Thursday, June 8, 2017

Interview with Barbara Gaskell Denvil



Our guest today is Barbara Gaskell Denvil, author of The Flame Eater, Sumerford’s Autumn, Fair Weather and many more. Her full list is available on her website. You can connect with Barbara via Facebook and Twitter.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Gloucestershire, England and later moved to London where I grew up surrounded by books, paintings and antiques. My father was an artist and playwright, my mother a teacher, and my elder sister a successful author first published at age 16. The classic Victorian author Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell was a great, great, great aunt. We were a bookish family. I have worked in many literary capacities, as a publishers’ reader, a television researcher and script writer, an editor, literary critic and published numerous short stories and articles. Then motherhood took precedence. Having three young daughters, two of whom were identical twins, writing had to take a back seat.

Years later I moved to Australia where I now live in a semi-rural area of exceptional beauty, watching the amazing birds and wildlife, and at last writing full length novels. My passion is for late English medieval history and this forms the background for my historical fiction. I also have a love of fantasy and the wild freedom of the imagination, with its haunting threads of sadness and evil. Although all my books have romantic undertones, I would not class them purely as romances. Although we all wish to enjoy some romance in our lives, there is also a yearning for adventure, mystery, suspense and experience. My books include all of this and more, but my greatest loves are the beauty of the written word, and the utter fascination of good characterisation. Bringing my characters to life and taking the reader with me, is my principal aim. I am now self publishing my books, as I found that traditional publishing is not what it used to be. I now have total control over content, covers and titles. With advice from my lovely agent Sheila Drummond, we have hopefully everything covered.

What is the inspiration for The Flame Eater?

I discovered a little known fact occurring during the time period in which my book is set, and this inspired me to look further and develop the situation.

Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?

I believe the theme for me is twofold both the detailed extent to which characterisation can be developed and yet remain believable, and also the complex possibilities of the crime mystery, while retaining the surprise ending.

Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?

The late medieval period interests me most. I believe that the modern standards and ideals began during Edward IV’s reign, and continued to develop from there. I also became interested in the character of Richard III, and enjoyed the research to discover whether this was the villain or the hero of the late 15th century.

What resources do you use to research your book?

I have been researching this period for many years. I used to read constantly and studied both original and secondary sources. I am no longer able to read so much since I am losing my eyesight, but I still study when I can.


What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?

Both. I see them as essential in every way. Accuracy is my particular priority, but authenticity is much the same thing as far as I am concerned.

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?

Both Nicholas and Avice, simply because I find them both intensely alive, and I thoroughly enjoyed giving them both reality.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?

Most of my books have taken approximately 7 to 8 months. And yes, like you I am definitely a ‘Plantser’. 

Which authors have influenced you?

Oh, gracious, every single book I have ever read in one way or another. I suppose Dorothy Dunnett was a principal influence amongst historical authors.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

To write and then rewrite over and over again. Believe in yourself and don’t listen to advice!

Tell us about your next book or work in progress.

I am now starting a children’s series which is partially historical and partially fantasy. This first book (Bannister’s Muster – Book 1 – SNAP) will be published in early June.  I am so enjoying bringing my favourite medieval era alive for children (8 – 15 year olds).


Intrigue, Romance and Adventure, the ideal escape when curled up with a good book. Nicholas, now heir to the earldom, has no desire to marry his dead brother’s cast-off. Emeline has no desire to marry the brutal monster who murdered his brother, the man she loved and hoped to marry. This arranged marriage is a disaster, Fire rages through the castle and takes over the wedding night, and any hopes of reconciliation. Murder and arson are destroying more than one alliance, the culprit unknown.

It is 1484 and Richard III is England’s monarch. The king entrusts many of his lords in the service of their country, so Nicholas is charged with the undercover investigation into desperately important situations.

Emeline joins with her younger sister and others of the household, determined to discover who is responsible for the disasters which have entirely disrupted their lives. But the suspects are so many. It is therefore a group of eager but desperate women of various ages, characters and capabilities who attempt to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, Nicholas learns that he has a wife to admire and to adore.

But is he a murderer? Is her mother? Her nurse? And will England’s political turmoil threaten their peace and cause even greater uncertainty? Life will never be the same. But perhaps that is just as well.

Many thanks Barbara! 

The Flame Eater is available via Amazon US, Amazon UK and Amazon AU

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. Barbara Gaskell Denvil will be appearing in in Session Three on Saturday 9 September at 11.15am-12.15pm.

How to Transmute Research into Compelling Historical Fiction
A passion for research doesn’t always translate into creating compelling fiction. Gillian Polack discusses the challenges of converting historical facts into page turning novels with Wendy J Dunn, Barbara Gaskell Denvil, Stephanie Smee and Rachel Nightingale.

Barbara is also appearing in our Meet the Author satellite event on 18 June at the Mail Exchange Hotel, 688 Bourke St, Melbourne from 2.30-4.30pm discussing Ancient and Medieval Fiction with Lindy Cameron, Rachel Nightgale, Linda Weste and Paul Hansen. More information and tickets are available from the HNSA website. 

The conference is a celebration of the historical fiction genre which will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.

Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!




Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!

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