Friday, 22 June 2012

My Characters Won't Talk To Me!

I always envy those authors who, when asked in interviews where they obtain their inspiration for their story lines and character personalities, say: 'They lead me along their own path and I simply follow and write down what they tell me. I go where they want to go and do what they decide to.' 

Well my characters don't do that - at all. They sit on my screen staring at me with plaintive looks on their blank faces [because I haven't given them features yet] saying, 'Well, don't just sit there - what do you want me to do? How should I think about this situation?' 'How do I feel about this? Do I laugh, cry, panic - what?' 'Where am I?'

They are like actors who keep asking what their motivation is for a particular scene and keep taking coffee breaks because they just cannot get into 'the zone'. I have to do everything, from pick their eye colour to organise their thoughts, politics, sexual proclivities and even dress them. They have no imagination or voice. I wouldn't mind if they argued with me a little, but when I get stuck, all I get is silence.

Where do I find characters who guide me, as opposed to lumps who sit down in the road and refuse to go anywhere? It ain't fair.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Sudeley Castle

This week I fulfilled one of my promises I made to myself when we arrived in Gloucestershire and visited Sudeley Castle at Winchcombe. Not such a feat as it's only about eight miles away, but these things take planning.

The origins of Sudeley Castle go back to the year 500, when Roman villas were built on land around the area, followed by Anglo-Saxon tribes – the Hwicci – who settled the Severn Valley. Next, Winchcombe became the chief city of Mercia under King Offa.

The castle is mentioned throughout all the interesting times, often with the current owner picking the wrong side in any fight going, from the Norman Conquest, to the Civil War. In 1139, John de Sudley joined the Empress Mathilda's side against King Stephen, and in 1170, William de Tracy of Sudley was one of the four knights who murdered Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Then in the Wars of the Roses, the then owner, Ralph Boteler was a Lancastrian.
Ruined Banqueting Hall

It's more recent, and more interesting history, for me at any rate, owes its fame to the fact Sudeley - pronounced Soodely - was the home of Queen Katherine Parr when she was married to Thomas Seymour. Seymour refurbished Sudeley for his new bride, where they were accompanied by Lady Jane Grey and the cleric Miles Coverdale, with maids-of-honour and gentlewomen-in-ordinary, more than 120 gentlemen of the household and Yeoman of the Guard.

On August 30th 1548, Katherine gave birth to a daughter, Mary, only to die a week later of puerperal fever at 36-years-old. She was buried in the Chapel of St Mary in the grounds with Lady Jane Grey officiating as Chief Mourner. Sudeley was also the scene of Seymour's famous would-be seduction of the Princess Elizabeth which helped signed Thomas Seymour's fate as he was executed the following year on thirty-three counts of treason.
'Tomb of Quene Kateryn
The tomb of Katherine Parr with its beautiful white marble effigy is to be found in the exquisite chapel beneath an impressive stained glass window. As to the fate of Lady Mary Seymour, allegedly she went to live with the Duchess of Suffolk, but nothing is heard about her after her second birthday.
Chapel Widow of Lady Jane Grey

Prince Rupert made his headquarters at Sudeley, and invited Charles I there to prepare a council of war. However their occupation didn't last and the Roundheads saw them off. As punishment for its misguided loyalty - like they probably had a choice! Sudeley was 'slighted', and the more magnificent parts of the castle dstroyed, including the Banqueting House.

These parts are still in ruins, but much of the castle has been rebuilt and is still lived in by descendants of the Victorian merchants who bought it in the 19th century - or doubtless the entire place would be a ruin by now.

The views of the Cotswolds are lovely, and I would have shown more of the interior but for the fact cameras aren't allowed inside and I didn't relish being thrown out.

As this is the 500th Anniversary of the birth of Katherine Parr, there is a special exhibition, although only a fraction of it relates to the Tudor Queen as most of the exhibits appear to be Victorian. However there is a model of Katherine Parr posed on a bier surrounded by candles representing her lying in state with a film of mourners running in the background, amongst them a crying child which I assume represents Lady Jane Grey - all of which was decidedly eery.  The tomb itself was far more peaceful - and beautiful, a lovely resting place in a pretty chapel. Although apparently her tomb had been desecrated and robbed in the past.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


As a writer, you naturally want to make a name for yourself. 

So says the first line of an article on writing under a pseudonym. But do I?  My experience of many authors of my acquaintance is that we have a more altruistic reason for writing. Not to be rich and famous – well maybe the rich bit would be nice, but fame? That’s a dangerous thing to be in this world of internet stalkers and tweeter trolls.  Even some of the lesser known writers I know have received unnerving e-mails from strangers. 

So fame I can do without.  However, a pseudonym is something I have considered lately. The reason for this is because I am a relatively new author and my four novels are a mixture of genres that vary from 17th Century fictional family saga to Victorian gothic romance.  

My agent tells me – and she knows these things – that publishers like to categories their authors – they need to know what they are getting and to whom to market that author’s work. Thus I confuse them. 

My latest novel due for release next year is a 17th Century biographical novel, which puts it into a different sub-genre from my previous work.  I would like to think the publisher would accept another manuscript from me, but it needs to be ‘similar’; i.e. not only of a required standard, but of the same genre and type as the previous one.  

I have resisted this in the past, because it was such a thrill to see my real name printed on a paperback cover, but maybe it’s now time to consider a pseudonym. I have chosen a name which is variation of my real name, but hints at another age which fits well with the book. The article I quoted above goes on to say: 

Writing under pseudonyms or "pen names" is a fine and honored tradition; many of the greatest names in literature were "invented," and many of today's bestselling authors use pseudonyms as well. 

So maybe it will be fun having an alter ego.