Author Interview with Helen Hollick of The Kingmaking

Passages to the Past is pleased to have Helen Hollick stop by and answer a few questions! 

Hi Helen, I first want to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for my blog, Passages to the Past – it’s an honor to host you. I've just finished your novel, The Kingmaking, and thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next two in the series.
The honour is mine - thank you for inviting me. And thank you for your comment about the Kingmaking, it is so nice to know that the stories I tell are enjoyed (and a bit of a relief! J).
Helen on her novels.....

When and what began your interest in the Dark Age history and the story of King Arthur?
I have never been too keen on the Medieval tales of King Arthur – the Knights in Armour, Round Table and Holy Grail stories are just not for me. When I discovered the more probable real setting for Arthur – the Dark Ages circa 450 AD, I was hooked.

I've heard your next project is a series set in the golden age of piracy. Can you let us know a little bit about that?

Not sure I can do a little bit LOL J once I get started on my pirate Captain Jesamiah Acorne we could be here all day! After watching Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean – Curse of the Black Pearl, as with the matter of Arthur, I became intrigued in the reality behind the story. During a one week vacation in Dorset (England) I read a few non-fiction books about pirates and piracy – and again, as with Arthur, I was hooked. My then agent wanted me to branch out into writing something a little different, doing something that had a touch of fantasy, a pirate novel, seemed a good idea. The whole plot of what became Sea Witch came to me when walking on the beach on the last day of my vacation. When I got home I couldn’t stop writing – almost literally the story wrote itself.

Sadly I had a disagreement with my agent who then dropped me, and William Heinemann simultaneously decided to not print any more of my books. That did not stop me though! I decided to self publish Sea Witch (and my back list of books – although all of them are now in the mainstream imprint of a small independent UK publisher)

Once Sea Witch was published and I started getting positive, enthusiastic feedback I realised I had the potential for turning it into a full series. I have almost finished writing Voyage Three – Bring It Close (the second being Pirate Code) and have plans to do at least six in the series.

The Sea Witch books are meant to be fun – they are not serious historical novels but are adventure with a touch of fantasy set at sea. A cross between the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe, James Bond and Lord of the Rings!

I use historical fact where I can, though I have taken a few liberties, and my sailing detail is accurate. I wanted to create my own loveable rogue of a hero, not use someone from history. Basically if you like adventure with a blend of fantasy, and like Jack Sparrow you will very probably love Jesamiah Acorne, his woman, the White Witch, Tiola, and the Sea Witch Series!

I see there has been a movie made based on your novel, Harold the King.  Can you tell us when that will be released?  What was the extent of your involvement in the making of the movie?  Are you happy with the outcome; was it true to the novel?

It has not been made yet, we are officially in pre-production but as with all movies the funding has to be granted, and that is not easy to come by – and we are talking big budget. The movie will be called 1066 and I am the co-script writer, but I am also very much involved in the cast, the locations, and the production in general. The producer/director Robin Jacob contacted me four years ago now about this project and those of us on board are highly passionate about it. We are determined to make this movie as accurately as we can, although of course there will have to be a few compromises.  If the script is anything to go by – this movie is going to be an Oscar winner!

Reading on your web journal, it looks like you have had quite an experience and some misadventures with the new book covers for the re-issuing of your novels. Have any compromises been met? Must be frustrating to go through months and months of research then months or years of writing, just to be bogged down by the cover not coming out just right!
I had trouble with the original covers for my books when they were first published by William Heinemann – the present one for the Sourcebook edition of the Kingmaking is lovely and we are in the process of re-designing the UK edition of the Trilogy. The very first edition of Kingmaking was a super cover painted by historical artist Chris Collingwood (who has also done the poster for 1066 the movie) but Heinemann only did a short print run and then decided to change it. They wanted a woman on the cover. The result was awful. Pendragon’s Banner’s original cover was not much better – sigh. Covers are often a sore point with authors.
Will Sourcebooks also be re-issuing your Sea Witch Chronicles also?
I would so very much like them to! Although I say so myself they are a cracking good read and deserve a higher profile in the USA than they get at the moment. (Can I be cheeky here? I have been told by mainstream publishers that there is no interest in pirate novels – this is nonsense – pirates are one of the enduring ingredients of adventure novels, as are vampires and wizards! Obviously publishers do not attend the pirate or Goth festivals or read blog sites and message boards!

Apart from that the Sea Witch Series is adventure fantasy set at sea and is equal to C.S.Forrester or Patrick O’Brian – Hornblower and Jack Aubrey but with a touch of fantasy included. The only readers who will not like the Sea Witch Series are those who do not like fantasy. The fact that the main character is a pirate has nothing to do with it. Technically though Jesamiah is only a pirate in Sea Witch – he accepts amnesty and becomes an ex-pirate, but his skills as a seaman are used by various Government officials in a variety of situations. More accurately he is a spy who sails a ship!

And you can’t tell me spy stories or sea stories are out of fashion!
Helen on writing.....

What is your favorite part of the writing experience: the research, traveling for research or the writing itself?
I enjoy the research, it is exciting to discover something that will fit so perfectly with the story I have in mind. When the writing is going well I love that side of the process…. But I suppose my favourite part is bringing my characters to life, whether they be based on people from the past (Arthur and King Harold) or purely conjured from my imagination (Jesamiah Acorne) To give them life, to make them real that is so rewarding and exciting!
What do you consider to be the most difficult part of writing historical fiction?
Getting the facts right – but not allowing them to overtake the excitement and interest of the story, and sometimes the restrictions of the facts can be annoying – as I writer I may want to go in one direction with a scene but what actually happened dictates otherwise. Another reason why I am so enjoying writing my Sea Witch Series – I am in control!
What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?
Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman
Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff
Rogues and Rebels by Jo Field
By Force of Arms by James L. Nelson
The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
What are your thoughts on the increasing faction of book bloggers and their growing importance to the publishing world?
I think they are a wonderful idea – from both a reader’s and a writer’s viewpoint. As an author I have always set more store by the reviews and comments made by the ‘ordinary’ person who reads to enjoy a good book, as opposed to the media-based official review columns. Feedback from my readers is important. Blogs are also very helpful for self-published authors – I am a keen advocate of self publish. Too many good authors are turned down (and often not even looked at) by mainstream publishing houses who are only interested in what will sell and the next money-making bestseller. The steady selling ‘darn good read’ type of novel does not seem to be wanted – which is where self-publish comes in.

Do you have any tips for aspiring historical fiction writers?


This is Discovering the Diamond, an article I wrote in conjunction with my copy editor Jo Field giving hints and tips on writing.


Website for Helen Hollick.

Arthur Pendragon trilogy
SeaWitch (Sea Witch Chronicles, Vol 1) and the sequel Pirate Code (Sea Witch Chronicles, Vol 2) - tales of piracy and adventure on the high seas.
Harold the King - takes place during the Normandy conquest, events leading to the Battle of Hastings. 
A Hollow Crown - novel of Emma, Queen of Saxon England.


  1. Great interview, Amy!

    Helen, I really enjoyed The Kingmaking as well!
    As an avid pirate reader/watcher, I have to say, I really hope that Sea Witch and sequels get reissued as well. I'm so excited about reading them. Love swashbuckling pirates! I can't believe publishers aren't up on the pirate craze! Good luck!

  2. Another vote for a the pirate novels to be released here! I would love to read them.

    Good interview Amy!

  3. Great interview Amy. I'm glad you asked about bloggers. It's good to ge reaffirmed that we are important. :-)

  4. Excellent interview, Amy, thanks so much. Helen is one of my favorite Historical Fiction authors, has been for many years. She is right up there with Sharon Kay Penman in my book, the best!


  5. Wonderful interview Amy and Helen! I loved The Kingmaking as well and have to agree-the cover is great. I have to say that I'd be more than interested in reading adventure stores with pirates and I'm going to check out the Sea Witch novels in addition to her others. Helen has become one of those authors that I will watch for whatever comes next.

  6. Fantastic review, Amy. You're questions were so well targeted. I learned so much that I might actually try this non HF;) Thanks.

  7. Reading through the Blog Tour my blushes are getting more bright red as I progress! Thank you Amy for such a fantastic write-up!
    I look forward to meeting you again for Book Two

    ( p.s the Sea witch series is available from )

  8. My vote for the pirate novels as well. I will definitely give them a try.
    Excellent interview Amy. Your questions were right on point.

  9. As a follow-up to these comments posted back in March, the third in the Sea Witch Series (Bring It Close) is now published - available from

    Thank you again for all the lovely comments and your much appreciated support!


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