I am thrilled to welcome historical fiction author Mary Anne Yarde to my blog today! She is the award-winning author of the The Du Lac Chronicles and the founder of The Coffee Pot Book Club, a blog many historical fiction readers are sure to already know about.
In this interview, she shares with us more about growing up in Glastonbury, her favourite books, researching historical fiction, and her writing routine.
Spotlight on Mary Anne Yarde
Please tell me a little bit about yourself, your books and writing career.
Thank you so much, Jennifer, for inviting me to your fabulous blog. My name is Mary Anne Yarde, and I am the multi award-winning author of the international bestselling series — The Du Lac Chronicles. I am also the founder of The Coffee Pot Book Club and a professional Historical Fiction Editorial Book Reviewer.
I grew up surrounded by the rolling Mendip Hills in Somerset — the famous town of Glastonbury was a mere 15 minutes from my childhood home. Glastonbury is a little bit unique in the sense that it screams Arthurian Legend. Even the road sign that welcomes you into Glastonbury says:
“Welcome to Glastonbury. The Ancient Isle of Avalon.”
How could I grow up in such a place and not be influenced by King Arthur?
I loved the stories of King Arthur and his Knights as a child, but I always felt let down by the ending. For those not familiar, there is a big battle at a place called Camlann. Arthur is fatally wounded. He is taken to Avalon. His famous sword is thrown back into the lake. Arthur dies. His Knights, if they are not already dead, become hermits — the end.
What an abrupt and unsatisfactory ending to such a wonderful story. I did not buy that ending. So my series came about not only because of my love for everything Arthurian, but also because I wanted to write an alternative end. I wanted to explore what happened after Arthur’s death.
The Du Lac Chronicles follows the fortunes and misfortunes of Lancelot du Lac’s sons as they try to make their way in a volatile and ever-changing Saxon world. I draw on ‘historical’ characters of the time, and I try to keep the historical backdrop of the story as realistic as I can.
If you were packing for a long trip, which book would you take and why?
Can I take more than one book? I have so many favourite authors, but if it were a very long journey, then I would need a very long book. I think I will be a little bit cheeky and take a box set, and as I have never read J. R. R. Tolkien’s Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, I may just upload those books onto my kindle.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? Why?
I always listen to music when I write, and what I listen to depends on what I am writing about. It can be anything from James Horner to For King and Country! I find inspiration in music which is why I always have background music playing.
What is your usual writing routine?
I always write in the afternoon, usually between one and four. I do have a rather strict routine that involves copious amounts of tea, so the kettle has to be within easy reach! I am a bit of a perfectionist, which can be quite frustrating at times. I do a lot of rewriting, and I cannot go on with the story until I am happy with the scene I have just written. Once I am satisfied with what I have done, I will continue — one paragraph at a time.
What inspired you to be a writer?
I cannot remember a specific moment when I suddenly felt inspired to write. Writing is always something that I just enjoyed doing. It was a hobby that I never took particularly seriously. About sixteen years ago I came up with this idea about a story set in Arthurian Britain. At the time one of my dearest friends was studying creative writing at university, and we started talking about the writing that she was working on and I said, “I’ve got this crazy idea about a story set in Arthurian times,” and as good friends do, she said, “Tell me your idea.” For the next hour that is what I did. When I had finished, my friend said, “You really have to write that book.” So that is what I did. I borrowed all her university textbooks and jumped in at the deep end. It took me twelve years to have a manuscript that I was happy with, so for me, it was certainly not a quick process.
Is it important to conduct research while writing fiction? Must fiction be historically and factually accurate?
If you are writing historical fiction it is essential to research the era that you are writing about as well as you can.
With regards to my books, I am faced with two challenges. Firstly, my books are set in the Early Medieval Period (The Dark Ages) which is the time of the lost manuscripts. Why were they lost? Well, there are many reasons. The Vikings certainly destroyed a fair few during their raids, especially in regards to Brittany, where my characters spend a lot of time. When Henry VIII’s order the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1541) manuscripts were unfortunately destroyed. Then came the English Civil War (1642-1651), the same thing happened again. There was the infamous Cotton Library fire (1731) which was a terrible tragedy for all historians who study the Medieval period. So, unfortunately, there is a lack of reliable primary written sources about this era. Of course, there are the works of Gildas, Nennuis and Bede, as well as The Annals of Wales, which we can turn to, but again, they are not what I would consider reliable sources. Even the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, which was compiled in the late 9th Century, has to be treated with caution. So, it is down to archaeologists to fill in the missing blanks, but they can only do so much. Which means in some instances, particularly with regards to the history of Brittany during this time, I have no choice but to take an educated guess as to what it was like.
Secondly, my books are about King Arthur’s Britain. Trying to find the historical Arthur is like looking for a needle in a haystack. An impossible task. But one thing where Arthur is prevalent, and you are sure to find him, is in folklore. However, Folklore isn’t an exact science. It evolves. It is constantly changing. It is added to. Digging up folklore, I found, is not the same as excavating relics!
So, I have to make the best of what I have and hopefully my research has paid off.
Do you read books by other authors when working on a first draft, or do you prefer not to?
As I am also a professional Editorial Reviewer, I am always reading books by other authors. I think Stephen King hit the nail on the head when he said…
‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.’
I think reading great books have undoubtedly helped me improve my writing.
Thank you for sharing more about your life, research and books, Mary Anne!
The Du Lac Prophecy by Mary Anne Yarde
Book 4 of The Du Lac Chronicles
Two Prophesies. Two Noble Households. One Throne.
Distrust and greed threaten to destroy the House of du Lac. Mordred Pendragon strengthens his hold on Brittany and the surrounding kingdoms while Alan, Mordred’s cousin, embarks on a desperate quest to find Arthur’s lost knights. Without the knights and the relics they hold in trust, they cannot defeat Arthur’s only son – but finding the knights is only half of the battle. Convincing them to fight on the side of the Du Lac’s, their sworn enemy, will not be easy.
If Alden, King of Cerniw, cannot bring unity there will be no need for Arthur’s knights. With Budic threatening to invade Alden’s Kingdom, Merton putting love before duty, and Garren disappearing to goodness knows where, what hope does Alden have? If Alden cannot get his House in order, Mordred will destroy them all.