Continuing my celebration of indie authors, today I am delighted to welcome author Carolyn Hughes to talk about her recent Chill With A Book Award and all things bookish.
Huge congratulations on winning your Chill Award Carolyn! 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 …
Hello, I’m Carolyn and I write historical fiction. (Sounds like it might be a meeting for Writers Anonymous …) I’ve been writing all my adult life, but have come to publication only 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.
It wasn’t until my children flew the nest, many years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in my life. I obtained a Masters in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
Fortune’s Wheel is my first published novel, and a sequel is under way.
So, your book has been awarded with a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award, what inspired you to write this story?
When I had to choose what to write as the creative piece for my Masters in Creative Writing, I looked for inspiration among my old scribblings, and rediscovered the fading handwritten draft of about 10,000 words of a novel I’d written in my twenties. Set in fourteenth century rural England, it was about the lives of peasant families. The novel’s plot wasn’t terribly good, yet I was really quite drawn to its period and setting. I had a light bulb moment and, a few days later, I was drafting an outline for the novel that’s now Fortune’s Wheel. So that was the first “inspiration”.
The second – the storyline – came from reading about the fourteenth century. Catastrophic events affected every part of its life, including terrible famines, the start of the Hundred Years War, the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt. So, plenty of background there for interesting storylines …
Such events as these would have meant (as they do in every century) huge changes to people’s lives, at all levels of society. But I’m mostly interested in how events affected the lives of ordinary people, and I wanted to write – and still do – about ordinary lives within the context of these big social changes. So, for Fortune’s Wheel, I chose to write a story about the aftermath of one of the greatest catastrophes of all time, in terms of the havoc it wrought to populations, the Black Death, and I chose to set it in an area I know well, the Meon Valley, in southern Hampshire.
Having written the first story, I’ve grown to love the characters so much that I simply have to go on writing about them!
What does the award mean to you?
I was delighted to receive a Chill review of my first published novel, and thrilled to receive the award. It’s so important, especially at this newbie stage, to get recognition of one’s work, and the award brings that, as well as a lovely logo to use in my book marketing activities.
What other titles have you published? Tell us a little about them …
None, I’m afraid. Fortune’s Wheel is my first published novel, but hopefully not the last. I’m working hard to get the second book in the “Meonbridge Chronicles” series finished, and I have at least another two planned. I also have a standalone novel, also set in the fourteenth century, The Nature of Things, that I hope to publish before too long.
Are you working on a new book? Tell me about that …
Oh, I’ve just told you that! Yes, the sequel to Fortune’s Wheel (title not yet quite decided) is set two years later and follows the lives of characters introduced in the first novel. It focuses (even more) on the lives of women and how the aftermath of the Black Death brought opportunities that changed women’s role in society, at least for a few decades.
When not writing, what can you be found doing?
I do spend most of my time writing, either the current WIP, or my blog, or the one I contribute to The History Girls blog site, or other social media type activity. I’ve been retired from my work as a technical author for a few years now, so writing has become my “job”. I used to do quite a lot of gardening, and I still do a bit, though my OH has taken on most of it now. We do travel a fair bit these days, in the UK and abroad, and among the things we enjoy doing are bird-watching, walking and visiting museums and ancient buildings. And, of course, I read! Lots!
Which three authors have most influenced your journey to becoming an author?
I can’t honestly say that any have particularly influenced me. I’ve admired many authors over the years, but by no means all of them have been historical novelists.
I usually cite William Trevor as my “favourite” author, because he was such a master storyteller, writing both novels and short stories. His brilliance for me lies in the deeply insightful pictures he drew of the lives of ordinary people. Of historical novelists, those whose style I have perhaps mostly closely followed include Susanna Gregory and Bernard Cornwell. Gregory’s mediaeval mystery novels achieve a wonderfully naturalistic portrayal of fourteenth-century life, and Cornwell (in his medieval fiction) portrays so well the lives of ordinary people caught up in the sweep of major events.
Why did you choose the genre you write in?
I’ve already said this, really, in my story earlier about my inspiration for writing Fortune’s Wheel. The choice of genre, as well as the storyline for my novel, seems largely serendipitous.
Which other genre would you choose if you had to change?
Before I undertook the MA and chose to write an historical novel, I was writing contemporary women’s fiction, in a style that is pretty much what is now sometimes referred to as “domestic noir”. I might possibly return to that one day, if only to get those stories published. In terms of reading, I do enjoy a juicy crime novel and I’d love to be able to write one of those but I simply don’t think I could. So, all in all, I’ll probably stick to historical fiction.
Quick fire questions …
Twitter or Facebook?
Both, though I do prefer the more personal-seeming relationships you can build on FB, and FB groups. I do find Twitter a bit too fast-moving!
Tea or coffee?
Tea, especially rooibos, of which I drink a lot (it doesn’t have caffeine …). I do like coffee but drink a lot less of it.
Marmite – yes or no?
Yes. On hot toast, preferably with butter or, if I really must, something low-fat…
Early riser or sleep in?
I tend to owldom so, although I actually love getting up early – the world is so clean and fresh first thing! – I more often don’t, though I might well have been sitting up writing into the wee small hours the night before …
Pj’s or ‘normal’ clothes when writing?
Oh, definitely proper clothes! I’ve never quite understood the habit of staying in your nightclothes all day long, comfy as they may be…
Planner or pantster?
Half and half. I plan my novels’ structures and write detailed character profiles but, once I’m writing, I’m very willing to stray from the plan, either if it’s not working or if the characters have other ideas about how things should be going.
Book or kindle?
Both. I do read most fiction on my Kindle, but I only ever read history and other non-fiction on the real thing…
Pineapple on pizza – yes or no?
Definitely not. Urgh …! Pineapple belongs in a fruit salad!
And finally, … What is your favourite book of all time?
Not a novel, but The Luttrell Psalter, a fourteenth century illuminated manuscript that contains the most wonderful illustrations of medieval life. The original lives in The British Library but I have a facsimile, which I love to bits.
Thank you for joining me today and many congratulations again on your Chill with A Book Award!
Here’s the blurb for Carolyn’s debut novel, Fortune’s Wheel …
Plague-widow Alice atte Wode is desperate to find her missing daughter, but her neighbours are rebelling against their masters and their mutiny is hindering the search.
June 1349. In a Hampshire village, the worst plague in England’s history has wiped out half its population, including Alice atte Wode’s husband and eldest son. The plague arrived only days after Alice’s daughter Agnes mysteriously disappeared, and it prevented the search for her.
Now the plague is over, the village is trying to return to normal life, but it’s hard, with so much to do and so few left to do it. Conflict is growing between the manor and its tenants, as the workers realise their very scarceness means they’re more valuable than before: they can demand higher wages, take on spare land, and have a better life. This is the chance they’ve all been waiting for.
Although she understands their demands, Alice is disheartened that the search for Agnes is once more put on hold. When one of the rebels is killed, and then the lord’s son is found murdered, it seems the two deaths may be connected, both to each other and to Agnes’s disappearance.
Sound good? Get your copy here.
You can find out more about the Chill With A Book Awards here!
Want to keep up to date with Carolyn’s news? You can find her at the following sites:
Website and blog: www.carolynhughesauthor.com
Fortune’s Wheel available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2f5UZD5
and from SilverWood Books http://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/silverwood-bookshop