Today I welcome one of dear “internet” friends, Barbara Gaskell Denvil, who has an exciting new release. Barbara agree to a short interview so we could all learn more of her and LEARN you will. She is absolutely fascinating.
First, tell us a bit about yourself. From where do you come? Past jobs, awards, the usual bio stuff. I often say I have worn 25+ “monikers” in my lifetime. What of you?
I was born in rural England and grew up adoring history, art and literature. My father was an artist, and for many years I assumed that seeing nude models wandering around the house was a normal part of any childhood. I devoured books and the wonder and joy of reading lights my memories. I first worked in the old British Museum Library in London, and then for a publisher, a TV company, and for magazines and newspapers. But my literary career came to a halt with the interruption of domesticity and early motherhood.
What’s the craziest, bravest, or stupidest thing you’ve ever done?
On a short weekend trip to the South of France undergone simply to assist a friend who was in difficulty, I unexpectedly met an Italian count, fell in love on the spot, even though at that time I spoke just two words of Italian. I then started the greatest love affair of my life. My children were already grown, so I re-organised my life and after a year I decided to move in with this man, lived on his yacht sailing the Mediterranean and in every European country bordering the ocean. We were together for many years until he died of cancer and left me bereft. Running off with a foreigner whose life was in contrast to everything I’d ever known seemed such a huge risk at the time, but I never regretted it for one moment. Apart from the exhilarating experience of travel and sailing, it certainly taught me what romance was all about.
How long have you been writing, and how did you decide this was a career you wanted to pursue?
I wrote my first fairy story when I was eight. I wish I still had it to laugh at, but I do remember the fairies lived in holes in the skirting boards, and made friends with the mice. I always knew I’d be a writer, even from an earlier age, but as a very young mother and then on my highly romantic years in Europe, both through necessity and design, I wrote virtually nothing. It was after my Italian companion died that I moved to Australia, hoping to start a new life, and began writing full time. Since I write mostly historical fiction it may seem odd to look out of my window at wallabies and cockatoos while writing of medieval castles and cobbled alleys, but it works for me. Anything that releases my wildly over-active imagination is something I can appreciate.
What do you write? You’re welcome to include your latest title (shameless plug).
I write both fantasy (with a historical basis) and historical fiction set in the late medieval. The book I released on June 2nd, is a combination of both. Fair Weather is a time-slip novel, set in both modern times and the reign of bad King John, linked with a paranormal-twist. I glory in the real history, but the introduction of the fantasy element has been such a joy for me. Fair Weather explores the life and times of the early 13th century, while also delving into alchemy and the ancient cult of Lilith. But of course, it all leads through dark and troubled paths into danger, battle, magic and finally blinding romance. This book is one of my own great favourites, and the troubled character of Vespasian Fairweather is certainly one of the most interesting I have ever created. He lives with me still – tells me off when I am tempted to be self-indulgent – sings me to sleep – and comes striding through the gloom to brighten my days.
Tell us something of the genre in which you choose to write. If you write in more than one genre is your approach different for each genre, in the manner you write, plot the book, or brainstorm ideas?
I write both historical fiction, and fantasy. Sometimes I have combined the two in one novel. These two genres may appear very different, but in actual fact they have one huge thing in common – they both transport the author and the reader into a whole new world. The world of the past has always called to me, and I have researched many eras and historical figures. There must be the discipline of accuracy and creating an original plot and characters within an actual existing set of evidence. Fantasy, of course, offers far greater liberty since the author is free to create entirely from their own imagination. But wait – within the documented facts of the past it is still necessary to invent and expand the imagination – whilst with fantasy it is exceedingly important to bring the discipline of creating something believable – presenting a world which seems as real as the actual past. So I do not approach either genre with vastly differing attitudes. Both transport me into wonderland – and that is precisely what I hope to do to my readers – take them with me into the glory of a life entirely different to the everyday existence we face ourselves, with all its problems and restrictions. Both reading and writing are parachutes into escapism.
Are you more of a plotter or a painter, or does it change from book to book?
Now that’s an interesting question. Perhaps I am more of a painter. I love to colour my books with rich and believable tones, bringing the world to life through all the senses. I want to bring my reader with me into the great fascination of the past, and experience exactly what would have happened. However, I also do think the plot of any book is of the greatest importance. I interweave plots, bringing many threads to combine and twist into mystery, adventure, romance and pleasure. My books are rarely very short, because I paint and IU plot – and both need to be given full rein. Thirdly I admire great characterisation and I really insist on bringing my characters full tilt into the story. No plot and no atmosphere is complete unless the characters who walk that world are interesting enough to carry the reader with them. So I think every book should be character-driven, with a great principal plot, several unusual sub-plots, and a whole world brought vividly to life around them all.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Actually, they usually name themselves. They first take shape in my head, where they live cheerfully and wander around for some weeks before I begin to delve into the plot. My new principal character, for instance, Vespasian Fairweather, named himself before I was even quite sure who he was. He marched into my imagination fully formed and shouted at me until I listened. My heroine, Tilda, crept in more quietly, being young and very shy. But she already had a name, and whispered told me what it was.
What do you find is the hardest part of writing?
Finishing! Definitely it is the big empty hole I experience after completing a book which I find really hard to cope with. I take between six and nine months to write my books (and I also believe in a good deal of re-writing and polishing afterwards) so each book is a large part of my life. My characters become my friends, I care very much what they think and feel, and I never want to let them go. I never suffer from writer’s block, and even major distractions are rare unless they involve something serious with health or the family. Writing really is an enormous emotional commitment and I love it. I create worlds and I then live in that world for many months. I think a lot of writers feel this way. Perhaps we are all a little mad.
What do you see as the challenges and successes of being traditionally published? Being self-published?
Sorting this out has been a major part of my life over the past four years. I was accepted enthusiastically and traditionally published by one of the largest publishing houses in the world, Simon & Schuster. They treated me well, my books sold well, and I intended to stay with them for life. But the constant problems began to spoil the pleasure I gained from the experience, and although I won’t go into them, it became obvious that I was missing my own freedom and the pleasure of controlling my own output. It took a lot of thought, but I decided to regain my own creative life and self-publish instead. I have certainly lost some things – but I believe I have gained more. I prefer to write in different genres and not be confined, I prefer to make my own choices and my own direction. I do not say this is right for everyone, and the self-determined path can certainly bring financial restrictions. I depends what is most important to the individual. But now I have the fun of my own cover designs, my own world-wide stage, and the enormous pleasure of being my own boss. Traditional publishers cannot indulge new authors with large publicity budgets and they must concentrate on commercial aspects above all else. I do not criticize. But I have made my own choice and I do not regret it. There remains a stigma against self-published authors in some areas, and it is certainly true that not every self-published author produced a great work of art each time. But the stigma is unjust, and readers will find their own pleasure, whether the book they decide to buy is a work of art or not. That is the joy of freedom.
Meet Barbara Gaskell Denvil
Born in England, I grew up amongst artists and authors and started writing at a young age. I published numerous short stories and articles, and worked as an editor, book critic and reader for publishers and television companies. I broke off my literary career to spend many hot and colourful years sailing the Mediterranean and living in various different countries throughout the region.
When my partner died I needed a place of solace and came to live in rural Australia where I still live amongst the parrots and wallabies, writing constantly, for my solace has now become my passion.
With a delight in medieval history dating back to my youth, I now principally set my fiction in medieval England. I also write fantasy, tending towards the dark. Within these two genres, I now write full time.
Recent Books from Barbara Gaskell Denvil
The Flame Eater: Murder, Mystery and Suspense in the 15th Century (February 2016) Nicholas, now heir to the earldom, has no desire to marry his dead brother’s cast-off mistress. And Emeline has no desire to marry the brutal monster who murdered his brother, the man she loved and hoped to marry.
This arranged marriage is a disaster, it would seem that it can’t get any worse. But it does. Fire rages through the castle and takes over the wedding night, and any hopes of reconciliation. But not everything is as it seems. Murder and arson are destroying more than just one alliance, and the culprit is unknown. But there are other matters to consider. It is 1484 and Richard III is England’s monarch. The king entrusts many of his lords with responsibilities in the service of their country, and Nicholas is charged with the undercover investigation into two desperately important situations, which involves travel to the south of England. Emeline joins with her younger sister and others of the household, determined to discover who is responsible for the disasters which have now entirely disrupted their lives. But the suspects are so many. It is therefore a group of eager but desperate women of various ages, characters and capabilities who attempt to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, Nicholas learns that he has a wife to admire and to adore. But is he a murderer? Is her mother? Her nurse? And will England’s political turmoil threaten their peace and cause even greater uncertainty? Life will never be the same. But perhaps that is just as well.
The White Horizon (November 2015) Skarga has grown up on the outskirts of the frozen north, with her five brothers and father, all of whom believe she is cursed, bringing poor harvests and bad luck into their lives. She is unwanted except for the small abandoned boy, Egil, she has rescued from the snow.
But now they are in great danger. Hearing that her father is arranging their murder, they escape the township into the harsh and bitter cold. The trap is sprung and the escape fails, but her captor is not who she expected.
The mystery deepens as it seems the boy is the one Thodden has been searching for, and not her at all. So Egil holds the clues to the secrets and magic.
Skarga will do everything she can to protect him, but there is more than one life at stake and neither knows or understands the change that is about to occur.
Also check out these titles:
Blessop’s Wife (published in Australia as The King’s Shadow)
Sumerford’s Autumn: Tudor Historical Suspense
The Wind from the North: An Epic Fantasy
“Fair Weather will have you turning pages as you travel through time with characters who will tear at your heart.” My Book Addiction review Molly just wants to sleep at night, but the dreams won’t leave her alone. The light goes out, while distant echoes of thunder diminish into the night. Molly has dreamed of it before, but this time her eyes are open and she’s wide awake. The man is bending over her but she can only see his shadow. Then everything changes. It is a world of buzzing chatter, markets, the calls of birds, bright sunshine and the cobbled alleys of old London. But when Molly turns and blinks, everything dissolves into shadows once more. And she hears the siren of police cars, and they are coming closer. An identical murder in the distant past of her dreams joins the two worlds in equal danger. Molly travels time but is followed by some horror which kills and mutilates at will. And the man, his voice the rustle of dead leaves, is always there. Yet Molly discovers far more than fear and misery. She discovers a whole new life, and a love she could never have imagined. she no longer wants to return – but she must.
Free Read on Kindle Unlimited