Thursday, 21 August 2008

HARLEQUIN SPECIAL GUEST - CAROL TOWNEND

Meet Harlequin author Carol Townend and learn a thing or two about Medieval Romance.

Born in Harrogate, Carol was educated in Whitby by Anglican nuns within sight of Count Dracula's Whitby Abbey. Her love of ancient and medieval history took her to London University where she read History, and her first novel, set in 11th century England and published by Mills & Boon, won the RNA New Writers' Award. For the last 20 years she has lived near Kew Gardens with her husband and daughter.
Carol has been making up stories since she was a child. Whenever she comes across a tumbledown building, be it castle or cottage, she can't help conjuring up the lives of the people who once lived there.
Her Yorkshire forebears were friendly with the Brontë sisters. Charlotte used to stay at a former family residence, Allerton Hall; Emily painted a glass window panel for a Townend ancestor; and the Townend family tomb can still be seen in front of Haworth Parsonage where Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were written. Perhaps their influence lingers . . .

Recent Book Releases ( UK Paperback with Mills & Boon) by Carol Townend:
The Novice Bride - March 2008
An Honourable Rogue – September 2008
His Captive Lady – due in April 2009

Please note: the above novels have all been released as ebooks. Visit the WH Smiths webpage for more details at http://ebooks.whsmith.co.uk/CarolTownend

These novels take place in early Norman England and France, with the action in The Novice Bride taking place first, in Wessex , England in 1066, shortly after the Norman Conquest.
The hero of The Novice Bride is a Breton knight, Sir Adam Wymark. He has come over with the Norman invaders and is in search of a new life and lands. The heroine, Lady Cecily of Fulford, is an innocent young novice in a convent.

One of the things I enjoy best about writing is the research. It can really inspire. And I don’t just mean the sort of research that is to be found between the pages of history books although that is, of course, invaluable. I’m talking about location, visiting the places in which they are set. Many scenes in the Wessex Weddings mini series take place in and around the city of Winchester . Winchester had been the seat of power for the Saxon princes, it had (and still has) a Cathedral, and several mills, and a Saxon Palace (sadly no longer there). The ancient town is not buried so far beneath the surface; even parts of the old Roman walls are still standing. There is a small museum just off the Cathedral Close where you can find models of Winchester through the ages. Here is a picture of the late eleventh century model of Winchester taken by my husband. The Roman walls enclose it, you can see the River Itchen running past on the right hand side. We visited the water mill which stands on the site of the old city mill. It has been rebuilt several times since the eleventh century, but you can still buy flour there today! The (relatively) large grey area at the bottom left of the model is the area where the Normans pulled down several houses in a Saxon street to clear space for their castle.
Most of the characters in the Wessex Weddings series would have been familiar with these streets.

I went to a convent school, and in the case of this novel I guess that counts as research too! Although I must hasten to add that none of the nuns in the book are anything like the nuns are school.

The Novice Bride cover

INNOCENT BRIDE,
CONQUERING HUSBAND!

BLURB: As a novice, Lady Cecily of Fulford’s knowledge of men is non-existent. But when tragic news bids her home immediately, her only means of escape from the convent is to brazenly offer herself to the enemy…as a bride!

With her fate now in the hands of her husband, Sir Adam Wymark, she battles to protect her family. Suspicions and betrayal are rife, yet their convenient marriage offers Cecily much more than comfort in her knight’s arms…

Wessex Weddings
Normans and Saxons, conflict and desire

An Honorable Rogue Cover

Charmed and Seduced!

BLURB: Benedict Silvester is a rogue and a flirt! His skill as a musician means he is always travelling…and he charms women wherever he goes. Yet he is on a special mission: to accompany Rozenn Kerber to England .

Rose is frustrated with Ben’s frivolous behaviour and annoyed that his wicked smile continually occupies her thoughts for he can never offer the stability she craves. But on their travels, Rose begins to suspect that he may have a serious side, that Ben is more than he appears…

Wessex Weddings
Norman and Saxons, conflict and desire

The action of An Honorable Rogue begins a year later in Brittany in a town called QuimperlĂ©. Here the location research was done on holiday. It was the geography of the town itself which inspired, leading me to set the beginning of the book there. QuimperlĂ© might be small but there’s a lot of history there. It’s an old river port at the junction of two rivers; there’s a dramatically high cliff on one bank, and the swifts scream as they fly overhead. And, yes, in the eleventh century there was a castle at the confluence of the rivers!
Ben and Rose, the hero and heroine of An Honorable Rogue leave Brittany and travel to England . Their boat lands at Bosham. Here is a photo of Bosham Church . Bosham Church was mentioned in the Bayeux Tapestry, and it is close to where the harbour would have been, so Ben and Rose would definitely have seen it, although the tower would not have been quite as tall or as pointy.


His Captive Lady Cover

Blurb: Captured by the Warrior!
Lady Erica had tried to bring peace to her people, so that they could join forces against the Normans . Instead she became captive to the Saxon warrior, Saewulf Brader!

Wulf was, in truth, a Norman captain spying on the enemy. Chaste yet fearless Lady Erica wasn’t part of his plan. Her beauty was as disarming as it was captivating, but Wulf knew that once she discovered his deception, their fragile bond of trust would be destroyed…

Wessex Weddings
Normans and Saxons, conflict and desire

His Captive Lady opens in the freezing fens of East Anglia . Research is not all about places, objects can inspire too. Below is a picture of a bed taken on a research trip to the Anglo Saxon village that has been recreated at West Stowe. It is built into the corner of a thatched house and is very similar to the type of bed that Lady Erica in His Captive Lady might have slept in. When Erica spent the night at the inn with Wulf guarding her, her box-bed would have been smaller.



I love writing medieval romance, it is something I have always dreamed about doing. Sapphire in the Snow was my first novel, and like the more recent ones it is set in the early Norman period. When I started writing, I didn’t know the first thing about publishing. The UK writers’ group, the Romantic Novelists’ Association ( the RNA) was invaluable, and not just for the talks and meetings.

The RNA operates a New Writers’ Scheme. Writers can submit their manuscripts and receive a critique from a published author. Out of those submitted each year, the manuscripts that make it to publication are eligible for the New Writer’s Award. I submitted Sapphire in the Snow and received a critique. It was full of helpful suggestions which I tried to implement, and after working on it the novel was sent to Mills & Boon. To my delight (after more revisions) Sapphire in the Snow was accepted and it went on to win that year’s New Writers’ Award! That was back in 1989. Here is the RNA Link: http://www.rna-uk.org/

Revisions will always be very much part of the writing process. I have just completed some on another novel, but I am superstitious about saying anything about that here! I shall wait until my editor has looked at them. I am not sure whether I have been particularly lucky with my editors or not, but one of the things I like best about writing for Mills & Boon is that the editors do help you realise your vision in the best way. Some revisions can be very challenging - the revisions for An Honourable Rogue were just such revisions. It was incredibly hard work, but also, incredibly satisfying.

For more details, including other articles about the novels, please see my website: http://www.caroltownend.co.uk/ The articles may be found in the News & Reviews section under Author’s Notes.
There is also a selection of reviews to be found on the website. Here is a link to the page on the Pink Heart Society which has reviews of these three novels: http://pinkheartsocietyreviews.blogspot.com/search?q=carol+townend

3 comments:

christina said...

Hi Carol - great to 'hear' from you again - we met at AMBA this year. I really love your covers. Are they all done by the same person?
Best wishes
Christina Hollis

Carol Townend said...

Hi Christina!
I don't think the covers were done by the same person, but I like them too. 'His Captive Lady' will be getting a different cover for the UK paperback, and that is another good one too :)))
Best wishes
Carol

Mychael Black said...

Wow... Some new books to add to my list!

I've been a huge fan of medieval romances for a while, but they're not easy to find among the massive amount of historicals.

Thanks for this wonderful interview!

-Mychael