Author Spotlight – Felicity Pulman

October 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm (Book reviews, Interesting stories, Interviews) (, , , , )

Pulman_FelicityAustralian author Felicity Pulman’s latest book is I, Morgana, a beautifully written story about King Arthur’s half-sister, a woman loved and loathed in equal measure. Last night she was awarded a fellowship to spend three months in England to write and research the much-anticipated sequel. Just as exciting for readers, a reworked version of her brilliant six-book medieval crime/romance series The Janna Mysteries, about the daughter of a herbwife and healer being trained in the Craft, whose life is turned upside down when her mother is murdered, is being republished from January 2015. Felicity has also penned A Ring Through Time, The Shalott Trilogy, Ghost Boy, The Little Penguins of Manly and more. Read her interview below, and visit her at http://www.felicitypulman.com.au.

felicitybookWhat inspired you to take on Morgana, such a huge presence in literature and legend, and write her story?

My interest in Arthurian legend began when I wrote the Shalott Trilogy, a timeslip ‘rewriting’ of the doom of Elaine of Astolat (the ‘Lady of Shalott’) and Camelot. The legendary ‘wicked witch’ (Morgana) and the ‘jealous bitch’ (Guenevere) fascinated me, and while I went some way towards reclaiming Guenevere’s character in the Shalott trilogy, Morgana continued to haunt me. I was intrigued by how she’s always reviled (in traditional tellings of the legend) as a wicked, scheming ‘witch’ bent on destruction – and yet legend has it that she was one of the queens who took Arthur by boat to the Isle of Avalon to be healed of his wounds after his bloody battle against Mordred at Camlann. Why? To me, this is an act of a contrite and loving sister, completely at odds with the Morgana of the traditional legend. So I decided to rewrite the story from Morgana’s point of view, coming to an understanding of this magically complex, passionate, ambitious, charismatic and deeply flawed woman as I did so. It was a fascinating journey, a journey that will continue in the sequel as I look towards the future and the prophecy, that ‘one day Arthur will return to save Britain in her hour of need’.

[Read my review of I, Morgana…]

Did you learn anything about yourself, or life, while you explored her psyche?

I think all writers invest something of themselves in the characters they create – so yes, it was certainly an exercise in exploring my own dark side! It was also an affirmation of the need to think before you act and also to take responsibility for your actions – a hard-won lesson for Morgana, but also for us all! It was an exploration of ambition, power, the use of magic to get what you want (as in ‘be careful what you wish for!’) and of hate, jealousy and revenge. But it was also an exploration of the love between a man and a woman, and the love of a mother for her child – and the heartache that loving sometimes brings.

Did your research into that time, and that form of spirituality, challenge your beliefs in any way?

I love writing about the Middle Ages, contrasting the splendor and extravagance of the court with the squalor and dirt – and the hard scrabble for life – suffered by the poor. Christianity, of course, was a huge part of everyone’s life at that time, whether secular or within the confines of an abbey or monastery. Both Morgana and Janna spend time in an abbey, and their questioning reflects my own conflicted views and beliefs (which I believe mostly stem from a past-life experience). My head reached a conclusion long ago, but my heart tells me different so, like my characters, I fall back on the notion of a God, but not necessarily a Christian one.

felicity-janna-book1-2Can you give a little update about The Janna Mysteries yet, or is it still a secret?

It’s not a secret, it’s more a work in progress, but I can give you an update of what I know so far. The Janna Mysteries are being reworked for an adult readership, and will be retitled The Janna Chronicles. The originals took plants and herbs as their titles: Rosemary for Remembrance, Rue for Repentance, Lilies for Love, Willows for Weeping, Sage for Sanctuary and Thyme for Trust, reflecting the knowledge of herbs and healing that Janna learned from her mother. The new books will have different titles which focus more on the crimes and mysteries that Janna solves on her quest to find her unknown father in order to fulfil her vow to avenge her mother’s death, and we’re still working on these. The first book will be published by Momentum in January 2015, with the next five books published every month thereafter – so fans of The Janna Mysteries who didn’t manage to get hold of all the books will soon be able to read the whole series within six months, as will a whole lot of new readers!

[Read my reviews of The Janna Mysteries…]

And how is the sequel to I, Morgana going?

The great news is that I’ve just been awarded the inaugural Di Yerbury Writing Fellowship from the Society of Women Writers, which will give me accommodation in the UK for three months of quiet writing time next year, as well as a base from which to do all the research I’ll need to do for the next book (with the working title Return to Camelot.) I am so grateful for this opportunity and already have a growing file of notes that will form the basis of the new book.

What’s your day like in terms of writing?

I don’t have a set schedule, but I do try to do writing-related ‘stuff’ every day – whether it’s being out talking about my books, or conducting writing workshops, or planning for either of those things, or researching what I need to know, or reading historical fiction (my favourite form of research!) or – yes – actually sitting down and WRITING!! Followed, of course, by editing – often accompanied by swearing and consumption of chocolate.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A bit of both. Through mistakes made in the past, I’ve learned that what works for me is to know how the book begins (there are often a few false starts) and also how it ends (although that sometimes changes too). For me, the joy of writing is to dream up the characters and a situation, and then set them in motion and follow their journey towards the end – a journey that often takes unexpected twists and turns because I’ve learned to listen to the voices and visions that sometimes inspire me. Even if I don’t know where they’re taking me, I always find that ultimately it all makes sense and that the story is immeasurably strengthened as a result. So I’m a pantser in that regard – but everyone works differently, so it’s really a matter of finding out what works best for you.

Any tips for people wanting to write a novel?

Lots! You can look at my website to read them all – the writing tips are here. The most important message, I think, would be: if you don’t care passionately about your story and the characters in it, don’t bother to write it.

Are you a tea or coffee person, and how do you take it?

I drink both (with milk and sugar) but in the evening I’d rather have a glass of wine!

 

You can buy I, Morgana in bookstores or from Momentum Books. Keep an eye out there for info on The Janna Chronicles too…

Visit Felicity at her website here, and her blog here.

Read my review of A Ring Through Time.

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5 Comments

  1. felicitypulman said,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful questions, Serene; I really appreciate your featuring me on your blog!

  2. Meet My Character Book Blog Tour – Felicity Pulman | serenesblessedbee said,

    […] Trilogy, Ghost Boy, The Little Penguins of Manly and more. You can read my interview with Felicity here, and visit her at Felicity […]

  3. Meet My Character: Book Blog Tour | serenesblessedbee said,

    […] more about Felicity and her work at FelicityPulman.com.au, and read my recent interview with her here. And you can check out her Meet My Character post […]

  4. Meet My Character Blog Tour – Serene Conneeley said,

    […] more about Felicity and her work at FelicityPulman.com.au, and read my recent interview with her here. And you can check out her Meet My Character post […]

  5. Meet My Character Book Blog Tour – Felicity Pulman – Serene Conneeley said,

    […] can read my interview with Felicity here, and visit her at Felicity […]

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