Monday, March 4, 2013

A Murder Across Two Centuries: An interview with historical fiction author Barbara Gaskell Denvil

1) Please tell us about your book.

FAIR WEATHER is a historical thriller which covers several genres. It is also an adventure/romance, and a crime mystery. The plot is based around a time switch, so that action takes place both in 13th century England, and in modern day England. These switches are integral to the plot. The romance also interweaves through time – and in an unusual sense, time is an actual character within the story.

2) Why did you decide to combine historical fiction with modern paranormal suspense?

My inspiration for the whole plot came from dreams. I used these dreams and wove my characters through the ideas and visions which came to me. Fair Weather was therefore crafted very much as a labour of love, and not created in any logical or practical sense.

3) In modern times, in most countries, women have fairly easy freedom of movement. Given that you go so far back, the interaction of women with their society was considerably changed, even compared to other later English historical eras. Did this present any difficulties in plotting?

Surprisingly, no. My heroine is a beggar girl, and few restrictions have ever been put on the abjectly poor as long as they can escape the jurisdiction of the law. It is invariably the noblewomen who are watched and limited by society’s conventions. The poor go where they will. Also, in the 13th century, society was less conventional in many ways and women were not quite so tethered as is sometimes imagined. Female subjugation actually got far worse from the 16th century onwards.

4) Given the ignorance that afflicted the distant path, do you think it's easier or more difficult to maintain tension in murder plots. The lack of forensics, systematic investigation, et cetera, for instance, makes it easier for guilty folk to reasonably evade the authorities in the past, but, in modern times, access to technology by criminals and improved education provide their own opportunities for mischief.

Yes, I do agree. And nowadays the author herself must do some thorough research on national standards of justice, police procedures and the latest forensic science. But my murders come under the label of black magic, so it was different again. I did a great deal of research – but not at all the sort a modern crime-writer might have to do.

5) With all of English history (or history for that matter) to choose from what made you pick the particular period you chose?

Although the Church was very powerful during the 13th century, there were still pockets and aspects of religion that echoed back very strongly to the old pagan beliefs. Many priests got away with being married, country rituals and celebrations could be more pagan than Christian, and there was still considerable acceptance of fairies and spells. Witchcraft was not illegal – (no one was burned for it in spite of many modern film depictions) and the ‘wise women’ were respected and sought out. Since my book is wrapped around pagan magic, this was the ideal time in history to base it. It’s also a period I already knew a good deal about in the more general sense – the costumes, the way of life, the architecture and the details of Old London. I adore this era for its atmosphere and the fascinating colours of the period, so very, very different from our own.

6) Please tell us something interesting you found out about this period during your research?

I became very interested in the character of King John. We usually hear about him only as the wicked brother who tried to usurp good King Richard’s throne. That’s all from the Robin Hood sagas, and of course, we know Robin Hood was not entirely true at all. Apart from the fact that I dislike the sound of “good King Richard”, I was struck by how difficult it is to judge history and historical personalities through the extremely limited documentation that remains to us, and most especially because of the bias shown by those who wrote it. I did not grow to love King John, but I do admit we have very little right to think we know him at all.

7) What other projects are you currently working on?

My big early Tudor mystery adventure/romance (SUMERFORD’S AUTUMN) is due out in hard copy this coming June. The plot is once again somewhat multi-layered, but largely concerns the so called pretender “Perkin Warbeck”. Then I have another book in the works – BELSSOP’S WIFE – and yes – it’s a historical mystery/romance, but set a little earlier this time during the first tumultuous year of Richard III’s reign. I have a passion for this period in history – and after researching the times of King John, I moved on to the late medieval and Richard III. So I have two books waiting for publication, but neither of these has a black magic or time switch element to the plot.

Now, naturally, I am writing yet another. Well, if I didn’t write all the time, what on earth would I do?

8) Where can readers find more out about you?

I have a blog, which gives information on my books – and of course,

 I sell both FAIR WEATHER and my other historical crime adventure SATIN CINNABAR on Amazon U.K. and U.S.A., where I also have an author’s page. And once my next book is on the market mid year – there’ll be more I hope! 


Thanks, Barbara.


Francine Howarth: UK said...

Intriguing questions, interesting and enlightening answers! ;) Best of luck with both books. Oh qawd,my TBR pile just keeps growing. ;)

sue said...

Fascinating plotting. I suppose it was true that the poor had no restrictions and were probably freer in one sense than the society people.