Today I welcome author Barbara Gaskell Denvil to my blog. Her new book, A White Horizon, just came out. Don’t miss the excerpt after the interview!
Hello Susan, it’s a pleasure to be here on your blog. I am particularly delighted, because you’re giving me an opportunity to introduce my new very recently published novel, now available in ebook and paperback worldwide. (And soon to be available on audio.)
With this new book, A WHITE HORIZON, the first in a trilogy entitled STARS AND A WIND, although it is indeed set against a genuine historical background, the plot is pure fantasy.
Let me lead you into a swirling adventurous romance, with many unique and mysterious twists. Paths wind through unexpected danger, ending either in disaster – or ultimate success. My lovely heroine Skarga can never be sure.
It was a joy to write, and I certainly hope it will prove to be a joy to read.
Thanks for being here, Barbara. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve led a life of so many changes and surprises that I sometimes feel like a character in a book myself. I was born in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, England – a perfect setting for inspiration amongst the thatched cottages, gentle rolling hills and valleys, woken by but bird song each morning, and lulled to sleep with a million dazzling stars. I began a career in literature, publishers’ editor, script- writer and author of articles and short stories – but romance stepped in with resounding effect, and my life changed. After a series of events and experiences including living on a yacht and sailing the Mediterranean for many years, I have now settled in the sunny countryside of Australia. I love the country and the climate – but there are still those romantic British roots which sometimes call me home. Yet what inspires me more than anything else is the life I lead in my head. Not quite crazy (I hope) – but certainly blessed with an over-flowing imagination.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
I come from a literary family. My great-great (and lots more greats) aunt was Elizabeth Gaskell, the classic Victorian author of Cranford, and my father was an artist and playwright. My sister is also an author, and it seemed natural as a child to write stories. Reading was as automatic as breathing, and I was never asked what I wanted for Christmas – I was asked what books I wanted. I still can’t ride a bike! Now I am writing full length novels, principally historical adventures as I have a great love for medieval history, but for the first time I have now written a fantasy-trilogy – and that is my new passion. Fantasy novels introduce a wild freedom to the imagination, and I do hope others will love to read my books as I love to write them.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I have finished Part 2 of my Stars and a Wind trilogy and that will be published in approximately 5 months’ time. My heroine Skarga has many surprises and challenges ahead, and some are hauntingly dangerous. However, now she has support, and something to look forward to as well.
The third and final part of the trilogy will be published a little later. Although I shall also continue writing historical fiction, the joy of writing fantasy is proving quite a tempting and mesmerising attraction.
Please tell us more about your current release.
As explained, STARS AND A WIND is a trilogy, and the first book – A WHITE HORIZON – has just been published. The story is unusual and starts where the great frozen north stretches up into the Arctic Circle, and the winter keeps its secrets hidden. There are places where humanity cannot go, and once long ago there were other creations, some celebrated, but others almost unknown. What happens beyond the glaciers is known to very few.
Skarga’s father believes she is cursed. Shunned by her family, she has adopted an orphaned child and as she battles for her rights and struggles for a better life, this child brings Skarga happiness. What he will eventually bring her in the future, she cannot possibly guess.
Taken off by the mysterious stranger paid by her father to slaughter her, Skarga sails across the northern sea to distant islands. Yet not everything is as it seems for these sailors are unusual in many ways, and can do things no human man should be able to do.
But Skarga is no victim, and she escapes. Now the mystery grows. Her adventure is only just beginning…
What inspired you to write this book?
I was actually inspired by watching a production of Matthew Bourne’s eccentric version of Swan Lake. Within a few days, I was dreaming about my own story. My trilogy has a totally different plot – and there’s not a swan in sight – but the ballet’s strange conflict and moving interaction between man and creature, with an element of alien fantasy, tragedy and humour, awakened my own ideas. The beauty and sadness of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake (and the magnificent principal dancer Alan Vincent) really inspired me.
My book is, I believe, quite unique and combines fantasy with mystery, adventure and romance.
If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?
My heroine has a long journey to travel. This first book takes her from the familiarity of her usual life, and tumbles her into terrifying chaos and the undercurrents of threatening magic. But she’s strong and she’ll fight for her life and her future.
Book 2 – (THE WIND FROM THE NORTH) will be published in a few months. This will continue the adventure, and take the heroine deeper into the ice land and its mysterious people. But then suddenly she discovers that she can stop fighting. The future is looking more beautiful than she could have imagined. But the danger is also greater.
If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?
I think they are all far too dangerous. And the world of A White Horizon is constantly freezing with endless night through winter, and ice and snow even in summer. My historical novels set in early Tudor and late medieval England also encompass very dangerous and uncomfortable worlds, but I admit I long for a Tardis Time- machine which could tumble me back into medieval London for a few days. I dream of those shadowed alleys, the sumptuous clothes, the glorious architecture and the very different attitudes which prevailed 500 years ago. I would adore to walk those cobbles and find out a little more of the historical puzzles which still exist due to the lack of contemporary documentation – for instance to see what Richard III and Henry VIII were really like and discover whether my own very firm convictions are correct. But I certainly don’t want to be left there too long and need a guaranteed escape. Fulfilling a dream is one thing – being abandoned to the true miseries of the past is quite another!
Do you have an all time favourite book?
I have a long list of favourite books, but perhaps Lord of the Rings was the one that awoke me to the glories of fantasy and, in spite of its few faults and failings (sorry, fans) it remains my greatest favourite. The huge variety of characters, the essence of good and evil, and the underlying and enduring sadness still move me utterly, and have always inspired me.
Which of your characters is your favourite? Do you dislike any of them?
I always adore all my characters. Even my villains. In this book, the hero – Thoddun – is my great favourite. He is a most unusual personality and by no means perfect, but he is one of the strongest of my heroes and is utterly protective. Certainly in that world and that land, it is protection which is essential. I do also love and identify with Skarga, my heroine. Yet I have immense sympathy and understanding for my villain too. I find they all become real in my head. I can see them and hear them and if they suddenly turned up in the vicinity, I’d immediately know who they are and what to say to them. Mind you – there are some I’d sooner avoid, just to stay safe.
Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?
There are many black moments in this book, and I have been known to sit and cry over the computer when writing of a character’s death, or some other moment of extreme difficulty. I do not write cosy comfy stories, and some of my books are quite dark. But I also believe that in my books many of the more dangerous challenges turn out to have happy endings, whereas what seems to be an easy and pleasant event can turn out to be an attack after all. A White Horizon puts Skarga in considerable danger over and over again, but she’s courageous, and she copes with all the problems I send her.
Love, after all, conquers everything and that’s the theme of this book too.
A sled was hurtling across the white ground and the wind cut across. Snow crystals leapt like the sea spray. Then as Skarga turned, frightened, there appeared the beast who owned the pelt which was her blanket. The white fur was suddenly alive as a great running bear.
She had wrapped herself all night in the shimmer of it but now it chased her, huge, panting and clawed. She blinked, for the moonlight blinded her still, and the snow became liquid with glazed transparency. Through it, the dancing dolphins appeared again, leaping to the music of the chanting crew, and Skarga watched and listened as they sang. The two worlds combined. It was as if the snow had melted and the sea returned but through the dazzle of the water she still saw the frozen land, and the great white bear turned its head and stared at her, black eyes that went sharp through her heart. Utterly confused, she held her breath. And then she saw the last vision of all, the eagle eye, black and golden. Its beak, hooked and blood stained, reached for her.
Skarga began to fall. She toppled, for there was snow, and ocean, and the vivid sky’s arc of intense cobalt blue behind the eagle’s wing. Three worlds merged and she did not know which was real. Perhaps none.
She shivered and felt her blood turn to ice.
“Go back,” ordered a deep voice. “This is not your place.”
When she opened her eyes once more, she was back on the ship and the dolphins, tiring of the game, were turning aside. There was no chanting and no music, no bear, nor eagle nor snow. Only the rhythm of the rowers and the great tumult of the sea.