I'd like to introduce to you all Alison Williams, the lovely and newly published author of The Black Hours.
She's a great and fascinating writer, who writes dark historical fiction. It's not something that I normally read myself, but having met Alison previously on another writing site I decided to give it a go. You know my motto is to try everything! Well, I'm glad that I did, because I'm loving it. She writes with an eloquence that you don't normally see, and the book itself is both gripping and fascinating.
Inthis post you'll find an excerpt and a giveaway, so make sure to enter and get yourself a copy of this great book and support this lovely indie writer!
I'll let Alison tell you more...
I have been writing ever since I can remember – scribbling down and (badly) illustrating stories in exercise books whenever I wasn’t actually reading (which was most of the time when I was awake). After getting married and having two children, I worked in education until deciding to bite the bullet and do what I have always wanted to do which is to write full-time – it only took me until my forties! I now work as a freelance writer with articles published on line and in magazines. From 2011-2012 I studied for a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Glasgow. As part of my studies I wrote my first novel ‘The Black Hours’ – available now on Amazon.
History fascinates me – but not so much the kings and queens, the emperors, the military heroes or the great leaders. More the ordinary people whose lives were touched by the decisions, the beliefs and the whims of those who had power over them and who now fill our history books. When I was about ten years old I went with my family to visit Winchester Cathedral. As we wandered through this magnificent building with its arches, its pillars, its carvings and beautiful windows, my mother was looking less than impressed. Wasn’t she inspired? Awed? No, not at all – ‘All I can think of’ she said ‘is the poor buggers who had to build it.’ And that remark has stayed with me since. What was it like to be one of those ‘poor buggers’ toiling to create the soaring gothic arches of Winchester cathedral? Or a 17th century mother living in London, scared to death as the plague took hold? How did it feel to a woman in Berwick-Upon-Tweed in 1296 watching the English troops storming through the town? And what about all of those accused, tortured and horribly murdered in the witch trials that swept through Europe? How did it feel to be one of those women, terrified and desperate? It is this that fascinates me – how it was for the ordinary people, caught up in events they couldn’t control. It is their stories that I want to tell.
The Black Hours Blurb
‘Look upon this wretch, all of you! Look upon her and thank God for his love and his mercy. Thank God that he has sent me to rid the world of such filth as this.’
Alison Williams Interview
Link to your Amazon page and or any other place that your books can be purchased:
Where did you grow up?
Born in Bromley, Kent, then moved to Basingstoke, Hampshire at the age of seven.
What made you start writing?
I've always loved reading and have written 'books' ever since I was little. I trained as a journalist but I always wanted to be a novelist. When I hit forty I decided it was really time I did something about it and began to draft the first ideas behind 'The Black Hours'. It was really difficult juggling work, looking after two children and writing and I knew I needed to have some sort of structure to force me to spend a reasonable amount of time on the writing. So I decided to study for a Masters in Creative Writing. This really helped as it gave me deadlines that I needed to stick to and also provided me with some wonderful readers and editors who still read through my work.
Is it something that you have always wanted to do?
Definitely. If you had asked me at the age of ten what I wanted to be I would have said a novelist. And if you'd asked me at twenty and thirty!
What is your favourite genre to read, and do you have any favourite books or authors you would like to recommend?
I have a real interest in historical fiction (obviously) particularly Hilary Mantel. I think 'Wolf Hall' is fabulous but I actually prefer the somewhat lesser known 'A Place of Greater Safety' about the French Revolution. Outside of historical fiction, I think Alice Walker is wonderful. Elizabeth Kostova writes beautifully - 'The Swan Thieves' is brilliant.
Do you ever base your characters on anyone that you know, or are they solely from your imagination?
I really enjoy taking a period or person from history and looking at the story from a more obscure angle. So my characters are usually based on real people but the novels as a whole will also be from the point of view of those affected by that characters actions. So in 'The Black Hours' I was intrigued by Matthew Hopkins, the real Witchfinder General, but I also wanted to tell the story of how it must have been to be one of his victims. I think we sometimes forget that these events really happened, that people really suffered and reduce them to a number or to a list of names.
Tell us about your latest book. The story/plot.
'The Black Hours' takes place in 1647 in the small village of Coggeshall, where seventeen-year-old Alice Pendle finds herself at the centre of gossip and speculation. Alice and her grandmother are cunning women - they use traditional cures and herbal remedies to help others, particularly women during labour. Matthew Hopkins, who actually existed, was responsible for the deaths of more than 200 women in a two-year period, a lot of whom were persecuted for being different or for having this sort of knowledge. 'The Black Hours' tells the story of what happens when Hopkins is summoned to Coggeshall.
What gave you the idea?
I've always been interested in the ordinary people behind the well-known stories in history. I think that the women tortured and murdered through religious intolerance, ignorance and superstition through the ages (and now) is a terrible tragedy that is not often addressed in fiction, or indeed in history. We tend to forget that these were real people, with families, children, hopes, dreams and lives. Whenever I've read about history I've imagined myself in the shoes of those I've read about, and something about the story of these persecuted women really struck a chord.
What genre is it?
Dark historical fiction
Who is your favourite character? And why.
I feel very close to Alice. Although she is the hero of the story in some ways, I also wanted her to be human and to feel how someone would have felt in her situations in. I think that all too often we expect our protagonists to be feisty and courageous, but I wanted Alice to behave and react in the way that a normal, ordinary young girl would in these circumstances. I also love Jennet - flawed though she is. She was so interesting to write.
Matthew Hopkins! Although he has some serious competition in the form of Tom Everard!
What are your hopes for it?
I think that in the current climate it is so difficult for any new aspiring writers to break through. I hope that 'The Black Hours' is just the beginning of my writing journey.
What’s the project that you’re going to be working on next?
My next novel is provisionally titled 'Remember, Remember'. It tells the story of the infamous Gunpowder Plot from a rather mysterious point of view. There are rumours and speculation that Guy Fawkes was married but very little evidence to back this up. The novel is based on the premise that he did have a wife, and I find it fascinating to imagine what it would have been like for her, witnessing the persecution of her fellow Catholics and the fear she must have felt at her husband's involvement in such a dangerous plot. It is in the very early stages of research at the moment but I'm enjoying reading up about this period in history.
What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given in regards to your writing, and by whom?
Read your writing out loud. I honestly can't remember who told me to do this, but it works. This helps with so many things - typos, pace, dialogue, flow. I'm lucky that I work from home and the only one who thinks I'm mad when I do this is the dog!
Now we get an excerpt from The Black Hours!
The Black Hours Excerpt
The Black Hours eBook Giveaway
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