Author Archives: deborahcfoulkes

Writing

I remember the first time I decided to pick up a pen and write a book. I’d been on a family holiday to Tintagal and there, I had my first connection with Morgan Le Fay as a character. It was a daunting task. Not only was I going to attempt a full-length novel, but I was going to tackle one of the biggest stories around. (I don’t do things by halves)

That was the start of my writing journey and it was a tough one. Crippled with so many confidence issues and others that were personal such as breakdowns in family life, it’s a wonder I managed to keep going. Morgan, sat on the back shelf for a long while and then I had the idea for Immortal. It was as though, I’d planted the seed of a new life and it was starting to grow into something I could work with. Immortal became known as my cursed piece. The damn thing kept getting lost, then corrupted and in the end I just gave up with it. Maybe someone upstairs wasn’t wanting this written. Ironic given the themes. The story is inspired by the Book of Revelations, one of the few parts of the bible that fascinates me. I wanted to explore the idea of what we as a society would do if faced with the Second Coming and Immortal centres around a Preist who must  find out whether a brother or a sister are that. But while it lost itself, I was already plotting The Higher Trilogy. But years later, while tidying up my computer, I found the file for Immortal and it opened with no issues, so with triple backing and mulitple saves, I managed to get it out and published.

As corny as it sounds, The Higher came from a dream I had, and I still have the envelope that I scribbled notes on upon waking. I dreamt that I was watching the moment when God became God and he was appointing his angels. So I started work on the story based on that scene. At that time, my daughter was in the choir and while attending Good Friday, I remember sat listening to the Gospel of Jesus’ crucifixtion and thinking ‘What was God doing while this was happening’ and that was book two.

Mina Marley came as something small that grew into a monster. I needed to gain more traffic to my website to promote my books and so created a fictional online blog series based on a woman who lived in Supton. It was very much going to be like a seralised blog that was updated every Wednesday for people to follow. But it grew in popularity and the books were born. Telling the story in the style used by Bram Stoker in Dracula. The narrative told through Blogs, Emails, Texts and Phonecalls.

When I started on this journey, I never expected it to take me on the path it did. I may not be rolling in royalties, which would be nice, but I’ve met some amazing people, who I’ve learned a hell of a lot from. Now writing is like breathing, I can’t imagine my life without doing it. It also helped in other circumstances. I’ve made it no secret that I battle bouts of depression and anxiety, and it’s in those moments where I’ve felt like giving up that I’ve always found comfort and solace in writing whatever comes into my head. Venting those emotions into a more constructive way.

And this is why I do what I do. The love and passion of creating something from nothing that gives others pleasure as well as being part of a world where you always have constant support from those just starting out to bestsellers.

Shelia Dalton Interview

For my first Author Spotlight, I introduce the author of Stolen, Sheila Dalton. Stolen is set during the 17th Century and focuses around the character Lizbet, a young girl who loses her parents at the start of the story due to a pirate raid on her village, and is forced on a journey. It’s one of self discovery and bravery where Lizbet comes face to face with many perils which adds to the building of her as a character and turning into a woman.

Dalton’s writing for me, really brought that world to life, with beautifully descriptive language that drags you in and commits you to her world. The bond as a reader towards Lizbet grew each page turned and I was on her side quickly wanting her survive and make it through each obstacle met.

Stolen is only a short peice of work, but the impact that Dalton creates is enough for it to be a strong piece and I can see that many in the YA market will enjoy and invest in Lizbet as a character and Dalton as an author.

So with that in mind, I’m giving Stolen 4**** REVIEW and recommending her to you all.

Interview with Shelia Dalton

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What made you start writing?

We used to put on little plays as kids in England, and I started to think I would like to write one of my own. We played dress-up all the time, and there was something magical about it. I never did write a play until my first year of university, but I did start making up stories.

What is the inspiration behind Lizbet’s story?

Her particular story – losing her parents and all her kith and kin in a pirate raid – came to me because of places I’d visited in Morocco and Devon, England.

Tell me about the historical period her story is set in and why you chose it?

I chose the 17th century because I saw the underground dungeons in Morocco where I was told the Christian slaves were kept, and I visited the places along the coast of Devon where both British and Moroccan pirates operated. I was intrigued, and when I began to read up on these events, I discovered that raids along the British coast by Barbary corsairs had taken place in the 17th century. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. The 17th century was both the Age of Exploration and The Golden Age of Piracy. It was a time when the old world was discovering the new, when different races met each other for the first time. It was an exciting, brutal, fascinating era, and one that had not been written about all that much.

They say that there are two types of writer. A gardener, who plants the seed and allows the freedom of the story to take over. Or the Architect who carefully plans and plots every detail. Which one describes you best?

I’m actually both! I can never pin down exactly where a story comes from – I think many seeds are planted by what I read, see, hear, discover, and invent – but then I’m pretty careful about plotting, and usually have an ending in mind before I begin to write. But things do change in the process of writing – the story and characters take over, and it sometimes becomes clear that things I had planned to write are not going to work, so I change them.

Who were you literary heroes?

I have quite a few literary heroes, and, on the surface, they don’t seem to have a lot in common! Early on I read and was inspired by Anais Nin, Doris Lessing and Irish Murdoch. Later, I fell in love with Sarah Waters and Lisa See. I love a book with a good plot, thought-provoking themes, great character development, and a strong female lead.

Are they are more projects in the pipeline and are you able to tell me a little about them?

I’ve already finished a novella featuring my Siamese-mix, Pinky, but I have no immediate plans to publish it. It’s about a cat who becomes able to think, rather like a human, after a trauma – in this case, the death of his favourite person, the husband of the widow in the story (based on me and my husband). He doesn’t like this, but is stuck with it. His story is about the changes in his and the widow’s life, and how he comes to terms with them. There’s a bit of a love story involved, too.

I’m also thinking about a sequel to Stolen, and have begun two other novels – one about an entomologist who discovers a rare dragonfly in Guatemala; the other about an apparent murder/suicide of two young gay men in an Andy-Warhol type group in sixties London. But I’m also in a bit of a writing slump, and wonder if I will ever finish any of them!

You can buy Stolen from Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Itunes

sheiladalton.weebly.com

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The Power of Gossip

How many of us have been a victim of gossip and rumour. In the world of social media that can, in many cases, lead to the ruination of a person’s life. All it takes is one word, or picture and in a few clicks, it’s shared not just locally, but nationally and globally. The society we live in makes this a way of life. The reason certain magazines sell is because as members of the public we enjoy seeing celebrities being stripped bare with the use of gossip.

In the 1600’s, the Pendle witches were victims of gossip and inevitably led to many deaths. Whether they were practising witches was by the by. They were a family who lived on the outside of society and their village, which mean they were easy targets. Elizabeth Southerner ( Demdike) and Anne Whittle (Chattox) the most famous. On March 16th 1612, Demdike’s daughter Alizon met a pedlar by the name of John Law and asked to sell her some pins, which he refused. In the moment of rashness, she cursed him for being mean and in unfortunate circumstances he later went on to have a fit. This was the start of the persecution  not helped by the fact Alizon begged for forgiveness. But the family was already not seen as conforming to the norm and that admission confirmed all’s suspicions. Rumour and speculation further built on that case. By the end, blood was on the town’s hands.

By the 1640’s in the midst of the English Civil War, paranoia was it it’s height. Brother and turned on brother. Families at war. Against the King. Against the Parliment. No-one knew where they really stood and if it was wrong then death would follow. For Matthew Hopkins, the power of a gossip was utilised to the fullest. One pointed finger. One unusual set of circumstances and those that were not liked or behaved strangely would find themselves in irons facing the Witchfinder General. I, for one, know that if I lived in those times I would be tried as a witch. The reasons are simple. I’m a single unmarried mother. Strike one. Next I have an unusual blue mole on my forearm. My witches mark. Strike two. Off to the noose I go.

So, even though we live in a world where gossip can be damaging, we have to be grateful that we have some protection when it comes to privacy. The ignorance and tolerance is a little better and so such deaths don’t occur within our society. It  is also food for thought, the next time you speak something about someone ask yourself. Is it right? Is it true? and is it fair?

Meet my Character

With the imminent publication of the fifth Mina Marley book: Emergence, I am discussing my characters. Last week if was Mina, now it’s Micka’s turn.

When creating Mina, Micka was there at her side. One couldn’t be created without the other. Perfect balance and partnership.

When writing Micka, I researched angelic lore and worked on what I wanted from Micka and his role in Mina’s life. So, I created a band of angels called the Militants. Pure soldiers of heaven who’s only purpose is to serve and protect and Micka is the leader.

When he first enters Mina’s life, he’s cold, aloof and secretive, but the bond created between he and Mina, changes everything. Finding out that he is Mina’s Godfather complicates matters as does the mere fact Mina belongs to Sebastian Daniels by the order of Micka’s masters.

Mina describes him as nothing like the other angels. The angels wear human suits to communicate with those not themselves. Many chose suits that exude power and strength, but Micka doesn’t. He’s smaller in height with a lean body, but he’s greatest physical characteristic is the mop of unruly dark hair that Mina asserts is untameable.  Instead of the normal dark suits that is uniform for angels in human form, Micka opts for the casual red plaid shirts, with a t-shirt underneath and blue jeans.

I’ve had a lot of fun developing Micka as a character and with no voice, readers only note those changes through his actions.  He will do anything for Mina, but continually fights with what he is trained to do.  That’s one of the reasons I have not and will never give him an internal voice. He needs to remain a mystery even to me sometimes, because I like never really knowing what he’s going to do next.  It keeps me interested in him and I hope that’s the same for the readers.

 

Being a Genre Whore

So many of my writer friends are classified in their genre, mainly historical fiction, and are known for what they write, which is bloody good stuff. When people ask what they write, I imagine they quite confidently will say: “I write historical fiction” where as when people as me, it takes a moment for me to answer. That’s because I don’t feel I write for a particular genre. Hence my term Genre Whore.

This has plagued me continuously and no doubt eats away at the ever fragile writer confidence unnecessarily. Should I pick a genre to stick to or should I keep going freely as I have been doing? Yet, I don’t have the luxury of a well known brand to ride off, but all I know is deep in my soul, the story comes to me, I write it and then the genre is considered later. This was particularly true of Immortal. I wrote it and then couldn’t pigeon hole it. This is all fair and well, but when you are trying to sell it as a product then it helps if you know where to put it. :).  All my books have similar themes rather than a genre. They are all based on some form of twist of a biblical story or prophecy, both old and new testament, but would hardly categorize them as Christian Fiction, because I very much doubt any devout Christian would appreciate my take on their good book.

Now I’m about to delve into a world that both intimidates and excites me. It’s a genre that I love to read and I’m passionate about. History Fiction. Why does it intimidate me? Well because there are so many great writers out there and a lot I greatly admire that I feel a little out of my depth and also that I may be exposed as a fraud.

Again the over sensitive writers ego.

But I know my subjects and I know them well at that is my boost. I’m not stupid enough to dip my toe into a subjects like Rome or the Vikings. That’s a far too big a pond for me to make even a ripple in. That’s not in anyway demeaning my own skill, but I know the writers of such and they are beautifully talented in their word weaving and the readers have bloody high expectations. I know I am one of those readers.

Now as I start on toe dipping in the History Fiction pond, it now becomes even more evident that I’m changing genres for the sake of the story and I wonder if anyone else feels the same. Do you think sticking to a genre and a market is the way to go? Or should you just worry about that once the story has been told?

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The Witches of the 17th Century

Being a pagan/witch, I’ve always taken an interest in witches of the past and of course heard many tales of the torture and execution of men, women and children. Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General was the witches bad guy. The man who tortured and killed over 200 innocents in a two year period, but I didn’t really give him much thought. Then it came to me choosing a dissertation subject.

If you’d have asked at the start of my academic study who I’d have studied I’d have told you that it would have been something based on the Tudors. But by my second year, I realised that when it came to the Tudors, it was so saturated what could I possibly add to it? What was left to say? So then I decided I would look at a local legend that was Guy Fawkes. I wanted to find out what it was about this man who was essentially a terrorist that had captured our hearts. But it just wouldn’t stick and then it came to me. Matthew Hopkins. I would do my study on him and his persecution of witches.

At the time, I was currently studying the English Civil War and was struggling to understand the politics and who was who, so how would I be able to understand the environment that Hopkins was working with? But in the end I knew this was what I wanted to commit to, so I pushed myself to understand.

One of the most surprising things was the more I read and studied the more I began to change my views.  The man began to work his way under my skin and I saw him less of a monster but more of an opportunist desperate to make an impact within an unsteady world. Yes, I know that many are going to jump on this and question it, but it’s the truth of how I felt. My tutor even said you have a knack for sympathizing with the bad guy considering my passion for Henry VIII.

He’s right of course. In my writing, I will take the bad guy and turn him into something else. The anti hero. I did it with Morgan le Fay. I just want you to look at a character in a different way and think about it three dimensionally. But before you jump on this and say but he murdered innocents. I agree, Hopkins did but did he kill witches? This I’m not sure is 100% true. The last witch her tried gives me doubts which I’ll share in time. But right now Hopkins is the new centre character in my new book and already in forums the snippets have had a good response. Excellent, I hear you say. Well, this makes me nervous. I’ve no idea who I’m going to write him just yet. Will I give him a traditional battering as the Witches bad guy or will I take the risk and make you see another side to the man? A man who was so desperate by the end of his career that he did something different with one of his last recorded witches.

Well I suppose I will find out and allow him to take me by the hand and possibly to noose. He will either stand with me or against me. It will work or it will flop but I’ve no choice but to write it and love every minute.

matthew-hopkins-english-witch-hunter-science-source

Saying Goodbye to Characters

When I set out to write about Mina Marley I had a set idea about how many books there would be and where I would take it, but out of all my characters I’ve ever written these ones have had so much of a life of their own. For example the series was originally called Micka and Me and was going to be solely about Mina and Micka’s love story, but by book three and the start of four, I began to realise that the title was a mis-sell. The story was developing and Mina was taking control of the story and it became  all about her journey so I renamed the series The Mina Marley Chronicles.

Now I’m well on the way with book five, this should have been the final one with one spin off., but not the Supton clan want a sixth book and it seems to be a popular decision. So, just as I was getting ready to say goodbye to characters they are not done with me yet, which I don’t mind.

 

Playing With Perspectives

I was thinking today about some of the books that have really made me think about different perspectives and I wanted to share this one. The author is a friend of mine and writes horror and gore and though now he’s gone on to movie writing, this book has stuck with me. Yes the book is full of slasher teen gore, but the perspective is from the monster’s and as a reader I found myself sympathizing with him. I was torn between Edward being the victim and being the monster. Plus the ending of this book packs a sick punch right in the gut.

But I am a fan of the twist on perspectives and I, myself do the same in my writing. I try and playing with stereotypes and make the reader question their beliefs. I chose to do that with my vampires in The Mina Marley Chronicles by making them less shiny and beautiful but the lowest of the low. Dirty pitiful creatures that no one wants to touch.

So the book is called Hammerhead by Garry Charles and if you’re so inclined then give it a go and see if it affects you like it did me.

Death and Fiction

When I started The Mina Marley Chronicles, I had already planned who would live and who would die by the end of the series. Set in stone, there were some characters and some yet to come that have continued to have the Grim Reaper’s presence surrounding the. But never did I expect that a character’s death would impact me in a both negative and a positive way.

I remember when it came to writing the death scene declaring on social media that this was going to be tough call. The response was kill your darlings or a good character cull is refreshing, however many may not have realised the significance.

Ray Marley, Mina’s father was one of the first I knew would die. It was needed because his death would bring another significant character and I didn’t feel it was plausible for them to be both together in the same world. I needed to break Mina and make her vulnerable and so increase the impact of entrance of the new character. It worked, readers were shocked by the reveal and I’d done my duty. The gamble paid off.

However, when I made this plan never in my dreams did I expect reality and fantasy to merge into one. A couple of weeks before I was due to write the scene, my own father died unexpectedly. This as you can expect knocked my writing schedule right out of the window. But what this did was able me to use writing as a release, but it was also the hardest.

The death itself wasn’t so difficult to write. It’s in the middle of an action scene where many characters are all scrambling to save their own lives, but it was the aftermath. I found myself connecting with Mina on a deeper level and more of my own feelings and actions filtered through. All the pain, anger and resentment was there as well as trying to keep everyone happy by being okay. When it came to the funeral scene, all the thoughts and feelings were reflective of my own and so much so that those that have read it and know me personally have been brought to tears by it.

Now maybe putting that much of myself into those scenes were not such a good idea, but for me writing them was a great healer and release.  So here is an extract of that funeral and I hope it touches you as it has many others.

Mina Marley funeral

Morgan

Morgan Banner

 

On February the 2nd I will be releasing Morgan and thought I would talk about my journey with my favourite Camelot character. Morgan is going to be 10th book and yet, Morgan le Fay was the starting of my whole writer journey. It was around 2001 and me , my then partner and our daughter were visiting Cornwall for a family holiday. Amongst many of the places we visited on of them was Tintagel and while looking out at the castle remains on the cliffs edge, I felt totally enchanted by the place.  Then while visiting the shop nearby I saw this statuette.

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I fell in love with it and so bought it. On the way home, the story of Morgan played on my mind. I’d always loved the King Arthur and Merlin always held my interest. He was the mythical wizard that was much more interesting than the knights. As a child, I have always held an apathy with the misunderstood characters in any story or film and those who have read my books know this full well. Morgan le Fay was one of those characters. She was dark and mysterious and always seemed to get a rough deal in all interpretations. She was evil and enemy of Arthur, yet she was his sister; however, no-one seemed to take into account her motivations. What had happened to make her that way. In the stories, she was Igraine’s first child to her husband Gorlois. Her father was then killed by Uther Pendragon in order to have Igraine has his wife and thus Arthur was born. Can you really blame a young girl who has been betrayed by a man like that. There is also some tales that talk of the conception of Mordred. Some say she tricked Arthur into bed, but there is another that I prefer and used. After being separated as children, they both meet again as young adults and are tricked during a pagan ceremony into sleeping with each other both not knowing who the other was.

There are very few actresses that I feel have done her justice. One being Helen Mirrim in Excalibur and Eva Green in Camelot. I am a massive fan of Helenia Bonham Carter, but her portrayal in Merlin was annoying and flippant. I hated it and get very irritated if she is not played right. She has significance and should be shown that way.

Throughout the story she is desperate to keep herself and station at the centre of Arthur’s court and yet as any strong woman in old stories she is painted as an evil seductress and the downfall of Camelot. This for me was my motive. I’d never written anything like a full length novel before. Just shorts, poems and songs, but there was something about this that was telling me to write it. So I did. I sat at our clunky computer with Windows 95 on and started to just write. It was the biggest pile of crap ever, but you know what I was bloody proud. I’d made the first step on my writer’s and journey and it didn’t matter how bad it was or that I hadn’t even planned anything, I’d done it. So why has it taken so long to get it published?

Simple, it was never good enough. I tweaked it continuously and the last time I felt happy with it, I sent it to an agent. The feedback was send them the rest of it. I did and excitedly waited. Weeks passed and then I got some response. The agent felt that the idea was a good one, but it was too weak to stand against all the other King Arthur stories out there. Disheartened, I thought maybe I should leave it. I had started on The Higher and Immortal was in it’s rough stages. I’d caught the writer bug and it was burying deep.

One of my favourite author’s Giles Kristian said at one of his talks that something like the first 150,000 words you write is always your worst and I was beginning to think this was that. Morgan was going to always be the worst thing I’d ever written. The problem being I couldn’t leave her alone. I wanted to tell her story and every couple of years or so, she would enter my thoughts and say “Okay, you’ve written a few books now, maybe you’ve learned something. Look at me again.’ So this year I relented. Found it. Looked it over and thought right this is it.

So you see, Morgan le Fay is more than just a character, she inspired me to write her story and in doing so gave me the confidence to start on this writing road.

On the 2nd of February you can decide for yourself and read the book that started it all for me and hopefully I’ve done her justice.

 

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