Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview with Brandy Purdy

1. Welcome, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to chat with you. Can you share with my readers the essence of the story you’ve penned?
Thank you, I’m glad to have this opportunity. THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON is the story of Edward II’s notorious favourite, told in Gaveston’s own words as his life is about to come to an end. But Gaveston is an unreliable narrator, one is never quite sure if he is telling the whole truth, some, or none of it, or if he is trying to show himself in the most favourable light or garner sympathy; so one has to take it all with a grain of salt, maybe even a whole shaker of salt. And, one also has to remember, the way the various characters are depicted is how Gaveston is seeing them at that particular time in his life—a life that is about to end in murder—so some measure of bitterness and resentment can be expected to cast a shadow.

2. You’ve chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?

Thank you. The use of the word “confession” in the title comes from the religious atmosphere of the Middle Ages, and also, it’s a bit of a play on words given that there have always been persistent rumours of witchcraft associated with Gaveston, and in my novel witchcraft is indeed his religion; he only pays lip service to Christianity, so one has to wonder how seriously he would take the idea of Confession; in other words: how sincere and sacred is this, his final, confession?

As for the way I came to write it, the book wasn’t born out of a burning ambition to be a writer or anything like that. It just sort of happened. Ever since I first learned to read I’ve always been a voracious reader, books are my consolation, they have always been the only constant in my life, so when I can’t read, when there is some situation or emotional disturbance that robs me of the desire or attacks and disables my concentration, then I KNOW I’m in trouble. Such was the case a few years ago when my mother died. I kept trying to read but I just couldn’t focus, I would read the same sentence over and over again, but I couldn’t take it in. I kept trying different books, trying to find something my mind could latch onto and digest. Finally I picked up a book about royal scandals, it was written in a lively, sort of gossipy tone, a factual but not a scholarly work. I started at the beginning but I couldn’t manage it, I was so frustrated I felt like throwing the book at the wall. I decided to try one more time before I gave up and opened it at random. The page I turned to was the first page of the chapter on Edward II and Piers Gaveston.

I had no familiarity with the story at all, if I had ever even heard of Piers Gaveston before it wasn’t enough to make an impression on me and I have no memory of it. But, for some reason, I was able to read that chapter, and I became fascinated by the story. I started reading everything I could find about Piers Gaveston, and I became particularly intrigued by the rumours and the gaps in his life; there is so little actually known about him as a person, we don’t know what he looked like, there are no letters telling us what he thought or felt, and I was drawn to the challenge of trying to give him a voice. And the novel just happened; I just sat down one day and started writing.

3. What makes this book special to you?

Well I probably shouldn’t say this in an interview that I’m hoping may give a boost to book sales, but I will: This little book has faced a lot of opposition, both personally and professionally. I have even been told on more than one occasion that I should be ashamed of myself for writing it. When no one else would take a chance on it I decided to gamble and take the chance myself via self-publishing after having spent years trying to find a publisher in the traditional manner. Although I had an agent who genuinely liked the book, and a senior editor at one of the major publishing houses fell in love with it, in this world, money talks, and every time this book has come up against the powers that be in a publisher’s marketing department it has always been rejected because they believe that a historical novel about personalities who are not as well known as say Anne Boleyn or Alexander the Great, written from the viewpoint of a man will fail to attract readers, it has also been implied, though not explicitly stated, that the homosexuality of the characters makes it even more difficult from a marketing standpoint. Personally I happen to disagree, and not just because my book is on the receiving end of their rejections, as a straight female who has been a dedicated reader of historical fiction since the age of ten, I read any novel that intrigues me and holds my interest, the gender and sexual preferences of the characters is immaterial and has never been a deciding factor; I like a good, well-told story. As for my novel, I guess I just feel that this book needs me more; to believe in it and try to do the best I can for it since no one else will.

4. What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?

My novel gives Piers Gaveston a voice, it is an attempt to reconstruct a personality that has been largely lost in the mists of time and history and obscured by sensationalism and rumours that began even in his own lifetime. And for readers who like the concept of an unreliable narrator, I think they might find my version of Gaveston both interesting and entertaining.

5. What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

I wish I could answer this one better, but I don’t know, with me it just happens. I read or hear or see something and it just latches onto my mind and won’t let go; I have to write whatever it is down on a sort of ideas list to get any peace, otherwise, it will just keep gnawing and pulling at my attention until I do. Sometimes these “little sparks of inspiration” stay with me for years, like with Lady Rochford. I became interested in Tudor England, especially Anne Boleyn who sparked my interest in history in general, at an early age, and I was always fascinated by the role her sister-in-law played in her story. Lady Rochford accused her husband, George Boleyn, of committing incest with his sister Anne, and they both ended their lives on the scaffold, then some years later she acted as go-between in Katherine Howard’s adultery, and, in an act of what some might call poetic justice, ended up bowing her own head to the headsman. The “Why?” and “How?” of it always intrigued me—Why did she do it? How did she live with herself afterwards? You don’t just do something like that and then it’s over and done and you just don’t think about it anymore, it has to touch you in some lingering way that stays with you, even if you try to push it away and bury it in the back of your mind, there will be times when it burrows its way back up to the forefront again, and that’s what eventually drove me to write my second novel, VENGEANCE IS MINE, which will be reprinted and published as THE BOLEYN WIFE in February 2010.

6. What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing?

Loneliness, and the lack of encouragement and moral support as a consistent and Real presence in my life. At least I have the internet; it allows me to talk to people in distant places, and some of them are very supportive of my writing, and I am grateful for that.

7. Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book.

I haven’t really done anything unusual. I have my website, a blog, and I’ve just recently joined Twitter, I also have bookmarks that I give out, I always include these in the used books I sell on ebay, and I have a shop on www.cafepress.com that offers t-shirts and other items with my book’s peacock cover design on them. I’m a shy person and the idea of public speaking absolutely terrifies me, but fortunately I haven’t been asked to do anything like that yet.

8. Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.

I don’t really know how to explain it. I do research and take notes, I look at portraits and photographs, I jot down ideas as they come to me, I always keep notebooks at hand for this as sometimes they come to me after I’ve turned out the light to try to sleep or while I’m in the bath. I always write out a chronological list of events and dates I know I need to include, but beyond that I just do it. Writing seems to be an instinctual process for me, I have no formal training, I never took a class or read a how-to book, so I can’t really explain how I learned to do it, maybe I just absorbed it from reading so much.

9. Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?

I am a very unproductive writer, I don’t write on a daily basis. I am constantly criticized for this; people are always trying to push me to hurry up and get another book done, despite the tension and pressure this creates. I always try to explain that it’s an emotional process with me; I have to be all there, it’s not something I can do on autopilot, I have to be in the right mood, it’s not like ringing up sales at Wal-Mart or digging a ditch, but no one ever listens to me. The creative urge to sit down in front of the computer and write comes when it comes, and when it does, I answer the call, I don’t like to try to force it; that never achieves good results. When it’s there I just go with it, I will sit at the computer and write until I’m exhausted and I can’t see to keep going. I’m fortunate in that I am a fast typist; I can keep up with what my mind dictates, I could never do this longhand and write even remotely legibly, I always say my handwriting went to the Devil when I learned to type. My bursts of creativity don’t follow a pattern, I might write one night and it might be two weeks before it happens again, or I might write for two weeks then break for two days before I’m back at it again, or the period of inactivity may be even more lengthy; it’s entirely random. When I do write, I tend to do it at night as there are fewer interruptions and distractions like telemarketers ringing the phone and chores to do, and I have a tendency to insomnia.

10. What is your current work in progress?

I am doing research and taking notes for another historical novel, but I prefer not to go into specifics; I might jinx myself by talking about it. I would prefer to wait until I am further along before I make any public statements.

11. Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?

Gladly, I have a website, www.brandypurdy.com, a blog, http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com, and good old-fashioned email, of course, bkpbooks@yahoo.com

12. What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?
There’s really not much to tell about me. In my writing I prefer quality over quantity, I would rather have two good books to my name, books that were written because I wanted to write them, than twenty that are just written because it is expected of me or to try to earn a profit.