Hi Elaine, and welcome to Adventures in Authorland. Please tell us a little about your adventure.
What inspired you to write your first book?
To see if I could! I’d written plays at school, wrote professional documents like policies (yawn) at work, and tried my hand at short stories. Then I’d reached the ripe old age of 37, was moaning to my husband one day about how I’d never got anywhere with writing, how I could probably write a book. His advice? “So go and do it, then.” How irritating is that? So I borrowed a second hand computer, sat down and wrote a 150,000 word novel in nine months. And yes, you have read that word count correctly. And, no, it will never see the light of day. It was dreadfully, spectacularly bad. But I did it- I wrote a book! Writing it taught me a hugely valuable lesson: that writing is a craft like any other. So I went off and set about learning my craft.
In which genre do you prefer to write and why?
I love to read thrillers…and I love to read historicals. I follow the advice (and it’s good advice) of write what you read. The Fifth Knight is just that: it’s a medieval historical thriller. I know some publishers get very jumpy about books that cross genres. But the fact that The Fifth Knight made #1 in Action & Adventure and #1 in Historical on Amazon.com tells me that readers are just fine with that!
Can you give us some details about your upcoming release/s?
The Fifth Knight is currently on release. It’s a thriller based on the infamous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. History records there were four knights who carried out the murder. My ‘What if?’ includes a fifth: Sir Benedict Palmer. It also includes a different focus for the knights’ quest. Not Becket himself, but a young nun, Theodosia Bertrand, hidden in the walls of the cathedral.
I’m currently working on the sequel, called The Blood of The Fifth Knight. Rebellion is in the air and Palmer is called on once again by King Henry II.
Do you hear from readers much? What kind of things do they say?
I’m delighted to say that I’ve received a whole pile of e-mails from readers who have enjoyed The Fifth Knight. They’ve said things like: ‘Yours is the best kind of novel, one where the reader feels a certain sadness in reaching the conclusion, because we must leave these characters that we have become so attached to. I am sure I will come back to read this book again and again.’ and ‘I had started your book and thought I would finish by the time I had gone to bed last night. I was restless thinking about it, and woke at 2:30 am to pick it up again. Just finished it, and I am a confirmed fan of yours.’ E-mails like that just make my day, not only for how lovely they are about my work, but also the fact that someone has taken time out to send them.
[I have to say this particular story has always fascinated me. Jean ]
What historical person would you want to meet and why?
I would love to meet Thomas Becket. I’d love to ask him about that terrible night in the cathedral, when armed men broke in and murdered him on his own altar. I’d ask him how he had the courage to face them and not turn and run, hide, call others to his defence.
Do you have any advice for new writers beginning their adventure?
Don’t give up because somebody says ‘No.’ It took me eleven years and hundreds of ‘No’s’ before I got a ‘Yes.’ That yes was from my wonderful and tireless agent, Josh Getzler at HSG. He got the ‘Yes’ from my equally wonderful publishers, Thomas & Mercer. And guess what, with all those people who said ‘No’? They were right. I still had to keep working on my craft- and still do.
To escape a lifetime of poverty, mercenary Sir Benedict Palmer agrees to one final, lucrative job: help King Henry II’s knights seize the traitor Archbishop Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. But what begins as a clandestine arrest ends in cold-blooded murder. And when Fitzurse, the knights’ ringleader, kidnaps Theodosia, a beautiful young nun who witnessed the crime, Palmer can sit silently by no longer. For not only is Theodosia’s virtue at stake, so too is the secret she unknowingly carries—a secret he knows Fitzurse will torture out of her.
Now Palmer and Theodosia are on the run, strangers from different worlds forced to rely only on each other as they race to uncover the hidden motive behind Becket’s grisly murder—and the shocking truth that could destroy a kingdom.
EXCERPT- from Chapter 2, as the knights approach Canterbury:
“How much longer till we get there?” Palmer asked le Bret, the driver of their small tarpaulin-covered cart.
Ahead, down a long, straight featureless highway, with winter-empty ploughed fields on either side, lay the town of Canterbury. The storms of two days ago had been replaced by clear skies and ice on the air, making easier progress along the mud-churned road. Plumes of grayish white smoke rose from hundreds of hearths and hung above the distant roofs, shrouding the cathedral’s huge towers.
Le Bret shrugged. “Hour. Two, maybe.”
“Good,” said Palmer. “My backside’s sick of this seat.” He shifted to stretch his deadened legs and nodded to where the other three knights led the way on horseback. “I’d rather ride any day. Keeps you moving. And warm.” He pulled his thick woolen neckerchief tighter to keep the afternoon’s deepening chill at bay.
Le Bret shrugged again. “Need the cart. Fitzurse says so.”
Palmer shook his head to himself. Le Bret didn’t know much.
“You there!” De Tracy’s shout carried across the frozen fields. “Make haste and stand aside.”
Palmer leaned to one side to see past his mounted companions. Shortly ahead on the roadway on the left side were two men, ragged laborers mending a wide gap in the hedge by laying new pleachers. Piles of dead branches and shorn evergreens spilled partly on to the road. Both men looked up at the order and dropped their billhooks at once. They bent to scoop the trimmings back up onto the ditch, scrabbling low in their haste.
As the knights on horseback went past, the men snatched their coarse dark woolen caps off and bowed their heads.
Palmer’s rumbling cart drew level. One of the ragged men risked a glance up, then dropped his gaze abruptly again.
“ Sorry sirs,” he muttered, eyes fixed low on the muddy wheels
Neither Palmer nor le Bret acknowledged him.
“Stupid peasant,” said le Bret as they carried on.
Palmer glanced back around the canvas cover. The men had replaced their hats and were re-ordering their work, gesturing angrily to each other. He faced forward again. “He should have better manners. But they’ve a job to do with that hedge.”
Le Bret smirked. “You a clod-grubber, Palmer?"
“Better that than the son of a gargoyle and a whore. Go grab yourself, le Bret.” But Palmer was born a clod-grubber, with no land, no money. He’d hedged, ditched, picked stones from behind a plough, pitching them into a basket on his back until his five year old knees would near give way. Unblocked privies, carried hay on his shoulders. Always following behind his weak, meek father, trying to earn enough to feed them as well as his mother and his sisters. And never succeeding. Like the men on the side of the road, he’d lived in rags, feet numb and frost-bitten in split, useless tatters of boots. He too had snatched off his cap a thousand times to his betters.
Palmer took a last look back at the two men bent low at their back-breaking task. There would come a day when they couldn’t do it anymore, when illness or old age or a slipped billhook would rob them of their pitiful livelihood. He settled himself onto the hard seat again. He wouldn’t have to face that fate, not any more. Once he’d finished his work for Fitzurse, he’d never know poverty again.