Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Carol Townend - Hot...or What!

Courtesy of Mills & Boon
Today we are delighted to welcome Carol Townend. We put some questions to her:

When did you decide to write your first book and how long did it take?
The first book I finished was Sapphire in the Snow which I probably wrote in 1987. I can’t quite remember because it’s so long ago! After some revisions Mills & Boon published it in 1989 and to my delight it won the RNA New Writers' Award. I think it took around six months to write, although I’d been thinking about the plot for a while before I began. It was written on an Amstrad, which was entirely different to a modern computer. I loved my Amstrad, but it struggled to cope with files larger than about 10 pages. Also, the novel took an age to print and came out in one long sheet. You had to separate the pages manually! I wrote about five novels on an Amstrad.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, although it took me some time to really get down to it. I played about with various writing courses which were great except they kept trying to make me write articles when all I really wanted to write was medieval romance. When my daughter went to school, I wrote three romances quite quickly and was thrilled when they were accepted by Harlequin Mills & Boon. I guess the message there is to write what your heart tells you to write!

How do you fit your writing around your home life?
It’s a job and I treat it as such. After various displacement activities in the morning – putting on the washing machine, tidying up, dealing with mail etc – I try to get started on the WIP around coffee time. Ideally this is five days a week. I finish at 6. Sometimes I write at week-ends, but it’s important to have a life too…

How good are you at planning your work? Do you prefer to wing it?
A lot of planning goes in. I have a set of coloured school notebooks and pick one for each novel. They say ‘Oxford’ on the covers, but we buy them in French supermarkets on research trips. By the time the notebook is full, it’s usually time to start writing. Having said that, the story never goes to plan! My characters are wayward and tend to run off in all directions. In The Stone Rose, a medieval saga I wrote for Headline, one character got up and walked out of the book half way through. I tried to pin him down by breaking his leg – ha! It kept him in place for a short time, but as soon as the leg was healed he was off again. I let him go and in the end he came back again, and the book was better for it. So I’ve learned that the characters know best, and let them have their head. It makes for a more interesting journey. It also makes me wonder why I do all that planning!

Do you enjoy research?
I love it. I read history at university, so the interest in anything medieval has always been there. A great joy of writing medieval romance it that it give you an excuse to visit castles all over Europe. I like to explore the town/area where a book will be set and get the medieval map firmly in my head. It’s not always possible, but a visit to Istanbul resulted in the Palace Brides trilogy set in eleventh century Byzantium. Places are very inspiring. When visiting QuimperlĂ© in Brittany, a whole novel popped into my head. An Honourable Rogue was inspired by the church at the confluence of two rivers.

What did you enjoy most about writing your novel and how do you relax when you're not working?
Finishing it! Writing is hard work and I am lazy…then I can enjoy reading, walks in the countryside, chatting with friends, cinema.

If you were a guest on Desert Island Discs what would be your chosen book?
This varies. This year it’s Transcendence by Shay Savage, an unlikely time-slip romance between a teenager of today and a cave-man. The cave-man cannot speak or understand language, and the idea that the heroine comes from the future is quite beyond his grasp. The entire novel is told from his point of view and there is no dialogue. It’s hard to pin down why I adore this book, but the fact that the hero constantly misunderstands the heroine makes for an extraordinarily poignant and moving read.

If your next title Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress was turned into a film who would you like to play the main characters?
Pass. I think it’s important to let readers make up their own images of the characters. Suffice to say that Lord Gawain has sun-streaked hair and brown eyes. He’s a knight, so he is strongly built. Elise, aka Blanchefleur le Fay, is dark, the cover image fits her very well!

What is next for Carol Townend?
I’d like to write two more stories in the Knights of Champagne mini-series. After that, Sicily is throwing out lures. Spain is too. Who knows? I can’t plan too much in advance, but it’s likely to be medieval. And romantic, naturally!

Publication day of my next title: 1st March 2015, Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress. It is Book 3 in the Knights of Champagne mini-series.

Carol Townend writes medieval romances set in England and Europe. Born in Yorkshire, she went to a convent school in Whitby and studied history at London University.
Her first novel, Sapphire in the Snow, won the RNA New Writers' Award. In 2013, Betrothed to the Barbarian was shortlisted for the RoNA Rose Award.
Carol's non-fiction writing includes dozens of articles for Writing Magazine and Writers' News, and a portrait of the Romanovs using photographs from the Imperial albums. Carol lives in London with her husband and daughter.
Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress will be published in March 2015, it is the third book in the Knights of Champagne mini-series set in twelfth century France.

Thank you for joining us today, Carol.

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If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com


Annie Burrows said...

I'm looking forward to your next Knights of Champagne book, Carol. And I still have a copy of Sappire in the Snow on my keeper shelf!

Carol Townend said...

Thanks, Annie, I loved writing Sapphire in the Snow. In fact, once I've stopped struggling - usually there's a small tussle with the characters - I love writing! ;)

Unknown said...

I love medieval stories and visiting castles all over Europe seems like a dream job. Do you find the customs in each country very different during that time period?

Carol Townend said...

Hi Ann,
In Normandy and Champagne medieval law and customs are very similar to those in England, mainly due to the Norman Conquest in England having overlaid Norman culture on top of the Anglo-Saxon one. There was a feudal hierarchy - King, warrior, Church, peasant - and feast days were taken from the Church calendar.

In medieval Byzantium however, customs are slightly different. The Byzantine Empire has roots in Ancient Rome, so much of the law is Roman law. And the Orthodox church broke away from the Roman Church, so again, traditions are slightly different. In the Great Palace in Constantinople, women had their own separate quarters. Slavery was more common, though it did exist in the west too. All these differences are great when it come to encouraging new plots to emerge...

Gilli Allan said...

After joining the RNA you were the first speaker whose talk I attended, Carol. I was so impressed by the depth of your research on your subject. The meeting was in Bath and we exchanged a few words outside.I went home buoyed-up, knowing I'd made the right decision to join the RNA - an organisation whose members included proper published writers like you. (Although I too was a published author by that time, my publisher had failed and I was beginning to think it was all a fluke.) Gilli

Carol Townend said...

Hi Gilli,
I remember that Bath talk, it was great fun. And the location was gorgeous! (Am so glad I am not the only one who remembers it!;) )