Guest Post: Questions with G.K. Holloway

G.K. Holloway left university in 1980 with a degree in history and politics. After spending a year in Canada, he relocated to England’s West Country and began working in Secondary Education. Later he worked in Adult Education and then Further Education before finally working in Higher Education. 

After reading a biography about Harold Godwinson, he became fascinated by the fall of Anglo Saxon England and spent several years researching events leading up to and beyond the Battle of Hastings. Eventually he decided he had enough material to make an engrossing novel. Using characters from the Bayeux Tapestry, the Norse Sagas, the Domesday Book and many other sources. He feels that he has brought the period and its characters to life in his own particular way. Following the major protagonists, as well as political, religious and personal themes, the downfall of Anglo-Saxon England is portrayed by a strong cast. 

Nowadays he lives in Bristol with his wife and two children. When he’s not writing he works with his wife in their company.

1066 is his debut novel was originally published as an ebook. It has received very positive reviews and this has encouraged him to publish it in paperback. Currently he is working on a sequel. One day he hopes to write full time. 

1066: What Fates Impose was your first published book, what inspired you to write it and can you tell us a bit about it?

My wife, Alice, bought me a copy of Ian Walker’s, The Last Anglo Saxon King for Christmas and it filled so many gaps in my knowledge of a key part of our history. I just had to know more. So, I started reading more and more about the end of Anglo Saxon England and the Norman Invasion. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that this was the most interesting and exciting era in English history and somebody ought to make a movie, TV series of a book about it. Nobody appeared to be doing that so I thought, I’ll do it myself, and after a few years and much research, I did.

I see the Battle of Hastings as a turning point in English history but there are so many times when things could have turned out quite differently. I know you can say that about almost any event in history, it’s a subject full of ‘if only’ moments. But the thing is, the history of the end of Anglo Saxon England is full of, ‘if only’ moments, right up to the day of the famous battle itself. You’ve read the book yourself, so, you’ll know. When I’d completed my research I felt like a cub reporter on a newspaper with the biggest story ever and I wanted to see it print so the whole world would know.

You are a co-author of 1066 Turned Upside Down, how did that come about?

How did I become a co-author of 1066 Turned Upside Down?A few of us used to attend the re-enactments of the Battle of Hastings at Battle Abbey and as so often happens, the talk turned to the usual, what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ As a result, for the 950th anniversary of the battle, Helen Hollick and Joanna Courtney thought it would be a good idea to publish a collection of alternative history stories of our own. I was one of the fortunate ones to be invited to join the party. I’m glad I agreed to write something, because not only was it fun, I also learned a lot.

Is it more difficult to write about what might have been?

Not in this case, but that’s because I know a lot about the era and I know I only had to tweak a small event and the consequences would turn out to be wildly different from actual events turned out.

I have noted you are working on a sequel to 1066: What Fates Impose, can you give us a glimpse of what to look forward to?

The sequel to 1066 What Fates Impose I thought had to be written. My original idea was to cover, in one novel, the end of the Anglo Saxon era, the Norman Invasion, the Harrying of the North, Hereward and the battles in the Fens and beyond, concluding in 1101 with the final adventures of Harold Godwinson’s children. I had written an incomplete novel of 270,000 words and wasn’t even halfway through when I decided I might have been a little too ambitious. So, I decided to split the book up into more manageable parts and produce the story as a series, which I think is the sensible way to go about it.

How do you plan your research?

At a guess, I’d say about 85% is planned and the rest is on the hoof. What do I mean by this? Well, I’ve done most of the research for the whole novel. This means I’ve read most of the books written about the Conquest, both primary and secondary sources and I’ve visited most of the locations where important events occurred. When I’ve got a detailed background, I write, and things will flow from there until I discover I know nothing about hunting with hawks, or if such and such a town was a port, had a church, was walled, or what was the furthest navigable place on a particular river in the 11th century. And it’s often the little details that make the story convincing.

If you could have a conversation with any individual from history, who would it be and why?

If I could have a conversation with any character from history I’d want to talk with, and I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone, but it would be Harold Godwinson. I’d want answers to the questions I’ve had in my head for years. Why did he feel the need to go to Normandy when he could have sent a brother? Why not wait another couple of days until everyone had returned from Stamford Bridge before heading off to Hastings? And other questions, like, did Jesus really cry on the crucifix at Waltham Abbey?

Do you have any advice for budding authors?

My advice for budding authors is, don’t give up. I’ve met too many people who’ve given up on a novel and it seems most of them gave up because their writing didn’t come up to expectations. It ever does; it’s just that those writers who ended up in print, worked at it. Even Shakespeare went in for rewrites. Write your novel, find out what’s wrong with it, and sort it out. This is where you need a good editor, so that’s the second piece of advice. Once you’ve got your finished manuscript the hard work begins and again the advice is simple, don’t give up. Approach anyone and everyone who you think can help you get your book into print. If you feel like you’ve tried everything, and still haven’t got it published, publish it yourself. Don’t give up.

Do you have a role model, if so, who any why?

No, I don’t. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong in life. I tend to listen to advice from everyone and once I’ve mulled it over, accept or reject it. I look at others and try to learn from their mistakes, this is one of the values of history, see who slipped up where, when and why, and then try to avoid a similar fate myself. In my writing, I’d say I have influences but I don’t try to copy any of them. I just try to say what I have to say as simply as I can and a style will emerge from that.

Name a book everyone should read.

Oh, dear. That’s just caused a log jam in my head. There are so many books out there that are truly great I couldn’t possibly single one out and say, this is the one you should read. Chances are, I’d love it and whoever I recommended it to would hate it. There are books I’ve loved by Laurie Lee, Mervyn Peake, George Orwell, William Boyd, Ian McEwan and more, but if grew completely fed up with my procrastinating and dithering, put a gun to my head and said, all very dramatically while cocking the trigger, ‘just name one,’ I’d go for, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s, The Shadow of the Wind. I just love his imagination.

Lastly, when can your readers expect to set their eyes on your sequel?

With any luck, before the end of the year. I’m hoping it will be ready for the press by late summer/early autumn. It will be called In the Shadows of Castles and covers events in England from the day after Hastings until the end of the Harrowing of the North in 1070. The story follows the lives some of the characters we met in the first novel and how the Invasion altered their lives.

For those who haven’t yet read my review of 1066: What Fates Impose, it’s incredible definitely 5 stars from me. I was very excited to learn there will be more books coming!

You can find out more about G.K. Holloway at his website and you can also find him on Twitter @GlynnHolloway

1066: What Fates Impose is available as an ebook or paperback

Amazon UK

1066: Turned Upside down is also available Amazon UK

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