I am elated to bring you all an interview with Anna Elliott, author of the Twilight of Avalon trilogy in honor of the release of the second book in the trilogy, Dark Moon of Avalon. I've had the pleasure of reading Dark Moon and it was just as brilliant as the first book, Twilight of Avalon.
First, I'd like to say HAPPY RELEASE DAY to Anna and thank her for taking time to answer a few questions for us! She is a fantastic writer and I recommend her books to anyone who will listen!
What inspired you to write about Trysan and Isolde?
The Twilight of Avalon trilogy was inspired by a very vivid dream in which I told my mother that I was going to write a book about Modred's daughter. I had first fallen in love with the Arthurian legends in college, so that when I woke up, the idea just wouldn't let me go. Then in the very early stages of outlining, when I was just beginning to get an idea of the shape of the story, I was looking at Celtic names for my protagonist. The name Isolde caught my eye and I thought, hmm . . . and began to realize how many aspects of my story already fitted with the Trystan and Isolde legend.
What research did you conduct for your books?
I read all the Arthurian primary sources. Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain was the version of the story I'd decided to use as the basis for my book, so of course I read and re-read that, as well as Nennius' Historia Brittonum, another early source of Arthur material. I read the early Welsh Arthurian tales like Culhwch and Olwen and The Dream of Rhonabwy, as well as the later medieval legends like Le Morte d'Arthur. And then I also read both the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and Gildas' De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, neither of which mention Arthur, but which give a picture of the political climate in sixth-century Britain. (That being the age in which scholars agree a historical Arthur might have existed, it was also the period in which I'd decided to set my story). And of course I also read all the available versions of the original Trystan and Isolde story.
I read every book I could get my hands on about Dark Age Britain in general, and the possibility of a historical Arthur in particular. Since I'd decided to make Tintagel Castle in Cornwall the setting for Twilight of Avalon, I also studied the archaeological work that's been done at the site. Then the first part of Dark Moon of Avalon takes place on the Isle of Anglesey and at the ancient hill fort of Dinas Emrys, two locations that are hugely rich in history and legend, so I read quite a bit about them.
And then, too, I pretty much had an enormous pile of research books on my desk throughout the writing process that I would constantly refer to as I worked. I would often need to double check a date or a place name or other historical reference, or look at pictures of Wales to refresh my mental image of the landscape I was writing about. And all the herbal medicine that Isolde uses meant a lot of research during the writing process, as well, looking through early herbals and medical tracts to find cures that would have been known and used in 6th-century Britain.
There are many versions of the legend of Arthur, why did you choose to base your book from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain?
That's a very good question, and one I've not been asked before! Geoffrey of Monmouth's version of the story is really the root of all the legends as we know them today. There are earlier fragmented references to Arthur and the early Welsh traditions (which often paint a very, very different Arthur!). But Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the King's of Britain is where all the wonderful characters of the legends as we now know them first walk onto stage and create the indefinable magic that has kept our fascination with the Arthurian world so strong. Take this passage, which was the basis for the character of Morgan in my trilogy:
[Avalon] is the place where nine sisters administer genial rule over those who come to them from our homelands, and the first of them is the more learned in the art of healing, and her beauty exceeds that of her sisters. Her name is Morgan and she had learned what the use is of every kind of plant in curing the weaknesses of the body. She also knows the art of changing her appearance and of flying, like Daedalus, through the air on curious wings. As she wills it, she can be at Brest or at Chartres or at Pavia; and as she wills, she comes from the skies to your shores.
Pure magic! Or at least I've always thought so. It was such a privilege and a joy to both sink into that magic and in a way make it my own by telling my version of the story.
Can you give us a peek at what we can look forward to in Book Three of the trilogy? More personally, will Kian be back because I really grew fond of him.
I finished Book 3 (Sunrise of Avalon) this year, but actually the very last scene of Sunrise was the first thing I wrote, before I even started work on Book 1. It was wonderful to actually get there, to finally get Trystan and Isolde to the ending I'd been working towards for them all along. In terms of what to expect from Book 3--well, I thought of Dark Moon as very much Isolde's book, the whole story is really about her journey of overcoming the trauma of the past and finding lasting healing. In the same way, I think of Book 3 as Trystan's book, so a good deal of the story is about his journey to make peace with his own past. And of course lots more romance between him and Isolde!
And I'm so happy you like Kian! I just love it when readers really connect with a character, and I happen to be quite fond of him myself. Yes, he is definitely back in Book 3, gruff old softie that he is.
The story of Trystan and Isolde has been depicted in many films, most recently in 2006. If your books were to be made into a movie, who could you see playing Trystan and Isolde?
Oh, fun question! I posted awhile back on my blog that I could see Matt Bomer (from White Collar) playing Trystan. He'd need longer and slightly lighter hair (I'm sure Matt is taking note of this as we speak) but his face is very similar to how Trystan looks in my head. Isolde is harder for me to cast, maybe because she's so close to my heart and so no one but her looks quite right as her to me. But maybe Eva Green? She's close, anyway.
How do you feel your writing has evolved from writing Twilight of Avalon?
I've certainly gotten to know my characters--Trystan and Isolde in particular--on a deeper level as I spend more time with them and watch them grow through each book. And I think (I hope!) I've grown as a writer over the course of the three books, as well. I feel a bit more fearless about the process, which I hope comes through on the page. I'm more passionate and open to taking risks. Having my two girls and watching them grow definitely helps with that--wee ones just crack your heart open and make you see the world through new eyes a hundred times a day.
In between the release of book one, Twilight of Avalon and book two, Dark Moon of Avalon you gave birth to your second daughter (congrats!!!). How do you juggle motherhood with two small children, your writing and now blog tour schedule?
Well, really in answer to that question what I should do first of all is hold up a photo of my husband. He's a one hundred percent full partner in parenting our two girls, and there's really just no way I could write the books I do without his constant help and support. I have practical day to day strategies worked out, too, of course. I keep myself pretty strictly on track with a set daily word count goal, I get up early, I multi-task pretty well, etc. But I think my real, over-arching answer to 'how can you find the time?' is twofold: First of all, my girls need a mama who's happy and relaxed and fulfilled, and writing helps me to be all those things. So how can I not find the time to write, when it helps so much in letting me be the kind of mama they deserve? And secondly, I'm raising two girls, who will in all likelihood one day be juggling the demands of motherhood with whatever career they are passionate about. I need to set them a good example, to let them know that you can be done.
What authors have you been inspired by?
Oh, my. I could probably lull you to sleep with a full list of them! I grew up reading a lot of the classics. (A hazard when your parents both hold PhD's in English lit.!) Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Arthur Conan Doyle. In terms of language and characterization, I've always loved Dorothy L Sayers and L M Montgomery. And lots of Mary Stewart (I love her Merlin trilogy).
What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
Not to give up. I think that's the most important piece of advice I can offer. I had to write several books before I had learned enough about the process to write one that would sell. Writing books takes practice just like any other skill, so don't be discouraged if you don't get it absolutely perfectly on the first try. And remember--not giving up doesn't guarantee that you'll get published. But giving up certainly does guarantee that you never will.
What are you currently reading?
I just discovered a fabulous new author of fantasy books based on Scottish legend, Kate Forsyth. I picked up a later volume of her Witches of Eileanan series, so now am eager to go back and start reading from Book 1.
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Thanks again Anna....you provided some fabulous insight and it was great to get to know you more! And thank you for the hours of reading pleasure you have provided us fans!
Readers, stay tuned for a giveaway of Dark Moon of Avalon to be posted soon!
Anna has also released 2 FREE short stories that feature characters from her Twilight of Avalon trilogy. Does she love her fans or what!?
The Witch Queen's Secret: In the shadow of King Arthur's Britain, a young mother will need all her courage to save the Queen's castle from the hands of a traitor… A stand-alone story of Trystan and Isolde featuring a secondary character from the universe of Anna Elliott’s Twilight of Avalon. Click HERE to download.
Dawn of Avalon: He would become the most powerful wizard in the history of Britain—Merlin. She would become Britain's most storied sorceress—Morgan le Fay. But before they were legends, they were young. And they were lovers. Together, in the sunlight of one day long ago, they saved a kingdom. A stand-alone story from the universe of Anna Elliott’s Twilight of Avalon. Click HERE to download.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A longtime devotee of historical fiction and Arthurian legend, Anna Elliott was expecting her first child when she woke up from a very vivid dream of telling her mother that she was going to write a book about Modred's daughter, Isolde. She was very grateful to her daughter for being an excellent sleeper even as a newborn and allowing her the time to turn her dream into a finished book! She now lives in the Washington, D.C., Metro area with her husband and two daughters.