Today is a very special treat as Sourcebooks Landmark and Creative Madness Mama bring to you a guest post from Historical Fiction Author Elizabeth Chadwick! I’m absolutely delighted to have her here!!
A big thank you for inviting me onto the blog today to talk about the creative madness in my own life!
I am sitting writing this blog in an inner-city public house in Nottingham while I wait my turn to play in the mixed darts match. I frequently bring my notebook and pen to the pub. It’s a tradition that goes back decades to when I first met my husband when we were kids of 17 and 18. I used to sit in the smoky fug writing my latest novel while the dart match was going on around me. Now smoking is banned but the dart matches are still being played, and I’m still writing in the pub on Tuesday evenings. It’s all part of my creative process and one that I actually enjoy.
I had always told myself stories verbally as a child and began writing things down as I grew into my teens. In terms of time it would be 10 min here half an hour there – wherever I could fit the time into my life.
When I first got published I was a young stay at home mum, and my work place was the children’s playroom. It meant I could keep an eye on the kids and write at the same time – often in 10 minute bursts, so basically a similar pattern to when I was in my teens. Working in the same room as two energetic little boys of 5 and 2 – well if that’s not creative madness I don’t know what is!
The novel I wrote during that time – The Wild Hunt, went on to be accepted by a leading UK literary agent and won a Betty Trask Award – a UK award for young writers who have written a novel of a romantic or traditional nature. I admit have never found busy family life a barrier to creativity. I can’t say that I have ever been struck by brilliant ideas during the chaos away from the computer, but when I sit down at the keyboard the words are there waiting, so obviously something is working away in the background.
One of my aids to writing is music. I don’t listen to it at the PC, but while I am doing mundane tasks around the house such as the laundry or food preparation. I also take it with me when I’m out at the gym. I like to listen to the stories and emotional resonances in songs and then relate them to scenes in my novel. When I sit down at the PC, my subconscious feeds on the lyrics and helps to create the scene. You might think that I would listen to medieval music but that’s very rare. Usually the songs are modern rock and ballads. I’m very fond of Bruce Springsteen songs because they contain some great stories and emotional truths.
Every novel I write has a soundtrack. To Defy A King has Springsteen’s Murder Incorporated as a motif for the heroine’s brother when he’s taken hostage by the King and fears for his life. I am also very fond of heavy metal; it’s not only excellent for battle scenes, but for emotional angst too. I think the band Seether are brilliant for this and I used their track Fake It for the feelings of some of the barons involved in the Magna Carta crisis, and Never Leave for a moment of emotional upheaval in the hero’s life.
While my creative process is often chaotic, it is also disciplined. I research intensively and strive to get things right. Part of my research is conducting historical re-enactment with living history Society Regia Anglorum. I own replica items from the Middle Ages and I’m always having a go with them in daily use. I suppose the strangest and most useful thing I have done in terms of research with re-enactment recently, is to go for a walk in heavy snow late at night dressed in mediaeval costume. W was writing a scene for the forthcoming Lady Of The English when Empress Matilda had to walk across the frozen River Thames and walk 6 miles to Abingdon and then ride another 15 through the night to Wallingford. I don’t know what the neighbours must have thought, of this odd-looking woman swathed in long dresses, a cloak and hood, tramping down the road, but it was brilliant research! We don’t often get heavy snow where I live so I had to seize the opportunity when it arose. I found that the layers of woollen clothing I was wearing kept me wonderfully warm, although admittedly I didn’t walk for six miles! J I think my feet might have got very cold if I had done, but at least I was able to get the gist.
So in a nutshell that’s it. I manage to carve my writing out of the chaos around me and have a few mad moments of my own along the way, but I think everyone should have a little insanity in their lives – in a positive way!
The team is winning 3 – 2 at the moment and it’s my turn to play, so I have to put my notebook down now for a few minutes, so time to go!
(Margaret here!) What an absolute delight and inspiration! I feel as though we’re right in the pub with her. (Makes me miss my Scottish sister in St. Andrews). When I was trying to come up with a name for my blog, Creative Madness was the only thing that made since as with my reading, quilting, cross stitching and other avenues kept pulling me in. Then after the addition of my daughter it become Creative Madness Mama. What an inspiration Elizabeth is to know that she can write with chaos (aka children) in the background. Then we can certainly accomplish something worthwhile!
I thoroughly enjoyed For the King’s Favor/The Time of Singing (my review is here) as my first introduction to Elizabeth’s writing and I am delighted to continue my journey of her historical research and imagination in To Defy a King.
– Lady of the English –
- An extract from the novel can be found here