James Forrester Interview!, Surrey Conference Update, and 90s Blogfest

Long post today:

First there's my interview with author James Forrester!

Then there's an update on the Virtual Surrey Writers' Conference!

And then... the 90s Blogfest (official day tomorrow), hosted by Dave!

All interspersed with a video and a couple of photos. And my ROW80 update.

First up, Sacred Treason:

"It's 1563, and rumors against the young Queen Elizabeth have plunged the country in a state of fear and suspicion. Despite being descended from treasonous Catholic lineage, William Harley has managed to earn the high-ranking position in the queen's court, until a late-night knock on the door changes his life.

"A friend visits William, begging him to hide a puzzling manuscript. It seems harmless, but as William begins to unravel the clues inside, he realizes that he's been entrusted with a dangerous secret about the queen's mother, Anne Boleyn – one that could tear his family, and the country, apart.

"Sacred Treason combines betrayal and romance with accurate historical detail, bringing to life the sights, sounds, thoughts, and fears of sixteenth-century London.

"James Forrester is the pen name of acclaimed British historian Ian Mortimer, author of nonfiction works including The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England (a Sunday Times bestseller) and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society."

Where do you do most of your writing? What do you need to help you write?

At home, in my study. But ideas for fiction regularly strike me when I'm out on a walk. I live in a particularly stunning landscape, Dartmoor, in SW England, so the unspoilt countryside certainly helps my writing.

Which scenes are hardest for you to write?

I don't find any scenes significantly harder to write than any others. I find some more enjoyable than others – I like writing the dialogue of bitter arguments - but that is a different thing.

[Ooh yes, arguments are always exciting. Those and romantic scenes.]

What are the particular challenges of fiction, compared to non-fiction?

Good question. One of the most significant is simultaneous character development. When writing a history book you don't have to develop your characters – the facts of their lives do that for you. In a novel you must have your characters develop alongside each other, and of course they must interact with one other, and the writer has to imagine all this development – completely the opposite to history.

Is it difficult to decide how often to play with the language of the characters, that is, whether to have them use more modern words vs maintaining historical accuracy in their speech?

Historical accuracy in language is impossible. If I started using words like 'budget', 'puke', 'nice', 'cheap', 'slops', 'defecated', 'ecstasy' I would deceive the reader because the vast majority would not know that these words had quite different meanings in the 16th century from their modern ones. 'Budget' was a bag, for example, 'puke' was a bluish colour; 'nice' meant exact or accurate; 'cheap' was a market; 'slops' were items of clothing; 'defecated' meant freed from impurities; 'ecstasy' meant madness.

I would add that most writing from southern England in the 1560s is significantly less intelligible than Shakespeare's language, and I really don't like the faux 'verrily' and 'sirrah' that some writers interject into their dialogue to convince readers they are being authentic. They aren't, they strike me as silly, like a teenage boy using certain words in order to impress his peers.

As far as I can see, my readers are all modern people who don't want me to deceive them in this way. The language we use today has its own poetry and cadences too, and attempts to emulate those from the past often end up destroying the poetry of our own times. So I keep it modern and relatively formal. I do use old slang such as 'God's Wounds' but I don't use modern slang unless it really is unavoidable as we tend not to associate vulgar words with the distant past.

[Very interesting. Especially as I'm reading Turtledove's Ruled Britannia at the moment and I find it odd how far he goes to try to make his characters sound authentically Elizabethan. At times it feels over-the-top. More importantly, though, the deeper into the book one goes, the more obvious it becomes that only the English characters in the book are speaking in 'Elizabethan' - the dialogue of all the Spanish characters is written in modern English, rather than 16th Century Spanish-accented phrases. So the author's device becomes evident, and pulls the reader out of the story.]

Who is your favourite author? Who inspired you to write fiction?

My favourite author is Shakespeare. As a boy I loved the King Arthur stories, Robin Hood stories, Tolkien's Hobbit, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. My favourite historical fiction writers are Robert Graves and Mary Renault, plus James Clavell's Shogun (which deeply influenced me as a 15-year-old) and Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, which knocked me for six when I read it at nineteen. Pasternak has inspired me as a poet and as a novelist; but Shakespeare has too.

[Must read Pasternak. I love Tolkien and Graves!]

Who is your favourite literary character not your own?


Rebecca seems like one of those characters that almost take the story into their own hands; did you foresee how close she and Clarenceaux would become? (I was surprised by how freely they undressed before each other, in front of Julius no less!)

The idea for Rebecca came from two women I know. There were emotions involved. Yes, she did take over the novel somewhat, but I was prepared for that, and was happy to let her character lead me astray. As for the undressing, the number of woodcuts showing men and women bathing together in the mid-16th century, with attendants around them, inspired that scene.

[Oh, now that's interesting! So many possibilities there...]

Is Clarenceaux's revelation about Lord Percy's accounts (during the time of Elizabeth's conception) historical fact?

No. Lord Percy's accounts do not survive for 1533 (as far as I know). But the whereabouts of the king and queen leave no room for doubt that Elizabeth I was her father's daughter. So if the accounts of Lord Percy did survive, they would state that Percy was not with Anne Boleyn at the time of Elizabeth's conception, as I state in the book.

Thank you for coming by!

Thanks for asking me. I hope you enjoyed the book. Two more volumes of the trilogy yet to come!

The second installment, The Roots of Betrayal, will be published in May 2013; I can't wait to see more of these characters' adventures! I was also interested in the name changes of historical characters, and found an explanation on Forrester's website. He's also written a short piece on How To Be An Elizabethan Woman. Hope you all enjoyed the interview!

Autumn in Montreal, by Agnieszka

The Virtual Surrey Writers' Conference is coming on Friday! Here's an update on the schedule (all times EST):

Friday, 19 October
8 to 9.30 am – Roll Call on the Compuserve Forum

9:30 am to 5 pm – Writers' Workshops. Today's topics are:

   9.30 am – Who's Attending SIWC (the real one, in Surrey, British Columbia)? Writing examples and discussion, showcasing the authors who are presenting at this year's SIWC, including Diana Gabaldon, Linda Gerber, Chris (CC) Humphreys, Donald Maass, Jack Whyte, Sam Sykes, and kc dyer

   11.30 am – Author-led Workshop, featuring Kait Nolan

   1.30 pm – Adventures in POV, featuring samples from Christopher Brookmyre, Diana Gabaldon, and J.K. Rowling

   3.30 pm – The Doctor Is In: Troubleshooting Problems

Night Owl Session: Virtual Surrey is, of necessity, an all-night-owl event, as participants are joining from many different time zones.

Saturday, 20 October
9 am to 5 pm – Writers' Workshops. Today's topics are:

   9 am – Author-led Workshop, featuring Talli Roland

   11 am – Grammar Time

   1 pm – Technical Topics with Joanna Bourne

   3 pm – Blue Pencil: Share Your Blurbs for Critiques

5:30 pm – Book Fair and Giveaway!

9 pm – Movie night! Discuss your favourite adapted novels and screenplays.

Sunday, 21 October
8:30 am – Trade show: Free-for-all Marketing. Talk up your book!

9 am to 12 pm – Writers' Workshops. Today's topics are:

9 am – Genre and Voice

10.30 am – National Novel Writing Month Survival Tips and Hints

12 pm – farewell; there'll be a wrap up session in the next day or two to discuss what worked and what didn't, and to hear stories from those who participated in the real Surrey.

Hope you'll all come by!

The Nineties Blogfest Starts Tomorrow!

All you have to do is post a favourite something for each year from 1990 to 1999. Having done an all-book A to Z Challenge this past April, I've decided to focus on some of my favourite bands for this blogfest:

1990 I was young in 1990, so I missed the slow growth of grunge. But later, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, and so on, became some of my favourite bands. I remember a friend taping Pearl Jam's Ten for me, and drawing a pretty cover for the cassette case. My CD of Alice in Chains' Jar of Flies had something spilled on it, I don't know what, but it had the loveliest woodsy smell. Strange, but true. I'd take a sniff every time I was putting the CD in the stereo.

1991 Round about here I discovered the classic rock station on the radio, which started years of loving Led Zeppelin, Rush, all that. But at some point a law was passed requiring a minimum amount of Canadian Content on the radio so, besides Rush, we also listened to lots of Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, Lawrence Gowan, and Blue Rodeo. Blue Rodeo have released a new mix of one of their singles, Try, for their 25th anniversary!

1992 U2. Achtung Baby. My first concert ever. I must have watched the Rattle and Hum documentary (on VHS!) a hundred times, at my equally-obsessed friend's house.

1993 The first three bands I discovered on my own, rather than learning about music from my parents, were U2, Bryan Adams, and Roxette. I finally got to see Roxette live this past summer, after 20 years. Someday I hope I can catch a Gyllene Tider reunion.

1994 Love Spreads, the first single off The Stone Roses' Second Coming, is released. I fall in love. They only have two albums, and a collection of b-sides, and I listen to all the songs over and over non-stop. Right around this time I was on the internet for the first time, and The Stone Roses mailing list was one of the first that I joined. I also scribbled their name in chalk on the side of the stone wall of my grandmother's summer place - and two Mancunians on holiday saw it while walking past, and we became pen pals for a while.

1995 Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers disappeared in February of this year. Meanwhile, 2012 sees the 20th anniversary rerelease of their debut album Generation Terrorists, with never before heard extra songs and demos. Can't wait! I wish they would come to Montreal some day.

1996 The height of Britpop. All my favourites, Oasis, Pulp, Marion, the Bluetones, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Super Furry Animals (I started trying to learn Welsh), Gene, and so on and on. I remember meeting the Charlatans round the back, by their tour bus, except Tim Burgess wasn't around... I did a lot of taping interviews and live clips off TV and the radio, back when there was no YouTube to find whatever video you wanted.

1997 Speaking of Canadian bands, I loved The Tea Party's first album so much that round about this year, while listening to it for the umpteenth time, I wrote a short vignette based on a character named Elaine, with one paragraph for each song title.

1998 The first Crowded House song I ever heard was Distant Sun. Later on, Pineapple Head was my favourite for a while. Even later, I loved Neil Finn's solo album Try Whistling This, which was released in this year.

1999 The Divine Comedy's Fin de Siecle was technically released in mid-1998, but it celebrated the end of the century in a glorious mix of rock and orchestration. Going Downhill Fast and Tonight We Fly still make me feel like dancing, and I never willingly dance.

What do you remember loving in the 90s?

My friend Holly, all dressed up and looking sort of like Ayşegül, the heroine of At Summer's End,

As for ROW80, I've been doing well typing up scenes from Druid's Moon. I've got about 10,000 words left, and then the story will be between 30 and 40,000 words in total. A novella! That was unexpected. But I hope, if I can hit the right word count, to submit to The Wild Rose Press.

Ending this long post with a new band...
Heart Beats Harder by Whisky Trench Riders

Hope everyone has a great week!


S.P. Bowers said…
I'm excited for Virtual Surrey! I'll check in as often as I can around the kids schedule!

I love, love love, what Forrester said about historical accuracy in language. I've seen a lot of books that throw in awkward phrasing and crazy words to make it seem legit and it just ends up being hard to read.
Nas said…
Hi Deniz,

Lovely reading all the '90s. I discovered U2 all on my own too!
Unknown said…
Looking forward to Virtual Surrey! Hope I'll be able to stop by frequently and participate--I still have my notes from last year I can share.
Dave said…
Great interview. There's another real Surrey in British Britain as well.

Started to learn Welsh, eh? That's commitment.

Thanks for taking part.

Dave Wrote This
Anonymous said…
I love 1993. Great to discover music on your own. U2 is greatness.
nutschell said…
Great interview! Oh yeah, and I love Bryan Adams too!

Deniz Bevan said…
Yay! Looking forward to it, Sara and Lara! At least we can be at Surrey in spirit.

I'd love to see them live again, Nas and sydney!

Just gotta visit everyone else now, Dave. What a fun idea for a blogfest! Ha ha on the Surrey thing. If the writers' conference was in Surrey, UK I'd make more of an effort to go!

Thanks, nutschell!
Dani said…
STP is one of the BEST 90's bands!
wow that's a lot in one post! hehehe
Great interview. I particularly liked the thoughts on historical accuracy in language.
Anonymous said…
You have fantastic taste in music. :)

James has a great cover. I also love Shakespeare, but he was an acquired taste for me. I had to take a few college classes to understand his writing.
Susan Fields said…
Fascinating interview - that book sounds wonderful!
Talli Roland said…
Distant Sun brings back so many memories!

Looking forward to the virtual conference.
Can't ever stop liking Rush. It's just not allowed. Fan cards cannot be returned.
Yes, I am a die hard fan!
Anonymous said…
I think we need more of an explanation as to why Hamlet is your favorite literary character. I would have guessed Shadow.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Linda, Medeia and Susan!

Looking forward to your joining us for the conference, Talli!

Me too, Alex!

Good question, Joshua!