Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Paula Lofting, I am 56 years young!
Fiona: Where are you from?
From the ancient county of Sussex, a town called Crawley which lies near Gatwick airport in North-West Sussex. I have lived here for most of my life. I love Sussex, its steeped in history and as a history lover, that’s great for me.
Originally I was born in the county of Middlesex which has now been swallowed by Greater London. I emigrated with my family to Australia where I grew up in a place called Elizabeth, 17 miles outside from the South Australian capital of Adelaide. At the age of 16 I returned to the country of my birth and moved to Sussex about 30 years ago.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Growing up in Australia meant I was educated there. The system was similar to that of England but I am not sure if our reading material was the same, though we seem to have shared well known children books like the Narnia series and Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical fiction for children, Winnie the Pooh, and other such classics.
My parents had hoped that I would have gone to university, but I left school at 16 to work and enjoy the company of my friends and boys! I wish I had gone to Uni instead but obviously that wasn’t my path!
Now I live at home with my two youngest adult children, I have a daughter Catherine and two sons called Ron and Connor. I also have a granddaughter, Amilee who is 5 and I adore her.
I recently became a vegan, for both health reasons and because of the cruelty to animals thing and hope in some way I’m doing my bit to see changes in the way we farm and treat animals.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I am working on my third book in my Sons of the Wolf series, Wolf’s Bane. I’m hoping it will be released sometime next year.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing as a child. I loved writing stories, and my favourite class at school was ‘composition’ where our teachers would give us a theme and about 4-5 titles to choose from, and we had to write a story. The problem was, I struggled to write short ones! I still do.
I seemed to have a vivid imagination, and I have to admit, as a child, I was a day dreamer, and a fantasiser! I would imagine myself living in a different world, a character from a book, or a made-up character with a made-up family. Sometimes the only way to cope with all this business in my head was to write it.
I embarked on a handwritten story when I was in my late teens, 20’s which was intended to be an epic saga set in post Roman Britain. Unfortunately, I thought I had to be able to type, and thought I would never learn, so like many projects I didn’t feel I could carry out, I gave up.
Later in my 40’s after a serious re-evaluation of my life after another divorce, having learned to work a PC, I realised I could actually produce a book if I wanted to and so, having the skills, I decided that I would write that novel after all!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess it has to be when my first book was published.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A visit to a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings. I became very interested in what happened, why, and how. I knew about the story, but I hadn’t really thought about it as deeply and although I thought Harold and his huscarles were heroes, I did feel that he wasn’t the rightful king, I believed at the time, that the king had the right to name his successor. Of course, being inspired by the battle re-enactment, I started to research, and David Howarth’s lovely book, 1066 The Year of the Conquest, increased my interest and taught me another story. Reading Helen Hollick’s fantastic book, Harold The King, my decision to write a story based on this period was sealed. But it was Mr Howarth’s book that made me want to show the events of that time through the eyes of the ordinary people.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Well, the story is mainly centred around the people of an eleventh century village in Sussex, in particular one man and his family. The people who lived in his region were known to have been the ‘people of the wolf’, their family names had the prefix Wulf. So at some point in the book, they refer to themselves in their ancient term, Wulfsunu, meaning sons of wolves, thus the title for the first in the series was borne, and now it is the name for the whole series.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
The challenge is to please everyone – its either ‘too modern’, ‘too much old English.’ Personally, I feel that if I can create the environment as it might have been in the 11thc, that my characters look and wear authentic clothing, they behave authentically, and eat, drink, and work authentically, that my battles feel as authentic as possible, then my job is done. The language needs to be understandable, after all, if I wrote in Anglo Saxon, which I would have to to make it authentic, no one would understand it, would they? As long a I’m not using 21st century expressions, then so what?
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I have based my character’s story around the and within the context and historical events known of the time. I interweave historical characters into the story of my fictional characters. Some of the experiences and feelings of my characters I can relate to, so there’s a lot of me in a lot of them.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I haven’t travelled a great deal, though I did go on a roadtrip once to visit some of the settings for my books. Chester, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Rhuddlan, St Asaph, are just some of the places I have been to get a feel for the terrain and the lay of the land. Living in Sussex I have been to Battle several times, and Pevensey, and also Little Horsted where my character’s homestead is. The man who owned the land pre-conquest is my MC.
Visiting the modern day towns that date back to the 11thc is not that helpful in terms of how they may have looked back in the day, for there is little to see of the Anglo-Saxon town, except perhaps the remains of the Roman and medieval walls around the towns. Most of the architecture from the period I write in was made from wood apart from the odd stone-built church, so there is nothing about the places themselves apart from the topographythat can give me any idea how to present it to readers. So I have to use my imagination and the remaining street plans of the old town which you will find are still there as they were built back in Alfred’s day, who himself, used the Roman layouts of these burghs.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My dear friend Mr Dave Slaney made my covers for me. I tell him what I want, and he comes up with the goods. He has done three books for me so far, the third being a WIP. The first book he did, I remember putting him through his paces, and he patiently kept going back until he got it right. It must have taken about ten retakes. Now, he usually does it in two. He is fantastic to work with, and very talented.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Definitely. Mostly how devastating the Norman invasion was on the people of England. The oppression must have been so utterly soul destroying. To lose not only your husbands/fathers/brothers etc, because they fought on the losing side, but also your lands, your properties, homes, and your dignity. Women whose lands belonged to themselves were forced to flee to nunneries to escape forcibly having to marry Normans who, having got their husband’s lands, now wanted to get their hands on theirs. Children who were orphaned, kicked out on the street with nothing.
So many people believe that the Norman invasion was good for England, that it brought wealth, opulence and prosperity to England but England was already all of those things, beautiful churches, wealth, a green and prosperous land with one of the most efficient centralised administrative tax collecting system already.
That is the message I would like people to remember. The suffering of our ancestors and the terrible loss of life on both sides at the Battle of Hastings. The Harrying of the North, where it was reckoned that 100,000 people lost their lives through slaughter and starvation. The abject cruelty of the Norman regime was like nothing that land had seen before.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Paul Kingsnorth – I don’t know what his other works are like, but his book, The Wake, is amazing. A lot of people were not able to understand it’s Shadow Language, and I get that, but I thoroughly enjoyed it after I got used to the way it was written. It does help to have some familiarity with Old English language. For me, though, the concept and the precedent it has set was really exciting.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not really. I wish it was, but I don’t sell enough books currently! I’m hoping when I’ve written a few more things might move forward a bit in that direction. For now, I have to work, as a nurse, to make ends meet and fund my pleasure – which is how I see writing for me at the moment.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Probablymake sure I have the right editor!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I think my writing is much better.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
My main character is a land owning warrior, a thegn. He is in his mid thirties, manly, muscular, the silent but angry type! Perhaps someone like Charlie Hunnan.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Get a good editor, don’t think you can edit your own work and get away with it. Write what you know, write what you like.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
That book #3 of Sons of the Wolf, should be with you sometime next year; it’s a slow process I know, but please bear with me!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not the very first but one of the first I remember was The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Williams. This book has stayed with me all my life. I have a copy of it now. It taught me a lot about loss, and acceptance, hardship. I remember literally crying over this book. I’m not sure but I think I was around 7 when I read it.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Having a good girly chat, whinge, moan with my friends who know me well and with whom I can laugh about most anything.
What makes me cry? Sad films, sad books. Happy moments that touch me in some way. I’m a very emotional person. I cry if I am writing a scene where my character is emotionally harmed. Its not that I don’t like hurting them, its just that it feels like its happening to me.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
There are a lot of people from the past – I’d like to ask Harold Godwinson, why he didn’t run down the hill at Hastings!
I’d like to ask Edward the Confessor what the heck he was playing at by being so shady about the succession.
I’d like to ask Richard the Third if he knows what happened to the princes in the Tower and why did he keep quiet about their disappearance if he was innocent.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I do re-enactment of the period I write in, the late Anglo-Saxon period.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m crazy about Game of Thrones. There’s nothing on TV like it and there never has been.
Recently watched The Black Klansman which was a very hard-hitting view of the 70’s Black Power movement and the rekindling of the Ku Klux Klan. A real good guys versus bad, I loved it.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I recently became a vegan, so I love experimenting.
My favourite colours are dark shades of reds and purples.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Tell stories? Its hard to imagine.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Here lies a kind, compassionate individual, who made a difference
But obviously only if people think I am and did.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
1066: The Road to Hastings and Other Stories – www.paulaloftinghistoricalnovelist.wordpress.com
Paula Peruses – www.paulaperuses.blogspot.co.uk
Amazon Authors Page UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paula-Lofting/e/B007IWFIIM/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1536327231&sr=1-2-ent