The Next Big Thing

For weeks I have resisted The Next Big Thing because my publisher did not want me to talk about my book in too far in advance of publication. However, ‘the next big thing’ posts I have read are fascinating and I am thrilled to be nominated to carry the torch forward by two fabulous writers whom I wish to mention before discussing my work.

Gail Aldwin is the author of Paula’s Secret, her work in progress. I am honoured to have had a preview of of some chapters. Gail is a prize winning writer of flash fiction and has a collection published titled Four Buses. I know her writing to be exceptional. Paula’s Secret is an intelligent romantic comedy with a dark edge reminiscent of Mavis Cheek’s novels. I met Gail at a writing retreat in a mutual friend’s summer house in Cornwall and again at the Winchester Festival where she entered and was placed in several short story competitions. I think Paula’s Secret will be a winner.

Liesel Schwarz is another fabulous writer. Liesel studied creative writing at Brunel University under Celia Brayfield and Fay Weldon. She is currently working on a Phd in English/Creative Writing. She writes Steam Punk and her first novel Conspiracy of Alchemists will be published by Ebury Press in February 2013. Her book is currently being made into a BBC audio book. This novel is the first of an exciting series combining romance and adventure with the Victorian age of steam. I think of the atmosphere engendered by Philip Pullman in His Dark Materials but like Pullman’s work it contains an unique imagination.

Now to answer a few questions about my own work The Handfasted Wife.

What is the working title of your current novel?

It is The Handfasted Wife and will be published under this title and with my own name as author of the work. Its adventurous narrative concerns what could have happened to Edith Swanneck, Harold II’s common-law wife after the Battle of Hastings.

Where did the idea come from for your book?

I began work on the manuscript in 2007/8 but I was slowed down because I began this book as a PhD Creative Writing project. I have written an academic thesis to support it. This is about how romance tempers realism in historical fiction. The idea for The Handfasted Wife came when I was looking for a radio play to write after I visited Bayeux in Normandy. At the time I was working on a Diploma in Creative Writing at Oxford. This play was my big submission. Whilst at Bayeux, I was inspired by the vignette on the Tapestry depicting a woman and child fleeing from a burning house before the battle. It was a haunting scene. Interestingly, some historians have suggested that the woman could be Edith Swanneck. There are three women depicted on the tapestry and all are thought to be noble-women. I researched the period thoroughly in the Bodliean Library, reading what chroniclers thought happened and then I read everything I could to help me recreate a faithful historical atmosphere. I even attended classes on Anglo-Saxon in Oxford and read Anglo-Saxon poetry and prose in the original. I decided that for this novel my main thrust was to be Hastings and its aftermath from Edith Swanneck’s viewpoint. The work is a romantic historical adventure and its theme is a woman’s quest to come to terms with the sorrow of war and regime change. Her personal quest to avoid re-marriage to a foreign knight and recover, Ulf, her hostage child from captivity.

A Short Short Synopsis

Set aside for a political marriage when her husband becomes king, Edith Swanneck (Elditha) loses her estate after the Battle of Hastings and sets out on a perilious quest to escape the plots of the pragmatic Edith Godwin, Edward the Confessor’s widow, to reunite with her sons and to plan rebellion.

Which actors would you choose to play the part of your heroines?

Cate Blanchette would, of course, be a superb Edith Swanneck. However, Kate Winslett would be a very interesting Queen Edith. I think Judi Dench could be cast as the tough Countess Gytha, King Harold’s mother.

Will your book be self published?

No, it is to be published by Accent Press in the late spring 2013. I am currently working on copy edits provided by my publishing editor.

Anything else of interest for a reader in your book?

A very difficult question as taste is subjective and not all readers love historical fiction. Hopefully, the characters are engaging enough to speak for themselves. It is a fast paced story of pursuit and escape involving a winter siege which actually happened at Exeter in 1068, where noble women really did resist the Conquest and left England with a large treasure. Ulf the youngest son of Edith and Harold was taken hostage into Normandy as a child and his story is resolved as history would have it. My favourite character after Elditha is Countess Gytha, Harold’s indomnitable mother. I also thoroughly enjoyed writing Edith Godwin who is the dark queen of the piece, utterly determined to recover Elditha when she goes on the run. The novel is first in a Trilogy. The other two are the stories of King Harold’s daughters. One eloped from Wilton with a Breton knight and the first section of this book is set in Brittany. The other married a prince of Russia and it is set in Denmark and in Kiev.

The Next Big Thing is Moses in Chains by Nikki Fine

Now I would like to nominate the clever Nikki Fine to carry the torch forward. She can be found on Twitter and on her blog News from a Small Village. Nikki is a polished writer and poet who lives in Oxfordshire. She reads at poetry events and has had several poems published in journals. She won a P&O short story competition. Nikki is a fabulous listener, editor and she really was a brilliant participant when I dramatised scenes from The Handfasted Wife to catch hold of characters reactions to eachother. Her novel Moses in Chains is a superb story about Michelangelo. His servant comes apon his diaries and reveals all. Moses in Chains is published by Amazon. So Nikki, now over to you!

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