Friday, August 12, 2016

Guest Post - Mark Noce, author

My guest at Writers' Grove today is US historical fiction writer Mark Noce whose novel 'Between Two Fires' is released on 23rd August 2016. Paula Brackston, NYT Bestselling author of 'The Witch's Daughter' has this to say about it: “A spirited ride through a turbulent slice of Welsh history!”. Aside from being a writer of historical novels, he is partial to putting pen to the odd short story and is also a mariner, gardener and keen traveller. His debut is published by Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin's Press and Macmillan) and is the first in a series of historical fiction novels set in medieval Wales.

He has graciously agreed to answer some questions about his writing and debut novel, and I'm thrilled to be his host for the day!

From where did your original idea for 'Between Two Fires' stem and did it become the book you originally set out to write?

For me, the core of a story stars with that first line. In this case, “Today I will marry a man I have never met.” That line haunted me because the moment it entered my head I knew who Branwen was and the story I wanted to tell. At that point I pretty much had no choice. Funny as it sounds, I simply had to write the story as she was speaking inside my head. I’m also always interested in “dark ages,” not just a backward or apocalyptic time, but an era that has left very little trace for modern archaeologists and historians. This gives me as an author a chance to bridge the gap with a plausible story that can extrapolate just a little further than a historian might feel comfortable doing. Plus, I just love a good medieval romantic story.

That's fascinating Mark, and I know exactly what you mean. Once those characters enter our heads, we are held captive at their will until all the words are written! I would also have to agree with you about the so-called "dark ages" and the excitement, as an author, of being able to illuminate them with our own creativity.

Are you a 'schedules and spreadsheets' writer or is your approach more organic?
I have to say, I used to be a planner and now I’m a total panster. I certainly do plenty of research, but I need the organic approach in order to make the plot flow the way I want and get the tension just right. And since I’m a big history buff, I’m pretty much always researching a dozen different eras that interest me anyway, so when inspiration strikes for one particular subject, I’m usually all ready to go anyways.

Yes, I consider the best approach to be a balance of good underlying planning, but then a free-flow of creative ideas. As you say, researching a variety of topics cannot fail to inspire and tug your plot in different directions. Often the best work arises from those unexpected moments.

'Between Two Fires' is the first in a series. What might we expect to see in following tales?
I actually already have the sequel written and in the hands of my publisher, as I originally signed a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press when I started. The sequel entitled The Long Defeat, chronicles the Welsh kingdoms dealing with a new threat, that of the Picts, and how they present problems entirely different from those that they encountered with the Saxons. We’ve no firm release date as of yet, but I’m hoping to have it out by late next year. Fingers crossed.

An intriguing time, Mark. I very much look forward to 'The Long Defeat' when it is revealed to the world.

Name 3 of your favourite books/authors of all time.
My three favorite authors in terms of their writing style and storytelling would probably be Lawrence Durrell, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But honestly, the list goes on and on for me. I love the classics, everything from Homer and Shakespeare to Hemingway, London, and Dumas, so nailing it down to three authors is pretty difficult for me.

Thanks Mark. An interesting collection. Thank you for being my guest on Writers' Grove today and the very best of luck with 'Between Two Fires'.

Thanks again for having me here, Elaine! 
 ~ ~ ~
 'Between Two Fires' is released 23rd August 2016, by Thomas Dunne Books
(an imprint of St. Martin's Press and Macmillan).

'Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales’ last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King.

But this fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen herself becomes the target of assassinations and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan her world threatens to tear itself apart. Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.'

First in a series of historical fiction novels set in medieval Wales, you can purchase it from the following locations:-
You can keep up with Mark Noce via the following links:-

 Mark is also running a Thunderclap campaign for the release of 'Between Two Fires' You can help support him here:-

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Inspirational Tours Part #1 - Hanbury Hall

Inspiration is a common topic of discussion for writers it seems. I have blogged about it myself before now. With a few weeks of summer delivered to us here in Britain, I decided to explore some of our local heritage sites. The idea was to blow away some cobwebs to clear my mind for writing the second WIP. This is part one of a few of my adventures!

The National Trust says: "Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire, UK is a William and Mary-style country house, garden and park. Built in 1701 by Thomas Vernon, a lawyer and whig MP for Worcester, Hanbury Hall is a beautiful country house."

Countryside view.
 You enter Hanbury Hall through tall, filigree wrought iron gates into a courtyard entrance of formal, close-clipped lawns interrupted by gravel pathways of cotswold stone. The majestic eighteenth century country home greets you with a brick facade replete with Georgian windows. The centre, with stone-pillared entrance is flanked by two protruding wings. Behind the many panes of glass squares awaits a plethora of rooms including a Gothic corridor and majestic staircase, adorned with restored paintings by Sir James Thornhill.

Through one of two side gates you find yourself amid the 20 acres of recreated eighteenth century gardens and 400 acres of parkland. The garden boasts an intricate parterre from where you can sit and admire the view from within several brightly painted blue seated arbours.
Lake view from one of the arbours.
Emerging from the clipped and abundant gardens you can stroll through the fruit orchards, kitchen garden and then take in some of the 400 acres of park. Yet more arbours are found beside the bowling green and if you don't fancy a game there's always a meander to the orangery to see how the lemons are doing! It recently had its windows restored as much of the glass had fallen out and they had not been able to grow citrus fruits for some time. It was nice to see young saplings inside again.

The Orangery.
You can also find an arboretum, with plenty of hideaways and secret groves to entertain young and old alike. I had a go at some forest art!

Walking through the house and estate, the one recurring theme is the care and attention taken to retain the view of the gardens and surrounding countryside wherever you may be. I spent several minutes staring into oblivion from one of the bedrooms, wondering what the guests thought about when they shared the same view. It's easy to imagine yourself as one of the ladies in gowns taking an afternoon promenade past rows of roses. Hanbury Hall is exquisite and well worth a visit.