Book Corner: Sharon talks to Matthew Harffy

AD 636. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the fourth instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.

When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.

In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill?

It is my pleasure, today, to welcome Matthew Harffy back to the blog, opening his Blog Tour for the release of the latest instalment in the Bernicia Chronicles series, Killer of Kings.

Hi Matthew, thank you so much for agreeing to another interview. The last time we chatted you had just released your second novel in the Bernicia Chronicles, The Cross and the Curse, and now you’re about to release the fourth in the series, Killer of Kings.  What an amazing achievement. Congratulations!

Thank you! And thank you for having me on your blog again, it’s great to be back!

It’s great  to have you back, Matthew. I love the Bernicia Chronicles, such wonderful stories. And so, I was wondering;

Are you still enjoying the writing process? Do you still get that buzz when you type ‘The End’?

I get a real buzz out of typing “the end”, but I think that’s more due to relief than enjoyment! I do still enjoy writing, but the more readers I have, the more I question whether what I’m writing is any good! That’s not a bad problem to have, but it does mean that the writing process is slightly more stressful than it was before anybody was reading my stuff.

How have you changed your writing routine since publishing your first novel?

When I wrote my first novel, THE SERPENT SWORD, I did most of it in small windows of opportunity whilst my daughters were in clubs, such as dancing or Tae Kwon Do. I still write in small windows of opportunity that come along, but I also have set aside one whole day for writing each week. That makes it easier to make progress more quickly than before.

How many more stories of Beobrand can we expect to enjoy?

Well, I am writing book 5 at the moment, entitled Warrior of Woden. After that, I have at least one more novel contracted with Aria. After book 6, who knows what I’ll write?

Do you have a story outline for the whole series of books, or do you just go where the story leads you?

I do have a general outline for the whole series, but it isn’t broken down to the level of each book. That means I have an idea of where Beobrand will end up at the end of his life, and I know some of the events that he will be involved in, but I don’t have all the details until I get to the next book in the series. It also means I don’t know exactly how many books there will be in the series, but there are definitely more than six, if people keep buying them.

How meticulously is each book planned before you start writing?

I think it would be stretching things to say that I plan each book meticulously! I read around the subjects and events that are going to be touched upon, and come up with a basic timeline and then break that down into a very rough chapter outline. At that point, I usually just start writing and things begin to fall into place. As the book goes on, I add more and more detail to the synopsis and the plan until, by the time I reached the last quarter, I actually know what it is I’m writing about!

As a Bernard Cornwell fan writing about Northumbria, are you not tempted to introduce a character named Uhtred?

I have thought about it! However, as my books are set hundreds of years before Bernard Cornwell’s, I think it is more likely that Beobrand is one of Uhtred’s ancestors!

I loved the short story, ‘Kin of Cain’, about Beobrand’s brother, Octa; how did you come up with the idea of using the Beowulf story?

Thank you, I really enjoyed writing it too. The seed of the idea actually came from a reader who asked me whether Hrunting in the Bernicia Chronicles was the famous sword from the Beowulf story. The question made me think, and in the end the story told itself.

Will we see more stories about Octa, maybe a prequel to the Bernicia Chronicles?

I haven’t got anything else planned with Octa, but you never know. If I can think of any other good ideas, I’m tempted to write some more novellas, as I really enjoyed being able to write a whole story in such a short space of time.

Who is the best character you have created, which are you most proud of?

I really don’t know. That’s like asking a parent who is your favourite child! I think the most memorable of the characters I have created is probably Hengist. He is truly evil and does horrible things, but I imagined him as someone who had suffered terribly and witnessed so many atrocities of war that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. There is some debate as to whether soldiers suffered from PTSD in the time when warfare was waged with swords and shields, but I think it is likely that certain warriors would have been affected by particularly traumatic events.

How do you come up with the ideas for characters? Are they ever someone you know, or pure imagination?

They’re mostly purely imagination. But where does inspiration and imagination come from, if not from everything we have seen and done in our lives? Therefore I am sure that there are many traits exhibited by my characters which actually come from me or from people I know. I am also sure that some of my characters were inspired by fictional characters in other authors’ books.

What is the most significant thing you have learned that made you a better writer?

To trust myself and to write stories that I would enjoy reading. It is impossible to write novels that everybody will enjoy, but if you as the writer enjoy reading the finished product, you can be sure there will be a lot of people who will agree with you.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to write their first novel?

Don’t overthink it. The only way to write a novel is to actually write it. Behind every published author is an amateur writer who didn’t give up and who finished their novel. Nobody is going to publish an unwritten book.

After Beobrand, do you have other projects in the pipeline?

I have got a couple of ideas that I’ve been mulling over, but nothing that I can talk about yet. If I actually write them, it probably won’t be for a couple of years yet anyway.

Is there any historic era or topic that you would dearly love to write about?

I would love to write a western.

Have you ever thought of writing non-fiction, if so what would you write about?

I have written scientific papers and manuals for computer software, so I have written non-fiction. However, I haven’t considered writing any non-fiction for publication beyond that. Perhaps one day, but I’m not sure it would be about history, as I would be too scared of getting things wrong! It’s bad enough when you do it in a novel!

Thank you so much for answering my questions Matthew – it’s always great to welcome you to the blog. Good luck with Killer of Kings – I wish you every success.

Thank you very much, Sharon, and best of luck with your own book that I know is coming out at the end of the year. Thank you.

About the author: Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Killer of Kings, Book 4 in the Bernicia Chronicles, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, ibooks and Google Play.

Follow Matthew: Website: www.matthewharffy.com; Twitter: @MatthewHarffy; Facebook: MatthewHarffyAuthor

Follow Aria: Website: www.ariafiction.com; Facebook: @ariafiction; Twitter: @aria_fiction; Instagram: @ariafiction; NetGalley: http://bit.ly/2lkKB0e. Sign up to the Aria newsletter: http://bit.ly/2jQxVtV

Follow the rest of the Blog Tour: 6th June; 7th June; 8th June; 9th June; 10th June; 11th June; 12th June.

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: Interview with Kristie Dean

12791083_736187379851237_1299001826319792577_nThis week I have the great pleasure of starting off Kristie Dean’s Blog Tour, in honour of the launch of her new book, On the Trail of the Yorks.

Just a year ago she published the book, The World of Richard III and on Monday her latest offering, On the Trail of the Yorks goes on sale in the UK. Kristie’s books are a unique and fascinating blend of history and travel writing; they bring to life the castles, palaces and other locations  associated with one of the ,most famous kings – and families – in British history.

Here, she talks to me about her love of history and writing.

What made you become a writer?
When I was a little girl I would spend my time creating stories for the other kids. I also wrote and distributed a neighborhood newspaper. I was always writing – poems, short stories, and even reports. I wrote a research paper for my 7th grade teacher and she later talked to my parents, telling them I was pushing myself too hard. It wasn’t that; I just couldn’t stand a blank page, and so I was always looking for new ways of writing.

With a career as a teacher, how do you discipline yourself to write?
When I am working on a book, writing consumes my life. I come home from work and write for three or four hours plus I write all day Saturday and most of Sunday. If I have a school event or my husband convinces me to go out, I take that evening off. I take a week off every May to take my students to Washington DC, although I do take research materials to read on the bus. I also am a mentor teacher at my school, so that takes a chunk of time. But, just like writing and teaching, it is worthwhile and enjoyable.

How do you organise your writing day?
At 5 p.m., I get home and write until at least 8 p.m. On weekends, I am researching/writing by 9 a.m. and usually going until 5 p.m. If I am writing about a certain location and I am in a ‘zone’ I will often continue until I am done.

Kristie
Kristie Dean

How many projects do you have going at once, or do you concentrate on one at a time?
With my time constraints, I usually have one or two in the back of my mind, but I only work on one at a time. I would love to be able to work on two or three projects at a time. Authors who are able to do this amaze me.

Your books are quite unique, a combination of history and historical locations, what made you decide to write them this way?
I traveled to Europe several times and always ended up frustrated with my guidebooks. I ended up making my own guides to each location for myself and fellow travelers to reach deeper in the history. Since I was particularly fascinated with the Plantagenets (especially Richard III) and Anne Boleyn, I was frustrated there weren’t any guides to places associated with them. Then a member of a history group I am in wrote an excellent guide for Anne Boleyn. This helped me to realize that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to explore the history of a location, so I decided to start with the historical figure I was most interested in, which was Richard III.

How long do you spend researching your book before you start writing?
This is a tough one to answer since it varies. I already had a great deal of information on Richard III and the Wars of the Roses, so much of my research involved the locations associated with him. However, I have been researching for a fiction book for years. Whether it ever sees the light of day is a different story.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love getting to delve into the lives of historic figures and locations. I also like visiting each place to get a feel for it. I enjoy trying to make history come alive for my readers.

What is the worst thing about writing?
The long hours of solitude. It can get lonely, and when I am up against a deadline I do not have time to go out with friends.

How long does it take to do a project from start to finish?
About a year. It depends on the book and how much research I’ve done prior. It also depends on where the research takes me. I became interested in Margaret of York while writing my latest book and spent several hours researching information that I did not even need for the book.

Have you ever considered writing a novel? What would it be about?
(Laughs) Oh yes, I have. It would be a thriller, I think. I love reading those types of novels. I might eventually do an historic fiction novel, too.

Who are your favourite personalities from history?
Oh my. It would be easier to answer who doesn’t interest me, but I will give it a try. Richard III, obviously. Anne Boleyn, All the Plantagenet queens, St Margaret, Margaret of York, Cecily Neville, Anne Neville, Llywelyn Fawr, and several lesser known women from history. From a more modern time, Winston Churchill intrigues me.

What are your favourite places from history?1422626_729589277177714_706482969626694562_n
All of England, Scotland, and Wales. I feel like the area is a second home for me. I love traveling and exploring each region. Middleham Castle is one of my favourites, as well as Llanrhychwyn Church, which is believed to be the oldest church in Wales. This little church is a gem, said to have been built by Llywelyn Fawr for his wife, Joan. I had a difficult time finding it, but Sharon Kay Penman helped me by putting me in touch with someone who lived in the area. Pam took me straight there, and I was immediately enchanted.

Your last book was The World of Richard III and the new one is On the Trail of the Yorks, what is it that fascinates you about Richard III and the House of York?
I have been fascinated by that time period for a long time. It’s a time of turbulence, a time of changing allies and enemies, and a time of controversy. It just pulls me in. Originally, I was interested in the controversy surrounding Richard III, but now I am captivated by the entire period.
On another note, The World of Richard III is going to undergo a title change to On the Trail of Richard III for the paperback version. This will keep the two books aligned.

Would you ever consider doing a book about the House of Lancaster and the locations associated with it?
I would, but I think many of the locations would be the same. Of course, the difference would be what the Lancastrians would be doing at each location. It is certainly an interesting idea.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?
Not often. When I do it is a sign that I need a break. So, I get up, play with my three dogs and two cats or take a walk outside. Or I clean the bathroom. I am always excited to get back to writing after that.

Do you find social media – such as Facebook – a benefit or a hindrance?
It’s a benefit, but I confess to not being the best at it. I don’t get around to the various groups as often as I want, so sometimes I am out of the loop. I do have several wonderfulyorks Facebook friends who help me admin my groups and keep me up to date on what’s happening in the other history groups.

What is be your next project?
I have a book about locations associated with some of history’s forgotten women brewing in my head, but it has a serious contender in Margaret, Mary and Arthur Tudor. I am not sure which will win out in the end. I am taking a much-needed break right now to collaborate with some friends on a joint project. I will spend two weeks in East Anglia this summer with them doing research.

I would like to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to Kristie Dean for her wonderful answers and wish her the every success with her latest book. And look out for my review of On the Trail of the Yorks next week!

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Kristie Dean has an MA in History and now enjoys teaching the subject, following a successful career in public relations. Her particular historic interest is the medieval era, specifically the Plantagenets, the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors. When not traveling for research, you can find Kristie at home in Tennessee with her husband, three dogs, and two cats. On the Trail of the Yorks is available from Amazon UK from 15th March 2016 and from Amazon US in May. And On the Trail of Richard III is due for release in paperback in May.

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