Author Interview | Discussing a new #HistNov series set during an Arthurian timescape which begins with “Sign of the White Foal” by Chris Thorndycroft

Posted Wednesday, 24 July, 2019 by jorielov , , , 4 Comments

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

You might remember how consumed I was by the story-telling and historical narrative arc within the Guinevere Tales trilogy by Nicole Evelina? This was the first chance I had to pull myself into the folds of a well-thought out exploration of the Arthurian myth & canon – wherein, I found a wicked intense focus on Guinevere herself, the foundations of Avalon’s history and the curious ways a writer can pull you through a Historical Fantasy series wherein you’re not just captivated by their research for these fabled characters and heroes of the ancient times in our timeline but you feel more anchoured to a part of history which isn’t oft discussed or explored.

As I had such an emotional connection to Evelina’s trilogy, I waited until after I had concluded reading it before I began to read more stories set in, round or next door to her time periods. There is another Historical trilogy I am re-reading late Summer, early Autumn this year – as the first novel released last year; “The Lost Queen” runs parellel to my interests in this timescape. Thus, when I saw “Sign of the White Foal” was touring, I was equally delighted and excited to see how this author would treat the subject and the persons he’s populated within his story.

It is lovely how for each author who stimulates a historical portal to the past, there are others who can pick up from whence we left off with one author and continue our quest to move in and out of periods of history which fascinate our imaginations. I am looking forward to reading “Sign of the White Foal” this week – as originally, I had scheduled to post a review & interview in tandem today on Jorie Loves A Story.

Due to unforeseen illness I needed a slight extension but will be sharing my ruminative thoughts on this novel before the tour concludes. I look forward to your future visit to see what I disclose after reading the story – today, brew your favourite cuppa and enjoy the conversation I had with the novelist whose given us this newest portal into King Arthur and those who were interconnected with Avalon!

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Author Interview | Discussing a new #HistNov series set during an Arthurian timescape which begins with “Sign of the White Foal” by Chris ThorndycroftSign of the White Foal (Interview)
Subtitle: Book One in the Arthur of the Cymry Trilogy
by Chris Thorndycroft
Source: Author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

A generation after Hengest and Horsa carved out a kingdom in the east, a hero of the Britons rises in the west…

480 A.D. The sons of Cunedag have ruled Venedotia for fifty years but the chief of them – the Pendraig – is now dying. His sons Cadwallon and Owain must fight to retain their birthright from their envious cousins. As civil war consumes Venedotia, Arthur – a young warrior and bastard son of the Pendraig – is sent on a perilous quest that will determine the fate of the kingdom.

The Morgens; nine priestesses of the Mother Goddess have found the cauldron of rebirth – a symbol of otherworldly power – and have allied themselves with the enemy. Arthur and six companions are dispatched to the mysterious island of Ynys Mon to steal the cauldron and break the power of the Morgens. Along the way they run into the formidable Guenhuifar whose family have been stewards of Ynys Mon for generations. They need her help. The trouble is, Guenhuifar despises Arthur’s family and all they stand for…

Based on the earliest Arthurian legends, Sign of the White Foal is a rip-roaring adventure of Celtic myth and real history set in the ruins of post-Roman Britain.

Genres: After Canons, Arthurian Legend, Historical Fiction, Re-telling &/or Sequel

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781099698132

Also by this author: Sign of the White Foal

Also in this series: Sign of the White Foal

Published by Self Published

on 1st July, 2019

Format: POD | Print On Demand Paperback

This novel is self-published

Converse via: #HistoricalFiction, #HistFic or #HistNov
as well as #Avalon and #Arthurian

Available Formats: Trade paperback and Ebook

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As your Arthur of the Cymry trilogy follows suit after your Hengest and Horsa trilogy – what can readers who enter through “Sign of the White Foal” might not realise about the importance of this entry point having come through the second trilogy rather than the first? Is there a bit of back-story inclusive to the second trilogy to help re-align new readers into the time-line you’ve created and/or is this considered a wholly separate trilogy and is only connected through the generation following the former?

Thorndycroft responds: I tried to make sure that this new trilogy works on its own. There is a lot a backstory alluded to in the books but it’s not essential to have read the Hengest and Horsa trilogy first. Some characters who were young in the first trilogy are old men in the new trilogy so there is a definite sense of continuity but I tried to make sure all the important bits of backstory were covered in references and dialogue without info-dumping.

I was hoping this might be the case – as I know authors strive to make back to back trilogies which carry forward a sequence of events and the lives of characters to have this kind of textured continuity. I look forward to seeing how you’ve handled those instances of the back-histories of your characters whilst moving forward into this new trilogy.

What originally inspired you to focus on Britian and the Anglo-Saxons? As their histories are rife with adversities and power struggles as well as independence for their citizens? Not entirely unlike a lot of more recent histories of different civilisations but this is one place in history that reaches a bit further back and I would imagine might be a fair bit harder to research?

Thorndycroft responds: I’m always interested in finding out how countries became countries. It’s often a lot more complex than people think. There is almost always blood spilt in the founding of a country. We used to think that England was made when hordes of Anglo Saxons settled in Britain and pushed the native Britons into Wales and Cornwall. It now looks like it wasn’t that simple.

There seems to have been a cultural shift rather than outright conquest with native Britons probably staying put and adopting Anglo Saxon building techniques, art, language and religion. There undoubtedly was conflict (which is where Arthur comes in) but we are talking about a very gradual shift over a very long period of time. It’s a fascinating period to research and as written records are rather scarce, a lot more is open to interpretation. From a fiction point of view, often the less we know about a period, the more freedom an author has to fill in the blanks with their own imagination. I always try to create a credible picture around what few facts we have.

I find early British History fascinating myself – not just because I’m an Anglophile but due to my own personal ancestral lines are distinctively British on both sides of the family. It curated a natural curiousity and yet, not until I found a few insightful novels and/or series of these earlier histories did I start to find traction within reading about the Anglo-Saxons themselves. Outside of Ms Evelina’s novel, I also found Avelynn to be quite enjoyable on a different level of interest.

The more I peer into this niche of Historical Fiction, the more I am earnestly enjoying my visitations and I commend the authors like yourself who are writing these kinds of stories. It is like you said as well – the frequency of change is not as linear nor as frequent as we might expect it to be – changes throughout civilisations were far more gradual; something which can be observed in our own modern histories as well. I think the harder bit for us now though – is the further we step away from the early centuries, the harder it is for the scope of what was happening to take shape in our minds – which is why as you said, the authors whose imaginative inclinations to transport us back ‘through their vision’ of that timescape and lost eras of interest is what re-kindles our attention and gives us something hearty to chew on!

How did you want to enter into the Arthurian mythologies and claim it as your own as you wrote your own entry into the niche of this branch of Historical Fiction? In essence, how did you approach placing your Arthur and the more familiair (or unfamiliar) characters alongside each other in a way that readers who are familiar with the legend would find equally refreshing?

Thorndycroft responds: I really wanted to create an Arthurian tale closer to the original characters in Welsh legend rather than the later French romances. That meant stripping out some of the more familiar elements such as Merlin, Lancelot and the Sword in the Stone. This often comes as a surprise to people who are used to later versions but I was confident that this would create a fresh take and an exciting new environment. Some things are the same, for example, Arthur and Cei (Kay) are still foster-brothers and, although there is no Merlin, there is a similar character (taken from Welsh legend) called Menw who acts as a spiritual guide to Arthur and his companions.

I love how you exchanged which portal is written about – I was curious about the character names and how they cross-relate to the names we’re most familiar about now. I also wondered from which resources and/or original inspirations where the overall canon of interest as it parlays into Arthurian legend originates vs where writers who are writing the stories are taking those inspirations. As I knew, briefly there are different routes of entrance inasmuch as there are different periods of fables and mythologies attached to these well-known mythical and mystical characters.

What was your favourite character in this trilogy and why? What did you learn of them which gave you the most joy to create within this world of yours?

Thorndycroft responds: In the first book I enjoyed taking Arthur back to his youth where he is just a sixteen-year-old kid with fears and insecurities rather than being an all-wise king. This is the first time he is sent out on a mission and it’s not how he thought it would be. In the trilogy as a whole my favourite character is probably Medraut (Mordred). He is similar to Arthur in a lot of ways but more of a dark horse and has a lot more to overcome with regard to his parentage and peoples’ prejudices.

Ooh my. Mordred. I believe he was the one character I struggled with the most to understand previously – esp in Evelina’s trilogy, however, I do look forward to seeing how you’ve characterised him in this series as it might offer me a different perspective on his nature and/or it might re-affirm my previous thoughts on his behalf! It will be interesting to find out! I do agree with you about how similar he was to Arthur; it is only they both took two differently radical paths in their lives and had different allegiances therein.

What do you consider the most misunderstood aspect of the Arthurian legends and what did you hope readers would understand better by reading “Sign of the White Foal”?

Thorndycroft responds: Probably that Arthur wasn’t English. At some point in the Middle Ages the historical Arthur and the literary Arthur parted ways with the latter taking off and becoming a massive figure in medieval literature. He is often called ‘King of England’ but the historical Arthur actually fought against the ancestors of the English – the Anglo Saxons. It is still a point of contention in Britain and a lot of Welsh people aren’t very happy that one of their national heroes was essentially appropriated by the Normans who took control of England in the 11th century. Eventually the Norman ruling class came to be considered ‘English’ themselves and Arthur was Anglified along with them.

Ooh dear! Isn’t uncovering these little nudges of insight from History exciting? It is interesting to learn the social commentary and social views of the legends vs the reality of Arthur as well – as this duality has served the mythology of Arthur well for writers seeking to put their own stamp on his histories but similar to why I appreciate reading novelists like Jane Austen; there is something to be said for the ‘insight’ nature of understanding how society would view certain circumstances and certain persons from their own contemporary mindset and opinions therein.

I noticed that you’ve changed how some of the key characters of the story have their names spelt – was this for a more historically accurate exploration of their lives and/or was this a choice you made based on your research of how the names could have been spelt in this century of Welsh history? I was curious if you knew why we have such discrepancies in how we read their names and this includes how we talk about Avalon as well?

Thorndycroft responds: I wanted to be as authentic as possible with regard to names. A lot of characters in Arthurian legend have names that are basically French versions of Welsh names.

But it wasn’t enough for me to just use the Welsh versions – even the versions from the 12th century – because they were still too recent. The Welsh (or ‘British’) spoken in the 5th century would have been a very archaic ancestor of the Welsh language often called Primitive Welsh. This actually did me a favour because it was before the Welsh language developed the ‘ll’ and ‘dd’ sounds so words are often easier for non-Welsh speakers to pronounce than their modern Welsh counterparts.

For example the name ‘Gwalchmei’ would be more like ‘Gualchmei’ and ‘llyn’ (lake) would be ‘lin’. Avalon was an interesting avenue to research. The name comes from the Welsh word for fruit tree and was an invention of Geoffrey of Monmouth (one of the Earliest Arthurian writers) although he did base it on the Fortunate Isles from Classical Mythology as well as a Roman account of an island off the coast of France ruled by nine priestesses. The later writer Gerald of Wales identified Avalon as Glastonbury Tor in England (which used to be an island surrounded by marsh) and called it Ynys Afallach; ‘the Island of Apples’. In European mythology, apples are often associated with life-giving nourishment and immortality. More recently Avalon has been connected to the Celtic otherworld in Welsh mythology; a place called ‘Annwn’ meaning ‘the deep place’.

I found this entire response wicked brilliant as the origins of words, names and places have always held a fascination with me! It also shows how words can view similar in different languages but are pronounced wholly new as well. I might not always understand how to say the words aloud but I respect their back-stories and the origins of how they came to be known. Very interesting about the story behind the apples and how Avalon has changed in both understanding and purpose through the different centuries.

When it came to the setting and painting the world in which we find your characters living – what were your go-to references to bridge the past with our conception of their reality? How did you want to fuse a reader today to the world in which they would have found in the 5th Century? What were some of your favourite scenes or points of reference in the novel?

Thorndycroft responds: People generally face a lot of the same struggles now as they did in any historical period. Jealousy, ambition, fear of the unknown, the loss of loved ones – these are all human emotions which have not changed in thousands of years. By using these emotions in driving characters’ actions, I hope I was able to keep readers connected with the characters despite the often otherworldly and unfamiliar surroundings. I enjoyed exploring Arthur’s relationship with his mother. He strives to become a warrior and strike out on his own but his mother is frightened to let him go as he is all she has. Just as Arthur learns to overcome his fears, his mother learns to overcome her own.

I love when stories of this kind – where the touchstones of the time period of so far removed are re-anchoured through the arc of a character’s journey. The emotional connection that provides I have found serves me well as a reader even moreso than the historical details (ie. conflicts, war, changes in power, etc) as it roots you in that particular place in such an alarmingly realistic way, it comes more to life. I look forward to peering into the life of your Arthur and seeing what I find inside his footsteps. On a personal note, I think it is hard for any mother to ‘let go’ of their child, even realising that sometimes the choices they make after they are raised might test their trust but it only natural for children to break free and find flight on their own wings. It will be interesting to see how you move between Arthur’s will and the yield his mother needs to understand her new transitions with her son.

As most novelists who tackle Arthurian story-lines, they focus on the magical aspects of Guinevere’s history and background attached to her legacy from Avalon. Did you follow suit in this regard or did you want to show Guinevere’s strength and connection to Avalon in a different method of entrance? I was curious how you approached writing her back-histories vs others who have pursued her in fiction.

Thorndycroft responds: I think Guinevere’s connection with Avalon is a relatively recent thing. I’ve never seen any reference to it in older texts. It’s certainly a welcome trend for authors to give her her own motivations and an identity other than ‘Arthur’s wife’ and this can take many different forms. I thought it would be interesting to see a Guinevere who isn’t all that taken by Arthur initially and is even a little hostile to him. My Guinevere loves her family first and foremost and feels that, living on an island under enemy occupation, they have been abandoned by the kings of Venedotia. She resents them for this and doesn’t believe that Arthur and his companions are out for anything but their own gain.

I am uncertain if it is recent or not; as my readings have only just begun into the Arthurian legends; therefore, I am uncertain how common it was to have her placed inside Avalon vs when her presence in Avalon truly began. I know every writer whose written about her has a different theory and thought on this as well as her own back-story and the purpose she found during her lifetime.

The way you’ve perceived her in view of Arthur mirrors how I read her in the Guinevere Tales trilogy – where she had respect for Arthur but she was weary of him and if she could trust him. Again, I look forward to seeing how you’ve perceived her and everyone else in the story – as this novel will serve as a lovely foundation of where you take them into the next two installments.

What do you hope readers takeaway from this version of Arthur and how their impressions of him might change as they read him through your eyes?

Thorndycroft responds: That he is not just some perfect king ruling a court that is little more than a backdrop for the adventures of others. I hope they find an Arthur who is as vulnerable and insecure as any of us but has the courage to persevere and ultimately triumph. And this first book is just the story of his transition from boy to man – the first act in a three-part story. He will face many more challenges in the books to come!

Ooh I always felt Arthur had more dimension to him than what is oft protrayed in films and/or other adaptations of his story. For anyone to lead and to find themselves in a power position he was placed in – it would lend itself to vulnerabilities and also a measure of courage to tackle what was placed in front of him. Just to consider the battles he had to become involved in isn’t for the faint of heart – so on that level, I think sometimes people short-change what dimensionally gives Arthur his counteance as a historically relevant character but also, a man who is quite complex and not easily understood. He is someone whom you have to warm too as time moves along as he always came across as a reserved fellow who kept his thoughts closer to himself than what he might have shared with others.

What do you find uplifts your spirits the most when your not writing or researching your novels?

Thorndycroft responds: As a father of two my time is pretty much occupied with my kids whenever I’m not writing. They can be very uplifting and inspirational. During rare moments of free time I do enjoy reading a good book or watching a movie entirely unrelated to whatever I’m writing. It’s important for me to take time out occasionally and enjoy the work of others purely for fun.

Family is important in my life as well. I look forward to adoption children in the future as I start my own family however, I come from a close-knit family, where the intergenerational connections were most cherished as were family celebrations and the holidays. We didn’t need a reason to meet-up with each other either and shared many stories which became our living histories. Outside of family, movies and books occupy my hours as well – laughs – sometimes I have to remember its ‘okay’ to read without blogging about my reactions as that was a transitional moment for me when I first went from reader to blogger six years ago. Six years later, I am re-defining that particular balance again.

I do believe whatever engages our time in our lives – the best we can hope to do is find what inspires us, encourages our joys and gives us downtime to simply enjoy the hours outside of our work.

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About Chris Thorndycroft

Chris Thorndycroft

Chris Thorndycroft is a British writer of historical fiction, horror and fantasy. His early short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Dark Moon Digest and American Nightmare. His first novel under his own name was A Brother’s Oath; the first book in the Hengest and Horsa Trilogy. He also writes under the pseudonym P. J. Thorndyke.

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This blog tour is courtesy of:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTFollow the Virtual Road Map

as you visit others participating:

As this particular one has a bookaway along the route:

Sign of the White Foal blog tour via HFVBTs
I am so very thankful to have had the chance to interview this author!
Be sure to leave your thoughts, comments and questions in the comment threads below this post as I’ll let the author know of your responses throughout the tour and after it concludes. It was such a lovely and engaging conversation – especially as this is a newer niche of interest of my own as a reader and I am delighted to find a second author whose taken on the Arthurian story arc and have decided to entreat us back into that history!

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Which stories of Arthur, Guinevere & Avalon have you appreciated reading and which ones do you think I should add to my own HistFic tbr list?

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Similar to blog tours where I feature book reviews, as I choose to highlight an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog. I provide the questions for interviews and topics for the guest posts; wherein I receive the responses back from publicists and authors directly. I am naturally curious about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of stories and the writers who pen them; I have a heap of joy bringing this content to my readers. This also extends to Book Spotlights & Book Blitzes which I choose to highlight which might have content inclusive to the post materials which I did not directly add a contribution but had the choice whether or not to feature those materials on my blog.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Sign of the White Foal”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Chris Thorndycroft, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Conversations with the Bookish banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 24 July, 2019 by jorielov in Anglo-Saxon History, Blog Tour Host, England, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

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4 responses to “Author Interview | Discussing a new #HistNov series set during an Arthurian timescape which begins with “Sign of the White Foal” by Chris Thorndycroft

    • Thank you, Ms Bruno!!

      Ooh my goodness this was one of my favourites to put together – it is lovely when you have a keen interest in the subject and characters being explored; plus, I was filled to the brim with eager anticipation to read this novel!! I felt all of that simply converged into a bountiful convo and gave way into a heap of insight readers and visitors along the tour route would appreciate to find awaiting them here on my tour stop. Thank you for including me on this lovely blog tour – it was truly an uplift of joy start to finish; first finding the questions I needed to ask ahead of reading the novel and secondly, after disappearing into the text itself and finding a new #bookHUG! :)

    • Hallo, Hallo Mr Thorndycroft,

      As you might have seen in my responses, I had equal enjoyment in sharing this conversation! It was lovely to see how the conversation would ebb and flow; plus, you were discussing a series I was dearly hoping I’d feel rooted inside – I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of reading the novel when I developed this interview, so for me, the conversation was building on the anticipation and the joyfulness in re-discovering a novelist who was writing about a particular niche in literature which has become a hidden treasure of joy for me to read!! So happy I had the chance to converse with you and bring this to the tour!

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