Thursday, September 6, 2012

Interview with historical novelist Hazel West

Welcome, Readers. Today's guest is historical novelist Hazel B. West. She's sharing a little bit about On a Foreign Field, including an excerpt. And there's a giveaway you can enter below. If you'd like more chances to win, you can visit her other blog tour stops between now and October 3.

Welcome, Hazel. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I spend a good bit of my time writing historical fiction about brave men and women who have graced the pages of history, trying to bring more light to their legacies so readers of all ages will enjoy them. My favorite things to do are writing, obviously, listening to and playing Irish and Scottish folk music, practicing with all eras and types of historical weaponry, drinking GOOD COFFEE, and reading good books. I currently live in Florida.

Please tell us about your current release.
My newest novel is On a Foreign Field. It's set during the Scottish Wars of Independence from the years 1297 to 1305. This was the time period of two of Scotland's most famous heroes, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Both of them can be found in the pages of my novel. The hero is an English knight, Sir Reeve Montgomery, who, when fighting at the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge, is wounded and left for dead by his comrades. He's captured by the Scottish rebels and taken to work as a slave in Wallace's camp. He's bitter at being left by his countrymen to death or capture, and at being wounded by an English arrow during the battle, and now being a prisoner of war is enough to throw him over the edge. But when he sees first hand what the English are doing to the Scottish people, he has a moment where he wonders if what he had been fighting for the whole time was really the right thing. The main themes in this book are loyalty, brotherhood and friendship, some of my favorite elements in a story.

What inspired you to write this book?
First and foremost, my love of William Wallace. He is one of my favorite historical people. I already wrote one novel about him as a teenager ("Freedom Come All Ye") but I really wanted to write a novel about his more traditional life. I also love to write stories told from different view points, and since I don't think a Wallace novel has ever been told from the point of view of an Englishman, I wanted to give that idea a go. For a while it was just an idea running around in my head, with really only the real history and the idea of a young Englishman named Reeve being captured by the Scots. But after reading a good dose of Rosemary Sutcliff's amazing books, I was inspired to write a story about brotherhood and camaraderie and since all that fit into this story line well, I created a whole cast of characters and started working on the story that would become "On a Foreign Field".

It was in a split second that Reeve realized how desperate their situation was now. They had been cut off from the rest of their army with no hope of them being able to find a ford in the river to cross in time. Their numbers were now mostly equal to the Scots and Reeve hoped they would have the sense to stand and fight as one instead of scatter and make it easier to be picked off by the enemy. Men could train for years to hold a formation, but one never knew how they would react when faced with the real enemy.

The Scots had charged at them in two columns, trapping the English in the middle. The archers released their deadly rain and arrows found targets as they fell onto the opposing army. Reeve and his companions spurred their horses on immediately, knowing that to stand still was to die. Reeve swung his sword from its sheath and urged his horse forward at the charging Scotsmen, swinging the blade in a flashing arch and shouting out a war cry of his own. There was a huge clash that sounded as the two armies met head on. Reeve was immediately separated from Harold and Gerard in the mess. A lot of the knights realized too late that they had been led into a marsh and their horses were sinking in the muck, weighed down by armor. Reeve hoped neither of his friends were caught in the mire to be easy prey for the Scots. He wanted to go back and look for them, but he knew how foolish that was in a battle. You looked ahead, only at your enemy and you killed and killed again until it was done; only then could you spare the time to look for lost comrades.

He hacked left and right with his sword, catching a spear wielded by a screaming Scotsman on his shield with enough strength behind it to bruise his shoulder. He gritted his teeth against the pain as he stabbed downward with his blade and took the man through the chest. He felt hands grip his tabard from behind and he spun just fast enough to stop the man from hauling him from his saddle where he would be sure to meet a grisly end at the point of the long broadsword the man carried. He jerked his sword pommel-first into the man’s head and his attacker fell back instantly.

Reeve suddenly caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and he turned with his sword swinging up for a blow but the man who had been there was already gone. Then his horse lurched under him and whinnied in pain, rearing up before it bolted.

Reeve was flung from the back of the beast, realizing that he had been victim to one of the Scottish dirkers; lithe, fast men, who ran around the field, ducking underneath horses and jabbing their bellies with their dirks to make them throw their riders. Reeve was flung onto the boggy ground, hauling himself up with difficulty in his heavy armor. He quickly un-buckled the plates that covered his shoulders and the greaves protecting his legs. There was no need for them now on the ground; they would only hamper him, and if he was going to have to swim the river...

What exciting story are you working on next?
I've got two in the works, but probably the next one to be published will be By Blood and By Bond which is going to be set in Roman times and explore both the Roman and Celtic cultures. I have two main characters, one is Caolan, the son of a Celtic chieftain who is taken by the Romans in battle and sold into slavery and ends up training to fight as a gladiator. The other character is Viggo, a centurion who lost his son in the same battle in which Caolan was captured, to Caolan's father. Apart from that, I'll not tell you anymore right now ;-) But I will have three short stories published within the next few months to go along with this novel (the first of which should be out during the course of this tour on Smashwords) so if you're interested, check that out!

My other novel is a Victorian steampunk mystery with a wonderful main character named Anthony Maxwell--who you can find on Facebook, I might add! ;-)

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I've been writing since I was ten or so, though I have always made up stories. I didn't really finish a whole novel though until I was fourteen and wrote my first Scottish historical fiction novel where all the characters were animals ;-) I've come a long way since then, but that book was what really started off my writing career in earnest and ever since then I have loved and written in historical fiction genre.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like?  If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
At the moment, I pretty much write full time, but I do other hobbies too, trying to make whatever money I can. Yep, I'm a starving artist ;-) My work 'day' actually starts at about 10 pm. I do almost all my writing work at night, though I will usually work on editing and research during the day so I can just sit down at night when it is quiet. I have no real set schedule, because I never know how well the writing will go, and it's never a good idea to force something that refuses to come. Sometimes characters are just stubborn, but I usually aim to at least try to write something every night.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Well, I'm not sure how interesting it is, but I like to have special snacks when I write, mostly like Pringles, Nerds, cherry sours and stuff like that. I also usually listen to music to set the scene. I have my itunes folders for different ambiance like battle scenes, dancing, stuff like that.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid I wanted to do something with animals like be a vet or zoo keeper or something like that, but after high school biology (the worst form of mindless torture since algebra) I scrapped that idea, and decided to pursue my writing career ;-)

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Random Fact: I'm really obsessive compulsive when it comes to books. I hate it when I go to the library and the book stores and all the books in a series are out of order, or they mix together two authors of the same last name or even when two different series by the same author are mixed together. My own bookshelves aren't actually by author oddly enough, but all my historical fiction books (which is most of what I have) are chronological to time period. 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

On a Foreign Field by Hazel B. West

On a Foreign Field

by Hazel B. West

Giveaway ends October 03, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win


Unknown said...

Thank you for hosting Hazel :)

Hazel West said...

Thanks for hosting for me today!

Unknown said...

I totally understand your obsession with book order! I can spend many a happy hour alphabetising anything I can! :)

Hazel West said...

Good to know I'm not alone then ;)