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Friday, October 23, 2009

Helen Hollick Interview

Pendragon's Banner: Book Two of the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy

Tell us a bit about yourself and your books.

I live in N.E, London UK (very near to where the 2012 Olympic Stadium is to be built)  with my husband Ron, and adult daughter, Kathy. And a dog and two cats! My first job was a library assistant, which I didn’t like much, but it was nice having access to all those books! I went on to become an Information Officer for our local Council, then became a full-time Mum. I was a librarian in a Special Needs School for a while, but my main occupation is writing. I started writing stories when I was about 13 – but became a “professional” published author when I was accepted by William Heinemann (Random House UK) a week after my 40th birthday. That was 16 years ago – I’ll leave you to do the math of how old I am now!

The Kingmaking, first of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy was my first novel – I am so thrilled that the books are now re-published in the USA & Canada! Following the Trilogy I wrote Harold the King, the story of 1066 and the Battle of Hastings, then A Hollow Crown (which chronologically in history should have come before Harold). Recently I have embarked on something a little more light-hearted, an adventure-fantasy pirate-based series - Sea Witch being the first in the series, with Pirate Code and Bring It Close as voyages two and three. These are a sort of mixture of Indiana Jones/Pirates of the Caribbean/Hornblower meets Sharpe!.

How much research went into writing this series?

I take my research very seriously – even for my adventure-fantasy series I do a lot of research regarding the historical fact & nautical accuracy. For the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy I spent a lot of time delving into the early tales of King Arthur, finding out about later Roman armour and fighting methods etc. I believe it is the small details of things that bring a book alive, so some of my research was aimed at subjects I know about – horses. I also studied the landscape of the time, buildings, towns etc – if it is in the book I researched it!

What was the most difficult part of writing this series?

The final scene in Shadow of the King. Arthur had to die – and I could not kill him off!” In the end, I wrote that scene first then went back to the beginning to write the rest of the story. Some of the sad scenes in Pendragon’s Banner were also very hard to write. You’ll come across them (keep tissues handy!) so you’ll see what I mean!

I have never read a book about King Arthur where the fairy tale aspect was removed. What inspired you to write the non-fairy tale King Arthur?

I have never particularly liked the magical fantasy stories of Arthur (although I did like Mary Stewart’s novels, and I love the TV movie Merlin, starring Sam Neal..) The stories of the Knights of the Round Table did nothing for me though – perhaps because they never seemed “real”? So I set out, right from the start, to write the “what might have really happened” version – setting Arthur firmly in the 450-550 A.D., period and not using any myth, magic or fantasy – not even Merlin.

What are some of your favorite historical fiction authors and books?

Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick, and new UK author, Jo Field who writes about the English Civil War, she is one to keep an eye on.

Quick Fire Questions:

Can I have three answers for each? Of course.

My favorite book is: Mark of the Horse Lord, Rosemary Sutcliff: Here Be Dragons, Sharon Penman: Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey

Of my own books – Sea Witch because I put a lot of love into it and I adore my pirate, Jesamiah Acorne, and The Kingmaking because it was my first.

My favorite movie is: Master & Commander; Last of the Mohicans; Pirates of the Caribbean – Curse of the Black Pearl

The author who influences me the most is: Rosemary Sutcliff, Sharon Penman, Daphne du Maurer

If I received a free trip to anywhere in the world where would I visit: Anywhere in the far north so I can see the Aurora Borealis; I’d love to sail across the Atlantic in a Tall Ship – and Cornwall, England

My favorite historical time period is: Roman Britain, Saxon England, the Golden Age of Piracy (early 1700’s)

If a genie granted me three wishes, I would wish: 1. to have my short-sightedness seen to. I also have a cataract forming and I find it difficult to read small print sometimes. 2. To have a cook – I hate cooking; and 3. for my daughter to achieve her dream, as I have. (I wanted to write a book – she is a horsewoman and dearly wants to be chosen as a member of an English Team. One day Kathy….)

Thanks so much for sending me the book and allowing me to do this interview.

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