Friday, November 25, 2011

Dishing it up with Martin Lake...

Today I have the pleasure of dishing it up with Martin Lake. Martin lives in the West Country of England with his wife, although he's moving to the south of France on at the beginning of December. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director.

A strangely serious accident - he claims it was caused by cage-fighting but he actually slipped and fell - shattered his arm which meant he had to rein back his work. He decided to concentrate on writing and is now writing full-time. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and fiction for young adults.

He has a series of novels set in the years following the Norman Invasion of England. The first two novels: 'The Lost King: Resistance' and 'Wasteland' are available on Kindle and other readers through Smashwords.

JET: Can you tell us about The Lost King: Resistance and Wasteland.

Martin: These are the first two novels of a planned series of four. They tell the long-suppressed story of the last native English King of England, Edgar Atheling. Although heir to the throne he is only 13 years old in 1066 so the experienced Harold Godwinson is given the crown. When Harold is killed at the Battle of Hastings, the Witan, the great council of England, proclaim Edgar King. He leads an army against William the Conqueror but is forced to submit. After a few years as William's captive Edgar flees to Scotland, agrees to his sister marrying Malcolm King of the Scots and joins an alliance with the Danes, the ancestral enemies of the English. The allied armies inflict the worst defeats the Normans suffer in the conquest but because of betrayal from the leader of the Danes, Edgar is forced to flee into the wilderness. Edgar suffers greatly but he remains defiant, determined to win back his kingdom. I am fascinated by the fact that Edgar spent much of his life fighting against William but was always forgiven. The relationship between them is intriguing.

JET: What drew you to historical fiction?

Martin: I woke up one Sunday and thought, 'I love writing, I love history. Why not combine the two and write historical fiction? At about this time I also discovered George Fraser MacDonald's 'Flashman' novels and was captivated by the opportunities that historical fiction gives to entertain readers while informing them about the past. I guess that my earlier reading also had an unconscious influence.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Martin: All of the countless submissions to publishers and agents. Rejections I could handle, especially when they gave constructive advice. It was the non-replies which were galling, even though I appreciate that people are too busy to answer.

Then, I discovered e-publishing and the hurdles became transformed to steps on the journey.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Martin: The elation of seeing my books in print. Actually, before that I won first prize in an international competition to write a sequel to The Wind in the Willows. My wife and I had been up all night (in England) watching the results of the 2008 presidential election. Just before we went to bed at 6.00 am I checked my email and saw that not only was I one of the winners of the competition but had come first. My wife's cry of excitement must have woken the neighbours. I was too stunned to speak.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Martin: When I was young most of the books could be loosely described as historical as our school could not afford many modern books. As well as this I was an early fan of historical writing, especially Henry Treece's Viking saga, Rosemary Sutcliff, the old warhorse G.A. Henty, Arthur Conan Doyle, Kenneth Grahame, Rider Haggard, Isaac Asimov and Tolkien.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Martin: When I was 12 or 13. I loved writing more than anything else.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Martin: I've walked along Hadrian's Wall to try to see a good place for Edgar to lead his army over. The most interesting fact I've found is that one of the villains of my books, Prince Olaf was given the name of Olaf Hunger when he became King of Denmark and may well have been sacrificed to placate the gods; even though Denmark was nominally Christian.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Martin: I love The Lost King because I feel that I have sufficient information about Edgar's life to keep a tight grip on events. However, because so much of his story was suppressed by the Normans, I have ample opportunity to fill out the tale with incidents of my own creation. Having said this, I'm loving writing my current novel.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

Martin: Keep writing. Read lots. Don't let people put you off your dreams. If you want to be read then self-publish your work as an e-book. And keep a log of how many words you write each day; it's a wonderful motivator.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with…Paper or Plastic?

Martin: Paper.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Martin: Steak if in a pie.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Martin: Beach.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Martin: Rock-n-Roll.

JET: Classics or Modern?

Martin: In music, classics. In fiction, I just like good books whenever they were written.

JET: Top 10 best seller or Unknown Back Shelf Find?

Martin: The Long-Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson.

JET: Paper or Digital?

Martin: Digital. Especially as we're moving to a small apartment on the French Riviera.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Martin: Silent Film classics.

JET: 2012 Mayan Prophecy Believer or Ain’t Gonna Happen?

Martin: Ask me again in 2013. I expect to be here to answer.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Martin: Tea.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Martin: I'm writing a novel called 'Artful'. It concerns the adventures of Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, after he was sentenced to transportation. He's had a life of hard knocks but hasn't let himself be defeated or downhearted by this. In the course of his life he's developed a dubious moral code but he has a gift for friendship. Above all he is a great survivor. The novel is set in England and Australia. In it I explore how gifts can be used for good or evil and how the prevailing code can condemn the same talents when used in different circumstances. I guess it can be described as a black comedy.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Martin Lake and his work at the following places:

Join me next week when I’ve got Michelle Scott here for the Manic Monday series and a special guest, Marc Hamlet dishing it up on Wednesday and then I’ve got the first Friday of December blog. Yes, December. Can you believe it?

Swing in and say hi!

Until then,



1 comment:

J. R. Tomlin said...

I love historical novels that take a different point of view instead of always assuming that the "winners" were also the heroes. I'm going to have to add these to my TBR list. Thanks.