Interview with Linda Acaster
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a born and bred Brit, living in a sleepy seaside English town sitting atop clay cliffs. That may sound beyond dull, but Stone Age spear and axe heads occasionally get washed from the cliffs, there’s an Anglo-Saxon burial ground just off my street, not far from the town is a motte and bailey earthwork from a 1068 Norman castle, and within an hour’s drive there is medieval York (once Jorvik, the Viking capital of northern England, and Roman Eboracum built by the Ninth Legion before they faded into historic obscurity and from where Emperor Constantine decreed the Empire would embrace Christianity), the sites of Celtic chariot burials, and the tallest Neolithic monolith in the country. If you gain the impression that landscape and history might impact my fiction, you could be right.
- Who are your favorite authors?
I don’t have any. Yes, I know that’s odd, but there is no single author whose new books I rabidly devour. I pick and choose not on the strength of the author’s name but on the content of their fiction. I enjoy reading Stephen King, as long as he’s not being too wordy, for the way he develops the ordinary into the extraordinary; the late Robert Holdstock for the believable way he ran with British myths; Ian Rankin for his contemporary Scottish noir Crime; Lindsey Davies for her accessible Roman lifestyles; Martin Cruz Smith in particular for the thriller “Wolves Eat Dogs”, the late Tony Hillerman for his accessible depiction of modern Navajo life; the ghost stories of MR James and Charles Dickens… and on it goes. When I’m not reading for research I like to dip into the work of indie authors. Occasionally I’m disappointed, but very often I’m not. That’s the beauty of “Read Inside” as a taster.
- Tell us a little about your books. I see you like to delve into many different genres.
Maybe my answer to (2) is the reason – LOL! I started by writing short fiction, for women’s magazines to help pay the bills, for SF/F/Horror start-ups for the enjoyment. I’ve always liked history (yeah, tell ’em something they don’t know…) and won a competition which needed to be loosely in the Women’s Historical sub-genre. That gained a publisher for what became the medieval Hostage of the Heart. Unfortunately it also pigeonholed me beneath the Romance umbrella.
Publishers at the time held their authors in what I can only describe as The Vulcan Death Grip. We compromised with the Native American Beneath The Shining Mountains under an appalling title of the publisher’s choosing – I was a Northern Plains re-enactor at the time; the Brits are nothing if not eccentric. The publisher wanted more panting bosoms (oh pleez...) and less historical detail, but the title remains my biggest seller, mostly because of the historical detail and the multi-viewpoints. I disengaged myself by gaining a contract for a Fantasy, which the new publisher reneged on, and my agent wouldn’t fight for, but that’s life.
When indie authoring via ebooks finally opened to the UK I grasped it with both hands; a sharp learning curve but a worthwhile one. I decided to write for myself at last and the Torc of Moonlight script, which had gained great comments but no contract, was revived and re-written as *I* wanted it to appear. There is nothing so demoralizing for an author as re-writing to a publisher’s agenda and then having that publisher go meh…
The trilogy is themed on the resurrection of a Celtic water deity – my part of England has more natural springs named Lady Well than anywhere in the UK – and I follow through the Celtic marker number Three with a contemporary storyline over-arcing the novels, another placing each novel, and a historical storyline mirroring the individual novel’s theme. Book 1 is Celtic, Book 2 is Roman set in York/Eboracum, Book 3, still being written, is set in and around medieval monastic life in Durham. All the places mentioned in the historical sections can still be walked, as can the contemporary. The books could be used as guides in their university cities. History – all of it – isn’t just inches beneath our feet, it’s the backbeat to our lives. Even in the USA.
My latest, The Paintings, is as different as it could be: first person, female protagonist, a ghost story without the ghost. After all, what is a ghost? It’s an essence, and an essence can be… I enjoy thinking aspects through and turning them on their head. Writing a captivating story is all about the prep.
- If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?
You want a list? Celt, Roman, Norse… but in truth I think I’d chicken out. People can have a starry-eyed view of history. Can you really imagine yourself in a shield-wall? Watch swellings rise on your lover’s skin and know that you, too, are soon going to end in an agonizing death? Be carried off into slavery, or abused by those supposed to protect you? I’d be terrified I couldn’t get back. To say, nothing of the smell and being sozzled all the time from drinking ale because the water’s foul. Yes, it’s all very well studying history, but actually being there…! Perhaps my imagination is locked too closely into the reality.
- What attracts you to writing in your various genres?
The prep. Asking endless questions of a scenario and not accepting the first answer, studying those answers from an oblique angle. Very often it is at this stage that the genre, and sub-genre, become apparent.
- Are you planning to participate in any anthologies? Any hints about your story?
I re-started writing short fiction a few months ago after a long lay off. Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark is currently being revitalized (I needed to up the cover, but why stop there?) One story I was going to add to it I’ve instead offered to an anthology and I’m currently waiting to hear. It’s a creeping Horror centred on a 19th century explorer. Using first-person viewpoint I could convey the arrogance and short-sightedness of the age. My readers tend to have to work, at least a little; I don’t lay it all out on a plate, they need to read between the lines and pick up inferences.
- What do you like to do to relax?
Reading mostly, and most of that is research material. When I just want to flop I go for the TV. Don’t start thinking Soaps. In the UK our television companies do some cracking documentaries, so I go for titles like ‘Digging for Britain’ (latest archaeological finds), ‘Medieval Dead’ (never opt for being buried; in the future some fresh-faced child with a college degree and a trowel will upset your expected rest), or one of the host of non-ancient history programs available. It’s amazing what odd piece of information can spark an idea for a story or a character or research. I choose my movies: too often I’m picking holes in the plot.
- What are you currently working on?
A series of blogposts on a recent trip to Orkney and Faroe, archipelagos in the Atlantic north of the UK. If at all possible I like to walk landscapes I’m going to write about, and next year I may well try my hand at an adventure aimed at early teen boys. There’s nothing like setting myself a challenge, and why would anyone want to write the same sort of fiction all the time? Speculative, certainly; Horror, it’ll have its moments. Which young lad doesn’t like to be frightened? I have on the go a speculative short about an auction find: I used to go to a lot of auctions and it’s amazing what can be picked up. And to bring the final in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy to fruition.
- How can readers connect with you?
I’d welcome them!
Amazon.com page: http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Acaster/e/B002TNCOQE/
or for world-wide stores: http://Author.to/LindaAcaster
Thanks for the chat; I’ve enjoyed it. I hope your readers have, too.
Many thanks for taking the time to interview me, Cleve. Much appreciated. If anyone has a question or comment I’ll be dipping in and out to feed over the next few days, the dark winged object that I am… And no, I don’t write Vampyre… sort of. Maybe I should.
Excellent interview; thank you Linda and Steve. I’ve read most of Linda’s books and enjoyed every one of them. Well written and engaging and full of tension. The research shows in the detail, too. Looking forward to the next in the Torc series.
I can empathise fully with the idea of writing in many different genres: I do the same. Subject matter generally choses the genre and I think the approach allows for greater honesty from the author, as testified by Linda’s excellent work.
Thanks for dropping by to say so, Stuart.
Really interesting Linda. I must read more.
Good of you to say so, David. There’s not enough hours in the day, is there, to get in all the reading we want to do. “Must try harder” – LOL!