Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Blog Tour: Red Rose, White Rose, by Joanna Hickson

Hi guys,
I was lucky enough to be offered a copy of Joanna Hickson's
Red Rose White Rose by the wonderful HarperFiction.
And now (even more lucky) I'm part of the blog tour
celebrating the release of the book.
Exciting stuff.

You can follow/chat/keep up to date with Joanna here:
@JoannaHickson on Twitter
Joanna Hickson on Facebook

Here's my Q&A with the lovely Joanna about the novel, and other book-related things:

1. What are you currently reading and what do you think of it?
At the moment I'm reading a really good book called Red Rose White Rose!  Oh I know I wrote it myself but when I receive my first 'proper' book-shaped copy of a novel I have written, all I want to do is delve into it and see how it reads when bound and in print.  Of course I often read on my Kindle and appreciate its advantages but I don't believe the real book will ever be completely supplanted by the virtual version.  By the way, so far I'm rather enjoying it!
However the book I finished just before RRWR arrived was Philippa Gregory's The King's Curse, which is right up my street because it covers the period immediately after my own historical 'home' in the 15th century.  It follows the ups and downs of Margaret Pole, one of the last Yorkist Plantagenets living after the Battle of Bosworth has removed their dynasty from the throne of England and replaced it with the Tudors. She is a granddaughter of Cicely Neville, so it is fascinating for me to see another author's take on one of my heroine's descendants.  Philippa Gregory has Margaret telling her own story and a very long and eventful life she led, filled with dramatic turns of the Wheel of Fortune.  I enjoyed it very much, although history does not give her much light relief!

2.  What was your favourite childhood book?  
When I was very young I lived in Australia and my parents used to read to me from a book called Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs.  The eponymous characters are 'gumnut babies', based on the fruits of the ubiquitous gum trees which cover the Australian countryside and the stories follow their adventures amongst the flora and fauna of the bushland where the author grew up, much as I did myself.  The villains of these adventures are called Banksia Men and I was both fascinated and terrified by them.  The illustrations make them look like the extraordinary 'cones' which appear on native Banksia bushes - ugly and hairy-looking with fat-lipped seed-pods - great objects on which to base creepy characters.  Children love to be a bit frightened when they're being read to while sitting on a safe lap don't they?  For one of my landmark birthdays my artist daughter, who lives in Australia, painted me a 'portrait' of two Banksia Men, which I love.
Just before I came back to live in England at age thirteen I read a time-slip novel called The Gauntlet by Ronald Welch which is set at Carreg Cennan castle in Wales and is about a modern boy who finds a knight's gauntlet lying on the ground, tries it on and is immediately transported back to medieval times and life as a page in the castle.  It was that book that first inspired my love of medieval history and when I visited the same castle later it was a great thrill to wander among its ruined walls and experience first-hand the allure of such an ancient and inspirational building.

3. When did you first become interested in history and writing?
I think I have just answered the history part of this question but as far as writing is concerned that came much earlier.  I can hardly remember a time when I wasn't either reading a novel or writing a story myself, first of all in little hand-made folded-paper books and then, when I got hold of a battered old typewriter, in smudged print on carbon-copies with many crossings-out.  At first they were quite short stories but as time went on I yearned to write a whole novel and I cannot count the number I started and never finished.  Probably every writer recognises that scenario.  However, obviously I eventually managed to complete them and I'd love to say that there are scores tucked away in bottom drawers but I'm not a great hoarder so they've all hit the bin – except those that have been published of course!

4. What were the biggest literary influences on Red Rose, White Rose and your other books?
 I don't think I'm unusual in my literary influences.  At an early age I loved the novels of Charles Dickens and then later came the Brontes, Jane Austen, Henry Fielding and Thomas Hardy.  Of course I also read more contemporary novels, particularly historical fiction.  A strong influence was Anya Seton's novel Katherine (I have a very battered first edition and an equally battered paperback copy, which have both been read many times) and also the Georgian novels of Georgette Heyer.  I always wanted to emulate Heyer's amazing ability to recreate the language of her particular period but I long ago realised that it was a talent unique to her.  Daphne du Maurier was another influence, particularly The House on the Strand – a rather dark time-slip novel which gripped me intensely.  I wrote a time-slip novel once myself (unpublished), but I now prefer to leave that to the experts like Barbara Erskine and wallow uninterrupted in my preferred period of the 15th century.

5.  Were you ever tempted to add a bit more fiction or more hard facts at certain points in the novel?
By definition historical fiction is what it is – a story set in a selected period and based on the historical record.  But records are patchy and unreliable and I leave it to the historians to search and interpret them as they see fit.  I am happy to consult the records myself, read historians' interpretations and then employ my imagination to fill in the (sometimes extensive) gaps.  How much fiction and fact the story requires depends on the necessity of creating a narrative that will grip the reader.  There is no point in writing a novel which uses only the history if the reader becomes bored a few pages in.  So yes, I use fiction extensively, especially when it comes to creating character and dialogue but it always follows the historical timeline and is inspired by what I have gleaned from historical sources.

6. Which historical figure of Cicely's world most interested you and how did you go about adapting them for the book?
This is a difficult question to answer because I can't actually write a character that doesn't interest me!  Obviously Cicely was the one who initially grabbed my attention and made me want to write her story and I think it was because she was the youngest child of her father's extensive family – twenty two children!  Digging into the Neville family tree threw up so many fascinating life-stories that I had real trouble restricting the number of her family members that I could include in the narrative without confusing the reader.  In Red Rose White Rose, as I confess in the Author's Notes at the back, I have invented one very important character by giving Cicely a half-brother called Cuthbert who acts as a second narrator to Cicely herself.  On the Neville family tree there is a son called Cuthbert who died in infancy but I have resurrected him and made him an illegitimate son of Cicely's father, the Earl of Westmorland, who is reared in the household and becomes a champion knight and Cicely's bodyguard.  Through his eyes we are able to go onto the battlefields of the Wars of the Roses which would be impossible if Cicely carried all of the narration.

7. If you could enter the novel's world as any character and go through their story, who would it be and why?        
I think it would be the character mentioned above, Cicely's half-brother Cuthbert.  You'll have to read the book to see why but I will just say that because he has a farmer's daughter for a mother and an Earl for a father he looks at life from a more balanced viewpoint than his noble relatives.  He has to fight for what he achieves and overcome injustice and prejudice along the way and I like the man he becomes as a result! 

8. Have you got any exciting plans for your next book and can you tell us anything about it?
Yes, I have very exciting plans for my next book, which will cover the second half of the fifteenth century, further exploring the Wars of the Roses and involving characters I have already used in my previous three books, as well as introducing other major and minor figures from the period.  I wish I could tell you more but things are at a delicate stage of negotiation...Watch my Facebook Page (Joanna Hickson) and Twitter feed @joannahickson for further revelations!

Be sure to check out on the 12th,
and have a look at the previous blogs if you haven't already!

Image Sources: HarperFiction
Thanks to Jaime Frost.

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