A few months ago, I met fellow writer Catherine Hokin at Weegie Wednesday, the monthly networking group for people connected to books, publishing, book-selling – illustrators, comic book writers, drama, radio, TV, media and all related creative industries, and we’ve kept in touch to share our experiences of the path to publication as début novelists.
Catherine’s début, Blood and Roses, is a novel about Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses. It’s the story of a woman caught up in the pursuit of power, playing a game ultimately no one can control…
If you’re hooked and keen to read Blood and Roses you’ll need to wait until January 2016 to get your mitts on a copy! But in the meantime, I’ve invited Catherine to tell us a bit more about the book and her writing.
Can you tell us about Blood and Roses and where the idea for it came from?
I have been fascinated by the Wars of the Roses for as long as I can remember. My father was a member of the Richard III Society and an avid amateur historian – I’m sure as a child I used to think most of the characters involved in the battles were still alive they were discussed so much! I went on to study history at university, specialising in the medieval period and, in particular, the role of political propaganda and the portrayal of women. Shakespeare may be a great play-write but his history plays are not to be trusted and our main ideas of Margaret have come through her portrayal in Henry VI and Richard III – the almost cartoonish evil queen. This novel marries a lot of my interests together – it even throws in a bit of witchcraft!
The cover is striking and very apt for a historical novel, did you have a say in the design?
I did and I’m grateful to Yolk Publishing for how much they gave me. It was essential that the cover was not ‘feminine’ – this is a bloody story and she was a powerful woman. Anyone looking for historical romance will be disappointed! The cover image is of Margaret and I think shows an uncompromising, strong woman. The colour is perfect.
How did you research your book? Are you a meticulous planner? How long did it take to write?
Obsessive and meticulous – the hallmarks of an historical fiction writer! To borrow from LP Hartley, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” That is both the delight and the frustration of historical research – everything is fascinating but some things have to be omitted or only alluded to if the poor reader isn’t going to drown under a mountain of facts only a PhD student needs. I think there’s an equation along the lines of: 1 sentence = 10 pages of research + 5 overly-distracting diversions. Huge amounts of research and detailed planning – it took about 2 years to complete that stage (I can only do this part-time) and another year to write, and rewrite.
What’re your plans for the launch of Blood and Roses?
This happens in January and I think the publishers plan to keep me busy! There will be a London launch plus a Glasgow one and hopefully other events in York and Tewkesbury. I hope to be able to organise blog tours, batter everyone I know into buying it and push the word out – my husband is eyeing up his 8000 LinkedIn contacts…As you know, this is the tough bit – anyone who wants to help, I’d love to hear from you!
Do you plan to write another historical novel or would you like to try a different genre?
I am working hard on book 2 – again historical fiction, this time set in the fourteenth century and a re-evaluation of the love affair between John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Katherine Swynford, his long-term mistress and an ancestor of mine. It is a political treatment rather than a romance. After that I’ve got my eye on Jack the Ripper – I do like the blood…
Thanks to Catherine for her insight into writing historical fiction, a genre I feel must challenge a writer by having the added pressure of getting facts right.
Do you agree that research makes historical fiction more difficult to write than contemporary fiction? Are you a fan of reading historical fiction or do you prefer books set in modern times?