INTERVIEW WITH DAVID PILLING
I am very pleased to be able to interview David Pilling, author of The White Hawk, the first of a trilogy set during the Wars of the Roses, which will follow the shifting fortunes of a family pledged to the House of Lancaster. So often historical novels focus only upon those at the top of the social pyramid, but the lives of all the English were affected by the power struggles that convulsed England in the 15th century, and David takes us into this interesting, unknown territory. I admit I have not been able to read The White Hawk, for I’ve had to give up any hopes of having a normal life until Ransom is done, but I did get to read a few chapters, and I was quite impressed. I think you’ll all enjoy David’s interview, which is highly entertaining.
How did you begin writing and what keeps you going?
I’ve always had ideas for original stories swirling around in my head. The setting of my childhood no doubt helped a great deal - I was brought up in the West Wales countryside, a beautiful area soaked in history (and rain), and spent many years dragging my poor parents up and down ruined castles. Added to that, I always enjoyed creative writing at school, but there was a significant lapse during my teens and early twenties. I started writing short stories again about four years ago and since then the floodgates have opened.
What became of your earliest efforts at writing?
Either rotting away in a cupboard somewhere, or long since lost in the rubbish. Probably a good thing! My earliest attempt at a full-length novel, a truly awful attempt at fictionalizing the life of William Marshall has gone missing – again, probably a good thing! My second, a slightly less awful effort based on the life of Hereward the Wake, is still extant. And no-one shall ever read it!
What made you choose the genres and time periods you write in?
I generally write fiction based in the medieval era, or Tolkien-esque fantasy, and chose those thanks to my lifelong obsession with all things medieval. The first full-length novels I ever read were the Lord of the Rings and TH White’s The Once and Future King. I still rate White’s book as the best version of Arthurian legend I have ever read.
What parts of the writing process do you most enjoy, and what do you dislike?
The creative process is the most enjoyable, particularly those moments where fresh ideas suddenly occur to me, and the putting together of a storyline. The least enjoyable by far is editing and proofreading. These I find a major headache.
Historical fiction requires a great deal of research. What is the most memorable thing you have discovered during this process?
The research for battle conditions during The Wars of the Roses – the era of my current novel – was both eye-popping and terrifying. How anyone had the courage to stand and fight on a medieval battlefield is beyond me, considering the lack of medical knowledge and the appalling wounds men suffered. Men like the Earl of Wiltshire were accused of cowardice for running away from battles. Personally, I can only empathize with their good sense.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?
It’s a cliché, but ‘never give up’ is probably the best advice. There are so many naysayers and armchair critics out there. Self-belief and drive are crucial. I have been fortunate in the response to my work so far, but every so often someone does stick the knife in, and it’s often difficult to pretend that doesn’t hurt.
Tell us something about your current project.
My current novel, The White Hawk, is the first of a trilogy set during The Wars of the Roses in 15th century England. Book One: Revenge follows the fortunes of a minor gentry family, the Boltons of Staffordshire, in their attempts to survive and prosper in an increasingly brutal and uncertain world. I wanted to weave a story around the contrasting fortunes of individual members of the same family, and how the savage and uncertain politics of the time affected ‘ordinary’ people.
And finally, what’s next for you?
My next novel, Nowhere Was There Peace, is due to be published by Fireship Press, and I have another story in the pipeline based on the exploits of King Arthur’s (fictional) grandson…
Thank you, David, for a very interesting interview.
March 22, 2013