The Story So Far ...

Monday, 31 August 2015

The Pedants' Revolt - led by Which Tyler ... Or Why the March Hare was right


"Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.
"I do,"Alice hastily replied; "at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know."


image - nucleusarts.com

No, it's not.

When we were little, my siblings and I constantly annoyed each other:
     "Can you put the kettle on?" 
     "It won't suit me." 
Oh yes, ha ha. Our parents were fond of correcting us, too, but it was only when a film star did the same thing that I cringed.

Once, and I'm unashamedly name-dropping here, I met my hero, Donald Sutherland. He was filming scenes from Revolution in my home town and I lurked nearby until someone shouted "Cut," whereupon I rushed up to the great man and asked, "Can I have my photo taken with you?" 

     He replied, "I don't know, can you? You may ..."  
     Oh, the horror; it was as though my Dad were speaking to me!!

People make mistakes. It's a fact. And sometimes it's funny: I had a colleague at work who remained at a fairly constant level of disgruntlement during the working week, complaining often and loudly about the bosses, who treated her as if she were one of their 'dominions'. Years later, I wonder if she has any thoughts about the little yellow creatures who are currently dominating the cinematic world. Does she think they're incorrectly named?



image - moviefone.com

A lovely notice on our school hall wall explains what to do at playtime if there's been a prolonged spell of wet weather which might render the grassy area unusable: "If it has been raining, test the ground for hardness with a teacher." Now, would that be head first, or feet first?


I recently worked alongside a qualified teacher who thought Emily Bronte wrote a book called Withering Heights. Yes, it's funny, and no harm done. Although I struggled when she began telling me about a great TV show which helped children understand about consolations. We had a strange conversation during which I told her how I used puppets to help my pre-schoolers get to grips with the more complex emotions that they struggle to define. She looked confused. Turns out she was talking about a science programme which talked about constellations.


Errors in speech are one thing, and possibly derive from mishearing. They can also be used for great comic effect - hence the expressions Malapropism and Spoonerism. But should we be so forgiving when we see these errors written down?


Far be it for me? What does this even mean? We know, of course, and does it matter? The original phrase, Far be it from me, is a form of self-deprecation, as in: God forbid that I ...  


Is the change of word so terrible? 
I think so.

During the election campaign, Chuka Umunna was described as "Making all these media appearances off his own back". How do you do something off your own back, exactly? The expression comes from cricket, and is used to distinguish between runs 'gained' by extras, and byes, and those gained by the batsman's own efforts; literally 'off his own bat'. When children ask where these expressions come from and the history is lost, what will we tell them?



A small piece in a newspaper a while ago caught my attention for the wrong reason. It concerned Bill Gates, and it reported that "The Microsoft founder and his wife Melinda also said Africa would be able to feed itself by 2030 and that diseases such as polio would be eradicated in their charity's annual letter." How, I wondered, does one eradicate disease in a newsletter? Do newsletters routinely suffer from such afflictions?

A current 'earworm' is a song that exhorts us to "Marvin Gaye and Get it On" as if to Marvin Gaye is a verb. But that's not my only gripe. The song contains the lyrics, "We got a kingsize to ourselves, don't need to share with no-one else."  As opposed to on a normal day, presumably, when you share the bed with a family of five from St Neots?




(My mother once objected to some song lyrics which proclaimed that "Everyone knew everyone, and everybody else as well," on the grounds that there's nobody left after 'everyone'.)

Now, objecting to nonsensical stuff just makes me  a grumpy old woman though, doesn't it? No; I think this stuff matters.

Jeanette Kupfermann, a respected and experienced journalist, wrote in a daily newspaper: "I am not overstating the case to say that the thought quite literally breaks my heart." Double pedantry penalty points here; something can't be quite literal. It either is, or isn't. And if you're not overstating the case to say your heart is literally broken, then you're dead. But the trouble is that the gaze skips over such lazy cliché-ridden writing and such phrases become meaningless. 

If we don't stop to think about how ludicrous it would be to hone in on something or harp back - and yes, I've heard and read both of these on BBC News items and in national newspapers - we begin to lose the richness of our language.

A TV preview for an episode of The Graham Norton Show bewailed the inclusion of the actor Harrison Ford. "Notoriously taciturn, perhaps fellow guest Jack Whitehall can bring the brooding veteran out of his shell." What this actually says is that Jack Whitehall is taciturn and as such might bring Harrison Ford out of his shell. So now people will not understand what taciturn means!

Yet another newspaper howler had Boris Johnson backing "A ban on veils in the classroom yesterday after being confronted by a Muslim woman who wears a burka on a radio phone-in". Does the woman only wear a burka on radio phone-ins? In which case, how do we know?  


I'm not a stickler for rules. Whilst the following can all be remembered by one simple rule which is that "A is Accurate", I'm not too concerned if people get it wrong and say:

  • crushing bore when they should say crashing bore
  • stomping ground when it's actually stamping ground
  • or even that they are chomping at the bit instead of champing at the bit.

I don't mind these so much, mainly because meaning, if anything, is strengthened by these errors, but ...

If one describes a card sharp as a card shark, or a damp squib as a damp squid, it actually becomes meaningless. Squids are, usually, damp. So, it's not really describing a disappointment is it? 

I'm a big fan of the author Sarah Waters and - another shameless name-drop here - I've met her and she's a lovely person. Her latest book, The Paying Guests, received, it's fair to say, mixed reviews. But this one annoyed me. 

     "Until the first kiss, the novel remains fairly stationery, percolating for a bit too long." 
     Well, I'm glad about that! A book that's not stationery is what - a kindle edition? But what happens to it afterwards; does it liquefy, become pulp? It's been percolating, so perhaps it delivers an espresso? Again, knowledge of a simple rule might have helped the hapless reviewer: stationery has an e for envelope. Stationary has an a for ain't moving!
Image: wyliecomm.com


Another reviewer, Deborah Ross, told us in March that she had someone praying on her mind. What an excellent service! Is that like a superior Jiminy Cricket? I presume it was a typo not picked up by spell-checker, nor by some short-trousered acne-chinned editor who has only just left school and has therefore never seen a proper, i.e. not online, dictionary.

Sometimes rules are just there to be ignored. It's widely debated whether Churchill ever exclaimed that "This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put" and I'll gloss over whether he should have said will or shall. The whole "Never use a preposition to end a sentence with" admonition can produce ludicrously cumbersome sentences just like Churchill's. As I said, it's possibly apocryphal, or at the very least, misquoted. But it serves to make a point. I used to get irritated with authors using loath instead of loth, but the new spelling is so often used that the original just looks wrong. I even get a red line under it typing here! 


Such words have made the transition into common and accepted usage. I don't like people saying arguably when they mean probably and I'm not a fan of reading that people have been convinced to do something when in fact they have been persuaded. I'll even keep quiet when people anticipate instead of waiting or expecting. But some words are still in the transition phase and the other day I heard someone use disinterested in the correct way, as in impartial, and I had to stop for a moment and assess whether I'd inferred the meaning correctly. I accept that access and impact are now verbs. But I don't like it, and I hope I never read about anyone accessing anything in a novel set earlier than the 21st century!
Image: 123rf.com

My mother deplored the split infinitive at the beginning of every Star Trek episode, but resolutely to adhere to such rules can make for quite stilted prose. It just wouldn't have sounded as good if they announced that their mission was boldly to go. So, breaking the rules is sometimes okay. But there should never be an ambiguous meaning; writers need to make themselves clear. I might actively avoid words like disinterested because my meaning might be misconstrued.

On facebook and twitter recently there has been a proliferation of posts telling writers how to write, and setting out 'rules': 


Many of these are misleading, because more of these adjectives listed here can be followed by more than one preposition. Whilst this table isn't wrong, it's not exhaustive, and if one were to stick rigidly to its formula, clarity would be lost. 

Lots of 'letters to the editor' are truncated so that subject and object get confused, and meaning can still be correctly inferred -  


"As a child in the 50s, the bus used to come down our road" - 

but this form of confused sentence structure can become silly: 

"Next day, aged precisely 31 hours and 46 minutes, Simon put on some trunks, then dunked his new-born son in the hydro-therapy pool," 

or confusing: 

"Raised in Wyoming, her parents were from India and Canada". I think that means that the subject of the interview was raised in Wyoming, and not that her parents were, but it's not clear. 

Carried to the nth degree, this kind of sloppy writing becomes ridiculous. 

Recently, the journalist and columnist Liz Jones wrote: "When as a child, at the Odeon in Chelmsford, an ancient crone would limp round in the interval with a tray at her waist featuring tubs of ice cream, today there is a temptress with a groaning trolley of food." So, how can a child be an ancient crone? The two bits of the sentence don't even go together. If it starts with a when, I expect a different ending. The one I got should have started with a whereas. I don't even know what I'm talking about here - is it clauses, sub-clauses? Is it a comparative? I'm not sure, but I know it's wrong, and that the sentence doesn't fit together properly. So no, grammar is not just for those who know their gerunds from their elbows.

So, my pedantry is not so much about bad grammar (we've seen above how sticking rigidly to the rules of grammar can produce clunky sentences). It's not about bad spelling per se, because spelling is simply non-negotiable as far as I'm concerned. But I'm a stickler for spelling because correct spelling helps to convey correct meaning. And that's what it's all about - saying what you mean, meaning what you say. Sorry, but if I read that "His eyes followed her down the road," I'm going to envisage a pair of eyeballs bouncing along the cobbles.

Not everyone is a pedant. But lots of people are. If you produce prose with an unclear meaning, non-pedants won't notice. Pedants will. Is it worth the risk of alienating a proportion of your audience? I think not.

And yes, I have spent an inordinate amount of time checking this piece over and over again, just in case I've made any mistakes. If I have, I apologise, and I'm sure someone will tell me where, but rest assured, this is not first-draft, unedited, unthinking stream-of-consciousness stuff. You deserve more than that.

Friday, 28 August 2015

"Word Hoard" - the struggle for dialogue authenticity

Today my piece on dialogue authenticity, where I talk about words derived from Old English (with the help of Jim Sinclair, an OE expert) is on the EHFA blog and can be found here: English Historical Fiction Authors
Please pop over and have a read!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Men with Great Hair, and Finding Nuggets in Footnotes - Cryssa Bazos shines light on the 17th Century




I'm delighted to welcome Cryssa Bazos as my guest today.

I began by asking her:


When did you first begin writing- and have you always written about history?

I started writing on the forehead of my doll because I was too young to ask for paper. I still have that doll. My first story was written in grade 4, and it was a mystery in the style of Nancy Drew meets Scooby Doo called The Mystery of King Arthur’s Court. Spoiler: Merlin did it.

I went on to co-write a historical romance that, thankfully, is locked tight in a floppy disk, which no modern computer can access. But that trial manuscript taught me more than how not to write a book; it illuminated my passion for historical fiction. I had as much fun researching it as writing.

Can you tell us what draws you to the 17th century in general and the Civil War in particular?

I’ve always been drawn to periods of upheaval and great social change, and the English Civil War is all that. At the time, it was unthinkable that a faction of Parliament could try and execute a king. Earlier periods of civil war in England (the Anarchy and War of the Roses) were great dynastic struggles with someone wanting to seize the throne, not eliminate the position entirely. Breaking this tie to the king led people to question their place in the world.

The darkest moments in human history spawns periods of huge advances. The 17th century saw the beginning of the early modern age and the system of government that we, in Commonwealth countries, still have today. Thanks to the explosion of literacy and diary writing, we begin to hear from women about the matters that concerned them. This was also a time of exploration into the New World, of pushing frontiers. When readers become more familiar with this incredible era, it will surely rival the earlier Tudor period.


According to 1066 And All That, the Cavaliers were ‘Wrong but Wromantic’ and the Roundheads were ‘Right and Repulsive’ – care to give us your verdict?

There’s a great deal of romanticism attached to the Royalist side, thanks to how earlier historians and authors depicted the cavaliers. My first introduction to the civil war came from Alexandre Dumas’s Twenty Years After, when two of the famous Musketeers rush to rescue Charles I before he is executed. It’s a thrilling adventure and the romance of it stayed with me. I blame Dumas for fuelling my Royalist inclinations.

Putting aside the romantic, the Royalists were mainly trying to preserve the status quo and many saw this as an opportunity to climb the social ladder through royal favour. Given that we are social creatures, hierarchy tends to be hardwired into us. Therefore, it’s not surprising that we have a great tendency to protect this structure. I wouldn’t classify this as wrong, only one aspect of human nature.

Those who supported Parliament were driven by more diverse motivations. There were moderates who wanted the King to be more accountable to Parliament, not create a new system. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the Levellers, who believed in the rights of all men, not only the landed gentry. If you could merge the beliefs of both these groups, you have modern democracy. I give them double checkmarks for being ‘right’.

Where the ‘repulsive’ kicks in, at least for me, is the military coup led by the Independents that resulted in Oliver Cromwell being named Lord Protector and de facto King. During this period, moderate MPs were prevented from holding their seat in Parliament and the Leveller movement was squashed. This was nothing more than a power grab. Add to this the extreme religious dogma prevalent within this faction, and I find it hard to find anything ‘right’ about this movement.

Two periods of history, which seem to be consistently overlooked, are the medieval period before 1066, and the 17th century. I was told that in the case of the Anglo-Saxons, it’s because they’re perceived to have worn sacks for clothes and lived in wooden huts—no match for Tudor fiction with the beautiful costumes. And yet a lot of dress in the 17th century was exquisite, so do you have any thoughts on why there isn’t more fiction/drama set in the period?

I’ve heard that before. So sad that a period is judged by the clothes that people wore. In the case of the Tudors, HBO gave them a huge promotional advantage. Suddenly Henry was elevated from a corpulent monarch with a serial wife problem to a sexy heartthrob. I’ve no doubt that the rich costumes sparked HBO’s interest in this era in the first place.

The BBC's By the Sword Divided

The early part of the 17th century was mired in war—first in Scotland and then in England and Ireland, so fashions were limited to pot helmets and buff coats, but the Restoration period (when Charles II reclaimed his throne) was brilliant for clothes. And the hair! Men of the Stuart age had great hair. HBO—are you listening? Charles II could do circles around Henry.

I’m puzzled as to why more people haven’t picked up on this period, at least the Restoration. Traditionally, most of the stories set during the 17th century tended to revolve around Charles’s mistresses, but I’d like to see more stories about Charles. There was so much more to this complex and intelligent man than who he was sleeping with.  Based on the flurry of books that have been released, the 17th century seems to be gaining momentum. There are good signs that we’re getting over this obscurity, and all for the right reasons.

How do you set about writing—does a piece of research give you an idea for a story, or does the story arrive first and compel you to research its background?

Research never fails to inspire my story ideas. There are many gaps in history, and this is where the gold can be found for fiction—it’s where the ‘what if’s’ flourish. I like to plot out the historical events, and as I’m trying to make sense of the history—the whys and wherefores, I start to see where my story lies. And footnotes! Incredible nuggets can be found in the footnotes.

Once, when scrolling through British History Online, I stumbled on an account in the House of Lords Journal about a former Parliamentary major, a man respected by his peers and once offered the mayorship of Coventry, who was arrested for conspiring with the Royalists. The man’s defection shook the officials at Whitehall. They sent someone to question him, but before they reached Coventry, he had already escaped from the gaol. This piqued my interest. What caused him to change sides? Who helped him escape, and where did he go? The incident ended up becoming an important subplot in my story.

Has there been anything on film or tv about the period that you admired or enjoyed? Or conversely, that you hated?

It isn’t without its flaws, but I did very much enjoy To Kill A King. Tim Roth’s portrayal of Oliver Cromwell was intense and showed the man’s progress from a brilliant and dedicated commander to someone corrupted by power.  

Years ago, there was an A&E mini-series called Charles II: The Power and the Passion that focused on the complexities of the Restoration court which was also well done.


To veer away from film and TV for a moment, The Dolmen, a local band in Weymouth, created a concept album called the Crabchurch Conspiracy about a foiled Royalist uprising. Spoken word tracts, written by historian Mark Vine, combine with lively music to tell a thrilling story.

For anyone wanting to learn more about this period, where would you recommend they start?

Please visit my blog as a start. Besides sharing stories about the civil war, I have historical links to sources that give a good overview of the time.

The period is so diverse that it’s hard to find a source that covers the entire era well. Pick up anything by Antonia Fraser. For an excellent history of how the civil war affected the people, check out The English Civil War: A People’s History, by Diane Purkiss. Another terrific book is Court Lady and Country Wife: Two Noble Sisters in Seventeenth-Century England, by Lita-Rose Betcherman. One of the sisters, Lucy, the Countess of Carlisle, was deeply involved in court intrigue, and at one point, flirted with both sides. Diary writing became popular during this age, and you can’t underestimate the value of these first hand accounts. People immediately think of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, but there are incredible accounts written by Brilliana Harley, Ann Fanshawe and Lucy Hutchinson. On my TBR list is Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War, by John Stubbs.

In fiction, one of my favourites is The King’s General, by Daphne du Maurier. A classic (if you can find it) is Wintercombe, by Pamela Belle. Other (new) English Civil War novels that I’ve recently discovered are M.J Logue’s Uncivil War (Babbitt) series and D.W Bradbridge’s Cheswis mysteries. On my TBR list is Jemahl Evans, The Last Roundhead.

Finally, what’s next—anything in the pipeline?

My novel, Traitor’s Knot, is currently making its way through the query/submission process. It’s the first in a series that spans from the last part of the civil war to the Restoration. Traitor’s Knot is the story of James Hart, a Royalist officer turned highwayman, and Elizabeth Seton, a healer, who defy the religious austerity of Cromwellian society to support the exiled King Charles II. This is about sacrifice and conflicting loyalties. To read an excerpt, or to see my latest book trailers, drop by my website.

As for what’s next, I’ve started researching and planning Book 2. I’ve recently been introduced to Aeon Timeline (a must-have program for any historical fiction writer!), and together with Scapple and Scrivener, I’m happily mapping out the next three stories.

Thanks to Cryssa for such illuminating answers and for being my guest today


Links:

Website:
Book Trailers:

Traitor’s Knot: Part 1

Traitor’s Knot: Part 2
Bio:

Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She has published articles in the Word Weaver and the Canadian Authors Association e-zine. Short Stories include Confessions of a Tooth FairyWarwick Market, and The Dragon. Cryssa has recently completed a historical fiction novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

"A Tale of Journeys" - Author Elaine Moxon Casts Some Light ...

Today I'm delighted to welcome as my guest:

Elaine Moxon

Elaine begins by saying, "Firstly, thank you Annie for inviting me to be a guest on your blog."
Why the ‘Dark Ages’? What draws you to this period?

"There are many who argue it was not so dark, as art continued to thrive. It is certainly ‘dark’ in terms of available texts of the time as the Roman Empire had disintegrated in Britain. Any written accounts you can readily find were written several hundred years after the events they describe (Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Bede, Nennius).
This absence of information is one of the things that draws me to this period. Strange as it sounds I like the challenge of creating a landscape from only a few scraps of evidence and the creativity provided by being able to fill in the voids! It is an elusive time, one of immense change and of the movement of people from several lands. To me this is magical and exciting and I love searching for the ‘light’ to bring my stories to life."

Researching this period, as I know, can be difficult – there are no buildings and towns still in existence from that long ago; do you have any tips for envisaging the world as it was then in order to convey it to your readers?

"I use any medium I can to build my landscapes and characters. Archaeological photographs of ancient sites can still give me an idea how the land lies and compass points of access to settlements. Photographs of artefacts are useful to see colour and shape of everyday object, though it’s much better to be able to see them first hand in museums or replicas you can hold. Likewise, if you can visit historical sites where they have reconstructed buildings this helps enormously, as you can walk inside and feel the materials used to build it, feel the light/dark or heat/cold and gain a truer atmosphere. Sometimes even visiting an area and seeing how the land lies can be inspiring. Where this is not possible I use artistic impressions drawn by reputable archaeologists.
I transfer this to my fictional landscape by drawing pictures of places and people and making maps so that I can see how my characters can move within what I’ve created, whether based on real or imaginary locations. Another resource is re-enactment groups, but I can talk more about that in a later question!"


a reconstruction at West Stow - image: regia.org

Can you tell us more about Wulfsuna?

"Wulfsuna is a tale of journeys: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It is about identity, perception, loss, love and betrayal. In its simplest form it is about three characters trying to find their real selves, while dragged into a legendary saga that has their fates mapped out for them.
The tribe of the Wulfsuna (Old English for Wolf Sons) have sailed to Britain to reunite with kin they left behind twenty years previous, when Rome abandoned the isle. The tribal Lord’s son Wulfgar and his best friend Sieghild find their lives inextricably changed when betrayal finds them on their arrival. Weighed down by unwanted responsibilities, the two young men attempt to continue as planned, but external forces impede them at every turn.
Magic and romance appear in the guise of a young Seer called Morwyneth, herself expelled from her settlement having foreseen an attack by savages. The ghost of her mother tells her to ‘let the wolf in’ though Morwyneth does not understand who or what this is. Meanwhile the Wolf Spear Saga weaves its ancient power, drawing strangers into one another’s lives, the victims unable to deny it.
Wulfsuna is currently the first of nine stories spanning seven centuries (though who knows where it will lead?) – I wanted to show the immortal power of the Wolf Spear Saga, that it runs through time and through generation after generation. If your name means ‘Wolf Spear’ or you are a Seer, it will find you!"

Where did your love of history stem from – was it there in your childhood?

"My love of history was fed by many wells of knowledge. My Italian heritage plays a large part in that. Knowing I had ancestors from another part of the world from that in which I lived made me hungry to explore. Having one line of that family that ceases after 3 generations due to a great-grandfather who was an orphan and had most likely been given a made-up name by Nuns created many questions I wanted answers to.
Then the words and names surrounding me were different to those at school and I grew fascinated by the historical aspect of surnames. Both my maiden name and that of my paternal grandmother are Saxon and I guess that’s where my love of that period began."

Which came first, the desire to write, or the love of history?

"Writing has always been a part of me. From my first memories of being able to write, I was creating stories and illustrating them for family to read. As a young teenager I kept journals and wrote what today is called ‘Fanfic’, though in my day it was pen on sheets of paper handed round in form time!
As for history, my parents love ancient sites and there are photographs of me being taken round them in a pushchair. Then I remember, as a child, hearing about my Italian heritage from my grandfather and mother. I was eight when we first visited the family home in Italy, which was a farmhouse in the Dolomites. I remember feeling like ‘Heidi’, exploring old outbuildings and abandoned villas; running through meadows of wild flowers and collecting pebbles by streams. I found fossils on small pieces of rock just lying on the roads and have several lumps of crystal, which forms naturally in the area and can also be found lying around.
I think writing and history have always been synonymous in my life. I can’t find a memory where they didn’t co-exist!"

Writing a novel is no easy undertaking – how do you make sure that you are able to set aside time to write?

"I have a young family and many of my early drafts were written during nap times and late at night. Keeping company with the moon had its effects on me during the day, so I had to minimise how often I wrote late. Now I have daylight writing time, I try to avoid burning the midnight oil, though sometimes I can’t avoid it if inspiration strikes and I have to get the words down! Having a published book out in the universe also brings the necessity to promote and market that book, while still finding time to write the next one. I’m getting to grips with that now, but it’s taken me a few months to settle into a new routine.
Unlike many writers I don’t set myself specific word counts to achieve each day or week. I like my writing to be organic and flexible. I set myself the task of writing ‘something’ every week and set aside ‘online’ time for social media interaction and promotion, plus I run a blog. I find I do most of my writing (new material) during the darker half of the year, so this coming autumn/winter I will be head down, scribbling away."



How does being a re-enactor help with your writing?

"I’m not an official re-enactor within a group. In fact I’ve only recently begun to collect items to make my own Saxon costume. At a recent living history event at Letocetum Roman Museum (which is mentioned in Wulfsuna) I decided to dress as a 5th Century sub-Roman woman. It wasn’t the best it could have been, but I dyed it myself with beetroot and bought some replica brooches from another stall on the day. I’m in the process of looking for fabrics for a new garment and hoping to improve on it for the next public event I attend. I must admit it’s a bit addictive!
However, re-enactment has been a huge part of writing Wulfsuna. I have several friends who are active members of many groups and getting to know these people has been amazing. These people camp with authentic equipment, cook food and make crafts with tools of the time. It has enabled me to handle replica clothing, weaponry and everyday objects. I’ve even been part of a shield wall, been shot at with an arrow and fought with a shield and axe. Learning how to handle these objects and experience how it feels to hold or wear them has been invaluable for my writing. It’s as close to being a Saxon as you can probably get, without using a time machine."

What’s next?

"Wolf Spear Saga – Book 2! I’m currently writing the next saga, set 26 years after Wulfsuna. Readers will probably like to know there are some old faces as well as new ones and the fateful saga is once again wreaking havoc. Without revealing too much plot, I’ll say it takes in the western side of Britain as well as a foreign location and there are one or two surprises to be found.

I also have some library talks lined up for the autumn and will be at Foyles, Bristol on 17th October 2015 for an Open Day run by my publisher SilverWood Books, in connection with the Bristol Literature Festival. If you’re in the area please pop along!"

Thanks so much to Elaine for being my guest today, and for such illuminating answers.

Elaine can be found at Silverwood Books

and you can also buy a copy of Wulfsuna at Amazon and Kobo