The Devil’s in the Details

That’s right. I’m down to it. It’s just the way I like to do things. When I’m writing the first draft of a novel, I spend all of my time writing the main action of the scenes, all the dialogue and a bit about where it is happening.

What I don’t do is spend a terrific amount of time on description either of people or places. But now I’m at that stage of my novel. I’m doing sweeps back through it. And as I go, I edit. And while I do edit some bits out, for the most part, I add a lot more in (that’s why I don’t stress about the word count not being up where i think it “should” be).

What an odd way to do it, you say? Well, I do it that way because that’s just how it all comes into my head. And I want desperately to get the story out (or maybe it’s the story that wants desperately to get out – not sure which). It does mean, of course, that some things need to be re-written slightly, as I discover when I’m describing something that it couldn’t have possibly happened the way I originally wrote it.

But does it work? It works for me. And that’s what we’re all looking for. You do what works for you!

Letting Your Subconscious Do the Heavy Lifting

Being a writer is fabulous, isn’t it? I think when I first started writing, I couldn’t imagine earning my living as a writer because I worried about where my ideas would come from. Even more scary was the thought that I’d be in the middle of a chapter and wouldn’t know what should happen next.

Time has cured these writing anxieties. Now I know there is an unlimited source of ideas. And the best part is – they are all inside me (and you)! How does that work, you say. The simple answer is – I don’t know. It doesn’t matter if you think of it as your own subconscious, Jung’s collective unconscious, a lightning strike out of the Void or what. I only know that it’s so.

Nowdays when I’m in the middle of chapter and I don’t know exactly what happens next, I “assign” it to my subconscious mind to figure out. That’s right. I give my subconscious mind permission to work it out. I tell it what the problem it, some of the functions of the scene, maybe what I want the outcome to be etc. Then I let it go at it. It may take awhile – a few hours, a few days, perhaps more if it’s really something big. And in the meantime, I work on something else like the next chapter or some other part of the book.

Every now and then, I remind it that I’m still waiting – just to give it a nudge, you understand. And then the most miraculous thing happens – I’m in the middle of preparing a meal, or I’m walking in nature or doing any number of other things and voila, the answer comes to me.

The trick to it is this – relax! Your only “job” in the process is to be receptive so when the ideas do show up, you recognise it!

Imagining Story

Below is the Tudor gatehouse at Kenilworth Castle built in the time of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The windows you see on the ground floor would not have been there in Elizabethan times – that part was later remodelled. Instead, this building originally contained an archway leading into the Castle with a drawbridge over the moat directly in front of it.


On the first and second floor of the gatehouse lies an exhibit on the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and her favourite, Lord Robert Dudley. It was after perusing the exhibit and walking around the Castle that I began to wonder what it would have been like during the time of the Earl. I began to imagine the wonder, excitement and perhaps trepidation the servants and workers in the Castle and surroundings must have felt knowing that the Queen would be coming for a visit. I began to imagine the pressure that the Earl would have put on everyone to make sure everything was perfect…and a story was born.

Drake popped into my head that day and The Knight of Kenilworth came forth.

New Website Illustrations

I’m very excited to add some new illustrations to my website. I’ve worked with my good friend, Dori Kirchmair, an amazing artist, who has produced these illustrations – with more to come!

Now there is a new tab called ‘Kenilworth Castle’ with an illustration that shows exactly how the Castle would have looked when Drake lived there. You can see the kitchens and stable block where he works, the great hall where he serves food, the tiltyard where tilting (sometimes called jousting) takes place and lots more besides.

On the ‘Armour and Weapons’ page, you can now also see an illustration of a Quintain which is used to practice for the tilt. The pages use a wooden horse pulled by their fellows to learn this skill. The idea is to hit the shield with a lance and not get hit by the swinging sand bag hanging from the other end of the arm.

I’ve also added an illustration of Drake on the sidebar to your left. Let me know what you think!

And a very big thank you to my friend Dori!

Kenilworth Castle – My Inspiration

Writers are often asked where they get their inspiration from. The answer is inspiration comes from many different sources. I get inspiration from people, events, objects, places – you name it. All it takes is a little time out and suddenly I have a story.

I love Kenilworth Castle. I’ve been around the Castle itself many times, taken shedloads of pictures and listened to the interpretive guides. I’ve done even more country walks around the environs of the Castle. It was on one of these walks that I was inspired to write Drake’s story as told my series, The Knight of Kenilworth. On that particular walk, my friends were discussing the doings of the town, and as we walked, as often happens, I fell behind and started to daydream (in that way perhaps like a typical writer – not always the best company!). It’s during these moments that stories often come to me. And that is what happened on that day. As I daydreamed about what the Castle must have been like in the time of Robert Dudley, Drake just popped into my head and the story was off. Like a thread to another time and place, I only had to follow it.

In order to give the books an authentic feel, previously, of course, I’ve done lots of research and read everything I could get my hands on about the Castle. But this week, English Heritage was kind enough to hold an event called Warfare and Worship at the Castle. I couldn’t resist the temptation to do more research. I couldn’t wait to hear what our guide, a member of the Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society, had to say about the Castle and be able to ask questions of someone who knows the history of the Castle well. And because I love the Castle, I was eager to hear the entire history – not just about Tutor times – because I also have inspiration for another story of the Castle during the time of John O’Gaunt. That’s how amazing the place is!

In a way, you could say that the Castle itself is as much a star of the books as the characters. And that’s all the inspiration I need.