– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Children’s Fate’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
CAROLYN HUGHES was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After completing a degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. 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 writing historical fiction took centre stage in her life. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
Children’s Fate is the fourth novel in the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series. A fifth novel is under way.
You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and social media.
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How can a mother just stand by when her daughter is being cozened into sin?
It’s 1360, eleven years since the Black Death devastated all of England, and six years since Emma Ward fled Meonbridge with her children, to find a more prosperous life in Winchester. Long satisfied that she’d made the right decision, Emma is now terrified that she was wrong. For she’s convinced her daughter Bea is in grave danger, being exploited by her scheming and immoral mistress.
Bea herself is confused: fearful and ashamed of her sudden descent into sin, but also thrilled by her wealthy and attentive client.
When Emma resolves to rescue Bea from ruin and tricks her into returning to Meonbridge, Bea doesn’t at first suspect her mother’s motives. She is happy to renew her former friendships but, yearning for her rich lover, Bea soon absconds back to the city. Yet, only months later, plague is stalking Winchester again and, in terror, Bea flees once more to Meonbridge.
But, this time, she finds herself unwelcome, and fear, hostility and hatred threaten…
Terror, betrayal and deceit, but also love and courage, in a time of continuing change and challenge – Children’s Fate, the fourth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Hello, I’m Carolyn and I write historical fiction. (Sounds like a meeting for Writers Anonymous!) I’ve been writing all my adult life, but have come to publication only relatively recently when I am, alas, quite old…
I was born in London, but have lived most of my life in Hampshire. After a first degree in Classics and English, I became a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but I left to become a school careers officer in Dorset. But it was when I discovered technical authoring that I knew I’d found my vocation. I 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.
Although I’ve written creatively on and off all my adult life, for years work and family were always my main focus, and it wasn’t until the children flew the nest that I realised writing could take centre stage. Even then, although I’d written several short stories, and one and a half contemporary women’s novels, my writing was rather ad hoc, and my tentative attempts to approach agents met only with rejection.
I took a few short writing courses at local colleges but then, in 2009, thinking a Masters degree in Creative Writing might give my writing more substance, I enrolled at Portsmouth University. It worked! I wrote the historical novel that became Fortune’s Wheel, set in 14th century Hampshire. I enjoyed being back at university so much I then read for a PhD at the University of Southampton, and the result was another historical novel set in the 14th century, The Nature of Things. By then, the historical fiction bug had bitten me, and I realised there were many more stories to tell about the world I’d created for Fortune’s Wheel, and the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series was born. I have now written four CHRONICLES: Fortune’s Wheel, A Woman’s Lot, De Bohun’s Destiny, and Children’s Fate. I am currently writing the fifth book in the series.
I am, by the way, self-published, under my own imprint, Riverdown Books.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I think I read all sorts of books when I was a child but it’s rather too long ago to remember. As an adult, I used to read lots of “women’s fiction” and “literary fiction” but, these days, although I do read historical fiction, and I also enjoy psychological thrillers, my favourite reads are definitely British crime novels, such as those by Anne Cleeves, M.W. Craven, Elly Griffiths and Angela Marsons.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
To be honest I can’t think of anyone. But I will mention Ann Swinfen, another writer of historical fiction – among them two series, the Oxford Medieval Mysteries and The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez – who was a good friend of mine, and the person who convinced me that I could also be a writer and be published. Sadly, Ann died two years ago, and is greatly missed by all her loyal readers. But for me, I doubt I would have embarked on my journey to publication without her wise advice.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
It would be interesting to invite one of my characters for “tea”, as she’d be highly baffled by what she was drinking! Especially when she discovered the leaves for the tea were grown and harvested thousands of miles away on the other side of the Earth. I wonder what she’d make of that? Anyway, I suppose the one of my own characters I’d like to chat to would be Alice atte Wode, the “matriarch” of Meonbridge, simply to try and understand what it was really like to live in 14th century Hampshire. Although she’s illiterate – she’s a peasant – she has a wealth of experience about so many aspects of village life and I feel she could give me real insight into the behaviours and mores of the time. How fascinating that would be…
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
No! I’m not a terribly disciplined writer so, when I feel the “writing itch” coming on, I simply switch on my laptop and write wherever the opportunity presents itself, in my office, or on the kitchen table, or on my lap in a comfy chair. That applies whether I’m writing novel chapters or a blog post, or editing a draft, or engaging in social media. Though sometimes I do just write in pencil on a paper pad, especially when I’m at the early stages of a novel, outlining or initial drafting. What I do do is drink tea almost all the time, mostly decaf. But really I don’t have any particular routine…
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
I really don’t know, which everybody says, I’m sure! With Fortune’s Wheel, the original spark came from the draft of a novel I’d scribbled in my twenties (I never throw anything away…). That draft wasn’t much good, but the setting (rural Hampshire) and period (14th century) appealed to me. Research soon suggested that the 14th century had a rich social history, and I thought the period after the Black Death might be interesting. So I had a timeframe, a setting and a context… The original main 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 each of the sequels, I’ve had a think about which characters I want to “narrate” the story – and whether I need any new characters – and then I develop storylines that are pertinent to those characters. In the latest book, Children’s Fate, history also played a part, with the storyline turning at least partly on the return of the Black Death. The truth is that characters and plots do just sort of evolve, seemingly without all that much input from me… How weird is that?!
And, no, no one need be worried by my creations because none of my characters are based on anyone I know.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I’m basically a “planner” and not a “pantster”, or rather a bit of both. I couldn’t write a book without having some idea of its structure and broad content. Once I have a broad concept for a 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 book’s ending is usually fairly vague at this stage, but I will have some idea of what will happen.
At the same time as the “plotting”, because my stories are very much character-focused, I have to clarify in my mind the motivations, anxieties and transformations of my characters. Of course, when you write in series, by the time you’re on to book 4 you know your characters quite well. However, the whole point of a story arc is to have your central characters change or develop in some way as a result of the events you put them through, so it’s important to revisit your understanding of “who they are”.
The third thing I have to do is research any story threads I don’t know enough about. Because Children’s Fate is the fourth set in a “world” I’m already familiar with, I don’t have to research everything from scratch but there is always something I don’t know…
Anyway, once I feel I sufficiently understand 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.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Just write! You have to practise, practise, practise, to learn how to plot, how to draw engaging characters, how to write convincing dialogue. To hone your writing skill. Writing makes you a better writer, though not of course if you are not self-critical or unwilling to accept criticism from other people. So write, and somehow get your work in front of other people, by which I don’t mean agents and publishers but other writers and readers, who will give you an honest opinion. And, talking of readers, you must also read yourself. Lots! So you can learn what works and what doesn’t, and then emulate the best techniques yourself.
What are your future plans as an author?
I am currently writing book 5 in the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series. I know there will be a sixth book, and possibly a seventh. That might then be the end of the CHRONICLES but we’ll see…
I have another completed novel, which I wrote for my PhD in Creative Writing. It’s called The Nature of Things and is again set in the 14th century. The book is structured as seven novellas, spanning the entire century, and history drives the plot to a greater degree than it does in any of the CHRONICLES. For example, the poverty and famine of the early 1300s and King Edward I’s concerns about public disorder are significant to the first novella. The appalling weather and resulting famine are key to the second. However, although it is complete, the book does need some work so I’m editing it alongside writing the next CHRONICLE, and I’d like to think it might possibly be published next year…
I also have an idea for a new series set in the 14th century, called provisionally MEDIEVAL HEIRESSES, following the lives of women who, for the lack of a male heir in the family, inherited their father’s estates or business interests. I have three novels in mind, with the main characters based on real women. So, I have plenty to keep me busy!
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
A snippet from Children’s Fate…
When Bea awoke, it was still dark. She strained her eyes to see, but was certain the sky beyond the shutters was showing no sign of brightening. She often woke before dawn and, rarely able to find sleep again, she’d lie still, listening to the snorts and snuffles of the other girls, and waiting for the church bell to ring Prime. Yet, only moments passed before she realised this was not her bed. It was much softer than the one she was accustomed to, and much larger. As she gradually regained her wits, she knew she was still in the house of Master Marchaunt. Indeed, she must be in his bed, for she sensed the bulk of someone lying next to her, and the snuffling was not that of a maid.
In the dark and silence, she could hear her heartbeat throbbing in her ears, and a dizziness dulled her senses. She shook her head to clear it, and tried to remember what had happened, how she’d got here. Yet she couldn’t. Of course, she knew what must have happened, but could recall neither when nor how she’d left the warmth of the hall downstairs and come up to the bedchamber, nor anything of events between that moment and this.
It occurred to her she should feel both frightened and ashamed, yet somehow she felt neither. She remembered Master Marchaunt talking to her earlier in the evening, enjoying their conversation. He’d wanted her to stay. What’s more, despite her protests, she’d wanted to…
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Carolyn Hughes.
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