Question readers: Who watched the movie First Knight and couldn’t help but swoon over the handsome Lancelot, the fiery passion between him and Guinevere, and the strength of Arthur? If you did then you will fall in love with our guest today, help me welcome Elizabeth Chadwick!
image from impawards
E: Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me to talk Lexi!
L: I mentioned First Knight for two reasons. First it is a well known medieval movie and legend. Second, you were asked to write a novel based on this hit movie! (believe me dear readers, I had no idea there was a book based on that movie or I would have picked it up long ago) Had you seen the movie at the time you were asked to write it?
E: No, I hadn’t. I hadn’t even heard of it. At the time I was writing a novel for my UK publisher and another one for St Martins Press USA who used to publish me in hardback. So the last thing I needed was more work! However, my agent had been asked if she knew anyone who could tackle turning the script of First Knight into a film and she knew that it was just my sort of thing. Although I already had a big workload, I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity like this. It was a fascinating learning curve being presented with a script and being asked to turn it into an 80,000 page novel with a 4 month turnaround. Mostly what I had to do was add descriptions, a few linking scenes and tidy it into novel form – something I really enjoyed doing. I also got to visit the film set at Pinewood Studios and see Camelot Castle and the props department. I didn’t meet any of the stars because filming had finished, but I did have a long conversation with the producer Jerry Zucker, and met a couple of guys who were later to work on the armour in Lord of the Ring. I was shown a clip from the film and given lots of lovely photographs from which to work alongside the script.
L: You have quite the backlist of books, and all I might add have wonderful covers. It makes my hands itch to pick them up! The time period of your choice is pretty consistent, and a very romantic one. Have you always been a fan of knights and ladies?
E: I fell in love with a tall, dark, handsome knight in a children’s TV programme when I was 15. I started writing a story about him that was essentially fan fiction, but soon developed a life of its own. I wanted my story to feel as real as possible so I began researching life in the 12th century. The more I researched, the more interested I became in all the things I was finding out, for example, people did wash and bathe in that time period and that dirt was more typical of the Tudors who believed it formed a protective layer! The more I found out, the more interested I became and my inspiration broadened out from just wanting to write about handsome knights into the wider historical field. While I like to put romance in my books, it is part of a much broader scope and I aim for realism.
L: Do you daydream often, placing yourself in the times and places of your characters? If you had the chance, what book would be your choice to jump into the middle of?
E: When writing I have to be in the mindset of whichever character I am writing about. I have to see the world through their eyes, and their experience. It’s always about what they would have been feeling, not me. I have to put myself firmly in their world – which is why I do so much extensive research. You can’t recreate that world without it. If I had the choice, I’d go to The Greatest Knight and experience a tournament with all the fairground atmosphere blended with feats of military skill. I think it would be utterly fascinating to watch, especially in William Marshal’s heyday.
L: Shadows and Strongholds tells the tale of Brunin and Hawise, young love between childhood sweethearts. But that is just the surface from the sound of it, plenty of politics and battles go along with it. Do you use all historical figures for characters or do you like to play around and make some up?
E: In my early days as a published author I used to make them up, but these days nearly all of my historical characters have walked this earth. The exception are messengers and those who flit in and out of the novel without much function beyond bringing news or providing lodging for a night at a wayside inn or some such. If I can find out the name of someone’s servant, I will use it. With Brunin and Hawise, they are not childhood sweethearts as such; but they grow up in the same household from about the age of 10 and the relationship develops from there. If love triumphs in the end, it’s against towering odds.
L: Your William Marshal series also looks wonderful, really really wonderful! I can’t wait to track it down. The drama, family ties, and extent William Marshal had on the world is very intriguing. What was it like beginning the research needed for a series of this undertaking?
E: I had been researching this period since I was 15, so I had a lot of the background detail to hand. That helped out a lot. I actually felt excited to be tackling the story. I had a two book contract to write about him, so that meant I didn’t have to worry about where the next meal was coming from, but could get on with writing the books. I was also incredibly fortunate that at the time I began writing, William Marshal’s biography, written in rhyming verse in the early 13th century had just been translated for the very first time from its original Anglo-Norman into English. So I had a superb primary source at my fingertips, even down to telling me the name of William’s warhorse – Blancart. The bottom line was that I was excited rather than daunted.
L: I love a good medieval read, and recently was talking to one of my friends and complaining that there are so few books based in this time frame. I can’t believe I had not heard of you before! (I must live under a rock...or the middle of nowhere) I am so glad you stopped by today so we could all hear about your books!
E: You’re welcome. The thing is that unless you are an extremely big author, it does take a while for your name to get heard and word of mouth to percolate throught the reading communities. However the good thing about word of mouth is that it is solid and as long as people enjoy your work, you have readers for life who will pass on the word. That’s how I’ve built my career so far anyway!
Elizabeth is offering up one copy of Shadows and Strongholds to a lucky reader today. (US and Canada only, sorry international followers...we still love you!) To enter leave a comment for Elizabeth, love historicals? Ever read a book by her? A fan of First Knight? Then fill out the Rafflecopter, good luck!
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