Q&A With Fil Reid

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Q&A With Fil Reid 

C.H. Admirand, who I recently did a Q&A with, was kind enough to have her friend and author Fil Reid contact me about doing this Q&A with her. Fil is the author of the Guinevere series The Dragon Ring, The Bears Heart, The Sword, Warrior Queen, The Quest For Excalibur & her recent sixth novel in the series, Guinevere The Road To Avalon. 

Q: Fil, would you please tell the readers of the blog and me a bit about your series? I love everything and anything having to do with Camelot! 

A: Hello Bianca and thank you for having me. For a long time, I’d wanted to write a historical book where the heroine could look at the world she inhabited through my eyes/the eyes of the reader, and where everything could be filtered through her opinion. So everything she sees is new to her, and often needs explaining. You can’t do that with a story in which everything surrounding your MC is what they’re used to. They don’t question things in the way a visitor to that time period would.

I was influenced by a visit to Glastonbury Tor where my husband took a series of four infrared photos of the hill with the tower on the top. These revealed the tower fading and vanishing before reappearing in the last photo. I wondered if we’d had a glimpse, caught by the fast shutter speed, of a past time, and what might have happened had we been in the tower when it vanished. So, the germ of the idea for the Guinevere series was born.

Gwen, a twenty-first-century librarian, goes to scatter her late father’s ashes on the Tor and is snatched back to the late fifth-century Dark Ages. In book one, she becomes the woman she’s named after, Queen Guinevere, and because she’s now in love with Arthur, decides to stay in the past. 

This isn’t really a spoiler as there are six books and the next five aren’t about her returning to her job as a librarian! Instead, they tell the Arthurian legend from her point of view. She’s hampered or helped, she can never be sure which, by her knowledge of the legends and history of the time period, thanks to her father having been an Arthurian scholar. So she knows how the story ends, or so she thinks – with the rebellion by Arthur’s nephew (or son by some stories) and the fateful battle of Camlann in which the nephew is killed and Arthur fatally wounded. But she has no idea when this might happen, nor if it’s even true. 

There’s deep love and an ever-maturing relationship between Arthur and Gwen that develops as the books unfold, and it’s unusual in that every book in the series is about the same couple. It follows them through the birth of their children, Arthur’s many battles (a challenge to write from two women’s POVs – mine and Gwen’s!), and the dangers and setbacks that beset them. Every book is packed with action – I had a job keeping the word counts down and book six is the longest of the lot. I could almost have made that into two books. I think you’ll like the way I tie up all the story lines at the end.

Q: Are you writing book 7 in the series right now, or is it a solo book or the beginning of a new series?

A: Book six, The Road to Avalon, was the concluding book in the Guinevere Series and I’ve got a new series coming out this year – The Cornish Ladies. Book one in this series, The Cornish Mermaid, comes out on June 7th and is up for pre-order on Amazon right now. The four books all largely take place in Regency Cornwall, with the first one set in 1811. They’re all written and ready to go, and I’m working on some more in the series for next year. Lots of minor characters from these first four books have been crying out for a story of their own.

Q: What drew you into writing historical romance & how long does it take for you to research and write historical romance?

A: Most people like a good romance even if it’s not the pivotal element of a story. I didn’t come to write romance with it in mind though. I wrote the Guinevere Series as historical fiction with a strong romantic element. However, the Cornish Ladies Series are much more ‘romances with an adventure element’. My publisher, Kathryn le Veque, suggested I try the Regency period as it’s very popular and I’ve loved writing those books.

For my Guinevere Series, I’ve been doing research all my life, and as I’m nearly retirement age that’s a long time now! And even though the books are finished, I’m still doing it as Arthurian legend/history is my passion. For the Cornish Ladies Series I kind of researched as I wrote, as I already knew a fair bit about that period and about Cornwall (where I now live). I like to use real places if I can, even if I change their names a bit sometimes, and I like to have visited those places so I can really get the feel of them. 

I write quickly when I get going and can get a first draft of a 100,000+ word novel done in under a month, then the revisions take another couple of weeks. It depends on how many distractions I get! After I’ve done the revisions, I’ll put it away for a while before doing a final read through to catch typos, repeated words, and bits where I’ve revised and made a sentence awkward – that sort of thing. Then it’s done.

Q: In your opinion, what makes the perfect historical romance story?

A: Now you’re asking! I’m relatively new to writing historical romance so I don’t think I’m much of an arbiter of what should and shouldn’t be in a romance story. I can say what I like to find in one though. 

An attractive hero – by that I don’t mean physically attractive although that’s a plus if he is. I mean he has to be someone the reader can root for, even if he’s arrogant or a bit of a cad. Redeemable, I guess.

A heroine the reader can empathize with. Again, she doesn’t have to be a beauty physically so long as I feel she’s someone I would like, and who I want to overcome any adversities. If I don’t like the hero or heroine then why would I care what happens to them?

Historical accuracy – realistic period names (I’ve seen some funny ones), realistic settings and nothing anachronistic creeping in. I get put off if words are used that don’t fit in because they weren’t in vogue in the time period. But likewise I really don’t like ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ being used, nor the main characters using too much dialect. A book needs to be easy to read aloud, even if it’s only in your head, and too many characters using dialect is a turn off for me. Lesser characters, yes, but not the main characters – all books should be easy to read.

Just my opinion and how I feel though – nothing I’d like to impose on anyone else though.

 Q: In our email we discussed how England is one of many places on my bucket list. Other than London, which places do you suggest I and others go visit when we come to the UK?

A: Oh, my goodness, the UK is HUGE and there are so many interesting places to see. You’d need months to see everything. Obviously most visitors go for London, and if not London, other big cities. But I’m a country girl and I love all the things that lurk outside of the cities. I’ll make you a list, sticking to England and Wales to make it simpler.

         Windsor Castle (this is outside London)

         Kenilworth Castle (so many amazing castles)

         Pembroke Castle

         Leeds Castle (not in Leeds but in Kent)

         Dymchurch Railway

         Portmeirion in Wales

         Caernarvon Castle (North Wales)

         Caerphily Castle (Wales)

         Mount Snowdon

         The Eden Project (this is near where I live)

         The Lost Gardens of Heligan

         Glastonbury Tor (of course) and the Abbey

         South Cadbury Castle (Arthur’s Camelot and 10 miles from Glastonbury)

         The New Forest (wild ponies and cattle roam free here)

         Clovelly village in Devon

         The Peak District (in the north)

         Hadrian’s Wall (I have a photo of a ghost there, taken by my husband)

         Avebury Stone Circle (near Stonehenge and much more accessible)

         Cornwall! (of course)

         The Lake District


I could go on and on suggesting places for you to visit, so these are just the tip of the iceberg. And just travelling around the country is interesting – especially if you avoid the motorways and take ‘the slow road’.

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your work? I would love to see original content again and it would be nice to see a story of Camelot from Guinivere’s point of view. 

A: Haha – don’t I wish it did! Only my story doesn’t include Camelot, at least, not by that name. It was a much later medieval addition, and the name is probably based on Camulodunum which is modern Colchester on the East Coast of England – the dreaded Saxon Shore – so most unlikely to have had any Arthurian connection. Arthur’s stronghold in my book is South Cadbury Castle, Din Cadan. 

I would LOVE it if my books could be a TV miniseries or a film – better the TV as there is a lot happening. You couldn’t cram them into a two hour film. I can but dream…

Q: What are your favorite books and movies to read and watch about Camelot or really any other of your favorite historical periods?

A: I don’t read fiction about King Arthur at all, in case I get subliminally influenced. I wouldn’t want to inadvertently steal someone’s idea, however small it was. And I don’t much care for any of the adaptations that have been done of various bits of the legends. I guess my favourite has to be Monty Python and the Holy Grail because they’re so funny. But I like watching other types of film too – Dances with Wolves is a favourite, Kingdom of Heaven, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, Groundhog Day, Les Miserables, The Greatest Showman – I like a good musical despite being tone deaf.

I do read a lot of non-fiction history books about Arthur though and watch documentaries. I love to hear other people’s opinions and ideas in that context, although most of them conclude (sadly) that he probably didn’t exist. I like to think of someone he is based on did.

As to what I’m reading now – I’ve just finished a fascinating book about Georgian London on my kindle. It covers the eighteenth century and tips over to the Regency in places and was full of quite fascinating facts. And now I’m reading a book about the colonization of Australia and the convict ships that were sent there. I don’t get a lot of time though, as we’re doing up our new Cornish house now. I tend to read for a bit in bed at night.

Thank you very much, Bianca, for inviting me to talk about my books on your blog. It’s been great fun.