Name: Prue Batten
Age Sixty Four
Where are you from:
From the island state of Tasmania, part of Australia.
A little about your self: (ie your education, family life etc) :
I studied history and politics at the University of Tasmania. I worked as a hotel cleaner, a cosmetician in a major department store, and a bookseller. But most properly I’ve been a journalist/researcher for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation where I met my husband, also a journalist and subsequently a media executive, now a communications consultant and farmer. I’m now a partner with my husband in a cropping and grazing operation on a farm in Tasmania.
I spent almost ten years as a state coordinator for the cancer therapy program Look Good Feel Better and time as walker for Riding for the Disabled and for the local Dogs’ Home. I’ve got two adult children, a much-loved dog, and too little time to write.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m writing the second in a historical fiction chronicle and hope to see it released mid-2016.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began to write when I was a child and like drawing, which I also loved, it resonated with me. Although at that age I was too young to know what ‘resonate’ meant!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
To a point, in 2008 when my first novel was published. But more properly, quite recently when I looked back over eight published novels, the ninth underway, and some wonderful awards for those books.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote a YA fantasy trilogy many years ago for two reasons – firstly to see if I had the staying power to write a novel and secondly because I wanted to write something my then YA children might read. I had no intention of ever taking it to publication and it still lies in a box in my office.
Quite rightly, that 3 book series became my learning process. But my first ‘published’ book was inspired by a piece of raised embroidery. It was so thick, so three dimensional, that I thought one could hide secrets therein. Thus a novel was born…
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I do. It’s been described as lyrical and emotive and that suits me fine. They are lovely descriptions to have hung on one’s work.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My first published book is entitled The Stumpwork Robe – surely a ghastly, uninteresting title for a story about myth and legend! I was so naïve and such an ingénue in those days (still am really). This was 2008 when the book went to print.
I wanted to use the title The Robe, but it was taken and I was so frozen with fear at publishing that I settled on The Stumpwork Robe on the assumption that it was so strange, it might just grab people’s attention. As it turned out it did, and from its first days as a historical fantasy e-book in 2010, it has ranked unbroken in Amazon.co.uk’s Top 100. Along with the other three titles of the quartet entitled The Chronicles of Eirie.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Beyond becoming lost in an alternative world darkly like our own? No. I just want them to enjoy the series and then review like mad!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
It is a mirror image of our own world but set in a similar time to the medieval era. And of course, being fantasy, there is a race of shadowy fey folk who set the whole world on edge.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not at all.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life? A mentor?
The author who set my love of fantasy in motion at an early age was JRR Tolkein. But then I discovered Rosemary Sutcliffe, Henry Treece and Geoffrey Trease. Those three effectively set my love of historical fiction in stone.
In adulthood, I read all of Dorothy Dunnett’s historical fiction novels and she became my icon. If I aspire to write in anyone’s style, it is hers – her language, her lyricism, her irony, her brilliantly dangerous characterizations.
If I had a mentor at all, it was Helen Corner of Cornerstone’s Literary Consultancy in the UK. She took The Stumpwork Robe under her wing and honed it, and by association me, and effectively turned me from a would-be writer into a writer.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Ann Swinfen’s Enterprise of England set in Elizabethan times. A wholly unique view of England at the time.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Oh so many – SJA Turney, Alex Martin, Gordon Doherty, Douglas Jackson, Ann Swinfen, Annie Whitehead, Matthew Harffy, Jan Ruth, John Hudspith, Christian Cameron and Martin Lake to name just a few. Stunning writing all round with a freshness and light to it.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have two writing projects on the go. The second in The Triptych Chronicle, entitled Guillaume, is currently under way and set in 12th century Lyon. The other project is a short story on the Occitan legend of Pedauque for a miniature book press (Bopressminiaturebooks.com) with whom I collaborate on occasion.
The ongoing marketing of my most recently published book, Tobias, takes time as well. It is the first book in The Triptych Chronicle and the man of the title deserves a vast readership, I think. He’s an honest and courageous man with a soul as deep as the ocean and his journey through the book and through twelfth century Byzantium shakes him to the core.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
See above re Cornerstones, and I would also add YouWriteOn.com. At the time I belonged to the peer review site, it was in its very early days and was filled with a band of brothers. We all supported each other right into the whole independent writing scene. YWO at the time established a POD publishing programme. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes because it consumes every waking (and sleeping) moment.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not at all. Unless my editor suggested it…
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Primary School, Grade Three. The teacher put up a picture on the board of a dainty woodland scene with animals and fairies and said ‘Write a little composition about it.’ I knew then that I had come home.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Rather than share my current WIP, may I share a piece of Tobias?
As he moved, he saw Zoë turn and for one brief moment, there was relief in her face and she cried out, ‘In the name of God, I cry sanctuary within the confines of Sancta Sophia!’ She dropped to her knees, repeating ‘Sanctuary,’ as the guards hauled at her. The noise of the guards, of Zoë and of the excited worshippers brought yet more monks and priests and no one took any notice of Dana and Tobias crossing the crowded narthex to the other side of the basilica, sliding toward the south gates.
Looking back briefly, Toby saw Father Symeon speaking to the guards whereupon they backed away from Zoë Komemna. She in turn stayed kneeling, head bowed. All Toby could do was hope the Patriarch, informed swiftly of a penitent seeking sanctuary, would make haste to his church and that she could plead her cause.
Ahead, the six guards prodded Tomas and he tripped. They moved toward the Great Palace confines, through the Augusteion where the giant column of Justinian watched over the people, those same people whose faith had been shaken by someone stealing an icon.
Tobias began to run toward his brother. Would the Byzantines try him? What had they been told about him? And what of Pietro? Had they already dealt with him summarily for purchasing the stolen icon?
Jesu and Mary, Tomas, God help you!
He had gained on the guards and just as he went to push at one of those in the rear, he was caught in a smothering grasp, a voice cutting through his anger and fear.
‘One to deal with is enough. Two would test my patience.’ Ahmed held him fast. Tomorrow Toby’s arm would be blue and yellow.
‘A pig’s turd on your patience, Ahmed. It’s my brother!’
‘Indeed, and your God no doubt expects you to love your brother and forgive his misdemeanours.’
‘Keep your irony to yourself and let me go! I have to rescue him…’
‘Do you think the guards will just step aside and let you sweep him away? Allah have mercy upon you, little Tobias. You have no brain.’
Toby pulled fruitlessly, watching the guard move on. ‘No!’ he cried. Tomas heard him and struggled but was thumped in the shoulder blades and pushed on.
‘My friend, you must let him go for the moment,’ Ahmed said. ‘We must hope for help in other directions. Ouch! Don’t you dare bite me or I’ll twist your head off!’ He tightened his grip so that Tobias had to cease moving. But it was perhaps more from defeat as Tomas disappeared from sight and he sagged.
‘If I let you go,’ said Ahmed, ‘will you stay here quietly?’
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding time because my life is super-busy.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Dorothy Dunnett, see above.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not as much as I would like. Tasmania is geographically penalised.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Clare Batten, an award-winning designer who just happens to be my daughter…
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finishing it. It’s like losing a close friend.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That I could do it again and again.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write for love, not money and then your work will have heart. In addition, if you plan to become an independent writer, go into the process with no expectations. You may be surprised…
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope they may buy my work and review it, especially Tobias which is so new on the scene. Reviews are what is needed to put books in the public eye. Even one line can sell a book!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Comedy makes me laugh. So does my dog. Sad stories and images make me cry. But sometimes I cry at the sheer beauty of something. For example, out in the boat the other day, a pod of dolphins swam alongside, tipping to look at us hanging over the side looking at them. The moment was so absolutely perfect and filled with silent communication that tears slid down my cheeks.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would meet and why?
Dorothy Dunnett. See above. I would love to ask her why she felt compelled to create such bipolar characters as Niccolo and Francis. They are brilliant!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
She lived and loved. But actually I won’t have a headstone. I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered at sea!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I kayak, I swim, I garden, I walk and I embroider.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Fiona: Favorite foods/Colors/Music
Food made with my own homegrown veggies and herbs. The colour blue is MY colour. And I have a weird eclectic taste in music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Been an animator for Pixar!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website contains my blog: http://pruebatten.com/
Fiona, thank you so much for interviewing me. It’s been a super time and I hope readers will find it worth chasing my books. Cheers and very best wishes.