Thursday, September 3, 2009

Guest Post: Elizabeth Chadwick, author of The Greatest Knight (Plus, of course, a Giveaway!)

Today I am thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Chadwick, one of my favorite Historical Fiction writers (I've read just about all of her fantastic books)! Her new book, The Greatest Knight, has just been released and I was curious to know a little bit about her writing process. It is quite a lot of work, as you will see. Welcome, Elizabeth and thank you for joining me!


Thank you for inviting me to your blog, I’m delighted to be here.

Last year I signed a new contract to write two historical novels, each of around 160,000 words. With the security of the done deal in place, all I had to do was put those words on the page. If only it were so simple! Here, below, is the anatomy of what it takes for me to write a historical novel.

First of all, I choose my subject. I will usually decide this while writing the previous work. As I was finishing Shadows and Strongholds, I knew that two books on William Marshal would be my next project. I read up as much as I could about him so that when the time came, I would be ready to begin.

Still researching, I write a study of the main characters, a 20 page synopsis, a shorter synopsis, a back of the novel blurb and a shout line. These are all preliminaries that will help with the writing process later on. They help me to pin-point my focus and they deepen my knowledge and awareness at the same time. I write the first three chapters and polish them hard.

I send the above material to my agent and editor for comment and approval and then begin writing in earnest. I do the research and the writing alongside each other. I never look back when writing a first draft, but forge on to the end. It’s a bit like doing a painting starting with a rough black and white pencil sketch. Each layer lays on colour and defines and refines.

Once the first draft is finished, I go back to the beginning and work on the second draft. This is where the bulk of the work is done and where the most alterations occur. I probably cut around 10% of the wordage at this stage. While all this is being done at my PC, I am still researching. This doesn’t just involve reading. It includes visiting locations and taking photographs, it involves working with my re-enactment society and finding out about medieval history in a ‘hands on’ sort of way. So for example, I know how to spin wool and cook medieval recipes. I’ve worn a mail shirt and a jousting helm and know what a sword feels like in my hand. The first draft and the above preparation probably take up about 9 months of the 16 month process.

I print out the second draft and read it as if it’s an ordinary book. Instead of looking across at the PC screen, I am looking down at the written word, and that makes a difference to the part of the brain in use and helps build an extra layer into the editing process. I make notes in pen on the manuscript. This is now draft 3 and will take about 3 months.

I transfer the pen alterations to the PC and read through again – draft 4. I print out again and read the manuscript aloud to my long suffering husband! This again is a different way of absorbing the story and shows up things such as favourite phrases and repetitions that need pruning. It’s also good for getting a sense of pace, and since my listener is a man, I can gauge if I have the male mindset right! This will add another month to the schedule.

Returning to the PC, I key in any alterations noticed while reading aloud and read the manuscript again a final time (takes around a fortnight). I then send the manuscript electronically to my agent and editor. The waiting begins! If all is well, we go to the production process which will take around 9 months to a year and will involve two more read-throughs from me. During this time, I will already be hard at work on the next novel!

I work 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, but I don’t always work 8 hour days. Sometimes it’s less, occasionally it’s more. I probably work about 5 hours a day on the novel itself, and several hours a week on peripheral things such as blogs, answering reader letters, keeping in touch on forums, making movie trailers for the novels etc. It is more than a full time job!

I forgot to mention that one of my inspirations while writing is music. I love modern rock, folk-rock, grunge, and hard-edged pop. I listen to music while away from my writing, and the emotional words and resonances in songs sink into my subconscious and help when writing scenes. I provide a soundtrack each time I hand a novel in – my agent and editor expect it now! The Greatest Knight soundtrack has around 25 songs including Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright, Everybody Knows by Don Henley, and Bring me to Life by Evanescence.

One of the most surprising things that I found out while writing the greatest knight is a small, but telling detail. I discovered that they had clear, sparkling wine like champagne. I do know that at the court of Henry II, the wine was reported to have the consistency of mud and that people filtered it through their teeth, shuddering, so I was fascinated to read in a primary source research book that at the other end of the scale there were wines that were ‘clear, soft on the palate and sparkling.’ I’ll raise a toast to that, and a completed manuscript!

About the Author
Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 17 historical novels, including Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, A Place Beyond Courage, The Scarlet Lion, The Winter Mantle, and the Falcons of Montebard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel.




I have two copies of The Greatest Knight to give away, courtesy of Sourcebooks (thank you, Danielle!!) To enter, just leave me a comment here. The winners will be drawn at random and must have a US mailing address. Enter thru midnight eastern on September 19 (that's my birthday!). Below are some ways for you to earn extra entries. Please leave ONE comment for each thing you choose to do. You can combine your comments together if you like but please do not leave multiple comments for the same extra thing (for example, one comment if you fave at Technorati or subscribe via Feedburner, not three). Thank you for visiting and entering!!

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 new Feedburner subscribers

76 comments:

Helen Hollick said...

Looking forward to yet another great read! Thanks for the information about the mechanics of writing Elizabeth .... one of the things I find I repeat over and over to new writers is the importance of printing a draft out and reading it as the written word. Editing and re-writing the re-write is SO important!
Good luck with the book!

Angiegirl said...

Lovely interview. I love historicals. It's fascinating to hear about your writing process. Please enter me in the giveaway!

+1 I'm a follower

Linda said...

Very interest post. Incredible how hard a writer has to work. But for us, the readers, so very worth it.
I follow through Google reader.

The Tome Traveller said...

Helen! You made my day!! It is not every day that one of my favorite authors leaveas a comment on a post!

Carey

bermudaonion said...

Wow, I was really surprised to see she write the back of the book blurb before she writes the book. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Gah! It's killing me to say this, but no need to enter me. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book.

Becca said...

Please enter me. I'd love to read this.

I'm a follower.

I blogged about it here:
http://completepoppycock.blogspot.com/2009/09/more-of-greatest.html

thanks
rebecca.bradeen(at)verizon(dot)net

Christy said...

I'm always fascinated to hear about an author's writing process!

I'd like to enter for this. I'm already a follower and I added a link to this post on my right sidebar: http://christysbooks.blogspot.com/

runaway84(at)gmail.com

Laughing Stars said...

This gives me a whole new appreciation for modern wines! :-) Thanks for the great interview.

I'd like to enter the drawing. I am a follower, and I "tweeted" this post.

laughingstars66@yahoo.com

carolsnotebook said...

Interesting post. It does sound like more than a full-time job. I'd love to be entered.

I subscribe to your RSS feed.

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Cherie J said...

Sounds like a wonderful story. Would love to be entered in the drawing. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

cherierj(at)yahoo(dot)com

Cherie J said...

I am a follower.

tetewa said...

I'd like to be included, sounds good! tWarner419@aol.com

Jenny N. said...

Nice guest post. I love reading historical novels and this one looks good.

jen4777[at]hotmail.com

holdenj said...

The Greatest Knight looks like a wonderful historical read. And I really enjoyed the guest post by Chadwick. She sure has eclectic tastes in music! All the better to write by, I'm sure.

Thanks for the chance to win.
JHolden955 (at) gmail (dot) com

penney said...

This sounds wonderful thank you.
I'm a new follower and I have you on my face book here.
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/penney.wilfort?ref=name
Ask to be a friend and I'll ok you.
Thanks
Penney
luvhistoricalromance at gmail dot com

Zibilee said...

I have been reading a lot about Elizabeth Chadwick this week on other various blogs. I thinks she sounds like a really dedicated and thorough writer, and I am really looking forward to trying one of her books. I would love to be entered into this contest!

zibilee(at)figearo(dot)net

etirv said...

Another promising read, thanks!

I'm already a follower!

delilah0180(at)yahoo(dot)com

Elizabeth said...

I would love to receive this! HF is my favorite genre!

Elizabeth said...

Already a Follower!

Elizabeth said...

Twittered
http://twitter.com/ebogie/status/3745096885

Jennifer said...

I have been waiting to read this novel, thank you and Sourcebooks for the chance!
+1 follower
+3 faved on Technorati (knittingmomof3)
+3 new Feedburner subscribers
knittingmomof3(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Morning Glow said...

Great interview! Oh, and happy (very) early birthday!!

Please enter me, this book looks great!

+1 I became a follower today, yay!

Thanks!
Morning Glow
ohmorningglow AT aol DOT com

BUSY BEE said...

I would love to win this book.

Thanks for the giveaway.

bsyb100 at gmail dot com

Mom of 5 Boys said...

I really want to read this book! Thanks for the giveaway. I am a follower.

Robinbird said...

Oh I would LOVE to have this one! I am a follower!

Robinbird said...

And....

I also posted on my blog about the giveaway. Here is the link...

http://almostcrazymommy.blogspot.com/2009/09/book-giveaway-greatest-knight.html

teabird said...

I'm fascinated by the research process, partly because I've also learned how to spin on a spindle, and partly because I'm charmed by the idea of going to a Renaissance renactment to get into the feel -- I'd love to win this!

teabird17 AT yahoo dot com

I follow via Bloglines...and I'm a follower!

throuthehaze said...

count me in please

+1 follower

+3 tech fave-throuthehaze

throuthehaze at gmail dot com

bridget3420 said...

I'd love to win this.

bridget3420 said...

Blog follower

bridget3420 said...

Tweet

http://twitter.com/bridget3420/status/3762213154

bridget3420 said...

Technorati fave - bridget3420

Patricia Altner said...

Historical fiction is one of my passions and William Marshall is a fascinating hero from the middle ages.

I will get my hands on this novel one way or another but do hope I win it!

Barb said...

I would really like to read this book. The interview that you did with the author was very interesting. Elizabeth certainly described her writing process and the time she takes to review, edit and rewrite until she is comfortable withe the draft.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Barb said...

I am a follower of your blog.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Barb said...

I favd the blog on Technoratie


bstilewll12 at comcast dot net

Barb said...

I subscribe through Google Reader.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Barb said...

I tweeted about this giveaway:
http://twitter.com/pine1211/status/3765926290

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

heatherzilla said...

I love historical fiction. Please include me in the giveaway.

I am a follower.

heatherzilla(at)care2(dot)com

Nicole said...

Sounds like a good book. Happy early birthday!
+1 follower

Beth F said...

I was taken with "I never look back when writing a first draft, but forge on to the end." That's how I always tackle my writing too: Get it down first and thus stay focused. Then go back and do the dirty work.

I would love to win this book:

BFish dot Reads at gmail dot com.

I'm a follower.

Beth F said...

I tweeted: http://twitter.com/BethFishReads/statuses/3786342315

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Please enter me!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

rhapsodyinbooks said...

+1 I am a follower of your blog!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Beth said...

This looks great! Please enter me!

BethsBookReviewBlog AT gmail DOT com

Ms. Lucy said...

Hey:) You have a terrific site! Thanks for entering my giveaway. Now I'd also love to enter yours! I've become a follower of yours too:)Can't wait to read more of your posts. Thanks:)

Bridget said...

Hi! Just left a note on Win A Book. for your contest. No need to enter me.

MoziEsmé said...

Would love to read this!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Debs Desk said...

Please include me in your giveaway.
Thanks
Debbie
debdesk9(at)verizon.net

Debs Desk said...

I am a follower.
Thanks
Debbie
debdesk9(at)verizon.net

Paula said...

The cover really piqued my interest. Then I read the interview. Would love to win.

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Great interview. Thanks so much!

seattlesnoops(at)aol(dot)com

elnice said...

I do not read a lot of historical fiction, but this is something I think I would enjoy. Some of my favorite movies are like this, with a knight, princesses and queens. Great interview.
+1 follower (a new one)
zenfoxflowerATyahooDOTcom

Literate Housewife said...

What a wonderful guest post! Please enter me in the drawing. I'd love the chance to win this book. I already follow your blog.

Carol said...

I love to read this! It sounds really good. Thank you for the giveaway!

I'm a follower.

Carol M
mittens0831 at aol dot com

carolsnotebook said...

Just wanted to let you know I included this in a blog post.

http://carolsnotebook.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/giveaways-in-blogland-16/

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Kari said...

Sounds like a great read, I would love to enter your giveaway. Found you through the BBAW site - congrats on your nomination. Looking forward to checking out more of your blog.

Beth said...

Please enter me - thanks!
pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

~The Book Pixie said...

I'd love to win. Count me in.

~Briana
thebookpixie[at]yahoo[dot]com

~The Book Pixie said...

+1 follower

~Briana
thebookpixie[at]yahoo[dot]com

~The Book Pixie said...

+1 sidebar: http://frombrianaspointofview.blogspot.com/

~Briana
thebookpixie[at]yahoo[dot]com

Marie said...

It's been a while since I've read anything by Chadwick, but I loved her earlier books. Would love to read this one!

I am a follower.

marielay@gmail.com

Michellea said...

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+3 subscribe via Kindle

Michellea at tx2cagirl@hotmail.com

fitz12383 said...

I would love to be a part of this giveaway!

Thanks,
Amanda
fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

fitz12383 said...

I am a follower.

Amanda
fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

fitz12383 said...

I also tweeted!

http://twitter.com/fitz12383/status/3959124654

Amanda
fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

flowerchild said...

please count me in..thanks
flower_child_23(at)hotmail(dot)com
+1 follower

Misusedinnocence said...

I follow, and would love to read this. :)

misusedinnocence@aol.com

Jasmine said...

Very interested in this one

+1 Im a follower

enchantingdragon@gmail.com

crankingplot said...

NOW I'm a follower!

SusanB said...

Love historical fiction. Can't wait to read this one.
susan.byerly@comcast.net

Amanda said...

Thanks for the giveaway! I've been wanting to read this one. Oh and I'm a follower!

Thanks!

nycbookgirl at gmail dot com

Rebecca N. said...

This sounds like a really good read! I would love to be entered to win! Thanks for the great giveaway!

imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

Rebecca N. said...

+1 I follow your blog!

imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

Rebecca N. said...

I subscribe via google reader

imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

Thank you!!

Thank you to Beth at Beth Fish Reads and to The Blogger Guide for helping me to customize my template and to Andrea at The Little Bookworm for improving my header!!

About Me

My photo
New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.