Tag Archives: Guest Blog

Guest Post – Maria Mellins – How important is setting to an author?

So over the past few weeks I’ve started watching a series called Sirens. Have you seen it? if not you should. It’s about mermaids..not Disney style.. these mermaids have teeth and they do use them!

Well after watching an episode it reminded me of a book I’ve read. Returning Eden by author Maria Mellins. Well I just had to drop the author a line to see about a guest post while it was fresh in my mind.

Click the image below to see my review of Returning Eden

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Thankfully for me Maria was very happy to oblige and shared her views on how important setting is to an author.

Here’s what Maria had to say –


 

I am very keen to ponder the idea of just how important setting is to an author. I have heard authors, much more experienced than I, talk about the process of writing a novel and how at times the characters begin to make decisions above and beyond the author’s original intentions. Before you know it, these domineering, unruly characters have got you into all kinds of strife through no (conscious) fault of your own. Well in my story, I did certainly get a sense of this, but it was actually the setting and the overall world-building, that really seemed to exemplify what I can only term as a Frankenstein effect. Locations, architecture, weather, all seemed to take on a life of their own.

My novel is set in the fictional island of Cantillon. The island itself is heavily influenced, appearance wise anyway, by the American prison Alcatraz and a visit I had to San Francisco in my twenties. There isn’t anything new about a story, tinged with horror, being set on an island. Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is testament to how creepy and atmospheric such a setting can be. Islands are ideal. The beasties can be unleashed and the characters escape routes are very limited. There is also something primeval about islands, they are as old as the earth and who knows what creatures lurk there. Like the ocean, islands present an uncanny element of the unknown.  They make chilling settings. I guess my spin on the island setting that appears so ancient and almost magical, was to introduce characters who are thoroughly modern.

A theme in Returning Eden and in many novels and films that I loved growing up, is the clash between old and new. I have never been too keen on period fiction, tending to prefer my novels and movies to straddle ancient and modern worlds both thematically and visually. I love the idea of college kids, dressed in the latest fashion, wandering around labyrinthine architectures from the eighteenth century, or being dwarfed by gargantuan stone fountains in the shape of mythical sea gods. The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris contain this lovely blend of ancient history, vampirism (that is archaic) but with contemporary characters. Films like Wes Craven’s Scream from the nineties contain beautiful, overbearing landscapes, with a teenage girl running around in corridors in the dark. I wanted to recapture this theme of anachronism in Cantillon Island, and create a world that is looking backwards and forwards simultaneously. So at the centre of the island is Cantillon College, an eighteenth century castle that oozes over the entire grounds, but its student body are a bunch of contemporary British teenagers.

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Cantillon College is the main focal point of the novel, both in terms of action and atmosphere. It is a gothic castle that I can’t fully separate out from my own experiences studying and now lecturing at St Mary’s University, home of Strawberry Hill House. Many a stormy night I’ve spent walking the hallways after lectures, thinking how lucky I am to be able to dwell in such a beautiful, gothic environment, and especially one that is so steeped in history of the gothic novel. Strawberry Hill House and gothic writing go hand-in-hand. Horace Walpole transformed the site in Strawberry Hill into his ‘little gothic castle’ in 1747. It was on these premises that he wrote A Castle of Otranto, which is commonly regarded to be the first gothic novel and an influence for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Needless to say inspiration comes easily when you are surrounded by such a place.

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(Above) The Oceanides, York House, Twickenham. A direct influence on the fountain scene in my novel.

Alongside the architecture and the gothic tone of the novel (it rains a lot!) I have to say that the ocean is the most inspiring of settings. I think part of the reason that I wrote Returning Eden, and this will become more apparent as I continue with the series, was in attempt to recreate my experience of watching films like Jaws for the first time. I love horror stories and these sea-baddies have always given me the heebie-jeebies, especially as a kid. Even now, any film that includes underwater footage immediately piques my interest. Taking Jaws as an example, the story includes that ancient sense of creation, of the prehistoric, in the form of a man-eating shark. Jaws doesn’t present an actual real-life shark that should be respected and protected, It presents a fantasy man-eating sea monster (hell-bent on revenge if you watch all the Jaws movies) that can legitimately threaten any given number of modern scenarios, as we can wonder – what if? It is just within the realms of reality. If 95 percent of the ocean remains unexplored then what can be lurking out there? I wanted to write something that addressed this question and made me feel terrified and excited all at once.

To find out more about Returning Eden head to Goodreads or Amazon

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Guest Post – Anne Boileau – Clink Street Blogival2017

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Today is my first post as part of Click Street’s #Blogival2017.

I took part in the 2016 Blogival and the reason I’m back again this year is simply becuase it’s a wonderful way for the authors to interact with readers and It brings something a little extra to my blog.

There’s plenty more stops on the tour.. please do have a look. Word of mouth really helps not only the authors but us bloggers too.

I’ll be sharing some fellow bloggers posts via my twitter account so keep an eye out.

Now what do I have for you today you ask? Well I had the pleasure of reviewing Katharina Luther: Nun. Rebel. Wife last year and was itching to know more about the inspiration behind the tale. Author Anne Boileau has very kindly prepared a post for me to share with you…

But first here’s a bit more about the book –

On 31st October 1517, Martin Luther pinned ninety-five theses on the Castle Church door, Wittenberg, criticizing the Church of Rome; they were printed and published by Lucas Cranach and caused a storm. Nine young nuns, intoxicated by Luther’s subversive writings, became restless and longed to leave their convent. On Good Friday 1523 a haulier smuggled them out hidden in empty herring barrels. Five of them settled in Wittenberg, the very eye of the storm, and one of them – Katharina von Bora – scandalised the world by marrying the revolutionary former monk. Following a near miscarriage, she is confined to her bed to await the birth of their first child; during this time, she sets down her own story. Against a backdrop of 16th Century Europe this vivid account of Katharina von Bora’s early life brings to the spotlight this spirited and courageous woman.

But wait.. there’s more click here to read my review of Katharina Luther: Nun. Rebel. Wife!

Now you have that review fresh in your mind enjoy the guest post! 🙂


 

You ask me what was the inspiration behind the novel, Katharina Luther. Nun. Rebel. Wife. The answer to that is,  I didn’t find Katharina, she found me; and she took me by surprise.

In 1992 I travelled to the former German Democratic Republic; it was barely three years after the Wall came down (the Germans call it die Wende, which means the change or turn around). I was researching for my dissertation on Land Management, Agriculture and Conservation in the New Lands of Germany following Unification; This was my conclusion of a BSc degree in Rural Resource Development at Writtle College and Anglia University in Essex. I already spoke fluent German and wanted to visit the former East Germany; Strutt and Parker awarded me a travel grant, so  I went with my husband to Brandenburg and Saxony.

Such contrasts! We visited ancient monastic carp ponds at Nieski, dating back to the 12th Century, heaving with wildlife, and recently designated as  a Biosphere Culture Landscape by UNESCO.  Then we stood on the edge of an enormous open-cast coal mine, stretching into the horizon, a desert. We saw lakes polluted with slurry from industrial pig production units and huge dairy plants with literally thousands of miserable incarcerated cows.

But then there were the beautiful well-managed forests, abounding with wildlife, and the Spreewald with its water meadows, creeks and old thatched farmsteads.

The ancient towns were dilapidated but had not been ripped apart in the sixties and seventies for the needs of the motor car as happened in the west.

We visited Wittenberg where the Black Cloister was promoted as Martin Luther’s home. It was in that old monastic house that I first came across Katharina von Bora. There was a small exhibition all about her. Portraits by Cranach and other, later paintings; a pair of shoes and stockings, a ring given to her by King Christian of Denmark, a little book of Hours, even one of her dresses, and so on. We were both intrigued. It had never occurred to us that Martin Luther had been married, having assumed that as a monk he would have remained single and celibate. We were wrong!

Anyway, I went home, wrote my dissertation, got my degree and found a job. I watched my daughters grow up and leave home. But Katharina had sown a little seed in my heart and when I had more time I decided to find out more about her. I returned to Wittenberg, visited the other significant Luther towns: Eisenach and the Wartburg Castle; Erfurt where Luther was a student and then a monk; Torgau and Leipzig; I read a lot, in German, about those turbulent times and found a wealth of material about Katharina, who is a well-known figure in Germany, but virtually unknown in the UK.

That is why I decided to write her story for an English-speaking readership. I wanted to shine a light on the life of the woman behind the man who – whether you like him or loathe him – ushered in the modern world. He could never have followed through and achieved what he did without the help and support of a strong, well educated woman at his side ­– not only to run his household and give him a family to keep his mind in the real world, but also to kerb his irascibility and keep him healthy in body and mind.

Katharina von Bora, or Frau Doktor Luther,  kept the show on the road. Not for nothing did he call her Herr Kathe.

Anne Boileau

June 2017


Purchase from Amazon UK –  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Katharina-Luther-Nun-Rebel-Wife-ebook/dp/B01J95GP8W/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1473953274&sr=1-1&keywords=anne+boileau

About the author: Anne Boileau (also known as Polly Clarke) lives in Essex. She studied German in Munich and worked as interpreter and translator before turning to language-teaching in England. She also holds a degree in Conservation and Land Management from Anglia University and has written and given talks on various aspects of conservation. Now she shares, writes and enjoys poetry; her work has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines; she has also won some awards, including First Prize with Grey Hen Press, 2016. She translates modern German poetry into English with Camden Mews Translators and was Chair of Suffolk Poetry Society from 2011 to 2014.