Sunday, November 18, 2007

Author Interview with Anita Davison

CelebAuthor: Welcome Anita, I'm so glad you agreed to this interview. Thank you, I feel honoured you asked me, I have never done this before.

Tell us about your life, where you grew up, your interests and hobbies. I hail from a family of Londonders and although I was brought up in the suburbs, I was fed a diet of family stories about wartime London and the Blitz. From a very young age I was taken to all the city landmarks everyone calls tourist attractions, but uncles and aunts took for granted as being in their neighbourhood. The Tower, St Pauls, Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square, the Embankment of the Thames. I loved them all on sight and even as a child, I could ‘see’ and even ‘smell’ what life was like there a long time ago. I don’t really believe in reincarnation….but something….

That sounds like a full and busy life. I'd love to hear how you balance the writing life with family, work and a busy schedule. Badly. Apparently, I have an obsessive personality and while I am writing, hours go by without my noticing them and the breakfast dishes are still sitting there at 6 pm. I have a husband and two grown up children and I am an enigma to all of them. The fact I turn down a visit to the local pub to stay in alone and type is incomprehensible to them. But then I don’t drink alcohol, so that’s my excuse.

You have two books releasing this year. Tell us about your writing journey. I have used writing as an outlet for most of my life, either writing letters to friends and family I found difficult to talk to, or stories to clarify something which bothered me. My passion for history, and my compulsion to put things on paper combined and I started writing a novel. I had no idea if it would even be completed, but I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.

When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment? Absolutely. On the advice of a friend, I joined the Historical Fiction Critique Group. This was against all my instincts as I was convinced that after a couple of hard critiques, I would throw the book in a corner and never touch it again. But the opposite proved true. The group had a lot of criticisms and suggestions, certainly, but every one of them told me they liked my work. Then the owner, Anne Whitfield, who is now my editor, told me I had a great story, what I had to do next was turn it into a novel. From that moment on, I was hooked and I cannot stop writing. I still have so much to learn, but it’s an exciting process.

Who has influenced you most as a writer and why? Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. My early historical fiction reading was the works of Jean Plaidy, who started my fascination with the Tudor and Stuarts, but CHE and her Dynasty series inspired my own books. I love the way she weaves historical events into the lives of a fictional family she can send off in any direction she wants. She has more than one storyline running through her books and although there is always one character who leads, others are equally as important. I have tried to do the same.
What is your favorite movie? Steel Magnolias. My favourite line from it is Shirley Maclaine to Sally Field: ‘I’m not mad, Mlynn, I’ve just been in a very bad mood for the last forty years!’

Tell us about the writing process for you? Does it begin with a character, setting, or plot? It begins with a real historical event and how that event affects the lives of my characters. They play out their own story with the backdrop of the current situation, to which I have to remain true. But I like the discipline of that as it forms the structure of the story.

Tell us about your soon to be released book "Duking Days Revolution". What inspired you to write this particular story? This book is a sequel to my debut novel and takes my characters through the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In the first novel, my main character, Helena Woulfe, was a spoiled, naïve girl from a privileged background who lost everything and discovered the flaws in those around her. In Duking Days Revolution, she is a wife and mother who realizes that the social acceptance and respectability she fought so hard for is not enough to make her happy.

How did you come up with the concept for "Duking Days"? In 1685, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth landed in Devon with eighty men, all determined to uphold the Anglican Church against his uncle, James II, who was a Catholic. Duking Days was the name given at the time for the short period when Monmouth marched through the West Country gathering his supporters. Exeter is an historic city and it was easy to visualize it as it was in the 1680’s, so that’s where I set the story.

I put Loxsbeare Manor in the spot on top of the Weare Cliff where my garden was – well me and nineteen other houses! The Ship Inn, the Guildhall, St Mary Arches church, the city walls, the cathedral and the river, are all still there. The City gates were demolished years ago, but you can still see where they stood.

Is any part of "Duking Days" factual? Yes, and well documented, so I had to be rigorous about my research. I had to work on a tight timeline on what was happening in both the Rebellion of 1685 and the Revolution of 1688 and fit it in with the actions of my characters. I found it gave my story a structure I might not have managed without it. Knowing where they should be at a certain time was good discipline.

Do you have a favorite character and why? Yes, my main character’s younger brother, Henry. He began as a secondary character, a boy Helena had to look out for when they found themselves alone. But Henry finds his own purpose and grew up before my eyes into a young man who pushed the tragedy of the Rebellion into his past. He didn’t just follow his sister around, he fell in love with a career and a girl and went all out to achieve them both. I didn’t let him have everything he wanted, but he handles disappointment with maturity and without bitterness and becomes a young man everyone will like. (I hope)

How much research did "Duking Days" take? Subconsciously, I have been researching the 17th century for years. I had the ‘feel’ of the time from a lifetime of visiting old buildings, reading about the beliefs, manners and habits of the time. Watching every film and documentary I could find about the Civil War (The English one) and the court of Charles II.

I spent a lot of time studying how attitudes were different, especially towards women. To incorporate 21st Century morals into the 17th century wouldn’t have worked. The characters had to function within the structures of a bygone age. For instance I had to make the male characters chauvinistic, which may not sit very well now, but in the 1690’s, their attitudes would have not only been acceptable, but normal and right. My male characters are men of their time, but I tried to make them likeable too.

What is the message you hope to get across in this story? That changes in life often come without warning. They come fast and devastating, but people discover strengths they never knew they had when their worst fears come true.

How long did "Duking Days" take you to complete? I toyed with the idea, picked it up and put it down again over a period of years. The actual book took me about twelve months to compile into a book, and another year to knock into shape with the assistance of my wonderful critiquers. Through them I learned all about POV, active versus passive voice, showing not telling, correct use of dialogue tags and deletion of laundry lists! (Thanks Anne)

Of your books, which is your favorite and why? Duking Days Revolution, because as an adult married woman, Helena has more control of her life. Her emotions and actions are moulded by her experiences and I loved changing her character into a mature woman with more compassion for others than she had in the first novel. The ending too is what we all want for our heroes and heroines, the culmination of their dearest wish after conquering the demons that invade them.

What are your future writing plans? As mentioned earlier, I would like to prove that I am not wholly immersed in the 17th Century and I have begun a shorter book based in Victorian England. It’s very sketchy though and needs filling out and I don’t have a major historical event to work with this time! I shall have to be more creative to keep it interesting.

What does your typical writing day look like? I get up at around 7 with my sleepy husband murmuring something like ‘It’s too early, get back into bed’ but as it only takes him about twenty minutes to get ready to leave the house and me a lot longer, I ignore this. If it’s a work day, I sneakily handle my ‘Writing e-mails’ at work when no one’s looking, but cannot get away with actually writing in the office. (I have been known to do critiques during lunch though – I told you I was obsessed) In the evening I have a pact with DH not to get the laptop out until after dinner and to pack in before midnight (!) Generally I manage this, but not always. On weekends. Well that’s a whole different story – the laptop rules and I write, edit, critique and write until someone threatens to throw the laptop off the balcony.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author? Apart from the above? Getting the research right, and using the details I find in a productive way so the story doesn’t read like an historical documentary. As a history buff, I am fascinated will all aspects of the past, but not everyone feels the same. My husband summed it up when he said. “When I ask a question, I really do want to know who that King was. Not who his mother-in-law was, how many children he had, where he lived and what he ate for breakfast – I get the lot with you.”

What are a few writing tips you could share with aspiring writers? Read. Since I have been writing, my reading has dropped from about three books a week to half a book a week. Books feed my vocabulary and my pool of ideas. Learning the ‘craft’ of writing is exciting, and I have to read more. Critiquing other writer’s work is good too, it helps me recognise the mistakes I make in my own work.

Any marketing tips? I am a novice at this, but not having major resources to draw on, I use the web to get the word out about my book, myself and my writing. I have discovered that in the main, writers are very generous with their experiences, knowledge and even their time. Joining the Yahoo writing groups, setting up a social network page and chatting, may seem trivial, even juvenile, but there is a wealth of knowledge out there and by sharing, a lot can be achieved.
What is your goal or mission as a writer? Actually, I am still enjoying the buzz from holding a book in my hands with my name on it. My short term ambition is to complete Duking Days Restoration, the prequel to the first two books about the Woulfe family. Long term? I want to become a better writer. One of my critiquers said she cried when she read Duking Days Rebellion (in a good way) because she felt she was there. That’s why I write.

Do you have a website? Yes,, and my Blog is at There are links on both where the book can be bought either as a print paperback or e-book. It will be appearing on Amazon soon too and I will add the link when it is available.

When will "Duking Days Revolution" be released? Enspiren Press have scheduled it for January 2008

Closing thoughts you'd like to share? When people asked me what I do, it was always, wife, mother, or franchise services manager, but I never mentioned my writing to avoid that light of cynicism in their eyes because I was just another wannabe. It was a vital part of me I kept to myself. Now I say, ‘I’m an author.’ It's a great feeling. I may not be in Waterstones yet – but one day, maybe.

Thank you so much for your time Anita, and best wishes on your new release. It was a pleasure hearing about your writing experience.

Anita Davison
Duking Days Rebellion, Out now from Enspiren Press
Duking Days Revolution, Out soon from Enspiren Press,

Printed with permission from CelebAuthor at


Sharon Hurley Hall said...

Thanks for posting this great interview, Margie. It's always nice to hear about other writers' process.

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