June 23, 2014

Richard III--Out of the Parking Lot and Into the Fire: an interview with Sarah Cawkwell, author of "Uprising"

Sarah Cawkwell's new historical fantasy novel, UPRISING, is out now and available at bookstores everywhere (i.e., Amazon.com) and you can even find it on Rebellion Publishing's own online store. I had the chance to ask Sarah a few questions about Uprising and her writing, so enjoy!

Gef: Creating an alternate history in which Richard III isn't killed and dug up in a shop's parking lot, but rather reigns over England is intriguing enough, but you went one large step further by introducing a magical element to help explain just how he came to rule. Was the reason for this simply for the enjoyment of writing a fantasy novel or was there more behind that decision?

Sarah: I could wax lyrical about some devious reason for combining the alternative history and fantasy genres, but truth of the matter is… it just felt right. My editor put to me the idea of a fantasy tale based on a ‘what-if’ scenario from world history. Given the historical reference to the Plantagenet family as the demon kings, it seemed like an excellent starting place.

Gef: Prior to Uprising, you have experience writing novels in the Warhammer universe. Is there anything particular that you took from working with them to apply to writing your own novel?

Sarah: By their very nature, the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universes are very fight driven. It was certainly a great help when approaching battle scenes, but it was similarly a challenge to remind myself that there didn’t need to be any sort of mass decapitating or huge battle every other chapter!

Gef: Your fascination with King Henry stretches back to discovering the novelization of a TV series about the iconic king. But where does the fascination with Richard come from? Shakespeare? An extension of learning about Henry?

Sarah: It’s a combination of all the above, actually. I went off and did my own research about the family after I read ‘The Devil’s Crown’. It’s an incredible, turbulent period in history and so many accounts of Richard III - who was only king for a very short while before he got stomped all over by Henry Tudor – do appear to paint a very negative picture. I enjoyed a recent visit to the exhibition at Bosworth in Leicestershire (highly recommended!) and also to Ludlow Castle where Richard III spent time as a child and there is a definite ‘connection’ there for me. On my ‘bucket list’ is a trip to the last resting place of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It’s a weird preoccupation, but I don’t have the patience for stamp collecting.

Gef: Magic makes its appearance through Richard the Lionheart returning from the Crusades. What came first: the magic system or its inception? And what kind of rigor is needed to create such a system?

Sarah: The inception came first. Magic was needed, so how was it going to work? I went for elemental magic, because that provides certain limitations depending on which sphere most heavily influences you. There was a time when I was going to include the moon, sun and stars in the magical elemental forces, but I pulled it back to the basics.

That’s not to say that elemental magic is the only magic available to the people in the world of ‘Heirs’ – just all that there is right now…

Gef: As the first in a series, how "cliffhanger-y" should readers expect the novel to be? I speak as someone who has an aversion to those sudden, unresolved endings that feel like a door slamming at the end of a novel. What pitfalls do you come across in writing for a series as opposed to a stand-alone?

Sarah: I’m with you on the sudden unresolved endings thing. To that end, whilst there are ‘unanswered’ questions by the time you reach the end of the novel, there is also a self-contained story. I did my utmost to design it in order to allow a reader to draw their own conclusions about some of those questions.

When you are writing a series, or when you are writing any story that you know may contain characters or places that will be re-used, it’s important to keep a track of where some of those people are. Mind you, that’s true in a one-off book as well: I’ve read books where Character Z dies on page 25 and turns up again, alive and well and no worse the wear for his experience later in the story…

Gef: How has the working relationship been for you thus far with Solaris and Rebellion? What more might we expect from you down the line?

Sarah: The working relationship has been outstanding. The editorial process was engaging and very considerate. I am fortunate to have such a great editor who has worked with me every step of the way. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process so far and certainly hope to repeat it!

As to what to expect from me down the line… well, it’s a ‘watch this space’ sort of thing. As a freelance writer who has a ‘day job’, I am never working on too many projects at one time, but the whiteboard at home is certainly starting to fill up with deadlines.

By my calculations, the next thing to be published from me will be the second tale of Gilrain, the decidedly useless adventurer which will be a future anthology of tales to be put out by Fox Spirit Books. Gilrain made his first appearance in the collection ‘Tales of the Nun and Dragon’ by the same publisher and as comedy-fantasy, it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever had the opportunity to write!

Big thanks to Sarah for stopping by the blog, and if any of you want to keep up with Sarah and her writing, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog (links are below).

Twitter: @pyroriffic

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