters are sufficiently engaging for me to want to spend time with them. I enjoy the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel, in particular, her French Revolution epic A Place of Greater Safety. I also love the Botticelli Trilogy of Linda Proud, which is just exquisitely written, and I’m getting into Dorothy Dunnet’s work, too.
I also read science fiction. I’m a fan of C J Cherryh’s Union Alliance universe in all its variety, and I love the writing style of Ray Bradbury. I’ve also recently become a big fan of Iain Banks – not writing with his science fiction hat on as Iain M. Banks, but rather his surrealistic, fantastical novels. The Bridge and Walking on Glass are two examples which spring immediately to mind.  I would class both, by the way, as science fiction, though the Scottish literary establishment would probably throw their hands up in horror at the mere suggestion...
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Claret – Scotland’s other ‘other national drink!’
Last but not least... favourite author?
Oh, it has to be Hilary Mantel.  What I find particularly inspirational is the way in which her characters actively participate in creating their own history. I find much historical fiction quite pre-deterministic – the characters are carried along by fate, or circumstances, or whatever. Mantel’s novels recreate history as a series of consequences, sometimes intended, often not, which I think more accurately reflect the way history operates.  It’s an approach which I try very much to replicate in my own novels, though I’d be the first to admit that our writing styles are totally different.  I spent years wishing I wrote like Hilary Mantel – but these days, when I see how readers are polarised by her work (5 star reviews balanced by 1 star reviews), I’m a bit relieved I don’t!  It’s probably more healthy to have a less contentious approach, in a stylistic sense…
Writing Biography for Louise Turner


Born in Glasgow, Louise Turner spent her early years in Scotland where she attended Greenock Academy and later, the University of Glasgow. After graduating with MA (Hons) in Archaeology, she went to complete a Ph.D. in the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management. Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and at a young age she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story Busman’s Holiday.  Her second novel, The Gryphon at Bay, which follows on from the events described in her first novel Fire & Sword, is set in late 15th century Scotland and was published by Hadley Rille Books in March 2017.

More about the  Gryphon at Bay

In this gripping follow-up to her debut novel Fire and Sword, Louise Turner returns to the splendour and intrigue of Renaissance Scotland and the court of King James IV.

Summer, 1489...

It is a year after the old king’s death, and his son now sits upon the throne. Hugh, 2nd Lord Montgomerie has achieved great things in this short time. He’s been granted a place on the Privy Council, and given authority in the King’s name throughout Lennox and the Westland.

Success is a double-edged sword. The old king’s murder has left its scars and there’s rebellion in the Westland. Now Montgomerie must choose between his king and loyalty to his kinsmen, the Darnley Stewarts, treading a dangerous path between pragmatism and treason. 

Closer to home, he is challenged by his old rivals the Cunninghames. The feud between the two warring families intensifies, with tragic consequences.  And the time comes for three women, drawn together by their hatred of Montgomerie, to plot revenge. 

As Montgomerie sees the world turn against him, just one ally remains: John Sempill of Ellestoun. 

But Ellestoun may have his own agenda. Will he stand by his so-called friend, or seek retribution for past injustices...?

Buy it here  Gryphon at Bay


 Links

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Amazon US e-book



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© Diana Milne January 2017 © Louise Turner June 2017




Saturday, 15 July 2017

Diana talks to JB Nichols, author of young adult books.


Hello! I am delighted to welcome you to Diana Talks…




First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!

* Am I going to make a difference for the better to anyone's life? My rock of a husband has Asperger's syndrome, and I know I'm good for him


If your latest bookLoveupmanship’ was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

* I think a young Mayim Bialik; someone not wildly good looking but enormously self possessed, could play Lynne Jones


What made you choose this genre?

* I'm a young adult at heart

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?

* They were all around me at school; the good, the bad, the beautiful and the redeemable. And the villain was based on a close relative


If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?

* I'd like to do a murder story. And yes, I always have plot lines. My problem is with keeping plot lines at bay


Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.

* I always had a story to tell. From the first stories my mother ever enthralled me with, I wanted to get on the story creating band wagon


Marmite? Love it or hate it?

* Love it. Pile it on thick


Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??

* No rituals, no distractions, no music; nothing that would interfere with the sounds, smells and pictures in my head


I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?

* My characters. They consume me. I can temporarily switch them off absolutely if I have to though


Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?

* If not providing an entertaining escape route and guiding anyone who cares to switch on into a different take on the world, I my limit free,  no holds barred dream job would be - ach! I was going to say a pimple popper! But who am I trying to kid? Writing full time is the only dream, because wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, it's all experience to be stored up until it escapes through my finger tips on the keyboard

Coffee or tea? Red or white?

* Coffee. And red wine


How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?

* I usually have an end in mind shortly after doodling with a beginning, otherwise the doodle doesn't get any further. I let it go its own way until I need to steer, and sometimes let my original ending get derailed for a better one


If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?

* Any font that doesn't distract; Plantin, Times Roman, possibly Arial. I once put comic sans on my phone when fiddling around, exploring what could be done. It nearly drove me crazy quite quickly because humour in a font is rarely appropriate and I couldn't  recall the moves I'd made to put it on in the first place. Got there in the end though. It's back on Arial

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?

* What? Only one? I would probably waste it on something to do with religion, and I'd expect to be disappointed


Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?

* Yes, often. I have to remind myself that they’re my invention, or at least an imagined creation based on observation, so I have to take some responsibility. Sometimes I've had to abandon them to their own devices as they might not go away until I've let them have their head


How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?

* I never have gone on a research trip because I mostly stick with what I have experienced naturally. Having said that, I've done voluntary work with the disadvantaged and with victims of crime, and this involves delving into dark minds and dark circumstances which are way beyond my personal experience and stretch my capacity for shock and sadness. It's involved speaking to police officers, lawyers, psychologists and fellow volunteers with their caseloads.


Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?

* No, so far I've managed to dislike with understanding. Actually it's not even real dislike.  Actually I can't really remember disliking anyone real imaginary. I've hated people, but that's quite different


Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?

* No, it irritates me when the laws of physics are broken, or historic certainty is overturned - unless a key part of the fiction is explaining why. I would lose trust for an author who did it through ignorance and expected me to go along with it


Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?

* Of course


Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?

* I'm currently in love with Steve Raven, a kind, considerate psychopath I'm writing about now. And I was a little in love with Lynne Jones in Loveupmanship too. An ugly girl with inexplicable, magic charima a and sex-appeal - I loved her so much it made me cry

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?

* Garrison Keillor's short stories

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?

* Coke zero


Last but not least... favourite author?

* Anne Tyler


About Loveupmanship:

Funny and feelgood. A south Wales community is stirred up when Lynne Jones brings Miles, her aristocratic boyfriend home for the summer. The gossips have a field day. Not everyone is pleased - from the murderous Mrs Price to lost, lonely little Mandy. Yet it is a summer of hope, redemption, love and laughter - and everyone gets a magic wish.


© Diana Milne January 2017 ©







Saturday, 8 July 2017

Diana talks to Carolyn Hughes

 
 
 
Hi Carolyn, Lovely to welcome you here. Hopefully this interview is an interview with a difference and I have come up with some unusual questions!
 
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
Don’t you regret not getting published earlier in your life?
 
Yes, I suppose it would have been lovely to be, say, an Elizabeth Chadwick or a Philippa Gregory, successful historical novelists for decades. I’d have liked that, of course I would. But I didn’t think about it when I was younger and, anyway, I might well have never achieved their great success!

As it is, I’m pretty thrilled to be published at all, even at my (relatively aged) time of life, and I look forward to many more years of writing and publishing. In truth, I’m probably really lucky to have found this source of inspiration so late in my life, something to keep my mind and my imagination active and vigorous!

If your latest book "Fortune's Wheel" was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?



Mmmm, I’m not sure about this! Fortune’s Wheel doesn’t have a single lead role, but if I were to choose Eleanor (who is pretty much the lead in the first sequel) then the actress would have to have red hair. So, let’s say either Emma Stone or, even better, Rose Leslie, who I think probably has the right “look” for Eleanor.



What made you choose this genre?
When I had to choose what to write as the creative piece for my Masters in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University, I mostly just wanted a change from the contemporary women’s fiction I had been writing for the previous few years (none of it yet published).
Searching for inspiration, I was looking through some of my old scribblings, when I rediscovered the fading handwritten draft of about 10,000 words of a novel I’d written in my twenties. Set in fourteenth century rural England, it was about the lives of peasant families. To be frank, the novel’s plot (indeed the writing itself) weren’t terribly good, yet I was drawn to its period and setting. I had one of those light bulb moments and, a few days later, I was drafting an outline for the novel that is now Fortunes Wheel.
It’s true that I’d long been intrigued by the mediaeval period, for its relative remoteness in time and in our understanding of it and, I think, for the very dichotomy between the habitual present-day perception of the Middle Ages as “nasty, brutish and short” and the wonders of the periods art, architecture and literature. The briefest of investigations quickly convinced me that I wanted to know more about the period, and I suppose I soon realised that, by writing an historical novel, Id have the opportunity both to find out more about the mediaeval past and to interpret it, which seemed like a thrilling thing to do.
How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
I really don’t know, which everybody says, I’m sure! With Fortune’s Wheel, as I’ve already said, the spark for the setting and period came from an old novel draft. Research suggested that the fourteenth century had a rich social history, and I thought the period after the Black Death might be interesting. So I had a timeframe, setting and context… The characters – Alice, Margaret and Eleanor – then somehow “presented” themselves to me. I honestly don’t know how that happens – it just does. The plot simply evolved from wondering how people would have coped in the aftermath of something so devastating as a plague that wiped out half of your friends and neighbours, and possibly most of your family. For the sequel, two years further on, I’ve developed one or two minor characters from Fortune’s Wheel, and thought up plot threads surrounding “women’s issues” in the context of the time – I’ll say no more. The truth is that characters and plots do just sort of evolve, seemingly without all that much input from me… How weird is that?!
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
To be honest, no. Perhaps because I’ve become a published author quite late in life, I’m still fairly in love with my chosen genre, historical fiction, both as a writer and a reader. I do read other types of books, and I especially enjoy crime thrillers, but I can’t ever imagine being able to write one. So I’ll stick to historical fiction for the time being!

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
I’ve been writing on and off all my adult life – short stories, novels, children’s stories, ideas for non-fiction books. But for a long time it never occurred to me to try and have anything published – I wrote for pleasure, or perhaps because I couldn’t NOT write. Eventually, though, I did begin to think publication might be possible and tried submitting my contemporary women’s fiction to agents, but I got nowhere. Then, quite late in life, I decided to take an MA in Creative Writing – to give a “focus” to my writing, as I told myself. And it worked. The result was Fortune’s Wheel, which I eventually self-published. And I WAS then a “published writer”, a writer of historical fiction, and that is what I now think I am.
 
Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Definitely love. On hot toast, with butter preferably, or low-fat something-or-other if I really must…
 
Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music…??
Not really. I’m not a terribly disciplined writer, so I tend just to get out my laptop and write whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself. I do drink rooibos tea almost all the time, and sometimes I’ll listen to music – Chopin typically, rather than anything “medieval” – but really I don’t have any particular needs…
 
I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Oh, the characters, definitely. Although perhaps I’m lucky in a way that I don’t have the “family” at home any more (apart from my OH). So I can quite safely “forget” about them while I’m writing and let my characters be my family.
 
Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
I was a technical author (a different sort of writer) for thirty years, and I loved my work. If I hadn’t done that, I might have liked to be something like a curator in a museum – surely handling old and interesting artefacts all day long would be wonderful! 

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Tea, preferably rooibos – I drink it all day long (it has no caffeine…). Red and white, as long as the red is full-bodied and the white is dry, although actually I don’t drink all that much of either these days!
 
How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
Once I have a broad concept for the novel, I write an outline of the whole story, a summary of each chapter, sometimes down to scene level, depending on how much I already “know”. The ending is usually pretty vague at this stage. At the same time, once the characters have “presented” themselves, I make closer acquaintance with them by writing their profiles – physical characteristics, occupation/interests, where/how they live, families/friends, and my initial thoughts about their motivations and anxieties.
When I feel I’ve made sufficient acquaintance with the characters and have a storyline with a reasonably workable structure (and I’ve also done “enough” research), I start writing the first draft. As I write, I follow the outline, but not at all slavishly. Nothing is set in stone. I expect change. The plan is just a framework, which I expand and round out with description, character interactions and dialogue as I write the draft. It works for me!

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I really don’t know much about suitable fonts for books. I like Garamond and Baskerville, but as long as my books are printed in something with a serif, I’m easy…
 
Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Something that almost certainly doesn’t exist – letters from an educated (just taught to read and write) fourteenth century peasant woman. Something like the letters of the real fifteenth century lady of the manor, Margaret Paston, but those of a far lowlier woman, one of those whose voices have not come down to us. How wonderful it would be to read her thoughts and concerns! But, sadly, the wonder of it will have to remain in my imagination.
 
Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
I haven’t had quite that experience, of them going off on their own… But characters do often seem to develop sufficient “agency” to determine events in the novel. Initially, as I write, I put words into their mouths, and thoughts into their heads, and I move them about on the stage I have set, in the role that I have planned for them. And I’m pretty sure that, for a while at least, they do what I say. But then, without much warning, I sometimes realise that I’m writing something that I hadn’t actually planned – typically, a passage of dialogue, or maybe some sort of introspection – that changes some aspect of the story. The characters, it seems, have become strong enough – real enough – to decide for themselves what to do or say or think, rather than just letting me decide for them. They don’t completely take over, but they do seem to take on a sufficiently real existence to enable them to share with me the telling of their story.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
I do spend a lot of time reading history books of one sort or another. I’m always coming across more books to read, with fascinating new information, and I can find the research quite a distraction, especially if the writing is not going too smoothly… I do enough research initially to enable me to make a reasonable stab at writing a draft, and then continue researching as I write, when things inevitably arise that I realise I dont know about at all, or have only a vague memory of and need to check.
Because I live where my Meonbridge Chronicles books are set (in Hampshire), I don’t have the need to undertake research trips to exotic foreign places, which is perhaps a pity. But I do love visiting medieval places in England, including those managed by English Heritage, such as the Medieval Merchant’s House in Southampton, and castles and manor houses, such as Stokesay Castle in Shropshire. A favourite visit of mine is to the Weald and Downland Museum in Sussex, where buildings of different centuries have been reconstructed so that you can gain a sense of what it was like to live inside them. And of course, there are always museums…
 
Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
That hasn’t so far happened to me, as there are no real characters in any of the Meonbridge Chronicles.
 
Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
It hasn’t arisen so far, but I don’t think I would alter facts for the sake of the story, but rather mould the story to fit what we know happened. At least I think I would…
Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
It’s not really an issue in my books.
 
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
I can’t think where that’s happened so far. But I’m sort of hoping with the third Meonbridge Chronicle, where I’m creating a very nasty character, that I’ll write him so terribly well that I really will loathe him… We’ll see.
 
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Historical fiction, mostly – all periods, in principle. But I also do enjoy a good crime thriller, something a bit bloodthirsty perhaps, which I could never write myself.
 
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Mmmm, well I suppose it should be weak ale, if you’re feeling “peasanty”, and rich red Gascon wine, if you identify more with the gentry. But, for me, it’d just be a cup of rooibos – I wonder what on earth fourteenth century folk would make of it, or even of just a cup of Everyday Breakfast?
 
Last but not least... favourite author?
I always say the late William Trevor, because he was such a master of the short story, and of the subtleties of human interactions. So, not an historical novelist, but just the most brilliant writer.

About Fortune's Wheel:

Plague-widow Alice atte Wode is desperate to find her missing daughter, but her neighbours are rebelling against their masters and their mutiny is hindering the search.
June 1349. In a Hampshire village, the worst plague in England’s history has wiped out half its population, including Alice atte Wode’s husband and eldest son. The plague arrived only days after Alice’s daughter Agnes mysteriously disappeared, and it prevented the search for her.
Now the plague is over, the village is trying to return to normal life, but it’s hard, with so much to do and so few left to do it. Conflict is growing between the manor and its tenants, as the workers realise their very scarceness means they’re more valuable than before: they can demand higher wages, take on spare land, and have a better life. This is the chance they’ve all been waiting for.
Although she understands their demands, Alice is disheartened that the search for Agnes is once more put on hold. When one of the rebels is killed, and then the lord's son is found murdered, it seems the two deaths may be connected, both to each other and to Agnes’s disappearance.

About Carolyn Hughes:

Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After a first degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but she left to become a school careers officer in Dorset.

But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the Government.

She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest, several years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life.

She has a Masters in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University, and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

 
© Diana Milne January 2017 © Carolyn Hughes June 2017