Thursday, March 26, 2015

Interview Feature - Suzannah Rowntree

Dear Imps, I have a fun new author to introduce you to, and those of you who love the Arthurian legends will be particularly excited to "meet" her.


When SUZANNAH ROWNTREE isn’t traveling the world to help out friends in need, she lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, trying to beat her previous number-of-books-read-in-a-year record. She blogs the results at www.vintagenovels.com and is the author of both fiction and non-fiction. Pendragon’s Heir, her debut novel, released March 26 on Kindle and in paperback.

Blanche Pendragon enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900 England. It's been years since she wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of—or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon's Heir?

Available on Smashwords and Createspace




INTERVIEW 
   Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! First of all, would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee? 

Suzannah: Thanks for hosting me! And I’ll have some tea for sure, Earl Grey or chai if you’ve got any!As to the rest of it, where to start? I come from a lovely corner of rural Australia, where most of the time I lurk in an attic writing, reading, self-publishing, and evicting the odd stray huntsman spider. I’m also often found elsewhere in the world, staying with friends to help run their homes and care for their children during times of illness or other hardship. My passions include history, law, theology, music, storytelling, epic poems and other great literature that no one has ever heard of, which I blog about at Vintage Novels (www.vintagenovels.com). And sadly, I am allergic to both my favourite animals, horses and cats. 

What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller?
 
Suzannah: I began writing at the reasonably young age of 12, but I remember thinking in earlier years that writing a book must be awfully hard work and I was glad I didn’t ever intend to try. It was my love of reading, of course, that inevitably prodded me into trying storytelling for myself. Since then I’ve dabbled in writing fairly regularly, although it wasn’t until the last few years that I became convinced God was calling me to focus on this area during this season of my life. These days, it’s my primary mission. 

Tell us a little about your work! Pendragon's Heir is your debut novel, right? How did this story come about?

Suzannah: Pendragon’s Heir came about when an older lady at my church loaned me The Daughter of Time, a novel by Josephine Tey. It’s a terrific whodunit in which the detective decides to solve a historical crime: the murder of the Princes in the Tower, which history normally attributes to Richard III! This was ten years ago—long before they actually found Richard’s body under a parking lot in England. At any rate, I was so inspired by the thought of using a novel to go back in time and exonerate a historical figure that I immediately sat down and wrote my own, focusing on Queen Guinevere from Arthurian legend. I was so excited about the concept that I finished the first 42,000-word draft in six days. 

Since then, the book has come a very long way. I rewrote it from scratch four times. The story grew immensely, and my focus shifted off the character of Guinevere onto the meaning of Arthurian legend in general. What keeps us as a culture coming back to these stories? What is the meaning of the Quest for the Holy Grail? Why, after all that glory, are Arthur and his kingdom so tragically destroyed? Over ten years of meditating on and wrestling with these questions, Pendragon’s Heir has matured into what my friends tell me is a very poignant, thoughtful, and stirring new take on Arthurian legend.

Can you pick a favorite character from this new novel?

Suzannah: Ouch! What a question! 

Okay, I'll say Sir Perceval, my main male character. In the original legends, Perceval is raised by his mother in a cave in the forest with no contact with the outside world. When he arrives at Camelot to be a knight, he’s a delightful mixture of brashness and naivete. Using this as a foundation, I had a huge amount of fun developing an extroverted, ebullient, outrageously swashbuckling character who I think you’re all going to love. On the other hand, I also worked hard to try and keep Perceval’s character grounded—I didn’t want him to become one of those obvious wish-fulfillment male characters so often written by lady novelists!

In the end I'm  very satisfied with Perceval and his character arc. I think he's an excellent embodiment of everything that was most confident, exuberant, and fierce in the medieval times. He was great fun to write, and my readers tell me he's as much fun to read about!

   
What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?

Suzannah: If I’m struggling in my writing, I’ve discovered it’s usually because of being unsure where to go next. Maybe I don’t have a good grip on a new character. Maybe I haven’t quite decided where to take a plotline. Maybe I need my character to go visit someone with a petition, but I don’t know which part of the city the character needs to travel to, or what it’ll look like when he gets there. So I tend to think less in terms of inspiration and more in terms of fact-finding.

  It’s similar with dreaming up new plots. I recently came to the conclusion that originality is not a particularly worthy artistic goal (in CS Lewis’s immortal words, “No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth, without caring twopence how often it has been told before, you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it”). For me, the process of inventing new plots, settings, or characters is simply a process of remixing bits and pieces of things I’ve read and enjoyed previously.  This said, I do believe in inspiration. For me, it is as sudden and unexpected as lightning. It happens when two apparently unconnected things suddenly collide in my mind, for no apparent reason, with truly astonishing results. For example, I recently wrote a retelling of Beauty and the Beast in the style of Bollywood. That was an idea which was simply given to me, a beautiful bit of inspiration from who-knows-where.
Or, well, I do know where. In the Jerusalem Delivered of Torquato Tasso, one of my favourite epic poems, Tasso invokes his own Muse with these beautiful lines:


O heavenly Muse, that not with fading bays
Deckest thy brow by the Heliconian spring,
But sittest crowned with stars' immortal rays
In Heaven, where legions of bright angels sing;
Inspire life in my wit, my thoughts upraise,
My verse ennoble, and forgive the thing,
If fictions light I mix with truth divine,
And fill these lines with other praise than thine.



For Tasso, as for other Christian authors of his time period, one’s Muse and source of inspiration was understood to be the Holy Spirit. And that’s where I turn when I feel the need of inspiration.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process? 

Suzannah: Without a doubt, my favourite part is that blissful perfect-tense state known as having written, during which a soft glow of achievement washes over one and emails arrive from readers to tell you how much they enjoyed your work. As for the least-favourite, a good argument could probably be made for the ticklish work of trying to fit last-minute but highly-important tweaks into one’s painstakingly polished, tightly-knit work without disrupting everything else in the whole book.

What are you actively writing right now?

Suzannah: At the moment I’m working on a series of novella-length fairy tale retellings. Like Pendragon’s Heir, they will all be historical fantasies, but I’ve been enjoying exploring a few different settings—Bollywood-style India in The Rakshasa’s Bride, medieval Byzantium in The Prince of Fishes, and Tudor England in The Bells of Paradise so far. I’ve got tons of ideas for where to go next—Russia, Venice, Morocco…Tennessee…exotic locales like that…but let not him who puts on his armour boast like he who takes it off, and all that.

Would you share a short snippet from Pendragon’s Heir?

Suzannah: Love to!



Excerpt from

PENDRAGON'S HEIR

  

Perceval dug his heels into the pony’s sides. Up the hill they cantered among the protests left in the knight’s trail, and trotted beneath a massive carved door-lintel into a high-roofed hall rippling with bright banners. Here under soaring arches in the light of a hundred high windows stood a great round table in the midst of the hall, scores of men seated around it talking and eating and laughing. Perceval looked once, then again, and his stomach quaked as he realised that he was in the presence of the greatest warriors of the world, each one tried and tempered on the field of war.


Could he prove himself worthy to sit among them? For the space of a breath he was glad that none of them saw him come in. They were falling silent, staring at the gilded knight, who trotted between the round table and the long straight tables that flanked it on each side toward the King’s seat at the head of the hall.

Here at the Table the King sat enthroned (pewter-grey hair the King had, and the marks of war on his hands, but piercing eyes that would be wise in judgement); the pale Queen stood beside him with an upraised goblet of silver and glass, and words dying away on her lips. The gilded knight swung down from his horse and strode toward them without a pause. “Who is this,” he shouted, “who is this that stands at the head of the Round Table to pledge them all to truth and virtue, and is herself no better than a common stale?”

There was the rattle of a chair sliding across cobbles, a raking up of rushes, and a flash of light as a blade was drawn. One of the knights, on the far side of the table, was on his feet, moving—the King, more slowly, rose from his seat—the gilded knight snatched the cup from the Queen’s hand even while he spoke.

And flung the wine in her face.

“A fig for the Table,” the ruffian was shouting, with a laugh, over the uproar of shouts and falling chairs. Perceval saw the King say a soft word, and a lean grey shadow leaped from under his chair. The gilded knight vaulted to his horse as the hound sprang with bared teeth and straining red maw for his heels. Then the warhorse neighed and lashed out with a hoof. The dog scrabbled uselessly across the floor; another heartbeat, and the gilded knight was gone with the drumming of hooves.

Above it all the Queen of Britain stood still, wine dripping from her face, her mouth pressed shut in a white and wordless fury which swept impersonally across Perceval and all the people gathered in the hall before alighting on the King. Arthur turned to meet it and with a curiously practical gesture offered her a napkin. Then everyone was talking at once—the knights around the table, the ladies in the galleries above, the plain people at their low tables. But in the midst of the commotion, the man who had risen from his seat at the table when the strange knight first snatched the Queen’s cup now sheathed his sword, stalked up the hall to the King and said, low and grinding: “Give me leave, lord, and I’ll beat him like a dog.”

___________________

I hope you readers enjoyed hearing about Suzannah's story. If you would like to learn more, visit her blog and enjoy the blog tour currently running to celebrate the release of Pendragon's Heir!

6 comments:

Sarah said...

I've heard about Pendragon's Heir before now, and it sounds really cool! Looking forward to actually reading it!

Suzannah said...

Thanks for hosting me, Anne Elisabeth!

Anonymous said...

This looks awesome! I love books about king author! What age group is this for?
Jemma

Suzannah said...

Jemma, I fondly believe it is awesome XD. I would recommend it for ages 16 and up.

Sara said...

I love Arthurian legends and will definitely be checking this out!

Anonymous said...

Thanks
Jemma