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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Author Interview: Paula Lofting, author of 'Sons of the Wolf'

Ever since, I read 'Sons of the Wolf' I thought that Paula Lofting was an excellent author, but now I understand what she exactly felt, when she described the entire process to me in this interview.

She can describe anything she knows and feels, and can truly allow the reader to feel a part of the process. She took me to the 11th century and brought me back to the 21st century in this interview with only her words to guide me. But they were not just any words, but brilliant writing with vivid descriptions and her true competence, which shone through.

How she put the book together, and how she manages to run a blog called ‘The Review’, and work fulltime as a psychiatric nurse, alongwith three children and a grandchild is what this super woman does every single day...

You must have put a lot of research into this book. How did you do it, and how do you put it all together? 

When I decided I wanted to write a novel about the ordinary people who got caught up in the events of the mid11th century, I read as much as I could, looking for sources that contained primary documentation as well as secondary.

But it was all very well, having knowledge of the events and politics of the time; I wanted to know what it was like to be a person living in the 11th century. I wanted to experience firsthand what it felt like to live in a draughty, smoke filled hall, sitting around a blazing hearth at night, hearing the stories and songs performed by the scops (story-tellers) and harpists.

I wanted to know what it was like to bake bread in a clay oven, feast with lords and ladies in the hall, and feel the scratchiness of woollen clothes on my skin. I wanted to stand in the shield wall and feel the horror of facing your enemy across a battlefield; and to know what it felt like to fight and die with your Lord.  

So, I joined Regia Anglorum, a well known re-enactment society, renowned for their authenticity. This gave me an edge when describing the little everyday things in the 11th century world. To me, it was not enough to know what happened when and with or to whom, I had to know the smallest for details to create a believable world for my readers.

Did English history always fascinate you? Do you expect similar themes in stories in the future?

I’ve always been fascinated by any history, but I suppose that living in a country like England where the history is so personal and tangible, it seemed natural that I would choose it to write about.

For the moment, ‘Sons of the Wolf’ will be a four part series. I do have ideas for other themes roaming around in my head, but they are most exclusively historical.

What kind of places were parts of your research? For example, the part where both the Wulfhere’s children play, and also the part where the wars happened…?

The book is set in a village called Horstede not too far from where I live in Sussex. I chose it because it seemed to fit, what I had conjured up in my head, plus I was inspired to use this village when reading a book called 1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Armine Howarth.

As for the battle scene, that took place in and just outside a town called Hereford, on the Welsh border. It was a true event so it slotted nicely into the story.

How do you think of the subjects for your book?

I started with Wulfhere, my main protagonist. He owned the village and land around Horstede according to the Doomsday book. The scenes that Howarth talked about in his book created images in my mind of a Longhall, filled with laughing children and a village where the smoke came out of apertures in the eaves of their houses and filled the air.

I saw the children running through the forest path to a rope swing that they played on, swinging out over a pond in the sunshine that created shadows through the trees. And from there, the story kind of wrote itself.

Why was it named ‘Sons of the Wolf’?

From early on there was a wolf-type theme and it formed from the idea that Wulfhere’s ancestors called themselves the Wolf people.

What was the most challenging part about writing a series such as this?

Time. I work as a nurse and run a home. Can someone stretch out the day for me please so there are more hours in it?

How much of the series is based on facts and how much is fiction?

I0t is a mix of both. All the events that occur in the book such as the Godwinson boys being hostages in Normandy, the battle of Hereford, Bishop Ealdred’s search for Edward’s nephew in Hungary, all happened.

The evidence is very scarce for this period, so there’s plenty of scope for conjecturing. The blood feud that happens between Wulfhere’s family and his neighbour Helghi, is all my invention.

These two men really existed but nothing is known about them other than what property they owned.

What are the most fulfilling parts, now that you have managed one novel and we are soon to be expecting another one?

Seeing the books come together; and I just love the editing process. I work very closely with my editor, Michelle Gent. She is brilliant.

What is your next book, and when do you see it released?

I am currently working on the sequel to ‘Sons of the Wolf’ called ‘The Wolf Banner’.

Which books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading ‘Lionheart’ by Sharon Kay Penman and ‘Deadlier... Than the Male’ by D Michelle Gent.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

I love Bernard Cornwell, mainly for his Uhtred books. I am also a big Sharon Penman fan and Rosemary Sutcliff from old.

What else do you do on a day to day basis?

I help run a blog called ‘The Review’, it is a sort of magazine style blog with lots of features and book reviews.

I work fulltime as a psychiatric nurse and I have three lovely children and a beautiful grandchild.

What advice do you have for the young writers of today?

If you’re going Indie, the best advice I can give you is get an editor. A professional one. They are worth every penny.

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