I am over the moon to welcome historical-fiction author and Chill With a Book Award Winning novelist, Annie Whitehead …
Huge congratulations on winning your Chill Awards, Annie!
You must be so happy that your work has been recognised in this way. Now, before we carry on, would you please introduce yourself to my readers, just in case they don’t know you already …
Thank you, Emma. My name is Annie Whitehead and I write books and stories set in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia – which roughly equates to the Midlands area of modern England.
So, your book has been awarded with a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award, what inspired you to write this story?
It was really a single line in a footnote. When I was a history undergraduate, I read a paper written by my tutor, Ann Williams, about Ælfhere, earl of Mercia. The footnote mentioned a widow who was deprived of her property following Ælfhere’s death. It is assumed that she was his wife, but nobody knows anything else about her. I began to wonder about this couple, and vowed one day to write their story. The result is my novel, Alvar the Kingmaker.
The story begins when the king is caught in bed with his wife and her mother, and ends with the murder of another king, a crime attributed to his stepmother, the queen. Central to the story is Alvar, earl of Mercia. Having helped King Edgar to secure the throne, amid great unrest he must fight to clear the queen’s name, bring the country back from the brink of civil war, and stabilise the monarchy for Edgar’s son, Æthelred the Unready. He does this at great personal cost, and his enemies will stop at little: Abbot Dunstan, banished, recalled, and in no mood to forgive. Bishop Oswald, the ambitious foreigner who will let nothing stand in his way. They must not discover Alvar’s secret love for the wife of his deputy, whilst Alvar must keep her safe, and serve and protect the queen, who is in love with him and who harbours a dark secret of her own…
What does the award mean to you?
It’s a wonderful compliment, and it means so much because it tells the world that discerning readers have enjoyed my book, judged it according to a set of criteria, and deemed it worthy of the award. That is a humbling endorsement, and it really doesn’t get better than that, or so I thought – I was thrilled when it was announced that Alvar the Kingmaker had also been awarded the Chill Book of the Month for January 2017!
What other titles have you published? Tell us a little about them …
My first novel, To Be A Queen, was also honoured with a Chill with a Book Readers’ award. It tells the story of Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, daughter of Alfred the Great. Born into the royal house of Wessex at the height of the Viking wars, she is sent to her aunt in Mercia as a foster-child, only to return home when the Vikings overrun Mercia. In Wessex, she witnesses another Viking attack and this compounds her fear of the enemy.
She falls in love with a Mercian lord but is heartbroken to be given as bride to the ruler of Mercia to seal the alliance between the two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
She must learn to subjugate her feelings for her first love, overcome her indifference to her husband and win the hearts of the Mercians who despise her as a foreigner and twice make an attempt on her life.
When her husband falls ill and is incapacitated, she has to learn to rule and lead an army in his stead. Eventually she must fight to save her adopted Mercia from the Vikings and, ultimately, her own brother.
I was also involved in the 1066 Turned Upside Down project, released last year to commemorate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Nine authors re-imagined the events of that year, and I contributed a tale about the earl of Mercia, Edwin, whose sister was married to King Harold.
Are you working on a new book? Tell me about that …
I’m currently editing my third novel, also set mainly in Mercia, but much earlier in the Anglo-Saxon period. Originally I was hoping that it would be released early in 2017, but I have been side-tracked by an exciting project for Pen & Sword Books, which is another anthology, this time of non-fiction stories. The British Stripped Bare is a collection of stories exploring love, marriage, sex and scandal throughout the centuries and I am contributing the chapters dealing with the Anglo-Saxons.
When not writing, what can you be found doing?
I do actually spend most of my time writing, one way or another, being one of the editors of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, and part of the Social Media Team for the Historical Novel Society. My ‘day job’ is as a freelance Early Years Music & Singing teacher.
Which three authors have most influenced your journey to becoming an author?
Jean Plaidy, whose books ignited my love of history, Sharon Penman, whose novels about the Welsh princes inspired me to write similar tales about the Anglo-Saxons, and Helen Hollick, whose stories about Arthur did the same, but more importantly Helen offered me some generous and really useful advice when I first started out, and I can’t thank her enough for setting me on the right track.
Why did you choose the genre you write in?
I’ve always loved history, and having studied it to degree level, it was probably inevitable that the past would be the source of my stories. ‘Alvar’ was initially going to be a dual timeline novel, but the more I researched, the more the historical side of the story took over.
Which other genre would you chose if you had to change?
I have written a book that is not historical, the first pages of which won a prize in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing competition, judged by the wonderful Fay Weldon. It’s been on the back burner for a while, but I might dust it off one day. It’s a sort of time-slip, what-if story. So if I switched genres, I would probably write stories in a similar vein to this one.
Quick fire questions …
Twitter or Facebook? Both.
Tea or coffee? Tea.
Marmite – yes or no? Yes.
Marvel or DC? Marvel.
Early riser or sleep in? Varies.
Pj’s or ‘normal’ clothes when writing? Normal clothes.
Planner or pantster? Planner.
Book or kindle? Both.
Pineapple on pizza – yes or no? No. Absolutely not!
And finally, … What is your favourite book of all time?
It’s so difficult to choose just one! I think I will have to opt for KM Peyton’s Flambards Trilogy (okay, so it’s three books, but my copy is an all-in-one!)
Thank you for joining me today and many congratulations again on your Chill with A Book Award!
Thank you for welcoming me to your blog, Emma.
Please add links to your sites and social media so that we can find you.
Amazon author page: http://viewauthor.at/Annie-Whitehead