1. Did you always want to be a writer?
HH: Yes, I was scribbling stories when I was thirteen. If not writing I was reading. Characters, whether in books or my own made up ones, were my best friends. I was a lonely, shy child; I felt happy and secure in the world of Imagination.
2. You have a few different series out in publication, all of differing topics. How did you decide to write about these historical topics?
HH: The Arthurian novels, The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy (The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner, and Shadow of the King), I wrote because I wanted to tell the story of Arthur as it might have really happened. No magic or fantasy, no Merlin, Lancelot, or holy grail. Just Arthur as a post-Roman warlord who had to fight hard for his kingdom – and twice as hard to keep it.
I Am The Chosen King (coming to the US in March 2011; first published in 2004 and Harold the King in the UK) I wrote for a similar reason; I wanted to put the record straight about the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. I stripped the history of Norman propaganda and wrote the story from the English point of view – King Harold’s. The first incorrect fact I uncovered while researching was that Duke William of Normandy had no right to the English throne whatsoever, and Harold was not killed by an arrow in the eye during the Battle of Hastings.
I started on The Forever Queen after finishing Harold/Chosen King, even though the story comes first chronologically. Queen Emma was the mother of King Edward the Confessor and therefore involved in Harold’s life. I was so fascinated by her I decide to write her story as well.
My other series is the Sea Witch Voyages – pirate based historical adventure. Sharp blended with Indiana Jones at sea. All good fun and a cracking treasure chest of a read.
3. How long does it typically take you to complete a book?
HH: It took me ten years to write what eventually became The Kingmaking and half of Pendragon’s Banner, but I was only writing now and then; evenings, weekends, lunch hour. Harold/Chosen King and the original English edition of Forever Queen took me about two or three years to research and write.
Sea Witch I wrote in two months – non-stop, except for a break on Christmas day
4. Do you have a specific schedule you keep to when writing?
HH: I would like to show off and say “Yes of course,” but I’m nowhere near disciplined enough. I do try to answer e-mails, chat on Twitter and Facebook in the mornings, then I will usually update one of my several blogs, break for lunch, and then start work. I write better of an evening – and I’m an owl not a lark. I stay up late
5. Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your books?
HH: I have a theory that at night because most people are asleep there is more spare Imagination to go round. LOL
Historical novels, of course, spark their own creativity, either through the events of the past or curiosity about the people themselves. I came up with the idea for the Sea Witch Voyages because I was interested enough in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie to find out more about the reality of pirates – which led to me walking along a beach in the drizzling rain thinking up an entire plot. I sat on a rock, looked up – and there was my Jesamiah Acorne. Was he imagined? Did I really see him? Who knows. He’s real enough to me now!
6. What do you think it takes to make a good story?
HH: I suppose it depends on what you particularly like. Some people avidly read horror – I hate horror (have enough nightmares as it is, thank you). I’m not keen on romance either. Whatever the genre, though, a well written novel should immediately take you into the story, the characters and action, intrigue, or historical drama sucking you in and holding you fast until the last page. For a good read the characters must be real, they must come alive; be the reader’s friend, lover, hero, heroine, or enemy. That last page should leave a feeling of regret that you’ve finished – and send you looking for another tale by the same author or in the same series.
7. Of all your books, which is your favorite? Why?
HH: Unfair question LOL – that’s like asking a mother which one of her brood of children does she love the most! The Kingmaking is a favourite because it was my first novel. Harold the King is a favourite because I am the most proud of it. The Forever Queen is special because it is the first of my books to start doing very well in the US and Sea Witch is my best favourite because I loved writing every single word of it and I adore my pirate, Jesamiah..
8. Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?
HH: Jesamiah – but then he’d drink all my rum and I’d have to make sure he had a bath first (pirate)! I think Queen Emma was a fascinating woman so I would like to invite her – but her first husband Æthelred was a tedious bore. He can stay away.
9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
HH: Well I suppose it has to be two things. One; that I can write. I was hopeless at school and no one had much faith in me. I thought writers were clever people who had University degrees and things, I barely scraped through three basic exams. So to discover that I actually do have a gifted talent for telling a good story is still a wonder to me. The second thing is that I would never have dreamed that through my writing I could meet so many lovely people – some only via the Internet, others in person. You are all fabulous, thank you.
10. Is there anything you would like readers to know that you have not previously been asked about before?
HH: Perhaps a practical answer here. Many of your readers will also be hopeful writers, and many novice writers want to write novels because they think they will make money from their books. I’m afraid that is wishful thinking. The majority of authors earn enough to pay a few everyday bills, maybe help out with the mortgage if they are lucky, but as a regular income? Forget it. If you are self or independently published the chances are you may just about cover your costs; don’t expect much else. The big money-earner authors are few and far between – although it’s those writers we hear about most.
If you want to write, do it for the love of writing, not for the financial reward. That way, you will achieve your dream
Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom—and her crown—are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.
Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Hollick lives in northeast London with her husband, daughter and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman / Saxon Britain and the Golden Age of Piracy–the early eighteenth century. Sourcebooks Landmark will release the next chapter on Helen’s 1066 saga, I Am the Chosen King, in Spring 2011. For more information, please visit http://www.helenhollick.net/.
Thank you Helen for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule to answer questions for readers of my blog. I definitely would enjoy having dinner with Jesamiah. Fancy all the main characters meeting, now that would be an extremely entertaining dinner party!
I have been fortunate enough to read all of Helen Hollick’s books UK and US versions and look forward to further releases from her. My review of her US released title The Forever Queen may be read here.
My sincere gratitude to Sourcebooks for making all of this possible.