On The Write way today, I am over the moon to be welcoming Philippa Gregory on to the blog to discuss her new YA novel, Stormbringers, as well as letting us into some of her writing secrets.
1) Stormbringers, the second book in your Young Adult Order of Darkness series is due to be published very soon. What kind of response did you get from the YA market about the first book, Changeling?
I have heard from so many readers who have enjoyed Changeling. What’s been so interesting is that readers who aren’t officially ‘Young Adults’ are thoroughly enjoying the series too. Readers have been intrigued by Luca, Frieze, Ishraq and Isolde and most seem to have picked a favourite. I also think that the history I've included has been an added extra for readers, they've learned a little without realising it.
2) Can you tell my readers a little bit about the next book in the series?
In Stormbringers, the four protagonists continue their journey east under the command of the Order of Darkness. They reach the coastal town of Piccolo where they come across a children's crusade led by a young man, a self-proclaimed saint called Johann. Luca is sceptical of his claims that the sea will part before them and he and the children will walk safely across to Jerusalem, so he sets up an inquiry. He finds the boy utterly convincing...
3) How much research did you need to do for Stormbringers and can you tell us an interesting fact that you discovered while researching it?
I travelled to Italy to replicate parts of the journey myself as well as reading everything I could find about the period. As with any research, you come across some amazing facts such as how deep is a port and what does an Ottoman slaving galley look like? But for me, the most interesting was flying into Venice to study the history of the period, knowing that part of the story would be an earthquake - and finding myself near to an earthquake at the very hour that we landed. Fortunately it was only a small quake but it was a reminder that the land of the story is real, and still here today.
4) How many books do you hope to write in the series?
Certainly four…but possibly more!
5) Is there any more discussion about The Order of Darkness being televised?
Yes, it's very early stages at the moment but we are working on a script with an excellent team – it's very exciting.
6) The White Queen is presently airing on BBC 1, how does it feel to see your characters brought to life on the screen?
I'm thrilled with the results of the TV series, I think its beautiful. I was very lucky to be a part of the casting for the series so I find all of the actors very believable and true to life. I worked on the script too and we kept it as close as possible to the novels in The Cousins' War series. I am glad to hear that readers are enjoying the series too.
7) Being such a well-established and successful author now, do you find that it gets easier or harder to write your next book?
I get an intense, deep joy from writing – just as much as from reading. I think there are technical skills that I've learned by working on my craft and my style has evolved over the years but the pleasure is just the same. Being successful means it is often easier to work with editors and publishers who tend to trust me more than they used to.
8) What usually comes first - the character, the plot or the idea when starting a new project?
In my adult books it is always the history of the characters. I find someone that I am interested in through research and then their voice and their story develops. In the case of the Order of Darkness series, where the characters and places are fictional, I started with rough outline of a plot. I knew I wanted to go on an adventure through the Europe in the 1450s but as the characters of Luca, Frieze, Isolde and Ishraq developed, they began to steer their own plot. I know where they are going - and it's a really dramatic ending!
9) Do you plot out each book before you write it or do you let the story unfold as you go along?
The historical novels have their own plot - the events are based on the history and have to follow it. The plotting with the historical novels is to decide when and where the novel begins and ends, and what of the historical facts to leave out - so that the story flows at the speed and concentration that is needed for a novel. For a more fictional approach like I use in the YA I have a general idea as to what each novel will be about - but then it develops as it goes along. This makes it great fun to write.
10) You are in high demand for public performances and discussions these days, how do you fit in writing around such a busy schedule?
I write all the time, everyday and I am lucky enough to be able to write anywhere. So when I am travelling, waiting in airports, or in between interviews I will write. But I am having to say no to a lot of invitations that I would love to do.
11) Out of all the books you have written, which one do you love the most?
I always love the one I've just finished. The Other Boleyn Girl was a huge book for me but I love this series – I found writing them exhilarating.
12) What was the last book you read and what did you think of it?
I am just in the middle of reading Ford Maddox Ford’s An English Girl and absolutely loving it.
Stormbringers was published on the 6th of June.
To find out more about Philippa Gregory: