An Interview with Emma Rose Millar

new-coverEmma Rose Millar is the co-author of the historical novel Five Guns Blazing, the first place winner of The Chaucer Award in Historical Fiction. Five Guns Blazing is an epic tale of piracy, slavery, and treason.

Meredith Allard: When and why did you begin writing, and did you always write historical fiction?

Emma Rose Millar: I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. As a child I was painfully shy; back then writing was a means of expressing my feelings, a way to take myself off to an imaginary world. As I grew older though, other things seemed to take over and I found myself writing less and less. When I was in my thirties, I became mixed up in a very bad relationship and it was then that I began writing my first novel. Strains from an Aeolian Harp was a dark tale of opium addiction and domestic violence, set in 1920s England when women weren’t allowed to get divorced on the grounds of cruelty alone. I wrote that novel in secret; I was terrified of my partner finding out, but it was something I felt I needed to do. Thankfully my life is a much happier place now and I think that shows in my writing.

M.A.: What is your latest novel? How would you describe it to potential readers?

E.R.M.: My latest novel, Five Guns Blazing, is an historical adventure based on the true story of pirates Anne Bonny, Mary Read and John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham:

1710: Convict’s daughter, Laetitia Beedham, is set on an epic journey from the backstreets of London, through transportation and grueling plantation life, into the clutches of notorious pirates, John Rackham, Mary Read and the treacherous Anne Bonny. In a world of villainy and deceit, where black men are kept in chains and a woman will sell her daughter for a few gold coins, Laetitia can find no one in whom to place her trust. As the King’s men close in on the pirates and the noose begins to tighten around their necks, who will win her loyalty and her heart?

M.A.: What makes your novels different from others about similar eras?

E.R.M.: Five Guns Blazing is a multi-layered story, not only one of piracy but also a tale of slavery in its various guises. Whilst writing the novel, it quickly became clear to me that I would need the help of a co-writer. I approached Jamaican-born author Kevin Allen and asked him if he’d read my half-finished manuscript. Fortunately for me, he liked the story so much that he agreed to work on it with me. Kevin wrote all the plantation scenes and changed some of the dialect. That was the beginning of our two year transatlantic writing affair. It was a long hard road but together I think we created something I could never have managed alone. The novel recently won first prize in its category in The Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction. It was an incredibly proud moment for both of us.

M.A.: All authors have a different path as they seek publication. What was your journey to publication like?

E.R.M.: It was such a rollercoaster ride. I wholly believed in the novel and I put it through a professional edit before submitting it anywhere. Quite a few big agents in London asked to see the full manuscript after reading a sample. They all said that they loved the story but didn’t know what the market was for a book like this. It seemed it was always going to be a case of ‘close but no cigar’. For a while I’d been hearing good things about Crooked Cat Publishing in Edinburgh but they were closed to submissions at the time. As soon as they opened their doors again though I sent them Five Guns Blazing and I was thrilled when they accepted it. All of their authors were so welcoming. We work as a team; I’ve made so many lovely new friends.

M.A.: What are the joys/challenges of writing historical fiction for you?

E.R.M.:I love history, especially 18th and 19th century and I couldn’t imagine writing in any other genre. Writing historical fiction takes a tremendous amount research, but I love uncovering all those nuggets of history, stories and characters which I know will make a fantastic novel. While writing Five Guns Blazing I also discovered some fabulous old words: ‘bastardly gullion,’ ‘jerrycummumble,’ and ‘flaybottomist,’to name but a few.

M.A.: What is the research process like for you?

E.R.M.:I absolutely loved doing all the research into eighteenth-century piracy. In Anne Bonny I found the archetypal anti-heroine: treacherous, double-crossing and fiercely independent. Then there was John Rackham, a rake, devilishly handsome, the Casanova of the seas. Some sources suggest Rackham was captain in name only and it was Anne who ran the ship, terrorising all who sailed close to her. Their pirate adventure came to an abrupt end in 1720 when their ship, Revenge was captured and the entire crew sentence to death. But that wasn’t quite the end of the story. There is no record of Anne’s execution or of her release or escape from jail. What became of her is still a mystery. The more I read about the villainous pair, the more intrigued I became.

M.A.: Do you travel for research? If so, what role does travel play in your writing process?

E.R.M.: I’d have loved to go to the Caribbean as part of my research for Five Guns Blazing, but I’m a single mum and my son was far too little at the time to take a trip like that. Kevin regularly visits the islands though and he has a wealth of knowledge about their history. A lot of my own research came from the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham. They have an old court room there where they do reenactments of famous cases, an eighteenth century jail, complete with cells, exercise yard and gallows, and a fantastic transportation museum. My visits there were invaluable.

My next novel is set in Vienna and is based on a painting by Gustav Klimt. I’m hoping to go there for a few days in October with my son. He’s six now so I’m sure he’ll enjoy the zoo and the aquarium. Hopefully I’ll find some time to soak up the atmosphere and to see some of Klimt’s work while we’re there.

M.A.: Which authors are your inspiration—in your writing life and/or your personal life?

E.R.M.: I really admire Sarah Waters, Alice Walker, Philippa Gregory and Joanne Harris. Their writing is sublime. I did an Open University degree in English Literature about fifteen years ago though and my bookshelves are still heaving with novels by the Bronte sisters, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, etc. I do love a good classic!

M.A.: What advice do you have for those who want to write historical fiction?

E.R.M.: I think good historical fiction starts with meticulous research and a great story. As with any genre, it takes a massive amount of work for an idea to blossom into published novel. The best thing I did was to find a good editor. He took the manuscript to another level; without him, it may never have been picked up by a publisher. Most of all, don’t give up; nothing worth doing ever comes easily. It’s an amazing feeling once you’ve completed a novel.

M.A.: What else would you like readers to know?

E.R.M.: Five Guns Blazing is now available on AmazonSmashwords, and Barnes and Noble

 

Spotlight: C.C. Humphreys and Shakespeare’s Rebel

Here’s a spotlight on author C.C. Humphreys’ new historical novel, Shakespeare’s Rebel. Check below for the link to the giveaway for a C.C. Humphreys book bundle.

* * * * *

Shakespeare's Rebel coverTitle: Shakespeare’s Rebel

Author: C.C. Humphreys

ISBN: 9781492609902

Pubdate: October 6, 2015

Genre: Historical Fiction

Imprint: Sourcebooks Landmark

Summary

 To be (or not to be) the man to save England

England’s finest swordsman and fight choreographer at the magnificent new Globe Theatre has hit rock bottom. John Lawley just wants to win back his beloved, become a decent father to his son, and help his friend William Shakespeare finish The Tragedy of Hamlet, the play that threatens to destroy him.

But all is not fair in love and war. Dogged by his three devils—whiskey, women, and Mad Robbie Deveraux—John is dragged by Queen Elizabeth herself into a dangerous game of politics, conspiracy, and rebellion. Will the hapless swordsman figure out how to save England before it’s too late?

Brimming with vivid periodic detail, Shakespearean drama, and irresistible wit, Shakespeare’s Rebel is a thrilling romp through the romantic, revolutionary times of Elizabethan England that will delight historical fiction fans and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike.

Exclusive excerpt

If John knew the odds of a street fight, he also knew its mind-set. There were always those uncommitted to its extremity. These could be swayed. Bribery had just failed to do so—yet swift ferocity might work. So he stepped away from his friend and the still bawling boy to give himself the room required.

It was a good plan, to take out the biggest threat and transform the rest into nervous bystanders. May have worked too—if John had not been betrayed by the unevenness of the stones underfoot, a misjudgment of distance, and the lingering effects of the heated double-double ale he’d just drunk.

He drew, screamed, “Heya!” and leaped. Tripped. Fell, his sword clattering onto the stones. Somehow he kept a grip upon it, which aided him not a jot, what with the apprentice’s boot upon it.

“Oh, John,” he heard his friend say. He squinted up at the butcher’s boy looking down.

“Now that,” the youth said, “was not very friendly, old man.”

He might have taken more offense if he were not lying with his ear pressed to shit­rimmed cobbles and if the youth had not continued, to the crowd, “You all witnessed who drew first. So I’m going to let him rise—and then give him a little lesson in swordplay.”

The boot withdrew. John rolled clumsily away, got onto knees, thence onto shaky legs. The butcher’s boy stepped back, handed his cleaver to a friend, then reached to his side and began to draw, very slowly, a rapier from its scabbard. The weapon’s speed was partly dictated by its length—at least a foot longer than the limit decreed by Her Majesty. Once clear, he also withdrew a long dagger, raised both weapons into the air, to another huge cheer, the onlookers so thrilled by this escalation that not one yelled out when the accused thief, cause of the quarrel, slipped from Shakespeare’s neck and sprinted off down the alley.

Escalation…escalated. Where two swords were bared, suddenly there were nine, for the six other apprentices also now had their rapiers out. As Will drew his, John stared. “Is there not an ordinance, Will,” he mumbled, “that decrees only gentlemen may carry rapiers?”

The butcher’s boy overheard—and smiled. “’Tis true indeed, sir, which is why we carries ’em.” He turned and grinned at his companions. “’Cos we is all fucking gentlemen.”

More cheers at that. They were spreading into a half­circle when, from behind them, flagons appeared, borne by drudges from the tavern, the landlord following, a large man who shouted as he came, “A sixpence says it is over in less than a minute. I offer odds of three to one!”

“I’ll take sixes,” a man cried out. “These are real gentlemen, after all.”

_________________________________________________________________________________

David Cooper Photography 2007

David Cooper Photography
2007

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys is an actor, playwright, fight choreographer and novelist.  He has written nine historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, runner up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers; Vlad – The Last Confession,  the epic novel of the real Dracula; and A Place Called Armageddon. His latest YA novel is The Hunt of the Unicorn. His work has been translated into thirteen languages. Find out more about him on his website: http://cchumphreys.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorcchumphreys

Twitter: https://twitter.com/humphreyscc

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/80075.C_C_Humphreys

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shakespeares-Rebel-Novel-C-C-Humphreys/dp/1492609900

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shakespeares-rebel-cc-humphreys/1113921022

Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781492609902

Giveaway

Click here for a chance to win a C.C. Humphreys book bundle.

Charlie Britten at The Anne of Green Gables Museum

Charlie Britten is the regular contributing reviewer at The Copperfield Review, and here are her thoughts about her time at The Anne of Green Gables Museum on Prince Edward Island. Anne of Green Gables was one of my favorite books when I was a child, and the museum sounds like someplace I’d like to visit. Here’s her guest post, “Visiting Kindred Spirits.”
* * * * *

museumMy eyes brimmed with tears, one of those moments so intense I wanted to make it end, to run out into the safety of the hire car, the road and the twenty-first century.  Yes, I know it was all fiction and none of it really happened, but L M Montgomery’s Anne Shirley figured as large in my childhood as the flesh-and-blood friends I met in school every day.  And here I was, in this beautiful house, fitted out with its simple and functional furniture, but with lace everywhere – over the mantelpiece, over the tables, in the bedspreads, exactly as it would’ve been in her time.  Anne was here, and Gilbert, and Marilla, and Rachel Lynde, and all the others.  I’d travelled over three thousand miles for this and probably would never return.  I took a deep breath and carried on.

museum 2The Anne of Green Gables Museum is at Park Corner, on the north coast of Prince Edward Island, at a Gothic Revival farmhouse called Silver Bush, the former home of author Montgomery’s Uncle John and Auntie Annie Campbell.  The first Campbells settled in this house in 1776 and the family lives here still, managing the Museum, which appears on Canada’s Historic Places Register and Prince Edward Island’s Register also.  Although the real Lake of Shining Waters is just down the hill from the main museum building, this is not Green Gables, but Silver Bush, as featured in two of Montgomery’s other books, Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat.  It was in this house, which she called the wonder castle of my childhood, that Montgomery felt comfortable, not in the official ‘home of Lucy Maud Montgomery’ in the village of Cavendish a few miles away, which is advertised in tourist literature.

museum 3The Museum has two storeys.  You enter (like Mrs Rachel Lynde in the first pages of Anne) through the kitchen, passing the leaded range to pay at the desk (in summer 2015, $5.50 for adults and $2 for children).  You move through into the lacy Edwardian parlour, where a clock ticks loudly and lugubriously and you see the small organ which was played at Montgomery’s wedding in 1911 to Presbyterian minister, Ewan Macdonald.  You think about small children, sitting still on hard chairs, in their best clothes – hopefully with puffed sleeves – longing for Sunday to end.  A letter in the parlour, written a year before the author’s death in 1942, thanks her nephew for sending $10, because, she tells him, she doesn’t have enough money for the nursing care she needs, even though by this time, Anne of Green Gables was enjoying huge popularity and Montgomery would have been earning from her many other books.

Upstairs are a family bedroom, a child or single person’s room and a hallway, where first editions of Montgomery’s books are on display – not just the Anne books, but a selection of her twenty-two novels, and the short stories she used to submit to magazines in the days before Anne.  You may touch these faded volumes, even read a little.  Hanging on the wall is the crazy quilt Montgomery stitched as a teenager, using any scraps of fabric she could find, and which she finished only after the fashion for crazy quilts had passed, but, as she wrote in her diary, she had had the ‘joy of making’ [1] –  a typically upbeat and stoical comment.  Born in Clifton (now New London) in PEI in 1874, Montgomery’s mother, Clara, died of tuberculosis when the author was twenty-two months old.  Mounted on the same wall is a journal entry, in which the author relates how, as an adult, she encountered a friend of her mother’s, who tells her how Clara entreated her to come and see her baby because ‘little Lucy Maud is so sweet today’. This is what brought me to tears in the warm yellow afternoon sunshine.

There is a danger that the whole of Prince Edward Island will be subsumed by the commercial opportunities offered up through Anne of Green Gables and her creator.  Everywhere you can buy red-haired Anne dolls, stay at several different Green Gables motels, eat at Green Gables cafes, bathe on the Green Gables Shore (the Island’s north facing beach), and, in the Homburg Theatre in the Island’s capital, Charlottetown, see Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, which has been running continuously since 1965.

I’m glad I went to the Museum first, when I had been on the Island only a few hours, because it captured the spirit of Montgomery’s stories, which were about people living a simple life in farming communities at the beginning of the twentieth century, their underpinning stoicism and joy in small things.  Montgomery loved to visit Silver Bush because here she was loved and that loving feeling lingers on.  The last words in Anne of Green Gables, were a quote from Pippa Passes, Browning’s long narrative poem (1841) – significantly – about an orphan.  “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world!” whispered Anne softly.”

For more information about the Anne of Green Gables Museum, visit http://www.annemuseum.com.

[1] http://www.gov.pe.ca/firsthand/index.php3?number=43770&lang (From The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery, Volume II, 5)