Monday, December 17, 2012

Interview with David Pilling, Author of WHITE HAWK, his newest novel set during the Wars of the Roses

Welsh author David Pilling is on board today for an extensive interview.
THE WHITE HAWK is now on sale at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Click on the link below to purchase.

Meet David and check out his latest, set during the Wars of the Roses.

     My name is David Pilling, I am 33 years old and currently work as a freelance writer/proofreader in the wilds of West Wales in the UK. Previous jobs have included in the archives The Royal Opera House, The School of Oriental and African Studies, and Tate Britain.
Having spent much of my life exploring ruined castles and abbeys, I decided to translate my love of history onto the written page and started work on my first novel, “Folville’s Law”. It was published by Musa Publishing in November 2011. Since then I have written a host of mini-sequels, co-written two Tolkien-esque fantasy novels (also published by Musa) and self-published two more historicals via Amazon.
My fiction is inspired by my love of historical and science fiction and authors such as George McDonald Fraser, George R.R.Martin and Bernard Cornwell.
If you have 2 hours free time tonight, what would you rather do? Why?
This is going to sound quite sad, but I would like to spend it writing, editing and researching my next book, a sequel to Book One of “The White Hawk”!
    What kind of books do you love to read? Why?
At the moment I have got into a groove of reading the ‘classics’ – Dickens, George Eliot, Jane Austen etc. I also love PG Wodehouse for his dry, very ‘English’ humour and the aforementioned authors of historical and fantasy fiction. I keep meaning to read something more scientific – I am interested in space travel – but never get round to it!
What type of music do you enjoy relaxing to?
Classical music: Mozart, Chopin, Corelli, symphonies or concertos, as well as bluesy/rootsy music. I love The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Black Crowes – bands of that type.
What is your stress buster?
I know a couple of good meditation techniques. Failing that, a mug of herbal tea and contemplative stare out of the window!
What is your favorite food? What food do you seek when you==re sad, sort of a comfort food?
I’m a ‘meat and potatoes’ sort of person. I love big, hearty meals, steak & chips and that sort of thing. Having said that, I don’t really go in for comfort eating. 
Describe yourself in one word.
If a fairy grants you one wish and one wish only, what would it be? Why?
Health and long life – is that two wishes? – for me and my loved ones.
What=s your biggest regret in life?
Not studying harder at University and getting a better final degree result.
What is the most adventurous thing you=ve ever done?
Teaching English in the Czech Republic.
What makes you happy/sad/disappointed/frustrated/hopeful/angry? (Pick one)
Many things make me angry, mostly related to the basic injustice of the system we all live under. I try not to think about it (more herbal tea and staring required…). I find it disappointing when people who should know better underestimate me.
How would readers find out more about you?
They are welcome to visit my joint website at:
Or visit my blog at:
Your writingYY
When did you write your first book? How long did it take you to write it?
I started writing “Folville’s Law” about eighteen months ago. It took me five or six months to complete.
Did you encounter any obstacles in writing? What are they? How did you overcome them?
The research was the hardest thing – it is set in early 14th century England – but I was lucky enough to have access to lots of brilliant printed and online sources.
How did you feel when you receive your first contract? What did you do?  
A bit surprised, but in a good way. The contract arrived quite quickly, when I had expected months of hard slogging to attract one.
Any writing peeves, things you wish you could improve on, things you do with exceptional talent?
It would be nice to have a better eye for spotting typos, and I am always working on my ability to describe background details.
What kind of books do you love/hate to write? Why?
   I love (evidently) writing historical and fantasy fiction: basically, I love to interpret the past and create new worlds.
What do you think about editing?
It’s absolutely essential and extremely annoying!
Where and when do you write? Tell us about your favorite work place and time. Any special reason?
I write at my laptop in my ‘office’ i.e. my bedroom, looking out over the fields (and cows). This is pretty much my favourite place to work. It’s peaceful and private, and I am surrounded by my reference books.
How do you write? Do your characters come to you first or the plot or the world of the story? How do you go on from there? Maybe you can give us an example with one of your books.
I usually start by selecting a time period, usually a part of medieval Europe between the 11th- 15th centuries. I’m often inspired by what I happen to be reading or watching at the time. The recent James Bond hype gave me the idea of writing an espionage novel set in medieval England – hence “Nowhere Was There Peace”, my next book due to be published. The recent discovery of Richard III’s potential remains under a carpark in Leicestershire led to renewed interest in The Wars of the Roses, and gave me the seed of the idea for “The White Hawk”. I like to construct a plot laid ‘on top’ of the sequence of historical events, with fictional events used to plug gaps in knowledge. At the same time, I try to avoid having historical characters do and say things they wouldn’t have.
What books can you recommend to aspiring writers to improve on style, character development, plot, structure, dialogue, etc?
Anything by George MacDonald Fraser, basically. The man was a genius, even if some of the views expressed via his central character, Harry Flashman, are old-fashioned in the extreme.
What is your must-have book for writing?
I don’t really have one. If I’m stuck for a bit of inspiration or a lesson on how to turn a phrase I usually dip into the Flashman novels.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Write from the soul, never give up, work extremely hard, become a perfectionist, don’t get into arguments, learn to take advice and criticism, ignore the cynics and naysayers.  
Your booksYY
What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
Historical and fantasy, with the occasional impulse to ‘do’ science fiction.
Among those that you=ve written, which is your favorite book and why?
My first historical, “Folville’s Law”, is my favourite. Not because it’s necessarily the best-written, but people always cherish their first time…
Where do you get your ideas? Do you jot them down in a notebook, in case you forgot?
From my encyclopedic (nerdy) knowledge of history allied with my imagination. I do initially jot down ideas in a notebook just in case I forgot them!
Which book is the closest to your heart? Why?
“The Once and Future King”, TH White’s masterful recreation of Arthurian legend. No other writer before or since (in my opinion) has come close to re-telling that particular story with such depths of pathos, empathy and wit. It was also the first full-length novel or series of novels I ever read.
Which of your books feature your family/friends, etc? What characters are modeled after them? Why?
None. I avoid modeling characters on people I know, though I did borrow my friend and co-writer Martin Bolton’s surname for my latest book!
Which of your heroes/heroines is most similar to you? Why?
James Bolton, a chaplain in “The White Hawk”, has certain similarities to me. He is savagely flawed and has to fight to overcome those flaws and do the right thing to help others in need.
Who is your strongest/sexiest/most lovable/hottest hero/heroine? Why?
Dame Elizabeth Bolton, the matriarch of the Bolton clan in my new novel, “The White Hawk”, is a very tough, single-minded character. She has to be, to protect her family and safeguard their interests in a time of violence and lawlessness.
Have you ever wanted to write your book in one direction but your characters are moving it in another direction? What did you do in such a situation?
I often find that characters soon develop a mind of their own! Generally I let them get on with it, and allow things to ‘flow’, so to speak.
Tell us more about your latest release The White Hawk, Book One: Revenge, published by Amazon. 
Book One of The White Hawk is the first of my series of novels set during The Wars of the Roses.  This period, with its murderous dynastic feuding between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster, is perhaps the most fascinating of the entire medieval period in England. Having lost the Hundred Years War, the English nobility turned on each other in a bitter struggle for the crown, resulting in a spate of beheadings, battles, murders and Gangland-style politics that lasted some thirty years.
     Apart from the savage doings of aristocrats, the wars affected people on the lower rungs of society. One minor gentry family in particular, the Pastons of Norfolk, suffered greatly in their attempts to survive and thrive in the feral environment of the late 15th century. They left an invaluable chronicle in their archive of family correspondence, the famous Paston Letters.

The letters provide us with a snapshot of the trials endured by middle-ranking families like the Pastons, and of the measures they took to defend their property from greedy neighbours. One such extract is a frantic plea from the matriarch of the clan, Margaret Paston, begging her son John to return from London:

"I greet you well, letting you know that your brother and his fellowship stand in great jeopardy at Caister... Daubney and Berney are dead and others badly hurt, and gunpowder and arrows are lacking. The place is badly broken down by the guns of the other party, so that unless they have hasty help, they are likely to lose both their lives and the place, which will be the greatest rebuke to you that ever came to any gentleman. For every man in this country marvels greatly that you suffer them to be for so long in great jeopardy without help or other remedy..."

The Paston Letters, together with my general fascination for the era, were the inspiration for The White Hawk. Planned as a series of three novels, TWH will follow the fortunes of a fictional Staffordshire family, the Boltons, from the beginning to the very end of The Wars of the Roses. Unquenchably loyal to the House of Lancaster, their loyalty will have dire consequences for them as law and order breaks down and the kingdom slides into civil war. The ‘white hawk’ of the title is the sigil of the Boltons, and will fly over many a blood-stained battlefield.

In the following excerpt, one of the protagonists is introduced to his first taste of real combat at the Battle of Northampton:

“The Lancastrians still had their archers, and the unseasonal rain had turned the ground between the two armies into a quagmire. Geoffrey lost a shoe in the soft, sucking mud, and cursed as he was forced to hobble onward with one naked foot.

Then the skies darkened, and the man beside him squealed and went down with an arrow protruding from the eye-piece of his sallet. Geoffrey lowered his head and stumbled on, gagging at the stench of excrement and split gut that filled his nostrils as more arrows strafed Fauconberg’s division, cutting men down and breaking up their carefully ordered ranks. 

Geoffrey was breathing hard, his limbs seized with weariness as he laboured through the mud. His heart rattled like a drum. The Yorkists were being murdered by the arrows, and still had to cross a deep ditch, defended by a wall of stakes and thousands of determined, well-fed and rested Lancastrian infantry. They would surely be repelled, panic would set in, and men would start to run. Then the Lancastrian knights would mount their destriers, and the real killing would begin as they pursued their beaten foes across miles of open ground.

Geoffrey’s courage and desire for vengeance shriveled inside him. He desperately wanted to turn and run, but the press of men forced him on, towards the bristling line of stakes. He glanced ahead, and saw that March’s division had stormed right up to the barricades on the right flank of the Lancastrian position. These were defended by men wearing badges displaying a black ragged staff. He recognised the livery as that of Lord Grey of Ruthin, a powerful Welsh Marcher lord.

He expected March’s advance to grind to a halt as his men came up against the stakes and Grey’s well-armed infantry, but then something extraordinary happened. The men wearing the badge of the ragged staff laid down their weapons and stood aside, allowing the Yorkists to pass through their lines. Some even stooped to help their supposed enemies over the ditch.

Lord Grey had turned traitor. Geoffrey had no idea why or how it had been arranged, being too unimportant to be made privy to such deals, but his heart sang at the result. That one act of treachery would surely reverse the tide of battle. The Lancastrians were doomed, trapped like rats inside their improvised fortress. More to the point, Geoffrey’s chances of survival had just improved dramatically…”

Any new projects, work in progress?
    My next book, “Nowhere Was There Peace”, a tale set in 13th century England, is due to be published by Fireship Press. “The Gelded Wolf”, the latest mini-sequel to “The Best Weapon” (the fantasy novel I co-wrote with my good friend Martin Bolton) will be available on the 21st of December.