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Posts Tagged ‘Guinevere’

Glastonbury is my favorite place in England. It is also, in my opinion, the most magical. Perhaps that’s because I first visited it in May 1993, just a few months after I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, so I could just see Morgan le Fay there, like she is at the end of the novel. But there is far more to this historical place than its role in some fantasy novels. In fact, it is England’s holiest ground.

Ruins at Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury’s story is shrouded in mystery. There is a cross there presented by Queen Elizabeth II to honor it as a place so ancient its orgins can only be sought in legend. Consequently, many legends have arisen about it, especially concerning King Arthur.

Glastonbury’s King Arthur connections actually go back five centuries before his time. That’s because it was to Glastonbury that St. Joseph of Arimathea, allegedly an uncle or great-uncle to Jesus Christ, brought his nephew to study with the druids, an explanation for the lost years of Jesus’ childhood and early adulthood. Later, Joseph of Arimathea returned to Glastonbury after Jesus’ death; there he established the abbey and became its first abbot. He also brought with him the Holy Grail, in which he had captured Jesus’ blood after he had been pierced by the Spear of Longinus while dying on the Cross. The Holy Grail was believed to have been kept at Glastonbury for many years.

Inside Glastonbury Abbey’s ruins.

Also connected to Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury is the Holy Thorn. It is said that this thorn tree grew from Joseph of Arimathea’s staff, which he planted into the ground at Glastonbury. The thorn was remarkable because it blossomed with flowers at Christmas and may be the only thorn in the world to do so—Christmas being Jesus’ birthday and thus a time when the thorn celebrated Christ’s birth. Unfortunately, the original thorn was destroyed by the Puritans during the English Civil War. Offsprings of that thorn continued to grow at Glastonbury until just last month when, after repeated vandal attempts, the last one was removed by the landowner. (see “Glastonbury’s Famous Holy Thorn Removed.”)

The holy thorn as it appeared circa 1991.

Glastonbury Tor at dawn

As for King Arthur, we all know that after he was wounded at the Battle of Camlann, Morgan le Fay took him away on a barge to Avalon. Speculation exists that Avalon was nearby, possibly being Glastonbury Tor, a hill that rises up like an island shrouded in mist. Here it has also been said that the Holy Grail was kept. While I prefer to believe King Arthur is still living on Avalon—a place yet to be discovered by the modern world—and waiting to return in the hour of Britain’s greatest need, one tradition is that Arthur was buried at Glastonbury Abbey. In 1191, monks at the abbey claimed to have discovered the remains of Arthur and Guinevere on the abbey property. Also found was an iron cross verifying they were Arthur and Guinevere’s graves. The original cross has since disappeared—if it ever existed—but a drawing of it was made that has survived. The story also goes that one of the monks reached in and touched Guinevere’s golden tresses, but they then instantly disintegrated. In 1278, King Edward I and Queen Eleanor attended a ceremony at the abbey when King Arthur and Guinevere’s bodies were reburied under the high altar. No one has apparently disturbed the bodies since then, although I am surprised no archeologist has tried to.

Arthur and Guinevere’s most likely fake grave at Glastonbury Abbey

Were King Arthur and Guinevere really buried at Glastonbury? I’m skeptical. Many scholars have speculated that the bodies were planted there by Henry II as a hoax to destroy myths that King Arthur would return, thus keeping the Welsh and Saxons from having any hope that they could rebel or that they would be saved by Arthur from the rule of a Norman Plantagenet king. It’s also possible the monks themselves created a hoax so they could make Glastonbury a place of pilgrimage, thus increasing the money coming into their coffers.

One of the abbey walls.

No one can say if any of the stories of Glastonbury Abbey associated with King Arthur or Joseph of Arimathea are true or even if they have any shred of truth to them. I only know that for me, my visit to Glastonbury Abbey was a surreal experience. Something instantly drew me to the place that I cannot explain. On my first visit, I was on a tour. I remember that after fifteen or so minutes, everyone on the tour with me left the ruins to go into the gift shop or the village for coffee, but I remained behind, my heart leaping with joy to be there. I wandered all over the ruins, taking numerous pictures, climbing the stairs, visiting the chalice well, and exploring every inch of the property. I honestly cannot think of another time when I was so excited to visit a place. It wasn’t that I had been greatly anticipating my visit there, but that something about the place made me feel like an overjoyed child; my heart was laughing and I wanted practically to skip as I explored the ruins. My reaction could be because Glastonbury is a sacred space, or because it is believed to be one of the energy sources on the planet. I also think it’s possible, since I believe in reincarnation and think it likely I spent several past lives as a monk or priest, that perhaps my past is connected with Glastonbury. I cannot truly explain why it attracts me so much. I only know that for me, after all these years, the magic of that visit has never faded.

A reproduction of the lead cross found at Glastonbury Abbey claiming it as the place of King Arthur’s burial.

If you only get to visit one Arthurian place in your life, hands down Glastonbury Abbey is the place to visit. If you wish to learn more about it, I highly recommend John Matthews’ book A Glastonbury Reader: Selections from the Myths, Legends and Stories of Ancient Avalon, and I also recommend The Mists of Avalon as a novel that is partly set there. Several other Arthurian novels have also incorporated Glastonbury into their storylines.

If you do wish to visit Glastonbury, as well as other Arthurian sites, I recommend you check out the Scholarly Sojourns tour Uncovering Camelot: A Journey Through Arthurian Britain.

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Tyler Tichelaar, PhD, is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other books. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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If you only read one new Arthurian novel this year, make it Mistress of Legend by Nicole Evelina. Of course, since it’s the third in a trilogy, you may first want to read Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen. But what makes this novel stand out, besides Evelina’s wonderful writing abilities, is that it tells Guinevere’s story after the Battle of Camlann.

Mistress of Legend tells a new story of what happened to Guinevere after Arthur’s passing.

The novel opens right after Lancelot has rescued Guinevere from being burnt at the stake. Warning, there will be some spoiler alerts here, but I won’t give away the big stuff. Guinevere and Lancelot are pursued, and Guinevere is told she is pardoned and can return to Camelot. When she returns, she learns that Arthur had been poisoned so that he would not be in his right mind and aware of the “justice” being carried out. Arthur had not wanted a death sentence for Guinevere, but Father Marius went ahead with it. Once pardoned, Guinevere finds herself thrust into the role of being Marius’ judge, having previously dispelled justice at Camelot. Although she is more merciful than Marius, her mercy turns out to be for naught when Arthur must travel to Brittany, leaving Mordred in charge.

Of course, Camelot’s downfall follows, but despite the familiar trappings of the story, Evelina does a wonderful job of telling the novel through Guinevere’s eyes even when she cannot witness the events. We see the Battle of Camlann in one of the most moving and original versions I’ve ever read. I love how Evelina places Guinevere at the battle even when she is not really there—you’ll have to read it to understand.

After Camlann is fought, the novel is only about a third of the way through. Guinevere has many other adventures that follow. Yes, the traditional version is that she went to a nunnery, and Evelina does work that into the story, but we also see Guinevere return to her warrior-queen roots as outlined in the first novel. And while her husband, Arthur, is dead, other old loves are not. Guinevere discovers she is still a piece on a chessboard, her past making her a pawn to be played with by those now contending for power in Arthur’s absence and in the wake of Saxon invasions, and she learns how to control her destiny despite everything.

Not only does Evelina do a superb job of bringing life into all the Arthurian characters and often giving us new twists on their stories, but for plot purposes, she has also effectively introduced some new characters. Sioban, Galen, and Elga will long remain with me as favorite characters in this version of the Arthurian legend. Elga particularly fascinated me as a strong Saxon woman.

I completely enjoyed Evelina’s original take on the end of Guinevere’s story. She has given back to Guinevere, an often overlooked and derided figure, her dignity and endowed her with a true personality. While I enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy, I actually loved this one. In fact, I couldn’t put it down; I read it all in one day and was disappointed when I realized I was on the last page and there wasn’t still more. Evelina has accomplished what good Arthurian fiction should—not just a retelling but a reimagining that challenges and stretches the borders of Arthurian literature into new possibilities, granting it new meanings and new importance, and ensuring that the legend will continue to burn in our hearts for generations to come.

For more information about Nicole Evelina and Mistress of Legend, visit www.NicoleEvelina.com.

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Tyler Tichelaar, PhD, is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other books. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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Barnard Faraday’s novel Pendragon (1930) is one of the earliest novels to treat King Arthur as a historical person living in the sixth century and fighting the Saxons. It’s a departure from the Arthur of Malory and Tennyson and helped mark a trend toward realistic historical Arthurian fiction as opposed to fantasy.

The novel is not without its faults. The few reviews at Amazon on the novel complain about its verbosity, stale characters, and lack of action—these are all fair criticisms. It’s really not a long novel—only 272 pages in its first edition, and it is a small sized book, about 4 x 5, so there should not be a lot of room for verbosity, but there is.

However, Pendragon has many good points. While we have to acknowledge that it is not always historically accurate and that Faraday did not have access to all the historical research that has been done in the nearly a century since he wrote it, he does try to give us a good feel for a Britain abandoned by the Romans, in which the tribes are squabbling among themselves while trying to fight off their enemies—in this case the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Picts, and Irish are all amassing against the Britons.

When the novel opens, Aurelian claims to be ruler of all Britain because he is a scion of the Proconsular family of Imperial descent. Aurelian’s father, Ambrosius, was the first to call himself king of Britain, realizing Rome had fallen. The novel takes place in 502/3, a generation after Rome fell in 476. Aurelian claims to be king of all Britain, but there are many other petty kings who claim their own territories. Most significantly, Guitolin was the ruler of Cornwall, but when the novel opens, he has been abducted by the Saxons and it’s not known whether he is dead or alive.

Artorius (King Arthur) is the general of Aurelian’s armies and the novel’s narrator. Early in the novel, he comes upon Princess Gwendaello of Cornwall, a niece to Guitolin. She has survived the attack that Guitolin was taken in and gets protection from Artorius as he escorts her home. She is quite uppity and sure of herself, and eventually, she makes it clear she is “Pendragon,” the rightful ruler of all Britain because that title belonged to her ancestors before the Romans came to Britain.

Artorius also meets Gildas and Mereddin (Merlin). Mereddin has apparently been plotting against Gwendaello, but Artorius decides to protect her. Meanwhile, Gildas is condemning the rulers of Britain as sinners, but before the novel’s end, he will show he is not just a crazed religious fanatic but capable of acting when needed and doing what is best for Britain.

There are some treasonous plots Artorius gets involved in that need stopping, and in time, he manages to convince the Britons that they must all band together to protect themselves from their enemies. Eventually, it’s learned that Guitolin did survive his abduction, and he is seeking to betray his people into the hands of the Saxons, letting them have portions of Britain in exchange for recognizing him as overlord. Fortunately, he fails in his mission and ends up being killed when he tries to attack Artorius.

A great conference is now held in which the kings argue among themselves. By this point, Artorius has fallen for Gwendaello and supports her claim to be Pendragon and rightful ruler of Britain. The novel culminates in the Battle of Mt. Badon, in which the Saxons and their allies are driven from Britain’s shores. Artorius is wounded in battle and wakes when it’s over to find himself lying in Gwendaello’s arms, and she telling him they have won the day, and then she kisses him.

The ending doesn’t make it clear whether Artorius is dying or whether he will live and presumably marry Gwendaello and become Pendragon himself through right of his eventual marriage to her. I suspect the latter, but Gwendaello cradling Artorius in her arms just resembles Morgan le Fay coming to take King Arthur to Avalon too much to make the reader not wonder whether Artorius is dying.

The novel does suffer from digressions and a lack of dramatic action. At one point, a major battle is described in a letter from Gwendaello to Artorius, which weakens the dramatic effect. There is a lot of arguing among the Britons, which slows down the plot. There are also a lot of characters to keep track of, although most of them are relatively insignificant.

The most fascinating character in the novel is Gwendaello because she is a strong woman, determined in a man’s world to assert her right to rule. Ultimately, she is able to convince Artorius, the strongest and most righteous of the men, to support her claim. I don’t believe another depiction of such a strong Guinevere would appear for decades, and that a man wrote this novel makes her depiction all the more remarkable.

Gildas is a complete anachronism in the novel. He’s described as being about eighty years old, and yet he wasn’t actually born until about 516 AD, some thirteen years after the novel ends.

But altogether, the novel is readable, and it is not as wordy and slow as it might have been had it been written in the Victorian period, even if it’s not fast-paced enough for the twenty-first century reader.

The biggest question is what is to be gained by such a novel that does not depict Arthur as a king but just a warrior, a general? Obviously, we gain a better understanding of who the original King Arthur may have been and what conditions he had to deal with, but we lose the magic of Camelot, of the knights and quests and mysteries. Personally, I prefer the historical fantasy approach where magic is still allowed in the Arthurian world while trying to be historically accurate. That said, Faraday’s novel is significant for how it blends not only history but also Welsh myth and British legend into the story—for example, a crown is found and worn by Gwendaello that belonged to Dynwal Moelmud, a legendary British king mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. Faraday is trying to recreate the mindset of sixth century Britons who still believed in their ancient history and legends. Such beliefs are at times brought into question, but eventually Mereddin convinces Artorius to let the people believe what they want because when their beliefs die, it leads to sorrow and loss, which is why Artorius eventually agrees to support Gwendaello as Pendragon.

It seems then that Faraday wants to have it both ways—to create a more historical version of Arthur, and at the same time, let his readers continue to believe in their legendary Arthur, and perhaps make them into one and the same. This debate over how to depict Arthur—historical or legendary—continues on today as two schools—historical fiction and fantasy—have arisen among Arthurian fiction. But this literary division is wonderful because it provides diversity and room for creativity, and it will likely continue on as two schools of Arthurian fiction until the day the truth about King Arthur is known, and even then, it is questionable whether the fantasy versions of the Arthurian legend will cease to be read, and loved, and even rewritten again.

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Tyler Tichelaar, PhD, is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

 

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Today, I will be interviewing Arthurian novelist Nicole Evelina about her new book The Once and Future Queen, a nonfiction study of Guinevere as she’s been depicted in literature for the last fifteen centuries.

Nicole Evelina, author of “The Once and Future Queen,” is also the author of the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy.

Nicole has previously been my guest when I’ve interviewed her about the first two books in her Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen.

Nicole 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 skills, and is held by only 8,000 people worldwide. Her goal in writing Arthurian fiction is to create a strong female protagonist in the person of Guinevere in the series. And it looks like she’s succeeded because Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen have already won several awards. But now she has come out with The Once and Future Queen, a nonfiction book about Guinevere.

 

Tyler: Welcome, Nicole. I’m so pleased to be able to talk with you today. To begin, will you tell us what made you decide to write a nonfiction book about Guinevere?

Nicole: I was asked to give a presentation on Guinevere for Women’s History Month in March 2017 at a local library. I was thinking, “Ah, she’s not real. What am I going to talk about?” So I decided to look into how she has changed over time. The result was 30,000 words worth of notes—and a thesis that I thought was very interesting: the idea that Guinevere changes over time along with society’s views on women.

At a presentation the previous November, one of the audience members suggested I write non-fiction, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to take his advice. Besides, I was an English major in college so this was fun for me—like writing a really long research paper!

 

Tyler: Your book focuses on the literary record of Guinevere, but have you read any of the nonfiction works that try to pinpoint who the historical Arthur is, and even sometimes the historical Guinevere? How important do you think it is that we search for the historical counterparts of these characters?

Nicole: I’ve read a lot of books on the possibly historical nature of King Arthur as research for my fictional Guinevere trilogy. I particularly enjoyed Christopher Gidlow’s The Reign of Arthur, David Day’s The Search for King Arthur, and King Arthur: The True Story by Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman, although I know that one is controversial. And of course, all of Geoffrey Ashe’s books. The ones on Guinevere are few and far between, mostly because it’s hard to prove she existed until we can prove Arthur did, as he was the doer of big deeds. I’m assuming you’re referring to Norma Lorre Goodrich’s book on Guinevere? I own it and I’ve read it (twice, actually) and I’ll just say it is best used to inspire fiction.

I do believe the historical research is very important. If nothing else, it sheds light upon a very mysterious and often misunderstood time period (the Dark Ages or early Middle Ages). It would be great if we can someday prove or disprove the existence of Arthur because that will give us clarity and, no matter what the answer is, will provoke additional research. Even if Arthur is historically disproven, I don’t think that will dampen the power of his myth. Look at Robin Hood; the best anyone can do is call him an amalgamation of historical people, but yet the lessons in his myth continue to inspire us. The same would be true for Arthur and Guinevere.

 

The Once and Future Queen offers an insightful look at Guinevere from medieval times into modern fiction.

Tyler: Who are some of the major and more traditional (pre-twentieth century) authors you discuss in the book and how are they different in their portrayals of Guinevere?

Nicole: Knowing that my target audience was non-academics who are interested in the Arthurian legend, I tried to pick works most people would have at least heard of and maybe studied in school. I touch on some of the key Celtic documents, like The Mabinogion and the Welsh Triads, and then cover the major medieval writers—Gildas, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, Layamon, Chretien de Troyes, the Vulgate Cycle, and Thomas Malory, among others. Then I moved into the Victorian Era with Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Morris. T. H. White is really the one who straddles the traditional and modern for me, although he’s probably considered modern.

 

Tyler: Was there anything that surprised you about how Guinevere was portrayed in these earlier works?

Nicole: I think the inconsistency was the biggest surprise for me. While Guinevere is pretty much universally depicted as negative in the traditional texts, exactly how—her personality and motivations—and why—the author’s message and motives—often differ wildly, even among a single author’s oeuvre. Chretien de Troyes and Thomas Malory are examples of authors who depict Guinevere one way in one story or even a part of a story, and totally differently in the next or later in the same work.

 

Tyler: Who do you consider to be the first author to treat Guinevere in a truly revolutionary way and how does that author do so?

Nicole: There is more than one, and I think it depends on what aspect of the story and character you’re thinking about. I think Chretien was revolutionary in that he gave Guinevere and Lancelot a bit of a happy ending because Arthur never finds out about their affair in his version of the story. William Morris certainly was because he gave Guinevere a chance to speak for herself—although her “defence” really isn’t so much a defense as audience manipulation. Parke Godwin gave us the first truly intelligent and independent Guinevere in the 1980s. Sharan Newman was the first to depict Guinevere’s childhood and give her a fully-formed backstory. Of course, I like to think that my own novels have revolutionary elements as well—i.e., Guinevere being a priestess, Arthur’s marital situation in Camelot’s Queen, but I’m certainly not impartial. I’ll let time and reader opinion decide that one.

 

Tyler: You talk about Marion Zimmer Bradley in the book, although you don’t like her depiction of Guinevere, but would you agree with me that she is probably the biggest influence upon Arthurian fiction in the last forty years? How would you define that influence and do you think she influenced depictions of Guinevere also?

Nicole: Oh, most definitely. Even though others have done more for the character of Guinevere, Bradley turned Arthurian legend on its head by marrying it with feminism and focusing on the female stories. She also shifted the story from being solidly built on Christianity to being built on paganism with Christianity being a disruptive influence.

My books certainly would not exist without hers, and I’m sure she influenced at least two generations of writers who came after her. But I don’t know that that is true for most of the Guinevere novels that came out either in the 1980s or 1990s, at least the ones I examine in The Once and Future Queen. Looking at the timeline and the motivations of the authors, I think they would have written theirs anyway. Parke Godwin’s books came out either before or nearly at the same time as Bradley’s so unless the two were in correspondence (which I doubt), they wouldn’t have influenced one another. Likewise, Gillian Bradshaw’s novels and Sharan Newman’s first Guinevere book were published before Mists. The only authors who could have been reacting to Bradley would have been Woolley, McKenzie, and Miles. I haven’t read anything about McKenzie’s motivations, but I’m pretty sure Woolley and Miles both said their books were at least started before Mists. I think the trends that we see in the 1980s and 1990s to focus more on Guinevere and make her a strong female character were more motivated by the cultural shifts taking place and the influence of feminism than on Bradely’s work.

 

Tyler: I feel in the light of all the shocking revelations of sexual harassment and abuse coming out of Hollywood today that I should mention a similar charge was made about Marion Zimmer Bradley a few years ago—her daughter accuses her of sexually abusing her as a child. (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/27/sff-community-marion-zimmer-bradley-daughter-accuses-abuse) Given that knowledge, do you think it will or should make a difference in how we view her work and her influence? Do you think it will hurt her place in the Arthurian canon?

Nicole: I think it will affect how some people view her work, especially those who have been victimized themselves, and that’s perfectly acceptable. But I don’t personally think it should affect our views in the long term. Regardless of what Bradley may or may not have done, the work stands on its own. Its impact shouldn’t be lessened because of her personal life. The charge against her is disgusting, and I will admit it makes me wrinkle my nose at her name, but it doesn’t change how I view the story. If there was anything that smacked of child abuse in the story itself, I’d be giving you a different answer. Mists can be considered strange on many levels that don’t have anything to do with abuse but are related to sexuality, i.e. the Beltane ritual, the threesome between Guinevere/Lancelot/Arthur, Morgan’s lesbian encounter with the faerie, etc., but I don’t know that a logical correlation can be made between those plot points and the charge against the author. For example, you could argue that her depictions of sexuality were an attempt to modernize the Arthurian story and make it appealing to an audience in tune with the changing values of the time.

There are many other authors you could ask the same questions about, such as Orson Scott Card, but their personal views still don’t lessen their contribution to literature, except of course, if their storylines were to promote hate, abuse, or whatever they are charged with believing. If we took away all the art and inventions that were created by people who did terrible, sometimes unforgivable things, we’d be in a world of hurt. This is a case where separating the creator from the creation is necessary. I know not everyone will agree with that, and that is fine.

 

Tyler: You mention several other modern female novelists in the book, some of whom you think did nothing to help develop Guinevere’s character but others you find favorable. Can you give us some examples?

Nicole: I’ll give you one example on each side of the question. (You have to read the book for the others! J) I think Persia Wooley did much to advance the character of Guinevere. Her queen is equal to Arthur and very much knows her own mind. She’s even a sex-positive character without being portrayed as a whore.

On the other hand, Nancy McKenzie’s Guinevere is a throwback to the weak, indecisive character that we saw in Malory. Rather than acting from her own will and agency, this Guinevere is constantly reacting to the stronger characters around her, especially Elaine and Arthur. This dependence on the thoughts and deeds of others lessens Guinevere in the eyes of the reader, especially in light of the stronger Guineveres produced by other authors.

 

Tyler: As a male novelist of Arthuriana myself, I couldn’t help noticing the lack of reference to novels by male authors, especially the ones that are modern classics, such Jack Whyte, Bernard Cornwell, and Stephen Lawhead? Why did you choose to ignore many male authors?

Nicole: If I was doing an overall survey of Arthurian legend I would have included them—and I mean no disrespect by not focusing on their works—but this is specifically a book on Guinevere. My reason for not including them is that none of them really focus on Guinevere. She’s there, of course, but it’s easier—and I would argue more effective—to analyze changes in the character when she’s a main character as opposed to secondary or tertiary.

I do discuss T. H. White at length, as well as Parke Godwin, so it’s not that I abandoned male novelists when talking about modern books. But I believe the shift from male authors having total control over Guinevere’s story historically to female authors telling her story from a female point of view for the first time in the 1980s and 1990s cannot and should not be underemphasized. We know that men portray female characters differently than female authors do (just as female authors write their male characters differently than male authors do), so analyzing how she changed at their hands tells us a lot about society and the views of readers.

 

Tyler: You talk about how it’s too early to say what place your own novels will have in the Arthurian canon and whether they’ll have any influence, but how do you think your Guinevere is different from all the others?

Nicole: I feel like she’s built on the shoulders of those who came before me. There is no way my Guinevere could exist without those who broke the ground in the ’80s and ’90s and seeded reader acceptance of a strong Guinevere. And because I was raised in a family and society that taught me to the value of “girl power” (we can thank the all-girls high school I went to for a lot of that), I think my Guinevere is more aggressive than many others, much more empowered, and determined to have her own way. That is both a plus and a negative for her, as it also means she’s very self-centered. I also think the relationships she has with other characters in my books—especially Aggrivane and Morgan—help set her apart from previous versions because they put her in unusual situations and present her with challenges no other Guinevere has had to react to.

 

Tyler: When can we expect the final volume of your trilogy to be published? Any hint at how Guinevere will fare in it? Will readers be surprised by the end?

Nicole: I am determined that it will be published in 2018. I’ve had a partial draft written since 2013, but with my change from the traditional publishing path to independent publishing and all the work that has entailed, I haven’t had as much time to focus on it as I would like. Within the last year, I finally figured out what it was missing (oh you know, most of the middle of the book). Now I just have to make that happen, which is easier said than done, especially now that I know how much people like the first two books.

I will tell you that after the battle of Camlann and the fall of Camelot, Guinevere heads north into her mother’s native Votadini homelands to try to figure out who she is now that Camelot is gone. With her husband and many of her friends now dead, being a Votadini is the only bit of identity she has left, and it ends up propelling her into a new stage in life, where her skills both in the political arena and on the battlefield have the potential to change history. Obviously, Lancelot is a huge part of the story, as is Morgan, but you’ll also see a lot of characters reemerge that might not expect—Mayda, Elga, Accolon, and others who were bit players in previous novels now come to the fore. And there is one that I’m not going to tell you about, but I’ve been waiting years to write his comeback!

I’ve known all along how the series would end. I think some people will be surprised and possibly irritated by what happens, but I think others will find it very satisfying. Hopefully, more of the latter! I will say that despite all Guinevere has gone through and will go through in this book, Mistress of Legend has a happy ending…at least as happy as any Arthurian story can be.

 

Tyler: What do you think Guinevere will look like in future books and films?

Nicole: I think there is no telling, but that is a good thing. That means she can be anyone or anything society needs her to be. Personally, I hope she continues to be a strong woman who fights for herself and for what is right. I’d love to see more historical fiction/historical fantasy authors delve into what life was like for Celtic women in post-Roman Britain using her story as a basis, especially if archeology continues to point to that historical period being the most likely for Arthur to have lived. I’ve done that somewhat, but my skills and education have their limitations. I’d love to see what a true expert can do.

I do speculate a little on how Guinevere might change in the future in the conclusion to The Once and Future Queen. I can imagine her becoming a person of color (yes, I know, the TV show Merlin did that already, but I mean more regularly), perhaps even gay or transgender. For those of us used to traditional portrayals of her, that might seem like a leap, but for a long time so did a strong Guinevere. A friend of mine just posted on Twitter the other day that she’s reading a comic book called, oddly enough, The Once and Future Queen, in which Arthur is a gay woman. That means her relationship with Guinevere will be non-traditional. So in many ways, the evolution is happening right before our eyes.

 

Tyler: Thanks for all that information, Nicole. Since it’s so much fun to speculate, if the historical Guinevere could be here with us today and you could only ask her one question, what would it be?

 

Nicole: The first thing that popped into my head was “Was Arthur worth it?” but upon serious reflection, I think I’d ask her where it all went wrong. By that I mean the dream of Camelot and a united Britain, but she could take it however she likes.

 

Tyler: Thank you again for joining me today, Nicole. It was a very informative discussion. Before we go, will you let our readers know where they can get copies of The Once and Future Queen?

Nicole: Thanks again for having me. You are too generous with your time.

Here are the links to the major online retailers:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Once-Future-Queen-Guinevere-Arthurian/dp/0996763244

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-once-and-future-queen-nicole-evelina/1127289906

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-once-and-future-queen-4

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-once-and-future-queen-guinevere-in-arthurian-legend/id1314772771?mt=11

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Nicole_Evelina_The_Once_and_Future_Queen?id=nEM_DwAAQBAJ&hl=en

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/755384

 

Tyler: It’s been a pleasure, Nicole. Good luck with The Once and Future Queen, and I’ll look forward to talking to you again when Mistress of Legend is published.

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At last, Cheryl Carpinello has published her long-awaited Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend—Book Two, and it ends with a cliffhanger, suggesting yet another book will follow.

The first book in the series was charming, complete with a unicorn and Merlyn, but this second book shows us just how much Guinevere is growing up quickly due to the situations surrounding her. When the first book ended, Guinevere was affianced to King Arthur, though still just a girl. Arthur is himself new to the throne and seeking to make alliances, hence his desire to wed Guinevere, but Guinevere has more important concerns.

As this second novel opens, Guinevere and her best friend, the almost-eleven-year-old boy, Cedwyn, decide to leave their home at Cadbury Castle on their own and go visit the Wizards’ Stones. While they know the adults wouldn’t want them to leave, they are anxious to see the stones that Merlyn had told them about. It sounds like a fun afternoon adventure, but it quickly turns into more when an ancient goddess appears and utters a prophecy about the two young friends’ futures.

The prophecy has barely ended before Cedwyn and Guinevere hear strange sounds, and spooked, they ride to a nearby monastery to seek shelter. There they learn some renegades are out to kidnap Guinevere, and fearing the monastery will be attacked, they flee again, but once they feel it is safe, they return, only to discover the monastery destroyed. By the time they return home to the castle, it has also been sacked. The renegades were searching for Guinevere, but since they couldn’t capture her, they decided not to leave empty-handed, so they kidnapped several children.

I don’t want to say more and spoil all the fun of reading this book. I’ll just say there is plenty more adventure, but what I most appreciate are the story’s pacing and the care Carpinello takes with her two main characters. They are children, they are having adventures, but they feel like real people, frightened, trying to do what is right in the face of danger, and they are also headstrong, not always believing that the adults know what is the right thing to do so sometimes they have to act on their own. They are heroic children with all the idealism and foolhardiness that come with first adventures.

Anyone who enjoyed the first book in this series will equally enjoy the second and look forward to the third. The characters are well-drawn and realistic, the events plausible, and the story well-plotted. I’m eager to read the next book and see Guinevere grow up a little more and mature into a queen worthy to sit at King Arthur’s side.

Cheryl Carpinello is also the author of a non-related young adult Arthurian novel, The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table), as well as Sons of the Sphinx and Tutankhamen Speaks. To learn more about her and her books, visit www.beyondtodayeducator.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, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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Today, I will be interviewing Arthurian novelist Nicole Evelina about her new novel, Camelot’s Queen, the second of three books in the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy following Daughter of Destiny. (You can also read on this blog my review of her two novels Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen and my previous interview with her about Daughter of Destiny.)

Nicole Evelina, author of "Camelot's Queen" about Guinevere's years married to King Arthur.

Nicole Evelina, author of “Camelot’s Queen” about Guinevere’s years married to 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 skills, and is held by only 8,000 people worldwide. Her goal in writing Arthurian fiction is to create a strong female protagonist in the person of Guinevere in the series. And it looks like she’s succeeded because Daughter of Destiny has so far won:

  • Book of the Year – Chanticleer Reviews
  • Gold Medal – Next Generation Indie Book Awards
  • First Place, Legacy/legend category – 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romantic Fiction

Short list – 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction

SelectedLibrary Journal’s curated SELF-e Select module

Hopefully, we’ll find out Nicole’s secret for writing great Arthurian fiction here today.

Tyler: Welcome back, Nicole. I’ve been anxious to find out what happens to Guinevere, and I wasn’t disappointed in the second book in the series. The first book, Daughter of Destiny, focused on the years leading up to Guinevere’s marriage, which are usually fairly ignored by Arthurian writers, but this second book follows the main tradition from her marriage to King Arthur until Lancelot rescues her from being burnt at the stake. Consequently, you had a lot more material to work with here, but also less license to be wholly imaginative, so would you say writing Camelot’s Queen was easier or more difficult as a result?

Nicole: Thanks for having me here again. Always a pleasure! To answer your question, it made it easier and harder. Having more source material gave me more to work with, but I also had more to cull through and in the early drafts, I had a tough time bringing focus to the book because I wanted to cover everything. It also means readers have a lot more expectations coming into this book than they do with the others, so I had to keep in mind both the story I wanted to tell with what most people would expect, and if I was going to change something, give them a darn good reason for it.

Tyler: One of the most detailed sections of the book concerns what happens when Guinevere is abducted by Malegant. You made a lot of interesting changes to the story in this section that I thought made it very powerful. What made you decide to tell the tale in the way you did here?

Nicole: I felt like it was part of the tradition that couldn’t be ignored. Here I am telling this woman’s life story from her point of view, so there’s no logical way to skip over it without the gap being really obvious. I kept in mind the tenant that “every villain is the hero of their own story” when creating Malegant and defining his personality and back story. I wanted the reader to be able to understand why he did the terrible things he did and that in his mind, he was in the right. He wasn’t just some mustache-twirling villain who was there because tradition dictated it; he had an untapped back-story, just like Guinevere.

As for the changes around Arthur and Morgan’s roles, without spoiling anything, I’ll say I did that because I wanted to do something other than have her be his sister. When I eliminated that possibility, I had to think hard about what their relationship would be and how that would impact the rest of the story. What would make these characters still act in accord with tradition? Luckily for me, Celtic law provided the perfect answer.

Tyler: Did you have a favorite scene or section in the novel that you enjoyed writing?

Nicole: The whole section around Guinevere’s kidnapping is my favorite, hands down. But I also love three of the scenes with Aggrivane: when he and Guinevere talk after he comes back to Camelot, what happens after Lancelot is invested as champion, and their scene together right before the burning.

Tyler: While most of the characters will be familiar to readers of Arthurian books, you do introduce some new characters such as Sobian. Why did you decide to create her?

Nicole: She created herself, believe it or not. Originally, she appeared when Arthur, Guinevere and a group of knights were traveling around the kingdom, visiting all of the people, much like the famous progress Queen Elizabeth I made around England every year. When she popped into my head she was very mysterious, and much like I had to do with Arthur, I had to force her to open up and give me a clue who she was. Obviously, that section evolved over various drafts, but Sobian remained. I think that it is important for you to see someone from Arthur’s past and know that he had a life, lovers, friends, before he became king. She’s also an incredibly strong woman, one who adds to the court tremendously, while also helping keep the men in check.

Tyler: I think one of my favorite scenes in the novel was how you treated the Holy Grail when it is first discovered. Will you tell our readers a little about that scene and what your goal was with it?

Nicole: Do you mean the scene where they all see it for the first time? For those who haven’t read it, the grail changes form so that everyone sees it according to their own faith or cultural tradition. So a Christian sees the traditional chalice, while a pagan sees a cauldron or a drinking horn, depending on their background, etc.

It was important to me that whatever I do, I not take away from or slight anyone’s personal idea of the grail. It has been so many things over the years—a cauldron, a drinking horn, a stone, a chalice, a cup, even Mary Magdalene—that I wanted every reader to be able to see their own beliefs reflected in it, just as the characters do. Regardless of whether or not the grail actually exists, it’s a powerful symbol to so many people and I wanted my version to represent unity through diversity.

"Camelot's Queen," the second book in Nicole Evelina's trilogy about Guinevere, covers the years of Guinevere's marriage to King Arthur.

“Camelot’s Queen,” the second book in Nicole Evelina’s trilogy about Guinevere, covers the years of Guinevere’s marriage to King Arthur.

Tyler: I was struck that Bishop Marius plays a rather villainous role in the novel. It seems quite common in Arthurian literature, at least since Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, for Christianity to come off negatively. Do you think that’s a fair statement and why do you think the negative depictions of Christianity in the legend are so popular today?

Nicole: I love Bishop Marius. He is so much fun to write.

I do think it’s a popular way to portray Christianity. I’m not sure what reason other authors have for that, but I would guess it may have something to do with Christianity representing the establishment and people being tired of it. Therefore, they glorify the other, which in this case is paganism.

For me it was more a matter of exploring the tension between pagan religions and Christianity at the turn of the fifth/sixth century, which is when these books are set. Yes, Marius is evil, but that’s because there have always been orthodox and power-hungry men in the Church, no matter the time period (Cardinal Richelieu in the 1600s comes immediately to mind as an example of the power hungry). With the conflict between the old and new religious being what it was, there no doubt would have been those zealous souls who wanted to wipe out all trace of the old religion.

That doesn’t mean that all of them are evil, however. That’s why you see a bit of Father Dafydd, who is one of the good men of the Church. He originally had a larger part, but even with what remains in the story, I hope you can see that he represents the positive side of the Church.

Tyler: I also find Morgan a fascinating character, and I love how she continues to thwart Guinevere throughout the series. Will she continue to play a role in the third novel, and will we ever find out the secret of her parentage?

Nicole: Yes, she’s definitely in the third book. As of right now I do plan on revealing who her parents are, but because the book isn’t finished, I can’t 100% guarantee that will stay in. But I bet it does.

Tyler: I hope you do leave it in. I can’t wait to find out. You’ve also stated that you wanted to create a strong female protagonist in this series, but at times, I admit that Guinevere seems a little too hot-headed and even childish, and I think as the author you were aware of that since even Merlin tells her she’s selfish at one point. Do you feel like she’s always justified in her behavior, or is she just fallible like the rest of us?

Nicole: Oh no, she’s not always justified. She’s flawed just like the rest of us, which I hope makes her more relatable. If you think about the way she was raised, her selfishness makes sense. She was the treasured only living child of parents who suffered much disappointment and loss as they watched a dozen children die at various points in life. So from the beginning she had only to think of herself. Then she was sent to Avalon, which was an honor not bestowed upon many. Granted, while she was there she had to learn some humility and how to live with others, but not long after she leaves she becomes queen. This role elevates her above all others and helps her default selfishness kick back in again. It’s only over time that she matures and learns to see beyond her own nose.

Tyler: I know you have another book coming out soon not on an Arthurian topic but on Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, back in the nineteenth century. I admit I never heard of her until I heard about your book, so will you tell us a little about this other book and why you chose this non-Arthurian topic since I suspect you see Woodhull as not too dissimilar from Guinevere as a strong woman?

Nicole: Sure. I picked Victoria exactly because she is a strong woman and those are the type I aim to portray in my writing. I found out about her by accident. I saw a pin on Pinterest of a beautiful woman who caught my eye. When I read the caption, I knew I had my next book subject. It said “Known by her detractors as “Mrs. Satan,” Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in 1838, married at age fifteen to an alcoholic and womanizer. She became the first woman to establish a brokerage firm on Wall Street and played an active role in the woman’s suffrage movement. She became the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. Her name is largely lost in history. Few recognize her name and accomplishments.”

I hadn’t learned anything about her in school, and I suspected many others hadn’t either. So I wanted to do what I could to restore her to her rightful place in history by telling her story. She’s a woman of many accomplishments including being the first woman to run a stock brokerage on Wall Street, the first woman to testify before Congress, one of the first women to run a weekly newspaper, and the first female presidential candidate. Her family is crazier and pulls more stunts than I could ever make up. (Truth really is stranger than fiction.) And while Victoria is certainly no saint, I think people will enjoy reading about her.

Tyler: Nicole, for authors, writing can be a lonely task and you work on your books for years hoping people will like them. How has your view of writing changed since you’ve now published these first two Arthurian novels and have you learned anything from the feedback you’ve received from readers?

Nicole: It’s been a while since I’ve thought of writing as lonely, thanks to the amazing writing online community, especially on Twitter. But I will admit to feeling a bit more pressure now that I know people like the first two Guinevere novels. I always wanted to end the series strong, but now I feel like I owe my readers a great story, rather than just owing it to Guinevere or myself. That’s both good and bad in that it’s motivating, but could turn paralyzing if I think about it too much.

I’ve learned from readers that there has been a thirst for stories about Guinevere that’s gone untapped for a long time. My story has been what a lot of people were looking for. But not all. That’s another thing I’m learning—no book can satisfy everyone. Readers will sometimes read things into books that aren’t there or that you don’t intend; that can color their feedback and there’s nothing as the author you can do about it.

Tyler: Thanks again for joining me today, Nicole. Before we go, will you remind us when the last book of the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy will be out, and what your website is so we can watch for it?

Nicole: Thanks again for having me! The last book in the trilogy, Mistress of Legend, will be out in early 2017. I don’t have a firm date yet. My website is http://nicoleevelina.com/. I’m always happy to hear from readers by email, snail mail or on social media.

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Camelot’s Queen is Nicole Evelina’s new novel and the second in the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy. Evelina’s first novel, Daughter of Destiny, introduced readers to a new version of Guinevere, focusing on a part of the story often ignored—her childhood and youth in the years prior to her meeting and marrying King Arthur. Evelina gave us many surprises in that novel, from a childhood spent in Avalon to a lover no one would have expected. Consequently, when Guinevere’s marriage to Arthur is arranged, she is not happy to be parted from the man she truly loves.

Camelot's Queen, the second book in Nicole Evelina's trilogy about Guinevere, covers the years of Guinevere's marriage to King Arthur.

Camelot’s Queen, the second book in Nicole Evelina’s trilogy about Guinevere, covers the years of Guinevere’s marriage to King Arthur.

Camelot’s Queen picks up with Guinevere’s wedding to King Arthur and covers most of her adult life. Never fear, she still has her love affair with Lancelot, is accused of treason, nearly burnt at the stake, and at the end of the novel, is rescued by Lancelot, leaving the door open for what will happen in the upcoming third novel. However, while Camelot’s Queen focuses on the more mainstream events of Guinevere’s life, Evelina clearly makes it her own, not only in her depiction of a feisty, sometimes hot-headed and selfish, sometimes wise, Queen Guinevere, but also in how she rewrites traditional parts of the legend such as Guinevere’s abduction by Malegant and the Quest for the Holy Grail. Evelina also creates new characters such as Guinevere’s new and unwanted female bodyguard, and she realigns other characters’ roles, especially that of Morgan, who is Guinevere’s rival.

For the most part, this is a realistic novel, although Evelina uses Celtic cultural influences in the story with just a touch of magic to them; for example, Guinevere’s training in Avalon allows her to have some small control over the elements, such as being able to create clouds and make it rain.

Evelina also gives a new spin on the conflict between Christianity and Paganism that has become mainstream to the legend in recent years, but no one would have suspected that Morgan, of all people, would convert to Christianity while Guinevere holds out against it—how that situation develops is quite stunning and to explain it here would be to take away pleasure from the reader. I will say, however, that I found this element the most interesting theme in the novel, and I was especially impressed by how Evelina treats the Holy Grail in relation to it.

An Author’s Note at the end gives some of Evelina’s reasons for the changes she made to the traditional storyline as well as insight into her extensive research into the Arthurian period, including visits to Arthurian places and consulting with Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ashe.

As an Arthurian novelist myself, I found Evelina’s interpretations sometimes surprising, but usually dramatically effective. Her choices were certainly interesting, and not being a purist—why read Arthurian modern fiction if you are?—I was often delighted with her choices and her imaginative realigning of many Arthurian characters and themes. I especially found the family lineages and characters’ relationships interesting because Evelina uses them to explain some often confusing aspects of the legend, including the connections between the different nobles and royals of Cornwall, as well as Arthur’s own family tree and his relationship to Morgan. The book also moves at a quick pace—in a few places a little too quick I thought where I would have liked more details—but Evelina provides plenty of details in the key scenes, and in some of the places where I wanted more, I suspect Evelina intentionally held back to build up suspense for the third book in the series, Mistress of Legend, which will be published in 2017.

Anyone who loves strong female protagonists—or let’s face it, the Arthurian legend—will find plenty to enjoy, ponder, and discuss in Camelot’s Queen.

For more information about Nicole Evelina and Camelot’s Queen, 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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