Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bloodlines launched internationally!

I pinch myself that I got the chance to tweak Bloodlines (settle the matter of a certain horse going missing and the like) and now it's out everywhere for many other readers to get to know the characters who still linger and have hung around for almost eight years.

Here's my launch speech when we released the NZ version back in 2010 (apologies for the undignified hitching up of my pants). It tells a little about the process and does go some way to show how much I have needed the support (and input) of exceptional people.

The thing which struck me, re-watching that video five and a bit years later, is remembering how much I was going through at that time and yet I did not give up doing what I was passionate about: writing, supporting my family, teaching teenagers. I'm quite a different person now (though still lively and friendly and honest like I am in the video) and I believe I am a much better writer.

You know, many days I wish I wasn't a writer because there is a restlessness I can never assuage - there is always something I could do to improve what I've written and, even if I finish a book, my mind is incessantly combing over the details looking for burrs and ragged threads. I never get that sense that 'it is finished'. Much simpler life to spend time in the veggie garden and come in at the end of the day, job done.

Both Banquo's Son and Bloodlines have received some amazing reviews on Amazon and Good Reads - amazing to me in that one person can absolutely love the novel and give it four or five stars and another can hate it and give it one. This situation of 'becoming more known' has forced me to pull back from the books. I cannot be responsible for how a reader will react - I have let the novels out into the world and they no longer belong to me. I don't LIKE getting bad reviews but I appreciate that someone somewhere thousands of miles from me has read my words, sentences, stories; met my characters and watch my battle scenes and has engaged. There's something strangely cool about that.

So, I raise up my cup of coffee to Fleance, my boy, who is no longer mine and wish him and his band of brothers good heart and health as they suffer the slings and arrows made by the pen of this outrageous author*

*apologies to Will

Saturday, December 12, 2015


I recently had a few weeks of far too much excitement. I'm sure it is true that one has a certain allocation of happy/good/exciting things for any one stage of life and that perhaps I've gone into overdraft. Hei aha tāu! I'm not complaining.

Firstly, Banquo's Son received a wonderful review from the Historical Novel Society. The reviewer said: "Banquo’s Son is superb historical fiction that this reader hated to end. Readers will be eagerly anticipating the next novel in this series by this very skilled writer!" You can go here to read the rest of the review.

Then, the advance copies of Bloodlines arrived in a huge box (and one teeny tiny box) all the way from Seattle.

Then, Banquo's Son went on a promotion gig for the month of December and quickly made it to number 24 on Amazon's Historical Fiction List:

Then we sold our house in Dunedin (it was only on the market a few weeks). A gorgeous 100 year old Kauri Villa. You can go here to see the pretty pictures.

Then, (yes, there's more - I told you so), twenty mins after we signed the sale agreement, I got a call from the principal of a school I was dead keen to teach at: they would love me to come be a part of their community. Whoop. This is the school. We move back to the city of my birth, Ōtautahi/Christchurch, in January - something that I was not ever expecting to happen but, just like in writing novels, sometimes even the author is taken by surprise.

Then, (true, not making this up), my publishers Thomas & Mercer let me know that Bloodlines is being made into an audio book and, narrated by the awesome Napoleon Ryan, will be available in March.

Finally (this week), I graduated from the University of Otago. Thirty years ago, as a fresh faced 19 year old, I was at Massey University studying for a BA in Humanities to become an English teacher; today, I have graduated with a BA in Māori Studies to become a Kiwi who can speak one the three official languages (and our first language) of New Zealand.

(I am wearing a korowai, a tradition Māori cloak, made of feathers woven into fabric.)

What has this to do with writing or the trilogy? 
Life continues to move forward outside of the world of writing but, for me, still within the world of books and story. Even with this whirlwind of excitement and the start of 2016 meaning a new home, town, school, I have still been writing, still been reading and still plotting the next series of books: set just before, during and just after the battle of Hastings.

As a heads up: Bree and Henri are more than somewhat involved.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The latest Macbeth Film and Banquo's Son

I was very excited about going to see the newest outing of William Shakespeare's Macbeth by Justin Kurzul because the trailer looked amazing. Yes, the acting is brilliant (no question) and the scenery breathtaking. Visually all wonderful. But the rendering, the STORY, that's what delighted me so. Kurzul directed as well as wrote the screen play which is what I really want to talk about.

Here's where I might be a bit different to a lot of Shakespeare fans, and The Tragedy of Macbeth fans in particular because 
  • I have taught this play almost every year for 27 years (and I studied it myself at high school)  I have seen the magnificent and bloody Polanski film as many times 
  • I have seen it performed on stage often (the best was with Michael Hurst as Macbeth) 
  • I have staged two productions with my students 
  • I have written a teaching play text for high schools 
  • I have written a 15 mins version 

and, like those who pondered the question 'so how DOES Banquo's Son' become king?' 


But, although I may have written the sequel, after viewing Kurzul's film, I feel like he has written my prequel. 

To do what we both have done is to have a profound understanding of the play and Shakespeare's intent and Kurzul, IMHO, has done this: 
  • he got the man, Macbeth, 
  • he got the pull of family, 
  • he showed Macduff and Banquo as I often feel they are not portrayed: 

Macduff’s anguished response to the young Malcolm who tells him to 'dispute it like a man' goes to the very heart of character, the very heart of humanness and proves Bloom's assertion of Shakespeare's that he nails every human condition. Macduff spits back at Malcolm  
I shall do so; 
But I must also feel it as a man: (Act 4, sc 3)
showing the great heart of the character that he was in Shakespeare’s play but also, the performance by Sean Harris showed the promised of the older man he was to become (and which I imagined for my novel).

But, of course, it was to Banquo and his son Fleance that I was most (almost nervously) keen to see. There is a wonderful depth to the relationship. Fleance never speaks but he is often present and the ending is as many people said, ‘setting up to a sequel.’ This is another example of how I believe Kurzul has understood the play: "all the world’s a stage...."  and this play was but one part of the stage (pun on the word above); that the story did not actually finish with Macbeth’s death.

Many people have spoken of the PTSD shown by the characters and that is as it should be – this is a play that so deeply explores the human condition and the reactions of the men (and women) to trying circumstances – not all who suffer terribly go on to be monsters or go mad but one must have some sympathy or at least understanding for those who do.

The film challenges the audience to do this.
Personally, I hope this latest film directs interested people to my trilogy and I hope lovers of Shakespeare look not for the differences or assumed inaccuracies but read it for what it is: a story that seeks to find an answer to that question ‘what must I do to secure happiness for myself and those I love?’

I went to see the film knowing that I knew a lot but also understanding that to do the viewing justice, I was not to compare to ‘the original’ rather to take the story as it was presented to me.

I came out totally filled with admiration and appreciation not only for Kurzul and his fabulous cast and crew but for William Shakespeare once again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Audio Book of Banquo's Son (aka a post about reading aloud)

I've been an English teacher for a long time and I don't recall a time I wasn't able to tame a class of wild animals year 10 boys or disinterested Y12 girls with a story read out loud. In fact, I have read the entire book of To Kill A Mockingbird at least 15 times, scores of Shakespeare's plays (with accents when I can though I usually hand the job over to more capable readers) as well as lots and lots of novels over and over as each new year brings a fresh batch of readers.

This morning, the audio copies of Banquo's Son arrived via the courier. Produced by Brilliance Audio and performed by Napoleon Ryan, I knew that there was a very good chance it was going to be excellent (I have a number of Brilliance Audio books on my laptop and phone and I've been stalking Napoleon Ryan since I learned he would be the reader).

I was nervous because the voice of Fleance has been in my head for so long. How would it feel to hear it out loud? Would I be disappointed? Would Napoleon 'get it right'?

Well, the dogs didn't know what to make of my squeals of delight as each new 'voice' came on but it was when Fleance spoke, I whooped with joy. Even the hubby was grinning.

It is so good. No, the audio is awesome. Napoleon makes me sound like such a great writer. Thanks to him and the team at Brilliance Audio. You've made my day, week, year.

I love reading, I love reading out loud to others, and I love being read to. Long car trips or bus rides, long walks, times waiting, all empty spaces of time are coloured in with the beauty of audio books.

Here's a wee taste of the audio