Hello and welcome to Gwendalyn’s Books
Happy Tuesday to you! I hope your week will be is overflowing with great reads.
I am delighted to welcome a wonderful author to the blog today,
Sign of the White Foal
by Chris Thorndycroft
Publication Date: July 1, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 327 Pages
Series: Arthur of the Cymry Trilogy (Book 1)
Genre: Historical Fiction
A generation after Hengest and Horsa carved out a kingdom in the east, a hero of the Britons rises in the west…
480 A.D. The sons of Cunedag have ruled Venedotia for fifty years but the chief of them – the Pendraig – is now dying. His sons Cadwallon and Owain must fight to retain their birthright from their envious cousins. As civil war consumes Venedotia, Arthur – a young warrior and bastard son of the Pendraig – is sent on a perilous quest that will determine the fate of the kingdom.
The Morgens; nine priestesses of the Mother Goddess have found the cauldron of rebirth – a symbol of otherworldly power – and have allied themselves with the enemy. Arthur and six companions are dispatched to the mysterious island of Ynys Mon to steal the cauldron and break the power of the Morgens. Along the way they run into the formidable Guenhuifar whose family have been stewards of Ynys Mon for generations. They need her help. The trouble is, Guenhuifar despises Arthur’s family and all they stand for…
Based on the earliest Arthurian legends, Sign of the White Foal is a rip-roaring adventure of Celtic myth and real history set in the ruins of post-Roman Britain.
About the Author
Chris Thorndycroft is a British writer of historical fiction, horror and fantasy. His early short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Dark Moon Digest and American Nightmare. His first novel under his own name was A Brother’s Oath; the first book in the Hengest and Horsa Trilogy. He also writes under the pseudonym P. J. Thorndyke.
Gwendalyn’s Books Q&A with Chris Thorndycroft
Q: Was the research easier for this book, or harder than the last series you completed?
A: Probably easier as I had done the lion’s share of research for the first trilogy. This trilogy really just follows on from the first so I had a lot of the background filled in already. It was mostly small details I had to research for this one. I generally research stuff as it comes up. Say I have a scene set in a particular town. I’ll then search for references to that town and make sure I have things like the layout right.
Q: What special challenges did you face making your story stand out from others in the genre ?
A: Arthurian fiction is a massive genre of its own and some really big authors have done their versions so it was daunting trying to come up with a unique take. There are several different ways you can look at the legend. One is to go the traditionalist route and basically use Thomas Malory as your template. He is the guy who, in the 15th century, rounded up all the things we associate with the Arthurian legend into one book – the sword in the stone, the round table, the quest for the Holy Grail etc. But that is very much in the fantasy vein. The Britain (or England) Mallory presented never existed and you’re pretty much in alternate history territory even if you strip out all the magical elements. Other writers have gone the realistic ‘how the legend might have happened’ route by grounding it very much in the 5th century and that is what I wanted to do but I knew I’d be up against several big names in doing so – Rosemary Sutcliff and Bernard Cornwell for a start! I had an idea I thought might make my Arthur stand out and that was to slot him into a real royal dynasty that ruled Gwynedd (North Wales) in the 5th century. It was fun to try and work elements of the legend around real figures.
Q: How did you go about developing the setting(s) for this story?
A: Britain at this time (the 5th century) was very wide open and mostly rural so the countryside was important. I researched what the land was like, what sort of trees, flora and fauna was around. Religion (both pagan and Christian) was a big deal for my characters so I really did the research on that. I also looked at how Roman Britain changed (or deteriorated) into post-Roman Britain, how towns decreased or were abandoned entir ely as focus shifted to a more rural economy. Hill forts, some of which had been abandoned since before the Romans came, were refortified suggesting that people moved from towns to more easily defendable places.
Q: What research methods have been most fruitful for you?
A: Reading, reading and more reading. As well as picking up several intimidating textbooks, I found the internet invaluable. Facebook groups are the haunts of some serious Arthurian scholars and reading through their posts (and occasional arguments) was really helpful. I also got ahold of a lot of academic papers relating to just about every aspect of the 5th century you can think of as well as some antique books no longer in print that have been scanned into Google books. You really have to dig and follow leads to get to the good stuff!
Q: Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
A: Probably Arthur. It’s something of a curse in Arthurian fiction that Arthur is usually the least fleshed-out character. With everybody else running off on quests, the king and his court usually just provides the backdrop. I wanted Arthur to be the main character but he’s a bit of a blank slate. I had to give him motivation, desires and fears. That, in turn, helped bring the cast around him to life.
Q: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
A: Living in Norway with two small children doesn’t provide many opportunities for jetting off on research trips to Britain but I did use to live in North Wales so I had those memories of the landscape to inspire me. It was fun to write scenes set on the exact stretch of coastline I used to live on.
Q: Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they’re finished with their project – how true is that in your case?
A: It’s a bit hard to create much of a bubble when you have two young kids and a full time job, but I make sure the last couple of hours in the day is my time to get stuck in and get some writing done. I try to stick with one project until it’s done but all my other writing projects keep trying to sneak in. It’s an effort to push them out and focus on what needs to be done so I suppose I do isolate myself a little bit, at least from anything that might get me excited about those other books I have planned in my head.
Q: Do you prefer writing in silence or to music?
A: Music usually, but only instrumental stuff. Song lyrics distract me when I’m writing so I stick to movie and game soundtracks mostly. There’s loads of playlists on Spotify that have been very motivational in writing my Arthur trilogy. Anything epic or stirring.
Q: What book from your childhood has shaped you most as a writer?
A: The Hobbit was a big influence. I remember my primary school teacher reading it to us and I just loved the sense of adventure, of going from one peril to another, so that has probably had an effect. I always seem to put a bit of adventure in my writing.
Q: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
A: I don’t base characters on people I know or anything like that, at least not wholesale. Sometimes I have a real person in mind when I’m writing a character but I always make sure I change a few things! When it comes to other stuff, there are a few nods in my Arthur books to things in Arthurian literature that only real enthusiasts will spot. I try to keep things as authentic as possible even if it’s a small detail nobody will notice.
Thanks so much Chris, for visiting Gwendalyn’s Books
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, July 22
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Tuesday, July 23
Review at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, July 24
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, July 25
Review at My Reading Chronicles
Friday, July 26
Guest Post at Gwendalyn’s Books
Wednesday, July 31
Review at Hoover Book Reviews
Friday, August 2
Review at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction