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Archive for the ‘Guinevere’ Category

Today, I will be interviewing Arthurian novelist Nicole Evelina about her new novel, Daughter of Destiny: Guinevere’s Tale, Book One. (You can read my review of her novel at https://childrenofarthur.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/guinevere-gets-her-say-in-new-novel-daughter-of-destiny-by-nicole-evelina/)

Nicole Evelina, author of "Daughter of Destiny" about Guinevere's early years before she married King Arthur.

Nicole Evelina, author of “Daughter of Destiny” about Guinevere’s early years before she married King Arthur.

Nicole Evelina has spent the last fifteen years researching the Arthurian legend, Celtic Britain, and the various peoples, cultures, and religious practices that shaped the country after the withdrawal of Rome. She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society.

Nicole holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in media communications, as well as accreditation from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a distinction that tests writing and communications skill, and is held by only 8,000 people worldwide.

Her new novel Daughter of Destiny was published on January 1, 2016, and it is the first in a trilogy of novels she has planned. Her goal is to create a strong female protagonist in the person of Guinevere in the series.

Tyler: Welcome, Nicole. I interviewed you about three years ago about your novel series and interest in the Arthurian legend. Back then you were trying to find a publisher, so it’s been a long journey. How did publication come about and how does it feel now to be a published author?

Nicole: Hi Tyler! Thanks for having me on your blog again. Yes, it has been a long journey. I started out going the traditional publication route and got SOOOOO close three times (twice at Penguin), but it ultimately didn’t end up working out for this book. In the meantime, the self-publishing market exploded. I met more and more people who were doing it, and after a lot of study and serious consideration, I decided to self-publish. I created my own publishing imprint and own my own business now. My first product was Daughter of Destiny.

Tyler: Tell us how you came up with the idea to write Daughter of Destiny and why you think it stands out from other Arthurian novels?

Nicole: When I was in college, I read The Mists of Avalon, and I loved the book, but hated Marion Zimmer Bradley’s portrayal of Guinevere. So I sought out other books about the character. I found Parke Godwin’s Beloved Exile, which covers Guinevere’s life after King Arthur’s death. That made me wonder what her life was like before and after him. You didn’t hear too much about that. Then she came into my head and told me she wanted me to tell her whole life story, before Arthur, with him and after. The rest is history.

I think it stands out because I’ve done things with Guinevere that few, if any, other authors have done. For example, my Guinevere is a priestess of Avalon and that is how she meets Morgan. Their rivalry begins long before Arthur enters the picture. So that means he’s part of it, but definitely not all. Plus, I have made Guinevere’s first love someone I don’t think anyone else has ever done, but there is a mythological connection, a reason that I chose this person.

Tyler: I definitely want to know more about Guinevere’s first love, but first, you’ve said you were influenced by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon in writing the novel, but obviously, you were reacting to her rather than just imitating her. What do you think is or was valuable about Bradley’s novel and what is its place in Arthurian literature?

Nicole: For me, it was the emphasis on the female characters and telling their story. All throughout history, we’ve gotten the male perspective. Ms. Bradley turned that on its head. I also think she was groundbreaking in connecting the Arthurian story to Wicca/neopagan worship. While that’s not historically accurate, it spoke to (and continues to speak to) a lot of people in a way that they need, myself included.

Tyler: In the novel, you have Guinevere go to Avalon while young to study there. Why did you choose to have Avalon play a key part in her background?

Nicole: It was natural to me because I knew I wanted to explore the tension between Christianity and paganism at that point in history and that I wanted Guinevere to be pagan. Having Avalon be the female center of Druidism (while Merlin had the male center elsewhere) was a natural outgrowth of my love of The Mists of Avalon. It also gave me a way to have Guinevere grow up with a group of strong-willed, powerful women who would shape who she becomes.

Tyler: Okay. Now back to that love interest question. I was really surprised that Guinevere’s love interest in the novel is Aggrivaine. How did you come to that decision?

Nicole: Well, I knew I wanted her to have a first love before Arthur. Most authors have chosen to make it Lancelot, but I wanted to go in a different direction. The more I explored the legend, I realized in some versions, Mordred isn’t alone in confronting and exposing Lancelot and Guinevere. Sometimes Aggrivane is with him. I started wondering why. What was Aggrivane’s motivation for such a betrayal? Then it hit me. If he and Guinevere were together first, he would naturally want revenge. He would be wondering why, if she was going to have an affair, it wasn’t with him. So I kind of wrote the relationship backwards, from the endgame. Also, because Lot is Aggrivane’s father and Lot’s kingdom of Lothian is in the Votadini lands (where Guinevere’s mom is from), it was helpful for Guinevere to already have a connection to their family. None of it was an accident.

Tyler: That makes perfect sense, Nicole. Aggrivane is often Mordred’s accomplice in Camelot’s fall. That’s brilliant reasoning and not really so surprising then when you think about it. But there are some other surprises about the characters and their relationships. For example, Arthur’s sister is named Ana, and there’s no sister named Morgan le Fay or Morgause? Why did you make those changes?

"Daughter of Destiny" the first book in a trilogy about Guinevere.

“Daughter of Destiny” the first book in a trilogy about Guinevere.

Nicole: I feel like Ana has gotten lost in all the modern attention to Morgause and Morgan le Fay, both of whom tend to be evil characters. Although Ana is a small character, I wanted to give her back what I feel is her rightful place. In my world, she’s a strong, intelligent queen. Morgan has her own role to play, which you’ll find out in the second book.

Tyler: Of course, there is a Morgan in the novel, and she is a rival to Guinevere. Do you see Morgan as a villain? Is that a reaction against her protagonist role in Mists?

Nicole: Yes, Morgan is the villain. But she has her reasons. She doesn’t know who her parents are and so, as Guinevere observes, Morgan has no tribe, no family outside of Avalon. Therefore, Morgan must do everything she can to secure her place as the darling of Avalon, a role Guinevere also covets. It’s the only way Morgan can survive. Later on, she’s still fighting the same fight, just out in the world, trying to connive her way into survival, and she hopes, eventually to triumph over Guinevere who has been a thorn in her side from an early age.

I don’t think my Morgan was a reaction to Mists, at least not consciously. I’ve always viewed Morgan as a villain.

Tyler: I don’t want to give away too much of the novel, but it’s obvious that Arthur will show up in Guinevere’s life since he’s always her husband in the legend. In this novel, however, he’s a pretty minor character. Did you intentionally hold him off until the end of the book?

Nicole: Yes. This book is meant to show you Guinevere’s life before Arthur becomes a major part in it, to show that she was a person with friends and family, hopes and dreams before queenship ever entered her mind. He becomes a major character in the second book.

Tyler: I’ve seen a lot of Arthurian novelists, especially those who write fantasy, recently be criticized for not trying to create a perfectly historical Arthurian period. How important do you feel it is to create a historical Arthur rather than just a fantasy one, and do you think it matters whether Arthur was historical or not?

Nicole: I don’t think it matters. Personally, I think he did exist on some level, but until we uncover his diary, we just won’t know who that historical Arthur is. History and archeology are changing every single day with new discoveries (for example, they just recently announced that Christians lived at Glastonbury at least 200 years earlier than previously thought) so in some ways, it’s impossible to ever create a historical Arthur. I think you do what you can with the research you can find and as a novelist, are allowed to make up the rest. That’s what separates us from the historians. How historically accurate your world is will depend on your intent—are you trying to show what it really was like in a certain time period? Or are you more interested in the fantasy side? My personal take was a bit of both.

Tyler: I know you did a lot of research on the legend in writing your novels. Will you share with us a little of the experiences you had in doing research and what you learned that most surprised you or shaped your story?

Nicole: Oh gosh. Yes, I did lots of research. There’s a whole page on my website dedicated to it: http://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/guineveres-tale/daughter-of-destiny-book-1/guinevere-trilogy/. Book research was the majority of what I did. It was very interesting to see the number of different theories that were out there on King Arthur. It’s almost like no two people can agree.

I was honored to be able to meet one of my source authors, Geoffrey Ashe, while I was in England as part of an Arthurian legend tour. To get to hear his theories and pick his brain in person was such an honor. As it turned out, the man who led the tour, Jamie George, helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon. I had no idea until I was over there and got to talking. It is such a small world! Then, later on once the first book was finished, I was able to secure an endorsement from John Matthews. He and his wife Caitlin were two of my major sources of research and I respect them both so very much. It was a dream come true to have his name grace the back cover of my book.

I think what surprised me most was what I learned about the dizzying subject of Celtic (Brehon) law. I’ve tried to incorporate a little of it into my books because it’s one of the reasons why Celtic women were so powerful. They had so many more rights than their counterparts around the world. I wish I was enough of an expert in it to speak intelligently about it, but it is just so complex.

Tyler: I’ve traveled and done research as well, and I remember when I visited Glastonbury I felt overcome by a source of energy or power there I had never experienced anywhere else. I just felt so happy and full of energy there. Did you have any experiences like that where you felt connected to an Arthurian landscape or did you just have a favorite place you visited that really helped your imagination come to life for your book?

Nicole: Glastonbury was special to me on a personal level, but not in connection to these books. I’m hoping to get back there this September when I’m in England again. Actually, the place I felt most connected with has nothing to do with these books, but is a main setting for a future dual-time period novel.

As far as Arthurian sites, I loved getting to see Cadbury castle, which some say was Guinevere’s home, or possibly a site for Camelot. I use it as Arthur’s southern power base in the second and third books of this series.

Tyler: The novel has been out a little over a month now. What kinds of responses have you received from readers, and have you been surprised by any of them?

Nicole: I’m surprised by the number of great reviews it’s gotten! Some people really get what I was going for. And when they get it, they get it, as in ALL in. As is to be expected, some people don’t, but that just means they weren’t my intended audience to begin with. One thing I find surprising is that so far, the people who didn’t like Daughter of Destiny have still expressed interest in reading the second book. That’s going to be hard to watch because I have this fear the second book will be very divisive because it’s so dark and deals with heavy subject matter.

Tyler: When can we expect the next two books in the series to be published and what kinds of glimpses can you give us into what will happen to Guinevere in them?

Nicole: The second book, Camelot’s Queen, comes out April 12. That one covers Guinevere’s life with Arthur, her role as a battle queen, her affair with Lancelot and the discovery of the Holy Grail. I can tell you Morgan has a role you won’t see coming, and if you hated Father Marius in the first book, you will loathe him in the second. It’s a much darker book than the first one, covering the subjects of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, all of which have their origin in the legends, and I don’t feel can be ignored simply because they are distasteful. I hope readers see that I have tried to address these issues with respect and give them context so they are not just a plot device, but truly affect the characters’ lives and the decisions they make.

The third book, Mistress of Legend, is tentatively scheduled for late 2016/early 2017. That book begins with the fall of Camelot and the battle of Camlann and then covers Guinevere’s life after Arthur dies. There is a convent involved, but I can promise you she doesn’t live out her days there in penance. She is her mother’s daughter and born to lead, so you will see a strong woman to the end of her days. I have a draft written. I know how it ends. (I’ve known from the beginning.) But the middle of the story is currently missing and I’m not happy with the opening, so I have some work to do.

I tend to think of the three books like this: the first books shows her as a priestess, the second as a queen and third as a warrior.

Tyler: I can’t wait for that third book especially, Nicole. It all sounds fascinating. Thank you for joining me today, Nicole. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information we can find there about Daughter of Destiny?

Nicole: Thank you again for having me, Tyler. It’s always such a pleasure to talk with you because you understand the legends so well.

My website is http://nicoleevelina.com. In addition to learning about the book, you’ll find my research, a pronunciation guide for the character and place names, and the map that’s in the book. I’ve also got a fan section that contains my playlist, research photos, and soon will have deleted scenes and an “If List” page that lets you vote on who should play the characters if a movie was ever made. I need to link my Pinterest boards for the books up to the site as well. Also, if you’re in a book club, there’s a discussion guide, period-appropriate food, drink and music suggestions and you can contact me if you want me to speak or visit your club in person or via Skype.

Tyler: Thanks again, Nicole. It’s been a pleasure.

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Daughter of Destiny: Guinevere’s Tale Book One is the latest addition in the plethora of Arthurian novels being published every year. Yes, there have been plenty of novels about Guinevere before, but this one stands out for several reasons.

Nicole Evelina's new novel is the first in a trilogy that allows Guinevere to tell the tale of Camelot from her own point of view.

Nicole Evelina’s new novel is the first in a trilogy that allows Guinevere to tell the tale of Camelot from her own point of view.

Author Nicole Evelina states that she was inspired to write this book after reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and loving it but hating how Bradley depicted Guinevere in the novel. Admittedly, I agree that Guinevere is the weakest character in that otherwise powerful novel, and Evelina’s Guinevere is a remarkable improvement as she tells her story in first person narration.

In Evelina’s version, Guinevere is far from the frightened Christian girl of Bradley’s novel. Instead, she is the strong-willed daughter of a Roman-descended king and a mother who was part of the Votadini tribe. Guinevere’s maternal family are believers in the old religion of Avalon, and so Guinevere is sent there to study, where she learns beside several other well-known characters from the legends, including Viviane and Morgan. This first part set in Avalon was probably my favorite section of the novel since I have always loved the idea of Avalon and tried to envision what it is like and have depicted it in my own Arthurian novels. Evelina is obviously influenced by Bradley in her depictions, but she also gives the story twists of her own, especially in the rivalry that develops between Guinevere and Morgan. Yes, like Morgan, Guinevere has her gifts—she has the gift of the sight—she can see events at a great distance as they happen—it’s like her brain is able to Skype! But perhaps most surprising in the novel is the young man who becomes Guinevere’s love interest—I think every reader will be surprised by this plot twist—it isn’t Lancelot or Arthur who captures Guinevere’s heart. The shocking Beltane scene in Mists also influences the Beltane scene in this novel, but again, Evelina makes surprising choices in how she depicts it, including Guinevere’s involvement in the rituals.

The novel moves forward when Guinevere returns home to find her father greatly changed and herself disinherited. While she thought, as his only child, she would inherit her father’s throne, he has now decided it will go to her male cousin. Then, so Guinevere can learn proper Christian ways, her father also decides to send her to live at King Pellinore’s court, where she meets two other young ladies, Pellinore’s daughter, Elaine, and his ward, Isolde, heir to the Irish throne. Despite her newfound friends, Guinevere finds life with Pellinore’s family—especially his cruel wife Lyonesse—far from pleasant.

Overall, I found the entire plot refreshing—it is familiar, yet original, bringing together many well-known characters and placing them in new relationships to each other, and then developing those relationships in unexpected ways. At the same time, Evelina has clearly done her research and uses it to determine other relationships among characters. For example, King Lot is married to Arthur’s half-sister, Ana, a character usually written out of modern novels in favor of Morgan le Fay or Morgause, but Ana actually dates back to Geoffrey of Monmouth and has more historical clout, therefore, as Arthur’s sister. As for Morgan, she is an orphan whose origins are unknown—though I suspect we’ll find out she’s Arthur’s sister in a future book. Evelina also draws on Geoffrey of Monmouth in depicting the “Kingmaker” comet in the novel that prophesies the birth of a great king.

Hopefully, I don’t give too much away by saying that at the end of the novel, King Arthur makes his appearance and claims Guinevere for his future wife. Of course, she has to marry him—her situation as well as the literary tradition demand it—but given that she already loves another man, I’m sure we’re in for some more interesting plot twists in the future novels. The second novel will be out later this spring and the third novel of this trilogy will be published in 2017. I suggest watching for both of them after you read this one. I read Daughter of Destiny in two days, almost unable to put it down. Evelina’s writing style is visual and smooth, so it is a pleasure to read; I felt taken back to the Arthurian time without being weighed down by too much detail or historical facts. I felt like I was living the story, rather than reading it, and that’s how a good writer should make her reader feel. I’m grateful for any chance I get to live in Camelot, so I thank Evelina for a pleasant time there.

For more information about Nicole Evelina and Daughter of Destiny, visit her website at www.NicoleEvelina.com

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, and the upcoming Lilith’s Love and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly work King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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Few people know, and few Arthurian works mention, that Guinevere had a sister. She was named Gwenhwyvach, but she has been written out of the legend over the centuries. In fact, I believe I’m the only modern novelist to include her in my novels, where she is a major character.

But just who was Gwenhwyvach? We really don’t know anything about her other than that she was Guinevere’s sister.

She is mentioned in the Mabinogion tale Culhwch and Olwen, in which her name is included among the 200 men, women, dogs, and horses invoked by Culhwch when he makes his request of King Arthur to help him win his love Olwen. But this reference really tells us nothing of Gwenhwyvach.

Another reference isn’t much more helpful. In The Welsh Triads, it states:

“One of the reasons for the Battle of Camlann was the blow Guinevere struck to her sister Gwenhwyvach.”

N.C. Wyeth's depiction of Arthur and Mordred at the Battle of Camlann, which Gwenhwyvach may have helped to cause.

N.C. Wyeth’s depiction of Arthur and Mordred at the Battle of Camlann, which Gwenhwyvach may have helped to cause.

This statement is obscure, but it’s obvious that Gwenhwyvach must have had a major role in the early legends, or perhaps in history itself, if she influenced the Battle of Camlann where Arthur and Mordred fought each other and died. At least one writer, Thomas Love Peacock, in his novel The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829), decided that Gwenhwyvach was Mordred’s wife, which seems a plausible conclusion based on this statement.

The only other reference to Guinevere having a sister is in the thirteenth century Prose Lancelot where Guinevere has a sister, known as the False Guinevere, who tries to take the place of Guinevere the night she weds Arthur.

In writing Arthur’s Legacy, my curiosity about Gwenhwyvach and the False Guinevere led to my combining the two to create a major villain not just in this novel but the entire The Children of Arthur series. Following is the scene from Arthur’s Legacy where Gwenhwyvach reveals her past to Constantine, whom he hopes to enlist in her desire for revenge:

“Do you know what this is, Constantine, Cador’s son?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied, shrinking back at the sight of the foul mark.

“This brand is the reason you never knew of my existence. Arthur banished me as a traitor, though I am not one. He decreed it a crime for anyone even to utter my name.”

Constantine hesitated to associate with a criminal, but his curiosity would not yet permit him to flee from her enticing gaze.

“What is your name, lady?” he asked.

“Gwenhwyvach,” she replied. “I am the rightful heir to King Leodagraunce of Northgallis, and more importantly, the rightful Queen of Britain, Arthur’s lawful wife.”

“How?” Constantine asked. He wondered whether her desire for revenge included her seeking the throne of Britain. But how could she? No woman could rule a kingdom.

“Do not fear. I have no desire for a crown, although I could build an empire if I so wished. All I want is to destroy Arthur and Guinevere. I don’t care what becomes of Britain after that. I will make you its next king if you will assist me in my enemies’ destruction.”

Constantine was flattered and his eyes lit with excitement at the prospect of being king, but he was too conniving to agree at once. He would first determine how useful an ally this evil wench might be.

“Before I agree to anything,” he said, “you must tell me your full story.”

“You will help me no matter what I say,” she replied, “but I will tell you my past if only to relieve my own misery.”

She picked up a stick and poked at the fire while muttering under her breath. The sparks flew up into the air, and as Constantine raised his eyes to follow their path to the cave’s ceiling, Gwenhwyvach began her tale.

“My father, King Leodagraunce of Northgallis, conceived me upon my mother, who was his lawful wife, Queen Elen. That same night, he afterwards left his marital bedchamber, drunk as he usually was, and made his way to the room of my mother’s young handmaiden, whom he raped. Nine months later, upon the same full moon, Guinevere and I were born.

“My mother, the queen, died in childbirth, as did her handmaiden. The handmaiden’s mother assisted as midwife at the births of Guinevere and myself. We were born only an hour apart, and being half-sisters through our father’s royal blood, we have always looked immensely alike. The old midwife, partly out of love for her newborn granddaughter, Guinevere, and partly to revenge her daughter’s rape and death caused by my father, switched the two babes the same night they were born. Guinevere, the bastard child, was raised as King Leodagraunce’s rightful daughter, while I, born of a king and queen and conceived in holy matrimony, grew up as a household servant.

“Being the same age and living in the same household, Guinevere and I were playmates before we could even talk. The old woman, who claimed to be my grandmother, encouraged our friendship because it allowed her to see her true granddaughter more often. I grew up envying Guinevere for having a father, while I had no parents. I had heard rumors from the other servants that I was the king’s bastard child, and although still not knowing the whole truth, I began to believe these tales, for the king clearly displayed an aversion toward me, while he always expressed great love for Guinevere. As I grew older, I found myself resenting the princess. I believed I had as much right to our father’s love as she did. It was not my fault I was a bastard.

“Then as we approached womanhood, King Leodagraunce died, and Guinevere went to live in Cornwall, under your father’s protection. Because we had been close friends, or so I let her believe, she allowed me to accompany her, as well as the old woman who claimed to be my grandmother. All the eligible lords in the kingdom now began to court Guinevere, some for her beauty, while others merely wished to rule her kingdom. Even several royal princes sought her hand. I envied her, for the only man interested in me was a shepherd, and he had nothing to offer me except a hut and a stench I could not tolerate.

“One afternoon, I was walking with Guinevere in the gardens at Tintagel when she told me a messenger had arrived that morning from Camelot. He had come bearing a marriage proposal to her from King Arthur.

“Although she had never seen the High King, Guinevere had fallen in love with the stories told of him, so she did not hesitate to accept the proposal. I could not bear the jealousy I felt over her good fortune. Perhaps I was selfish, but it was unfair that one sister marry a High King while the other could find no husband of worth. I fled from the garden, ignoring Guinevere’s shouts for my return. I did not stop until I was deep in the forest, and then I slumped down beneath a tree and spent several hours crying and wishing my life were different. I felt I could no longer remain at Tintagel. I dreaded having to watch Arthur’s men bear Guinevere off to become High Queen of Britain, so I decided to return to my grandmother’s hut after the old woman had gone to sleep. Then I planned to gather my few belongings and depart forever. Perhaps even depart from Britain, for nowhere in the land would my sister’s name not be known, and I knew the mere mention of it would henceforth be intolerable to me.

“But when I returned to the hut, I found several of our neighbors gathered outside the door, and when they saw me, they all began asking where I had been. Then they told me to go inside and see my grandmother because she had suffered from some sort of dizzy spell and collapsed in the street. She was lying down now, but awake, though she probably would not live through the night. For the last several hours, she had been calling my name, and entreating the neighbors to find me.

“I don’t know that I ever loved the old woman, but I had always believed her to be my grandmother, so I at least felt some respect for her. I wanted to leave Tintagel as quickly as possible, but I could not desert her in her last moments. Deciding I would not leave until after she had died, I entered the hut and went to her bedside. The old woman was pale, yet she nearly shouted my name when she saw me. It was there on her death bed that she told me the truth, that I was the daughter of King Leodagraunce and his late queen, meaning I was the true Princess Guinevere. She also admitted it was her fault my birthright had been taken from me because she had switched my half-sister and me in our beds the night we were born. She begged my forgiveness, but after so many years of living in poverty when I could have lived royally and had any of my heart’s desires, any lingering of Christian mercy deserted me. I spat in her face and uttered a series of curses that made her tremble and seek her grave all the sooner. When the life had left her, her face held a terrible look of fear beyond what anyone could imagine. I believe she saw the gates of Hell opening for her. She deserved no lesser fate.”

Gwenhwyvach’s brow steamed with hatred as she repeated her tale; Constantine’s selfish soul pitied this woman because, like him, what was rightfully hers had been stolen from her.

“Did you go to Guinevere and tell her the truth?” he asked.

“How could I have proven it? The old woman had made certain no one knew her secret until moments before her death. If I had told anyone, the story would have been passed off as the deathbed ravings of a crazy old woman, or worse, I might have been accused of lying and rebelling against my queen.”

“But then why did Arthur banish you from Britain?”

“I was determined to get my revenge. If I were the rightful daughter of King Leodagraunce and Queen Elen, I believed it was my right to wed King Arthur.”

Constantine squirmed in his seat. He sympathized with Gwenhwyvach, but he also wondered whether she did not make up this tale, and if she had made it up, how much of it had she convinced herself was true? Still, if she hated Arthur and Guinevere as much as he did, her hatred could make her an invaluable ally.

Whether or not she noticed Constantine’s puzzled look, Gwenhwyvach continued her tale.

“Arthur and Guinevere’s wedding ceremony took place without interruption. But I had laid my plans for that evening. When Guinevere went to her bedchamber to prepare for the consummation of her marriage, she changed into her nightgown, then stepped out into the garden to relieve herself before Arthur entered the bridal chamber. I had found myself a lover in the village, one Bertolais, a strong, hulking man but weak in his desires for a woman. I convinced him to help me, and then he convinced his friends to do the same with my promise to reward them all later. That night, we hid in Guinevere’s garden. Bertolais and his friends were to kidnap the bride, and then murder her after they had carried her far enough away from the castle. Meanwhile, I would take Guinevere’s place as Arthur’s wife.

“But that foul old druid Merlin learned of my plans by the use of his black arts. Arthur’s soldiers stormed into the garden just before we grabbed Guinevere. Then Arthur ordered that Bertolais and I be banished. My lover was sent to Gaul, forbidden ever to return, while I was imprisoned in Hengest’s Tower in the middle of the Saxon Lake. Instead of marrying the High King of Britain as was my rightful and intended destiny, I spent the next fifteen years enchained in that prison. That is why I will hate Arthur and Guinevere until they are both dead.”

“But then how did you escape from the tower, my lady?”

“The jailer became ill one day, and a naïve, young man came to take his place. Within a week, I had the fool hopelessly in love with me. I offered myself to him, but the mere pleasure of holding me exhausted him, and he fell asleep.” Gwenhwyvach laughed as she recalled the event. “I then extracted the key from his belt, imprisoned him in my cell, and made my escape. Five years have since passed, so if Arthur has ever learned of my absence and made a search for me, by now he must have given up all hope of my recapture.

“Since my escape, I have had to live like an animal in hiding, foraging for berries in the forest, fishing with my bare hands, and taking shelter under trees and in caves. No human being has ever had a more unfortunate and miserable existence than what I have suffered. You have no idea what it is to sleep in a cave without even an animal fur to cover you on a cold winter night. That is why I must have my revenge on those who caused my misery even if it means killing every soldier in Britain before I can reach Arthur and Guinevere. And if they succeed in destroying me first, my spirit will return to haunt Britain for centuries to come. Nothing is too powerful to stop me!”

Gwenhwyvach’s eyes flared with heat that could burn down a forest. Constantine could not help being mesmerized by them.

“Will you assist me in bringing about Arthur and Guinevere’s destruction?” Gwenhwyvach asked. “When it is completed, I will make you the most powerful man in the world. I learned much of the black arts while in my prison, for I was not denied reading material, and my jailers were illiterate, so they never realized how harmful were the books they innocently brought me from the ruins of a nearby monastery. My powers as a sorceress will set you on the throne of Britain, and I shall ask nothing more of you, but that I may continually reward you for the good services you performed in helping to vindicate me. All that belonged to Arthur and Guinevere will be yours. I shall ask no share. What is your answer, Constantine, Cador’s son?”

*

To find out Constantine’s answer and how I also incorporated the reference to The Welsh Triad in the novel, read Arthur’s Legacy, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and watch for its sequel Melusine’s Gift, coming in January 2015.

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I haven’t had time to write a blog for a while but thought I’d post one of my favorite poems, William Morris’ “The Defence of Guenevere” published in 1858. November seems to me a very Arthurian month perhaps because the words from the musical Camelot – “on a day dark and drear came to trial Guinevere” sound like one of these dark November days. The poem is considered a dramatic monologue, and for fiction writers like myself, writing dramatic monologues, whether in prose or poetry, can be very helpful for getting into the minds of one’s characters, so this posting is especially for my fellow novelists creating their own versions of Guinevere. Enjoy.

THE DEFENCE OF GUENEVERE

by

WILLIAM MORRIS

But, knowing now that they would have her speak,

She threw her wet hair backward from her brow,

Her hand close to her mouth touching her cheek,

 

As though she had had there a shameful blow,

And feeling it shameful to feel ought but shame

All through her heart, yet felt her cheek burned so,

 

William Morris’ painting La belle Iseault is sometimes mistakenly titled Queen Guinevere.

She must a little touch it; like one lame

She walked away from Gauwaine, with her head

Still lifted up; and on her cheek of flame

 

The tears dried quick; she stopped at last and said:

“O knights and lords, it seems but little skill

To talk of well-known things past now and dead.

 

“God wot I ought to say, I have done ill,

And pray you all forgiveness heartily!

Because you must be right, such great lords; still

 

“Listen, suppose your time were come to die,

And you were quite alone and very weak;

Yea, laid a dying while very mightily

 

“The wind was ruffling up the narrow streak

Of river through your broad lands running well:

Suppose a hush should come, then some one speak:

 

“‘One of these cloths is heaven, and one is hell,

Now choose one cloth for ever; which they be,

I will not tell you, you must somehow tell

 

“‘Of your own strength and mightiness; here, see!’

Yea, yea, my lord, and you to ope your eyes,

At foot of your familiar bed to see

 

“A great God’s angel standing, with such dyes,

Not known on earth, on his great wings, and hands,

Held out two ways, light from the inner skies

 

“Showing him well, and making his commands

Seem to be God’s commands, moreover, too,

Holding within his hands the cloths on wands;

 

“And one of these strange choosing cloths was blue,

Wavy and long, and one cut short and red;

No man could tell the better of the two.

 

“After a shivering half-hour you said:

‘God help! heaven’s colour, the blue;’ and he said, ‘hell.’

Perhaps you then would roll upon your bed,

 

“And cry to all good men that loved you well,

‘Ah Christ! if only I had known, known, known;’

Launcelot went away, then I could tell,

 

“Like wisest man how all things would be, moan,

And roll and hurt myself, and long to die,

And yet fear much to die for what was sown.

 

“Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,

Whatever may have happened through these years,

God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie.”

 

Her voice was low at first, being full of tears,

But as it cleared, it grew full loud and shrill,

Growing a windy shriek in all men’s ears,

 

A ringing in their startled brains, until

She said that Gauwaine lied, then her voice sunk,

And her great eyes began again to fill,

 

Though still she stood right up, and never shrunk,

But spoke on bravely, glorious lady fair!

Whatever tears her full lips may have drunk,

 

She stood, and seemed to think, and wrung her hair,

Spoke out at last with no more trace of shame,

With passionate twisting of her body there:

 

“It chanced upon a day that Launcelot came

To dwell at Arthur’s court: at Christmas-time

This happened; when the heralds sung his name,

 

“Son of King Ban of Benwick, seemed to chime

Along with all the bells that rang that day,

O’er the white roofs, with little change of rhyme.

 

“Christmas and whitened winter passed away,

And over me the April sunshine came,

Made very awful with black hail-clouds, yea

 

“And in the Summer I grew white with flame,

And bowed my head down: Autumn, and the sick

Sure knowledge things would never be the same,

 

“However often Spring might be most thick

Of blossoms and buds, smote on me, and I grew

Careless of most things, let the clock tick, tick,

 

“To my unhappy pulse, that beat right through

My eager body; while I laughed out loud,

And let my lips curl up at false or true,

 

“Seemed cold and shallow without any cloud.

Behold my judges, then the cloths were brought;

While I was dizzied thus, old thoughts would crowd,

 

“Belonging to the time ere I was bought

By Arthur’s great name and his little love;

Must I give up for ever then, I thought,

 

“That which I deemed would ever round me move

Glorifying all things; for a little word,

Scarce ever meant at all, must I now prove

 

“Stone-cold for ever?  Pray you, does the Lord

Will that all folks should be quite happy and good?

I love God now a little, if this cord

 

“Were broken, once for all what striving could

Make me love anything in earth or heaven?

So day by day it grew, as if one should

 

“Slip slowly down some path worn smooth and even,

Down to a cool sea on a summer day;

Yet still in slipping there was some small leaven

 

“Of stretched hands catching small stones by the way,

Until one surely reached the sea at last,

And felt strange new joy as the worn head lay

 

“Back, with the hair like sea-weed; yea all past

Sweat of the forehead, dryness of the lips,

Washed utterly out by the dear waves o’ercast,

 

“In the lone sea, far off from any ships!

Do I not know now of a day in Spring?

No minute of the wild day ever slips

 

“From out my memory; I hear thrushes sing,

And wheresoever I may be, straightway

Thoughts of it all come up with most fresh sting:

 

“I was half mad with beauty on that day,

And went without my ladies all alone,

In a quiet garden walled round every way;

 

“I was right joyful of that wall of stone,

That shut the flowers and trees up with the sky,

And trebled all the beauty: to the bone,

 

“Yea right through to my heart, grown very shy

With weary thoughts, it pierced, and made me glad;

Exceedingly glad, and I knew verily,

 

“A little thing just then had made me mad;

I dared not think, as I was wont to do,

Sometimes, upon my beauty; if I had

 

“Held out my long hand up against the blue,

And, looking on the tenderly darken’d fingers,

Thought that by rights one ought to see quite through,

 

“There, see you, where the soft still light yet lingers,

Round by the edges; what should I have done,

If this had joined with yellow spotted singers,

 

“And startling green drawn upward by the sun?

But shouting, loosed out, see now! all my hair,

And trancedly stood watching the west wind run

 

“With faintest half-heard breathing sound: why there

I lose my head e’en now in doing this;

But shortly listen: In that garden fair

 

“Came Launcelot walking; this is true, the kiss

Wherewith we kissed in meeting that spring day,

I scarce dare talk of the remember’d bliss,

 

“When both our mouths went wandering in one way,

And aching sorely, met among the leaves;

Our hands being left behind strained far away.

 

“Never within a yard of my bright sleeves

Had Launcelot come before: and now so nigh!

After that day why is it Guenevere grieves?

 

“Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,

Whatever happened on through all those years,

God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie.

 

“Being such a lady could I weep these tears

If this were true?  A great queen such as I

Having sinn’d this way, straight her conscience sears;

 

“And afterwards she liveth hatefully,

Slaying and poisoning, certes never weeps:

Gauwaine be friends now, speak me lovingly.

 

“Do I not see how God’s dear pity creeps

All through your frame, and trembles in your mouth?

Remember in what grave your mother sleeps,

 

“Buried in some place far down in the south,

Men are forgetting as I speak to you;

By her head sever’d in that awful drouth

 

“Of pity that drew Agravaine’s fell blow,

I pray you pity! let me not scream out

For ever after, when the shrill winds blow

 

“Through half your castle-locks! let me not shout

For ever after in the winter night

When you ride out alone! in battle-rout

 

“Let not my rusting tears make your sword light!

Ah! God of mercy, how he turns away!

So, ever must I dress me to the fight,

 

“So: let God’s justice work!  Gauwaine, I say,

See me hew down your proofs: yea all men know

Even as you said how Mellyagraunce one day,

 

“One bitter day in la Fausse Garde, for so

All good knights held it after, saw:

Yea, sirs, by cursed unknightly outrage; though

 

“You, Gauwaine, held his word without a flaw,

This Mellyagraunce saw blood upon my bed:

Whose blood then pray you? is there any law

 

“To make a queen say why some spots of red

Lie on her coverlet? or will you say:

‘Your hands are white, lady, as when you wed,

 

“‘Where did you bleed?’ and must I stammer out, ‘Nay,

I blush indeed, fair lord, only to rend

My sleeve up to my shoulder, where there lay

 

“‘A knife-point last night’: so must I defend

The honour of the Lady Guenevere?

Not so, fair lords, even if the world should end

 

“This very day, and you were judges here

Instead of God.  Did you see Mellyagraunce

When Launcelot stood by him? what white fear

 

“Curdled his blood, and how his teeth did dance,

His side sink in? as my knight cried and said:

‘Slayer of unarm’d men, here is a chance!

 

“‘Setter of traps, I pray you guard your head,

By God I am so glad to fight with you,

Stripper of ladies, that my hand feels lead

 

“‘For driving weight; hurrah now! draw and do,

For all my wounds are moving in my breast,

And I am getting mad with waiting so.’

 

“He struck his hands together o’er the beast,

Who fell down flat, and grovell’d at his feet,

And groan’d at being slain so young: ‘At least,’

 

“My knight said, ‘rise you, sir, who are so fleet

At catching ladies, half-arm’d will I fight,

My left side all uncovered!’ then I weet,

 

“Up sprang Sir Mellyagraunce with great delight

Upon his knave’s face; not until just then

Did I quite hate him, as I saw my knight

 

“Along the lists look to my stake and pen

With such a joyous smile, it made me sigh

From agony beneath my waist-chain, when

 

“The fight began, and to me they drew nigh;

Ever Sir Launcelot kept him on the right,

And traversed warily, and ever high

 

“And fast leapt caitiff’s sword, until my knight

Sudden threw up his sword to his left hand,

Caught it, and swung it; that was all the fight,

 

“Except a spout of blood on the hot land;

For it was hottest summer; and I know

I wonder’d how the fire, while I should stand,

 

“And burn, against the heat, would quiver so,

Yards above my head; thus these matters went;

Which things were only warnings of the woe

 

“That fell on me.  Yet Mellyagraunce was shent,

For Mellyagraunce had fought against the Lord;

Therefore, my lords, take heed lest you be blent

 

“With all this wickedness; say no rash word

Against me, being so beautiful; my eyes,

Wept all away to grey, may bring some sword

 

“To drown you in your blood; see my breast rise,

Like waves of purple sea, as here I stand;

And how my arms are moved in wonderful wise,

 

“Yea also at my full heart’s strong command,

See through my long throat how the words go up

In ripples to my mouth; how in my hand

 

“The shadow lies like wine within a cup

Of marvellously colour’d gold; yea now

This little wind is rising, look you up,

 

“And wonder how the light is falling so

Within my moving tresses: will you dare,

When you have looked a little on my brow,

 

“To say this thing is vile? or will you care

For any plausible lies of cunning woof,

When you can see my face with no lie there

 

“For ever? am I not a gracious proof:

‘But in your chamber Launcelot was found’:

Is there a good knight then would stand aloof,

 

“When a queen says with gentle queenly sound:

‘O true as steel come now and talk with me,

I love to see your step upon the ground

 

“‘Unwavering, also well I love to see

That gracious smile light up your face, and hear

Your wonderful words, that all mean verily

 

“‘The thing they seem to mean: good friend, so dear

To me in everything, come here to-night,

Or else the hours will pass most dull and drear;

 

“‘If you come not, I fear this time I might

Get thinking over much of times gone by,

When I was young, and green hope was in sight:

 

“‘For no man cares now to know why I sigh;

And no man comes to sing me pleasant songs,

Nor any brings me the sweet flowers that lie

 

“‘So thick in the gardens; therefore one so longs

To see you, Launcelot; that we may be

Like children once again, free from all wrongs

 

“‘Just for one night.’  Did he not come to me?

What thing could keep true Launcelot away

If I said, ‘Come’? there was one less than three

 

“In my quiet room that night, and we were gay;

Till sudden I rose up, weak, pale, and sick,

Because a bawling broke our dream up, yea

 

“I looked at Launcelot’s face and could not speak,

For he looked helpless too, for a little while;

Then I remember how I tried to shriek,

 

“And could not, but fell down; from tile to tile

The stones they threw up rattled o’er my head

And made me dizzier; till within a while

 

“My maids were all about me, and my head

On Launcelot’s breast was being soothed away

From its white chattering, until Launcelot said:

 

“By God! I will not tell you more to-day,

Judge any way you will: what matters it?

You know quite well the story of that fray,

 

“How Launcelot still’d their bawling, the mad fit

That caught up Gauwaine: all, all, verily,

But just that which would save me; these things flit.

 

“Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,

Whatever may have happen’d these long years,

God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie!

 

“All I have said is truth, by Christ’s dear tears.”

She would not speak another word, but stood

Turn’d sideways; listening, like a man who hears

 

His brother’s trumpet sounding through the wood

Of his foes’ lances.  She lean’d eagerly,

And gave a slight spring sometimes, as she could

 

At last hear something really; joyfully

Her cheek grew crimson, as the headlong speed

Of the roan charger drew all men to see,

The knight who came was Launcelot at good need.

 

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Llacheu is Arthur’s son in the earliest Welsh legends and the only of the three sons mentioned in Welsh tradition–Amr and Gwydre being the others–who made it into the later continental romances.

A strange tradition also exists that Llacheu may have been killed by Sir Kay. The following is a passage discussing this possibility from my book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, which contains a much longer discussion of Llacheu and is available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

            The French, however, when they learned the Welsh tradition that Arthur had a son, either ignored or did not know his true place in the legends and simply let their imaginations run wild (Bruce, “Arthuriana,” 184). It may be Geoffrey of Monmouth’s responsibility that Arthur’s sons disappeared from later versions of the legends; The History of the Kings of Britain was so popular that it firmly placed a structure on the way the tale would be told from then on, and since Geoffrey did not give Arthur any sons, his successors avoided creating sons for Arthur. And if writers had added sons to the legend, they would have had to come up with explanations for why these sons did not succeed their father. However, the fact that Llacheu does appear in romances written after Geoffrey of Monmouth is a clear indication that the French writers had some knowledge (however limited it may have been) of the Welsh traditions from Breton traditions, independent of Geoffrey of Monmouth (Bruce, “Arthuriana,” 179).

One aspect of Llacheu’s story the French appear to have added was his illegitimacy through his mother Lisanor, a woman who is probably completely fictional. More importantly, the French and their followers created a whole new death story for Llacheu that has come down to us in two different, but closely related versions.

In all of these versions, Llacheu is slain by Sir Kay. Several scholars have suggested that the source for Kay’s murdering Llacheu was Llacheu and Kay’s names being mentioned together in The Black Book of Caermarthen as follows:

Unless it were God who accomplished it,

Cai’s death were unattainable.

Cai the fair and Llachau,

they performed battles

before the pain of blue spears [ended the conflict].

(Bromwich, Arthur of the Welsh, 43)

The two warriors may have fallen together in battle, but Bruce and other scholars believe it is evident from the way the names are coupled that Kay was not Llacheu’s slayer in Welsh tradition (Bruce, “Arthuriana,” 184). Kay seems to have been accused of murdering Llacheu, much as the mention of Arthur and Mordred falling together at Camlann in the Annales Cambriae may have been interpreted as Mordred revolting against Arthur.

In his Studies in the Arthurian Legend, John Rhys gives one version of Llacheu’s murder which he takes from the second part of the Welsh version of the Grail, the Seint Greal. In this version, Llacheu seeks adventure and fights a giant named Logrin, who has proven himself one of King Arthur’s cruelest foes and allows no one to live in the same country with him. Llacheu succeeds in killing the giant and then lies down on the giant’s body and falls asleep. Kay then rides up, discovers this strange sight, and beheads Llacheu and the giant. He then returns to court, claiming he slew the giant. The court makes much of him, but soon his treachery is known and hostility grows between Arthur and Kay, causing Kay to flee to his own castle (61).

Another version of this story occurs in the Perlesvaus, a French work of the early thirteenth century. Here everything occurs as in the last story up to where Kay kills Llacheu. This time, Kay cuts off both the giant and Llacheu’s heads and brings Llacheu’s body, along with the giant’s head, back to court, claiming he killed the giant who had killed Llacheu. Later a damsel comes to court with a coffer containing Llacheu’s head, and she tells the story of his death. Guinevere recognizes the head as having belonged to her son from a scar that is on it; the sight of it causes her to die of grief (Bruce, “Arthuriana,” 182).

Caitlin and John Matthews, in the The Arthurian Book of Days (1990), give a version of the tale that makes Kay look more like a victim than a murderer; however, they do not give their source. It appears in the entry for March 15, as follows:

 

Arthur sat in solemn justice to hear the defence of his foster brother. Kay stammered his sorry tale:  “Upon my last quest I encountered a giant who made me play a beheading game. I knew the way of it, I thought, since Gawain’s contest those many Christmases ago. Instead of himself, the giant sent forth against me a knight who acquitted himself nobly, but I overcame him and struck off his head. It was not till the helmet was off that I saw it was Loholt, and that I had been tricked into treachery. Until the ending of my life, I repent that stroke.” (45-6)

Here Morgain interrupts to relate that the giant is the brother of King Arthur’s enemy, King Rhitta, and that this event is the sorrow she foretold.

And since Kay had been shamed by such a trick, Arthur forgave him before all, though Guinevere was less forgiving. (45-6)

Since Caitlin and John Matthews do not give a source for this version of Llachue’s death, it seems logical to assume that they were merely rewriting the tale as it appeared in the Perlesvaus since Kay’s motive for murdering Llacheu is not expressed in that work; furthermore, they also added in the detail of Gawain playing a beheading game, an event that occurs in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a late fourteenth century Middle English work; the Matthews reinterpret the tale by giving Kay a form of motivation for killing Llacheu, which makes Llacheu’s murder more plausible.

In the two earlier versions, Kay is clearly an intended murderer, rather than a victim of someone else’s evil deeds. This depiction of Kay is surprising since in the Welsh tales he usually appears as the greatest, or at least one of the greatest of Arthur’s warriors, plus his loyal subject, friend, and foster-brother. However, Kay is sometimes depicted as being touchy toward Arthur as at the end of “Culwch and Olwen,” where a hint of some discord between Arthur and Kay exists, although it seems unlikely that in the Welsh tradition Kay would have stooped to murdering Arthur’s son; therefore, the story of Llacheu’s murder is probably of continental origin.

 

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Today, I’ve asked author Nicole Evelina to be my guest and let me interview her about the novel for which she is currently seeking a publisher, titled Guinevere of Northgallis.

Author Nicole Evelina

Nicole Evelina is a writer from the Midwest. Guinevere of Northgallis is her first novel and is part of an anticipated trilogy. Nicole has spent the last 12 years researching Arthurian legend, Celtic Britain and the various peoples, cultures and religious practices that shaped the country after the withdrawal of Rome. She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society.

Nicole holds a B.A. in English and M.A. in media communications, as well as accreditation from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a distinction that tests writing and communications skill, and is held by only 8,000 people worldwide.

Tyler: Welcome, Nicole. As a writer of Arthurian novels myself (I plan to publish King Arthur’s Legacy in the fall of 2013), I’m excited for the opportunity to talk to you today. First, will you tell us a little bit about how you became interested in the Arthurian legend and what made you decide to write novels about it?

Nicole: I’ve been a fan of Arthurian legend since I was a little girl. While most other kids had Disney princesses as idols, I had the queens, kings, and knights of Arthurian legend. I was so enamored with Guinevere that I wanted to take her name as my confirmation name, but the nuns wouldn’t let me because there’s no St. Guinevere.

How I came to write about it is kind of a funny story. I’d been avoiding reading The Mists of Avalon because everyone told me “don’t read that book if you like Guinevere.” Well, my freshman year of college, a friend gave it to me as a Christmas gift. As predicted, I hated Marion Zimmer Bradley’s portrayal of Guinevere, but loved the book overall, especially Avalon. Shortly thereafter, I read Parke Godwin’s Beloved Exile, which tells what happened to Guinevere after Arthur dies. His premise didn’t really resonate with me, but it got me wondering what did happen to her. You don’t hear much about that. Inspired by the two books, I started thinking about what Guinevere’s real story was, and then one autumn morning—I can still tell you the date—she walked into my head and told me she wanted to tell her side of things. That’s how Guinevere of Northgallis was born.

Tyler: Was Guinevere of Northgallis the first novel you wrote or did you write or attempt to write other novels about it?

Nicole: It is my first novel. I’ve been writing and re-writing it on and off (more off than on) for 13 years now, so it’s gone through several iterations and really has been several different books in that time. Prior to writing it, I wrote some short stories, but they were mostly fantasy and never really went anywhere.

Tyler: The Arthurian legend is rich with characters, and of course, after Arthur, Guinevere might arguably be the most important one, but many authors such as Persia Woolley, Nancy McKenzie, and Rosalind Miles have already devoted several books to Guinevere. What made you think you had something new or original to say?

Nicole: You’re right that several other authors have covered this territory. But my Guinevere is very different, mainly because of where I’ve placed her in history. She’s not a meek Christian wallflower like in previous legend. She’s a pagan Celt who was taught to fight by her mother, a noblewoman from the land of the Picts. Although living in Britain, Guinevere was raised in her mother’s matriarchal ways, so she’s a strong, smart woman who will stand up for what she believes in and fight for it, with her tongue or with her sword, as appropriate. But despite all of that feministic rhetoric, women were pawns during that time period and the strong ones were rare, so you’ll see the consequences of her unique outlook as well.

Also, while my story has elements of fantasy, it’s also very historically grounded. Guinevere lives in a time period (approximately 480-530 A.D.) that was in the throes of transition, both politically and religiously, so my books also deal with that upheaval. The transition from paganism to Christianity is central to the story, as is the shifting political landscape, as the Britons struggle to organize themselves after the withdrawal of Rome and fight against the encroaching influences of the Saxons and Picts.

Tyler: You must have had a lot to say since you plan to write an entire trilogy. Can you tell us a little about why you decided to write a trilogy rather than just one book, and give us a little overview of what the books will cover—is it Guinevere’s entire life story?

Nicole: Originally, I thought it was going to be just one huge book. It wasn’t until I finished the first draft of the first book that I realized it needed to be a trilogy, just for page count, if nothing else. The story begins when Guinevere is 11 and will encompass her entire life, before she meets Arthur, her time with him and her life after the fall of Camelot. That’s roughly how the books are divided.

Tyler: What do you find the most fun about rewriting the Arthurian legend?

Nicole: The fun part is how the characters come alive for me. They talk in my head and sometimes when I’m writing, they do things I didn’t expect or plan for. I love seeing the legend take on its own life through them. The most rewarding part is knowing this is a legend written in a way that will speak to people of our time—a way of preserving it as a living story that continues, rather than being a dusty, moldering tale from another time.

Tyler: I think we can break Arthurian novels down into two categories—fantasy and historical, and then there are books like my own that try to include a little of both—I would consider my novels historical fantasy. What genre would best define yours?

Nicole: Historical fantasy is probably best. I’ve tried to be very true to the time period, but I can’t imagine Arthurian legend without a little magic, so there’s an element of fantasy to it as well. But it’s not high fantasy by any means. The magic is more subtle, and is, I think, in keeping with the beliefs of the Celtic people.

Tyler: I know you’ve done extensive research in writing your novels. Will you tell us a little about your process and how you decided what to include?

Nicole: At the beginning, my process was to read anything I could get my hands on about Arthurian legend and the Celts—to really get the lay of the land, so to speak. Once the story started forming into an actual plot in my head, I was able to get more specific and research the elements that I knew would directly affect my characters. I must confess that my research still isn’t done; it probably won’t be until the last book hits the shelves because I’m always finding some new detail to verify. I do additional research as I come to the main plot elements of each book. For example, I’m getting ready to research the Holy Grail in-depth because that’s the part of the second book I’m on now. I’ll do more research into the tribes of the Gododdin and the Picts when I get ready to start book 3 because that’s where most of that book takes place. So much research, so little time!

Tyler: I know you’ve also visited England. How did that visit influence your research and your vision for the novels?

Nicole: England is such an amazing country. I was fortunate to visit about six months after I started writing the first book, so knowing the land has been extremely helpful. It’s completely different being there and feeling the energy of the places than just reading about them. I actually picked my location of Camelot based on an area I came to know very well. Oddly enough, I haven’t been to most of the places in the first book, but I’m planning to take a tour of south-western England next June that will remedy that!

Tyler: With so many Arthurian novels already published, what pitfalls do you see for writers of Arthurian literature? Did you fear being influenced too much by other writers who had already published their stories?

Nicole: There’s always the fear that you’ll be influenced by someone else. But in way, it’s a good thing because it forces you to really look at what you’re writing from a new perspective and really make things your own. One way I’ve tried to shield myself is that I haven’t read any other Arthurian fiction that deals with Guinevere since I decided I was going to write my own story. By that time I had seen enough of what was out there to know what’s unique and what is not, but there’s been enough time distance that I don’t have to worry about replicating someone else’s work.

One pitfall of writing in Arthurian tradition is that there isn’t a lot of source material out there for the Celts. If other writers have done their research (which they clearly have), you’re going to have some overlap in ideas. For example, Marion Zimmer Bradley did really great research into the beliefs and rituals of the Druids and the possibilities for Avalon. You can’t change something like that drastically without it becoming inauthentic, but you can look at it from another angle and try to add to what’s already been done.

Tyler: Thank you again, Nicole for joining me. I wish you much success with finding a publisher for Guinevere of Northgallis and its sequels. Before we go, tell us a little about how to find more information about you online. What is your blog or website, and what more can readers learn there about you, your books, and the Arthurian legend?

Nicole: My web site is http://nicoleevelina.com. From there you can read my blog, which is updated weekly, learn about my books and connect with me on social media sites like Twitter and Pinterest. My site also has an extensive research list and a playlist section where you can see what music has influenced Guinevere’s story. I blog mostly about Celtic history, Arthurian legend and writing, but as I get farther into the publishing process, I’ll keep all my readers updated on that as well.

Thank you for having me, Tyler, and for your well wishes. It has been a pleasure.

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As I noted in my last blog post, Sarah Luddington’s novel Lancelot and the Wolf has gained a lot of attention for its explicit sex scenes between Lancelot and Arthur. While the sex scenes are fairly spicy, the truth is that there’s little else in this novel to make a fuss over. I’m not saying it’s a bad book, but it’s obviously a self-published book (not a bad thing in itself) and one badly in need of a good editor.

Lancelot and the WolfFor those who want to explore the love between Arthur and Lancelot, they will find a few explicit sex scenes, but also a convoluted plot. The story begins with Lancelot having left Camelot in shame and in exile in France (although I was well into the book before I realized he was in France). Why he left has something to do with his love for Guinevere, but it’s never really clear what happened until halfway or better through the book (not because the author is purposely withholding information for suspense, I’m afraid). Lancelot ends up returning to Camelot after he meets Else, who turns out to be Merlin’s daughter and part fey. Her real name is Eleanor de Clare, and that’s where the string of anachronisms in the novel begins….I’ll get to those in a minute. Anyway, through his interactions with Eleanor de Clare, Lancelot comes to learn that evil spirits are threatening Camelot and he must return there to save Arthur. The plot has its twists and turns and moments where I had to go back to reread because I got bored and wasn’t paying attention to what I was reading, although at other times, the story moves forward quickly.

As for the anachronisms, Luddington drops words and names and doesn’t always follow through or explain them. At one point, she refers to Wessex—where and what is that? King Arthur lived probably in the 6th century—Wessex, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, was in its infancy if it even existed then and there are no Saxons in this novel; nor is it clear whether the story takes place in Wessex. Happy is the reader whose author provides a map. Later, there are references to England. Whatever happened to Britain? As for Eleanor de Clare, there was a historical woman of that name who was niece to King Edward II and married to Hugh le Despenser (read Susan Higginbotham’s wonderful novel The Traitor’s Wife for Eleanor de Clare’s story). Luddington’s Eleanor de Clare is not the historical woman and her Norman surname has no place in an Arthurian novel.

In her afterword, Luddington states that she likes the Arthurian world of Malory more than the historical Arthur. She has set her Camelot in a time equal to that of the Hundred Years War of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and that’s fine. A good editor could have helped clean up, smooth over, and explain the anachronisms to her later medieval period story. And Luddington does have a good imagination and an ability to write prose that moves the plot forward and can be a fun and easy read. She just needs to work at it more or find a good editor to help her. Perhaps the other novels in this series show improvement.

Unlike Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame, who claims she never read a vampire novel or saw a vampire film (a claim I don’t believe but that’s another blog and it would be hard to say whether Luddington or Meyer is the better or worse writer—but at least Meyer had a decent editor), Luddington states in her afterword, “see I’m educated, even if I can’t use commas properly” (I’m glad she realizes her punctuation problem because her comma use or lack of use irritated me quite a bit). Her use of “educated” means she has read other Arthurian works and is familiar with the literary tradition, citing such authors as Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes—so she does have some knowledge, but fact checking we apparently can’t expect, considering she mentions that “In the space of the two hundred years between Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes we’ve seen a vast sea change in the way the myths are presented.” Hmm, I’ll pass over the “myth vs. legend” issue here and point out that Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his History of the Kings of Britain around 1135 and Chretien de Troyes wrote The Knight and the Cart around 1180—hardly a 200-year difference. A good editor would have caught that mistake as well.

I read the “Special Edition” of Lancelot and the Wolf which included two extra stories and a novella in it, which left me wondering just how many gay men lived in Camelot—seems like a lot to me. By the way, the novella “Taliesin’s Song” I actually think I enjoyed more than the novel itself.

Lancelot and the Wolf is a fun book to read if you don’t have high expectations for it. If you’ve already read the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Stewart, Jack Whyte, Bernard Cornwell, Stephen Lawhead, and about a dozen other authors I could name, then you will find Lancelot and the Wolf disappointing, but you’ll maybe read it because like me, you read all the Arthuriana you can. On a scale of 1-5, I will give it 3 stars. If you are looking for gay Arthuriana, you might be more likely to enjoy it, but it’s still a 3 star book. That said, if you buy it, buy the special edition Kindle version for $3 because the proceeds go to Stonewall to fight gay discrimination. The greatest strength of this book is Luddington’s willingness and courage to write a gay Arthurian novel. I doubt it will go down in literary history as a great book, but one of those books that nevertheless made an impact and hopefully paved the way for greater books.

The ultimate question is: Was Lancelot and the Wolf good enough to make me read the next book in the series, Lancelot and the Sword? Yes, I think there’s a 50/50 chance that I will, although I won’t be rushing to buy it right away but it might be something to read while I wait for the next season of Merlin.

For more information about Luddington and her novels, visit her website http://www.darkfiction.eu/ and the site devoted specifically to the Lancelot novels, www.theknightsofcamelot.com

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