Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Interview with J.R. Tomlin, author of A King Ensnared

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author J.R. Tomlin to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her newest release, A King Ensnared.

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary. It's great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about A King Ensnared.
On the dangerous stage of medieval Scotland, one man–in an English dungeon–stands between the Scots and anarchy. Robert III, King of the Scots, is dead, and Scotland in 1406 is balanced on a knife’s edge. As he eyes the throne, King Robert’s ruthless half-brother, the Duke of Albany, has already murdered one prince and readies to kill young James Stewart, prince and heir to the crown. James flees Scotland and his murderous uncle. Captured and imprisoned by the English, he grows to be a man of contradictions, a poet yet a knight, a dreamer yet fiercely driven. Hardened by his years in the Tower of London and haunted by his brother’s brutal murder, James is determined to find some way to recover his crown and end his uncle’s misrule. But the only way may be to betray Scotland and everything he believes in.

Where did the idea for this story originate?
No modern novel had really tackled King James I of Scotland Scotland (not to be confused with King James I of England), and it was a story I wanted to read. So I wrote it. I think he is a fascinating character. The period was full of conflict, war, and intrigue which makes it a great setting.

Do you have a favorite scene in the novel? What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? 
My favorite may well be a scene that was the most challenging to write. It was based on a scene described in his own great poem, The Kingis Quair . The scene involved several interesting tasks such as trying to translate a passage of his verse into English modern enough to be understandable to my reader without losing the feel of the medieval Scots it was written in and at the same time depicting the events he described in my own narrative. And since it was an immensely emotional scene, I also had to invest the emotion in it.

It was the first time he saw the woman who became his wife and queen and his immediately becoming deeply infatuated with her.

James Stewart is a well-known historic figure. How did you approach characterizing him within your novel and how do you hope he comes across to your readers?
That's an interesting observation because I don't consider King James to be particularly well known outside of Scotland. He was a complex man, military leader and poet, deeply romantic but he could also be stubborn and ruthless. I hope that his complexity comes across.   

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on? 
Oh, definitely. There are intriguing characters who are given barely a mention because they don't fit into the thrust of the plot. I would have loved to have spent more time on Bishop Wardlaw or the Earl of Orkney. It just wasn't possible.

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing A King Ensnared and if so, what did you alter and why? 
I try to avoid that as much as possible. The closest I came was combining a couple of separate events which occurred in a fairly short time period into one scene. My own theory of writing historical fiction is that the fiction has to be wrapped around the events of history, not the other way around.

Authors are famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, for writing their own experiences, friends and acquaintances into their narratives. Is there anything in A King Ensnared that sprung directly from your personal history?
Only in that the people of history are just people, so I bring my knowledge of how people relate to my historical characters, but I never base a character on one particular person. They are always a mix of various people I've known or some part of my own personality.

You live in Oregon. How did you an as author bridge the gap in time and geography while writing A King Ensnared? 
I spent a good part of my childhood in Scotland. I consider it my first home, so there really for me isn't a gap of geography. England is harder for me, and a lot of A King Ensnared is set in England. I haven't spent much time there so that was challenging. I had to do a lot of research on locations.

As far as the gap in time, my daughter once complained that I forgot the date of her birthday but not the date of the Battle of Bannockburn. I have immersed myself so much in medieval life that I think could go there and pass for a native.  Writing historical fiction is my time machine.

What do you hope reader's come away with after reading your work? 
If they feel as though they shared the events of the story with the characters and come away caring about them, then I've done my job.

Okay, we've talked a lot about your book. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about you. How would describe your writing process? 
There is a rather famous quote about writing: “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

For me, it's bleeding drop by drop because I am a rather slow and meticulous writer, or I try for meticulous at any rate. I write in the afternoons and at night because mornings are for staring into space over a cup of coffee, and I try for at least 1000 words a day, although I don't always succeed.

Two words: writer's block. How do you deal with it? 
I believe in forcing the words even if you think they are bad. Writing is a job, like any other. Bankers show up whether they have 'banker's block' or not, and I don't think writers should get a pass.

Who are your favorite authors?
I have pretty eclectic tastes in reading. I love Alexandre Dumas, le pere, and Victor Hugo and Shakespeare and Robert Burns and Bernard Cornwell and G.R.R. Martin. I also read huge amounts of non-fiction.

What are you currently reading?
I'm in the middle of reading journalist Lesley Riddoch's hard-hitting Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish, a fascinating contribution to the present constitutional debate in that country.

What do you do when you aren't writing? Any hobbies? 
When it isn't raining, a rare event in Portland, I like hiking. Obviously, I do a lot of reading and I'm very much a computer gamer with a semi-addiction to games like Dragon Age and The Elder Scrolls.

Assuming you weren't an author, what careers might you have found appealing? 
I can't imagine not writing for a living at least non-fiction or journalism which I have also done. Maybe I could take up panhandling as an alternative.

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? Planning a vacation? Anything exciting and/or noteworthy?
I'm working on the sequel to A King Ensnared and hope to have it out in about two months. Then I am thinking of trying a new historical fiction sub-genre and writing a historical mystery which will be quite a change for me.

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J. R. Tomlin is the author of five historical novels: A King Ensnared, Freedom’s Sword, A Kingdom’s Cost, Countenance of War, and Not for Glory. She has also co-authored several fantasies with C. R. Daems: Blood Duty, Talon of the Unnamed Goddess, The Shadow Ryana, The Shadow Gypsy, and Women of Power.

She has close ties with Scotland since her father was a native Scot, and she spent substantial time in Edinburgh whilst growing up. Her historical novels are set in Scotland. You can trace her love of that nation to the stories of the Bruce and the Good Sir James her grandmother read her when she was small and to her hillwalking through the Cairngorms where the granite hills have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun. Later, her writing was influenced by the work of authors such as Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo and of G.R.R. Tolkien.

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Format: Paperback
Publication Date: November 22, 2013
Released by: CreateSpace
Length: 244 pages
ISBN-10: 1493786598
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check out all the stops on J.R. Tomlin's A King Ensnared VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR

Monday, March 24
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight & Giveaway at HF Book Muse-News
Tuesday, March 25
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, March 26
Review at Historical Tapestry
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, March 27
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, March 28
Interview at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

1 comment:

J. R. Tomlin said...

Thanks for having me for this interview! I enjoyed it and hope your readers do as well.