Author Interview with Sarah Luddington
I finally found someone writing about Lancelot and Arthur’s love affair!!! Isn’t that like the oldest love triangle ever and yet most authors just jump the homo-erotic elements that have always seemed so obvious to me!
I used to think that Twitter was just for lonely people with too much time on their hands, but wow, was the old me ever narrow minded! Sorry tweeps! (That’s Twitter language for “twitter-people” which also must reference “peeps” like “your peoples,” which is probably passé by now, but whatever.) So far my tweeps are 99% tweethearts! Not to mention that with a little effort, I’ve gotten to meet and now talk to, authors from around the globe! Super Sweet! Squeee!!! (which I’m pretty sure means “squeal”). Hmm, I should do a Twitter-lingo glossary blog post one of these days!
Anyway, I am so pleased to introduce author Sarah Luddington who has been so much fun to talk to and learn about. I’m in Canada and she’s in England – Twitter, I humbly thank you! How else would I have gotten to meet her and find out all these juicy details?!
Featured Author Snapshot
Author’s Name: Sarah Luddington
Author’s Genre(s): Historical Fantasy
Featured Title or Work: The Knights Of Camelot series
Author’s website: http://www.darkfiction.eu
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/KnightsOfCamelot
Twitter Account: @blakwulf
Buy their work here: Amazon, Smashwords, everywhere else...
Publisher: Mirador Publishing
About the Author
Sarah Luddington is a historical fantasy author living in the South West of England with her husband and three cats.
Meet and Greet
MF: Welcome and thanks so much for sharing your work and experiences with us! Can you tell us a bit about your latest project?
SL: I am currently working on book six and seven of The Knights of Camelot. It’s meant to just be book six but book seven takes the series in a new direction and I can’t resist!
MF: How would you describe yourself as a writer?
SL: Obsessive, in a word. It would be classed as a mental illness if it did actually produce something at the end which is readable.
MF: How would you describe your work?
SL: I would describe my work as a cross between Sparticus and the BBC’s Merlin for grown-up with Brokeback Mountain thrown in for good measure. It’s violent, sexy, fast and unforgiving. It’s also carefully controlled so the reader doesn’t find themselves bogged down in vast amounts of historical detail. You want to know the name of every piece of armour Lancelot used? Go to wikipedia or pick up a book. I write novels using my experiences and my degree. I don’t write academic text. It’s meant to be fun and I hope it is.
My style of writing is fairly brutal. I’ve read everything from Homer to Jane Austin, via Dean Koontz and Jim Butcher, which has given me a great deal to think about as an author. I chose my writing style very carefully. I don’t believe in giving the reader brain ache by describing every castle wall and piece of armour. Lancelot wouldn’t think like that, he knows what his world looks like, so do the readers. If they want to know more about Medieval England then they can do a degree, which is how I ended up doing mine. I also keep the book in contemporary popular English. Trying to place mythical people in a historical context drives me slightly nuts. Besides if I write my characters as they would have spoken we’d have a mixture of Anglo-Saxon, pig Latin and Medieval French. They would have spoken in their own contemporary language, so my guys do as well, it also makes it much more accessible to people.
MF: Are there themes that come up again and again in your work? What are your core themes?
SL: I do find themes in my work. Lots of death and destruction for one but my main theme is the complexity of human relationships and how they affect the mind. My main character in this series discovers he’s happier in the arms of a man than a woman, though both give him pleasure. Together we explore how that impacts on him and those around him.
MF: Are there experiences from your own life that have worked their way into your work?
SL: Yes, everything informs my writing. I hold three martial arts black belts so I know how to fight. I have been a part of medieval re-enactment groups and use a broadsword, quarterstaff and bow. I ride horses and I’ve lived a life which most people find a bit odd and I’m not admitting to here! ;-)
MF: What is it that writing gives you that you can’t get from anything else?
SL: Writing gives me freedom. I’m a six foot knight in shining armour, riding out into battle on a regular basis, what’s not to love? I can vanish into a world of simplicity. Lancelot doesn’t have to think too hard about his actions (at least in the early books), he just follows orders and tries to keep Arthur alive. It’s very simple for him and I’ve really enjoyed it. I also really enjoy the fact he can kill those he hates.
The Writing Story
MF: What drew you to this genre in particular?
SL: I was writing urban fantasy, vampires, angels, that kind of thing and it all seemed a bit blah blah, when my sister asked me why I wasn’t writing about what I knew – medieval England. I actually used Lancelot as another character in a book which will never see the light of day, and it just happened. Twelve weeks later I had Lancelot and the Wolf.
MF: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
SL: Oh, background… No, you don’t want to know about that… Grew up in a farming community near Exmoor. Left home, found trouble in the form of motorbikes, then hippies, tarot cards, astrology etc. Went bonkers. Found a job, did a degree. God found me, I found husband, now live in a nice house in Somerset with cats.
MF: How did you start writing?
SL: I was too poor to buy a new book but I had a pencil and some paper, so I started to write one. I haven’t stopped since then.
MF: What is your life like outside of your writing career?
SL: I don’t really have a life outside of writing. I work with books, I read all the time, my husband is a writer. I like long walks, running, hitting things with other things, but that’s about it.
MF: Has writing been good for you, or helped you through difficult times?
SL: The only time I have ever stopped writing is when I actually did go a bit doolally and everything went away. I knew I’d started to recover when the voices came back (ironic I know), but the writing keeps me stable, so I can’t stop.
MF: How long did it take you to get published?
SL: This question makes me laugh. I started working for an indie publishing company, that’s how I’ve managed to be published!
MF: How did you go about trying to find a publisher? Was this difficult for you?
SL: I don’t like traditional publishing companies, I wasted ten years on this route. Never again.
MF: What do you think was the most important thing you did to break into the industry?
SL: Belief in my work and being prepared to work hard on it even after it’s published.
MF: What does writing mean to you?
SL: It means everything to me. I would be lost, alone and living in a padded cell without it.
MF: Do you identify yourself as a writer first or are there other roles that take precedence in your life?
SL: No, I’m a writer first. I used to be a martial artist first, but now I’m a writer.
MF: When you fill out forms do you put Author or Writer as your occupation?
SL: That depends on how bad my dyslexia is when I fill out the form!
The Writing Process
MF: Can you tell us a bit about how you work?
SL: It’s a bit manic really, I wake up, make tea and toast, feed the cats, sit at the kitchen table and start work. I stop at 8am, gym and shower, then work. I spend the rest of the day with other people’s books but every time I make tea or have to go to a post box, I think about the book. After I finish, somewhere between 5pm and 7pm, I start work on the books. Saturdays I train and clean, Sundays I walk and write for hours. I like Sundays best. Holidays – I write, all the time.
MF: Stephen King talked about situations as being the starting points for his novels, and author Lois McMaster Bujold talked about building situations around what she wants to show about a particular character. Is there a pattern to the way a story starts in your imagination?
SL: It usually starts with a love affair. When I began Lancelot and the Wolf, I expected him to fall in love with Else, but despite his feelings for that character, his love for Arthur drove the story. Love, in all its forms, occupies a deal of my time. Obsession, destruction, passion, sex, brutality, passion, and the essence of true love, the consequences of that all consuming devotion. I'm a romantic at heart.
MF: Where do you turn for inspiration?
SL: Art, music and believe it or not, television. I love the way great writers and actors create worlds for us to share. I think that’s why my writing is so visual. I can really see the action and the pain of a broken heart. I try to convey that in as simple a way as possible, just like great TV. Music moves my mind and soul into another world. Art helps me hold onto the visual images of magic, there is something magical about a good painting. Nature also plays a huge role in my inspiration.
MF: Many writers talk about an element of “the unexplained” when it comes to their writing process. Is there any magic in what you’ve experienced as a writer?
SL: All my writing is magic. How it happens I have no idea. Lancelot speaks to me, I write, it’s that simple. I hardly plan, I rarely know what happens in the end. I just write the pictures I see in my head and the characters hand me their dialogue. They are with me all the time. It can be a bit noisy. J
MF: Do you have your own version of a muse?
SL: Lancelot is my muse I suppose, I want to know what makes him function and how he ticks. How he works and why.
MF: Do you listen to music while you write? Anything you would recommend?
SL: There is a long list of my bands on the website, currently Gazpacho is the favourite. I love music but I also listen to radio four while I write. The voices are soothing.
MF: Have you ever experienced writer’s block and if so how did you overcome this?
SL: I suffer from writer's diarrhoea.
MF: Do you use an outline when you write or does the story evolve as you’re writing it?
SL: I try to plan but if I know what happens in the end I’m bored, so I never finish the book! I have to allow it to unfold, which does mean I have deleted tens of thousands of words when I’ve screwed it up.
MF: Do you prefer to compose on paper or on a computer?
SL: I have an old Viao notebook which isn’t on the internet and goes with me everywhere. I love my computer.
MF: Many writers talk about the magic of putting pen to paper. Have you experienced this?
Dyslexic, I hate writing things down. It makes me feel like an idiot because I can type but I can’t write.
MF: Has reading about the writing process of other authors helped you in your own work?
SL: It’s given me courage because I know I’m not the only one who lives with the voices and doesn’t make a plan.
MF: Where did you grow up and what was that like?
SL: I grew up in 1970/80 Somerset, a rural idyll full of tree climbing, horses, riding my bike and reading when I wasn’t busy dreaming. I’ve never had a great deal in common with the real world! My house was a 450 year old cottage built over Saxon trenches, haunted by ghosts. I was doomed from the start really… I had a horrible adolescence and my early twenties were an unmitigated disaster but I survived and it helps me understand the pain and grief my 'boys' go through.
MF: How do your cultural, spiritual or religious upbringing influence your work?
SL: I’m a liberal, born again Christian. But my background is full of many esoteric influences, I used to be a professional tarot reader, astrologer and a practicing Wicca. My conversion is a long and complex story so yes, faith infects my work but I hope it doesn’t overwhelm it. Lancelot doesn’t believe in anything and I try to stay true to his voice.
MF: Has your culture’s Cannon influenced your writing?
SL: I am currently writing Arthurian fiction, so yes. But I also pull on the reading I’ve done about Norse mythology, Greek legends and gods, Celtic myth and anything else I can find.
MF: How does nature and wilderness come into your work?
SL: My life was spent outdoors and I learnt a great deal from my beloved and much missed grandmother. I’ve also built on this knowledge over the years so I can be fairly self sufficient when the zombie apocalypse comes. I can build a bender, light a fire, skin a rabbit and know all the animal and bird tracks I need. Trees, animals, herbs, water and spirit fill my work and my worlds. Nature is vital to me.
MF: Are there current social or political issues that you tackle in your work? How has this been challenging to you?
SL: Homophobia and sexual freedom are two of my major hobby horses. It’s a challenge because I’m a married forty year old woman and people don’t take me seriously. They also dislike the blurring of the boundaries because my characters won’t fit into nice tidy boxes.
Gender & Orientation
MF: Does your orientation play a role in your work?
SL: I've worked with HIV charities, I've had many gay friends of both genders and I've known many men who have really struggled with their sexuality later in life. I firmly believe that love does make the world go around and if you can find the strength to express your love in a way which doesn't harm you or others (unless you like having your arse smacked with a cane!), then you are a more productive member of our society than those who might choose to condemn you for daring to be different. My own sexuality and gender issues are something I think would terrify most shrinks! I want to be a bi-sexual knight in shining armour...
MF: How do gender, archetypes and identity come into your work?
SL: My work is all about subverting the roles in society. Using the medieval period is great because everyone thinks they know exactly how these characters should behave, but life is more complicated than we can imagine. By subverting the 'courtly love' Lancelot and Arthur share I can allow people to see behind the agony of denial and hopefully show the beauty of all kinds of love. Stereotypes, especially Arthurian ones, make it very easy to reflect back our issues today, which is why they are being constantly rewritten. Mallory did it for his society and his agenda, Geoffrey of Monmouth did it before him and I am doing it now (though I doubt people will be reading my work a thousand years from now!)
MF: What was the first homo-erotic story you ever read? How did it affect your work?
SL: Several books come to mind and they are all vampire books. Dracula, when I was around twelve. Anne Rice - Interview with a vampire. Laurell K Hamilton - all of them. The film by Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain - it makes me cry every time I watch it. It is the most perfectly told love story I have ever seen or read (the short story is great). I think that gave me the courage I needed to write Lancelot and Arthur's love affair.
Romance and Sexuality
MF: How do you handle sexual content in your work?
SL: I write as a man and I try to think about sex as a man. I try to write it as it feels both literally and emotionally. I also try to make it different each time I write about sex, which is hard when Lancelot is being monogamous.
MF: Which authors do you feel handle sexuality well in their writing? How do you try to follow their lead?
Laurell K Hamilton is the queen of writing sex scenes. She is quite extraordinary and has given me the confidence to be brave with my characters and their sexual orientation.
MF: What are your favourite kind of romances to read?
SL: I don’t really like romance unless it is Jane Austin or paranormal romance without the sparkly vampires… Save me from gooey romance…
MF: Is there a love story that stands out in your memory as life-changing for you?
SL: Jane Austin’s Persuasion, it’s so clever. The story of the Helen of Troy and all the lives that affected. Othello and the terrible emotional tragedy of his love. Anita Blake’s strange love affairs with her men. And of course King Arthur’s love for Guinevere and Lancelot. This almost makes me sound like a literary genius.
MF: What is it you hope your readers will get out of the romantic elements of your work?
SL: I want them to understand that just because someone is gay, straight, bi, transsexual, whatever, their love both emotional and physical can be just as beautiful and right as everyone else’s. Men have a hard time of it if they aren’t the big alpha boys screwing women all the time, I want another type of person to be allowed to exist in popular fiction. With Lancelot being bi-sexual I can, I hope, allow people to be a little more tolerant of the how a ‘real’ man can fall in love with someone from their own gender and that be acceptable. It’s a complex area but I really feel it is important that gay people are allowed a bigger voice in popular fiction.