Monday, 27 September 2010

Some photos of Kathleen

When I saw Kathleen recently she said:  "I want you all to remember me as I was". So here she is in about 1986  when she had published her three Cumbrian novels, and was just going into paperback. You can just see the three books in the picture above

Monday, 20 September 2010

Deja Vue

I have several times had the slightly eerie experience of going to a place and thinking that I'd been there before, and of course I had- in my mind; transported there by writers as diverse as Thomas Hardy, Virgina Woolfe, Malcolm Lowry- and Kathleen Herbert! Kathleen's research was meticulous, which is why she can bring her settings to life. The link below will take you to an interview with her in which she explains her working methods:

Some further sites where you can see some of the locations from Moon in Leo:

Frith Hall in Dunnerdale, the isolated hunting lodge where heroine Rosamund is kept as a prisoner:

She escapes over the fells to Coniston Hall

The quicksands of the River Leven in Morecambe Bay are a pervasive and sinister presence in the book, and they continue to be a present day danger. Who can forget the fate of those poor Chinese cockle pickers in 2004?

Towards the end of this video there is a chilling evocation of Kathleen's words as we watch a man being swallowed by the "toothless mouth" of the quicksands:

I plan to make a trip to the Furness Peninsula in the near future, to track Rosamund's travels and take photos, which I will post on this blog.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Brief Bio of Kathleen Herbert

Kathleen Herbert gained a first class degree in English from Oxford, where she was a student of JRR Tolkien. Hearing him lecture on Anglo Saxon and other languages during the time of great upheaval when Rome was subject to waves of attack from Vandals and Goths, awoke her own love of language and history.

During a teaching career which inspired many with a love of books and writing, she continued her studies, learning Welsh in order to read the Gododdin and the Mabinogion in the original.

When she took early retirement she was able to spend more time studying and writing, and eventually produced three novels and four books of non-fiction all based on what she likes to call the Heroic Age of Britain: between the sixth and seventh centuries BC.

The Cumbrian Trilogy

In 1983, her novel Queen of the Lightning  won the Historical Novel Prize awarded annually in memory of Georgette Heyer. Bodley Head also published  the sequel, Ghost in the Sunlight in 1986. At around the same time, the first novel in this trilogy, The Lady of the Fountain was republished as  Bride of the Spear. All three novels are set in Cumbria, Northumbria and the Borders of Scotland, during the period of upheaval and immigration following the withdrawal of Roman troops in the fifth century.

The three novels sold well and were translated into German and French. They were published in paperback by Corgi in 1989.

Non Fiction

Following the success of the Cumbrian Trilogy, she concentrated on her scholarly research and produced several volumes on Anglo Saxon history and legend, which are still read and respected by a small but enthusiastic audience. Melvyn Bragg acknowledged one of them, Spellcraft, p Anglo Saxon Books 1993, as a most helpful source in his Afterword to Credo, p Hodder and Stoughton 1996.

The author has taken the skeletons of ancient Germanic legends about great kings, queens and heroes, and put flesh on them. Kathleen Herbert's encyclopedic knowledge of the period is reflected in the wealth of detail she brings to these tales of adventure, passion, bloodshed and magic. The book is in two parts. First are the stories that originate deep in the past, yet because they have not been hackneyed, they are still strange and enchanting. After that there is a selection of the source material, with information about where it can be found and some discussion about how it can be used. The purpose of the work is to bring pleasure to those studying Old English literature and, more importantly, to bring to the attention of a wider public the wealth of material that has yet to be tapped by modern writers, composers and artists. Kathleen Herbert is the author of a trilogy, set in sixth century Britain, that includes a winner of the Georgette Heyer prize for an outstanding historical novel.

Moon in Leo
In the 1990s, Kathleen turned her attention to a more recent period of history: the Restoration of King Charles II. She was fascinated by the turmoil under the seemingly peaceful surface of post civil war Britain. Old enmities were not forgotten, and scabbed over wounds were broken open in local and national skirmishes, culminating in the madness of the Popish Plot.

People did well to watch their backs, but feisty heroine, Rosamund, is a brave and determined young woman who ignores all warnings, and risks her life to save her beloved twin brother Stephen when he is mysteriously imprisoned in Lancaster gaol.

Rosamund is an alchemist, who knows how to conjure spirits; when she meets Simon, an enigmatic parliamentary secretary, she knows that she will give herself to him in mystic union. She recognises in him a man of  power and learning like her self and her own father.

Moon in Leo is set in Northern England, Furness, on the southern edge of the Lake District, but encompasses the whole of Britain and Europe.

Lady of the Fountain (1982)
     aka Bride of the Spear
Queen of the Lightning (1983)
Ghost In The Sunlight (1987)

Non fiction
Spellcraft: Old English Heroic Legends (1993)
Looking for the Lost Gods of England (1994)
Peace-Weavers and Shield-Maidens: Women in Early English Society (1997)
English Heroic Legends (2000)

Monday, 13 September 2010

News from across the sea

I posted a couple of comments on an American blog I found about historical fiction, called "Reading the Past"-  and was delighted to get a very quick response, telling me that Kathleen has still got fans in America.
I have emailed a query re Moon in Leo to an agent in New York. I was impressed by the open and straightforward way each person in the agency detailed the sort of projects which interest them, and the way they like to receive submissions. The agency also gives friendly and detailed advice on formatting manuscripts and writing query letters- a refreshing lack of bullshit! Several submissions will be going out to other agents this week.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Mike's Synopsis

A time and place much like our own. Hardship up and down the country. People turned out of their homes; others living rich beyond the dreams of the dispossessed. Above all, religious hatred sending groups into hiding; feeding constant fear of plots and threats and rumour. Terrorist packmen roam the remote parts of the country. Celebrity and Royalty parade in a public sexual carnival.
This is England in the last years of the Stuarts; England in the days just before Monmouth’s rebellion; England at the time of the “Popish plot”; England of Restoration Comedy romps.
In these dangerous times how can a na├»ve girl live? It’s harder to find a safe path through the thickets of treason and bigotry than through the rip-tides and quicksands, solid routes and sanctuary in the sand of Morecambe Bay.
 Her occultist father’s body burned; her brother pronounced dead from the deepest dungeon of Lancaster Castle; she fears herself threatened by with marriage-by-rape to a predatory Placeman.
The man she trusts is a fellow scholar of the occult, who speaks of her father with respect, who rescued her from the backstreets of Lancaster. On separate occasions, she has given him her necklet, her pledge and her maidenhead.
Too late she realises that he is a sexless megalomaniac, who will use any vulnerable woman in his experiments in hypnosis and generating mass hysteria.
That’s how she finds herself a desperate prisoner in a grim old farmhouse high in the Cumbrian Fells, the centre of a network plotting the overthrow of the government, and dares the only escape she can think of.
More to follow...

Balls in the air

Sometimes it's hard trying to keep them all up at the same time, so what's the logical conclusion? Of course- give myself another writing task! (perhaps twirling plates would have been a better metaphor) As Queen of Prevarication, I know only too well that rattling the keys on a new writing blog is a great way to put off doing the things I really need to do.
Anyway, my primary motivation for creating this blog was to create a vehicle for reporting on the progress of Moon in Leo, the book by Kathleen Herbert that Mike and I are trying to get published. My own writings will come in later.
My aim is to inform anyone out there in the ether that Kathleen Herbert, winner of the Georgette Heyer Memorial Prize for Historical Fiction in 1983, has completed a fourth novel- Moon in Leo. Kathleen has had a stroke and has entrusted me with the task of getting it published. Please get in touch with me if you are a fan already/ like historical fiction/ are interested in Restoration England/ are an agent or publisher who might be interested, or know one!
More details about Kathleen and her books, as well as a synposis of and (possibly) some passages from Moon in Leo in further posts.
I will leave you with some words about Queen of the Lightning (the one which won the G H P) from a German fan:
The novel is written with such feeling that I sometimes still have no words.Concepts such as: joy, love, hate, fear, despair, hope, or sadness can find their place here.