Sunday, 22 November 2015

Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and Heavy Metal - Steven A. McKay Casts Light ...

Today I am delighted to welcome as my guest, author Steven A. McKay:

I asked him ~

At the start of your Forest Lord series, Robin Hood is 17. Why did you choose to start the story there?

Ha, to be perfectly honest I don't really remember why I made him so young. But back then a 17 year-old wasn't like a teenager of modern times. They married earlier, went to war earlier, died – on average – earlier...So although it might seem to a reader in 2015 that Robin would be very immature, in reality, young men and women in medieval times were much more experienced in everything life has to offer than nowadays.
I'll let you in on a secret – originally Wolf's Head was a lot more fantasy inspired and Robin was going to eventually turn out to be a sort of reincarnation of King Arthur and other old heroes. So he kinda had to start out young and “learn” his trade and who he really was. Obviously that aspect fell by the wayside but it seemed right to keep him as a young man who would grow into his role as outlaw leader as the series progressed.

Like actors who take on famous roles and claim not to have watched previous versions, did you try to avoid previous interpretations of the Robin Hood stories?

Mostly, yes. My mum bought me Angus Donald's Outlaw as I was writing Wolf's Head and I read it just to make sure I wasn't unknowingly ripping it off! I was disappointed that a new Robin Hood series had come out just before I'd completed my own first book but glad to see Angus's book was totally different to what I was doing.
I did avoid other Hood novels but immersed myself somewhat in the Robin of Sherwood DVDs. That influenced me a great deal – the camaraderie and loyalty and sheer enjoyment of life that the characters – and actors! – in that show portrayed was really inspiring. I'm over the moon to have Phil Rose – Friar Tuck from RoS – doing the foreword for my new novella Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil!

Can you tell us a bit more about your Robin - who is he, and where is he from?

I looked at the history of the “real” Robin Hood and tried to stick as closely as possible to the very first, original tales. So, he's a yeoman – not a peasant or nobleman – and he's from Wakefield in Yorkshire. Basically he's a normal man, from a normal little town who's thrown into a pretty crappy situation and has to learn how to deal with it all. Of course, the fact he's almost superhumanly skilled with longbow and sword is a great help…!

You've published three volumes so far - will there be any more?

Yes, one more which I will hopefully be working on today. I originally planned a neat trilogy but it sort of expanded itself into a four book series without my knowledge or permission!
Hopefully I'll be able to do another novella featuring one of the characters – Little John or Will Scarlet maybe – before I wrap the whole thing up and move onto the next series.

Can you tell us about Tuck and what sort of Christmas he's going to have?

Tuck is just as you'd expect: portly, tonsured head, likes his meat and ale, and can also fight as well as any of Robin's outlaw gang. He's spending Christmas in the village of Brandesburton this year (1323) and the villagers are frightened as there's been reports of a horned, cloven-hoofed devil roaming the place in the wee hours...Tuck, being a nosey-bastard, decides to get to the bottom of the mystery!
I'm sometimes criticised for the amount of swearing in my books but this one is much tamer. I'd like to think it will appeal to all ages although there is some violence in it.
It's actually been chosen to be part of Amazon's Kindle Singles programme which, apparently receives thousands of submissions every month have my work chosen for something like that is just amazing! Congratulations!

Who are you when you are not writing?

I still work a full-time day job, reading gas and electric meters around the Glasgow area. I've been doing that for years and I rather like it. When I'm not doing that I love to spend time with my family – I have a 2 year-old son and an 8 year-old daughter and being a dad is the most incredible experience in the world.
I also play guitar – writing and listening to heavy metal music has been the one consistent hobby all throughout my life. I'll still be playing my Jackson King V to Megadeth when I'm 70 I hope!

It's been suggested that there is a Robin Hood for each generation - how much do you agree with that?

I'm not really sure about that – I think the same thing has been said of King Arthur but...I dunno, a statement like that kinda suggests one version is the be all and end all and others are inferior. But I know for a fact many of my readers also enjoy Angus Donald's books.
If there can be only one, though, I hope it's mine…

Thanks for talking to me, I had fun!

Thanks for such illuminating answers

Find Steven ~

at his Amazon Author Page

and his Website

Sunday, 15 November 2015

From Robin Hood to Napoleon - author David Cook Casts some Light

Today I am delighted to welcome author David Cook to talk about his new release~

I asked him~

What first ignited your interest in history?

My father got me interested in history, not just Napoleonic. He would bore my brother to tears, but I was always interested. Apart from the repetition and even now says ‘did you know that…’ and I answer ‘Yes, Dad. I think you mentioned this once before.’’

History at school was the only subject I liked too. I’m still interested all those years later and sometimes wonder why I didn’t become a history teacher at school. I might have made a good one.

And how did that turn into a need/desire to write?

I read a journal written by a redcoat serving in the almost virtually unknown expedition to Egypt, 1801, where the army under Sir Ralph Abercromby, were sent to expel the French in case they threatened British interests in India. See - they had been stranded there after Nelson had annihilated their fleet at the Battle of the Nile. Napoleon had left and the remaining French were sort of abandoned. They weren’t much of a threat. They wanted to go home, but still put up a brave resistance to Abercromby’s army.

It was this expedition that intrigued me so I wrote The Desert Lion between 2006-2008. Only now have I got it professionally edited and will soon try to get it published down the traditional route, not self-published.

You write about different periods, The English Civil Wars, the Napoleonic Era and about Robin Hood. If you had to pick a favourite era/period of history, which would it be and why?

That’s a tricky one. Really, because they all fascinate. This week I’ve written, edited or read about all three. I love the legend of Robin Hood. It’s very English. I love this country and then you have this brutal conflict between King Charles I and parliament. I love the politics, the battles of the Napoleonic Wars, the sacrifices, the honour and age of musketry.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process - do you have a story first and then research around it, or does the history come first? I write an outline, research for a long time. Gather notes and start writing. I then just let the words flow. That’s all I do. Different authors have their own ways. Sometimes I just need quiet, sometimes I need music or background noise. Can you tell us about your latest release? I wrote/finished Death is a Duty in April and fortune's good wheel allowed me to spend 9 days in June, Belgium, during the bicentenary anniversary of the Waterloo campaign.
I was sat on the battlefield, high up where Napoleon's grande battery tried to shatter Wellington’s ridge, enjoying lunch with my good friend Adam, on the 18th - the day of the battle- and I overheard some Scotsmen (in full military redcoat campaign gear) talk and I thought I hadn't taken that into consideration with Highlander Adam Bannerman, the story's protagonist. So I made some corrections on the spot. I also had a chance to revisit the parts of the battle which I had written but not seen in the flesh. I was pleased to see I'd been miraculously good with positioning troops in my head in relation to the positions of the actual battle, who could see what, distances, that sort of thing. 
With that in mind I then went back to the other four stories and re-edited them on my return to the UK. I made corrections, re-jigged parts, expanded dialogues, and with the series now enhanced, I'm very pleased with the end result.

So Fire and Steel is an anthology of the first 5 books of The Soldier Chronicles historical series. The stories; all novella's, are snap-shots of life from a different soldier’s perspective in the period of long war 1793-1815. Fiction, but very much based on actual historical events.

On this page, we like to cast light - do you have a little known fact of history for us?

Um, ok, I do know that Romans used human urine as a mouthwash!

Finally, what's next?

I’m still writing Book 6 in The Soldier Chronicles series. It’s called Tempest and it's about the last invasion of Great Britain. 1797, a French force managed to slip through the wooden walls of the Royal Navy and land in Pembrokeshire, Wales. There they wanted to unite the workers, spread liberty and revolutionary zeal and burn the city of Bristol to the ground. Can they be stopped in time? Tempest will be out, Spring, 2016.
Thanks David, for such interesting answers and good luck with the new release.
Find David on his Amazon author page HERE
and find his new release on kindle HERE
The paperback version will be available from 1st December:

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Author Georgia Hill Casts Light on Research Methods

Today I am delighted to hand over the page to author Georgia Hill ~
Thank you so much, Annie, for inviting me onto Casting Light and asking me to share my research methods.
In some ways I think I’ve been researching for While I Was Waiting all my life.
My great-grandfather, David Batham, served with the Worcestershire Regiment during the Great War and died in 1915, leaving a young widow and three children. He was talked of a lot when I was a child. My father developed an avid interest in World War 1 and visited his grandfather’s war grave in La Brique Cemetery in Belgium. Dad passed his fascination down to me, along with several books on the subject. One of them is a collection of war photographs. They spare the viewer nothing of the horror of industrialised warfare and although I was fascinated as a child, I can’t bear to look at them now. 

As a teenager I read war poetry, became enslaved to the television version of Testament of Youth and went on to read the books. Cried, along with many other fifteen year olds, at Flambards and gulped down Birdsong when it appeared. I remember reading it on a train crossing the very land in which it’s set. An odd and eerie experience.

When I began writing, I wrote novellas. It fitted in with the time available from my day job as a teacher. Percolating away, in the back of my mind, was the basis of the novel that was to become While I Was Waiting. I wrote some rom-coms which were accepted by my current publisher and my writing career, proper, took off. Although I love to read and write rom-coms, I knew there was something else in me.

I began to collect the years of notes, ideas and jottings together. I spent the whole of one summer break reading around the subject of World War 1 but had to stop. I became depressed  but also, in a strange way, numb to the horrors suffered. The casualty and mortality rates were simply too enormous to comprehend.
I often wonder why I want to write about World War 1. I fear I may have a morbid streak! Conflict, emotional crises, tragedy, despair, snatched happiness – all offer huge scope for a historical romance writer. It’s also such an affecting time in history. The Belle Epoque ending in a mud bath of death and misery. 

As Sheila Llewellyn, one of the characters in While I Was Waiting points out, it’s heart-rending to look at photographs of young men in the pre-war years and know what many of them would have to face.
Ah, maybe that morbid streak is surfacing...
While still working full-time, I grabbed every opportunity to add to my pile of research. I visited the Worcestershire Regimental Museum, as it was local to me and liaised with volunteer archivists there. They provided me with detailed accounts of the movements of the First Battalion, which led to a plot line. They also have an astonishingly comprehensive website.
Whenever I went to a National Trust property, I was drawn to anything concerning The Great War. I remember a bedroom preserved just as it was when the son went off as an officer to do his duty, never to return. His belongings, half young boy’s, half military, brought tears. In another, I sat in a drawing room set up as an ‘Experience Room.’ It was as if the three sons of the house had only just left. You could almost smell the brilliantine on their hair and the leather of their boots. Tragically, all three boys died. Their parents never recovered from the grief. This then, was when those unimaginably huge numbers began making a horrible and poignant sense; through the experiences of one or two individuals.
All these things fed into my imagination and the novel began to take shape. It was only when I gave up teaching to write full-time, that I felt I could do justice to the book and its complicated time-line and plot structure.
Surprisingly, the trickiest research concerned the modern story line. For various reasons, I’d set part of the novel during the year 2000. It was only when I wrote in those little details like mobile phone conversations and computer use that I had to rethink some things. The book is set in a remote village in Herefordshire. Only a dial-up computer connection back then and no mobile phone signal. I know, because I moved into a similar village at about the same time! I couldn’t be blasé about television programmes or what was playing on the radio – I had to research whether Big Brother had started and what was in the pop charts. Thank goodness for the internet. I was a little sneaky though and made my heroine a classical music fan. Her sole foray into pop radio resulted in Who Let the Dogs Out blasting from her car stereo. Can’t help thinking that’s a track which deserves to be forgotten! 
The next book is set on the Jurassic Coast and features a modern day boat-builder and a forced Victorian marriage of convenience. More research needed but this time I have the idea plotted out and know beforehand what I need to find out. It’s a slightly easier way to work. It’s also involved a visit to a boat-building school which was great fun. It’s not just the historical details which need researching.

Flora’s story is also calling. She’s the new-money, flighty young neighbour of the Trenchard-Lewis family who feature in While I Was Waiting. I already have a stash of information I can use but I want Flora to become a Suffragette and only have scant knowledge of what they went through. Maybe the first step is to watch the new film just out. Watching two hours of Meryl Streep being Emmeline Pankhurst is going to be fascinating and besides, knowledge is rarely wasted!
Research is hard work. It involves legwork, stamina, brainpower and detective skills. It’s time-consuming and there are few short-cuts but it’s also great fun. Of course, it helps if you already have a passion for the period in history you are studying. The main danger? Getting far too engrossed in the research and not writing the book!

Thank you Georgia, for taking us behind the scenes and talking about your research in such detail

Find Georgia on on her WEBSITE,
and find her books on AMAZON and at HARPERIMPULSE