Author Archives: Hilary Green

Latest Novel

A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR

The year is 2005. Britain has left the EU and has been subjected to a terrorist attack similar to that of 9/11. As a result, the country is now governed by an extreme right-wing party, kept in power by nationalist thugs…

I called it ‘alternative history’ …. now it seems to be coming true. Am I clairvoyant – or is this just coincidence?

NEW NOVEL

A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR

The year is 2005. Britain has left the EU and has been subjected to a terrorist attack similar to that of 9/11. As a result, the country is now governed by an extreme right-wing party, kept in power by nationalist thugs. The Prince of Wales in assassinated and the Queen dies, leaving twenty-three year old Prince William to accede to the throne. He refuses to act as a figurehead for a regime he abhors, but what is the alternative? Into this situation comes a beautiful young American starlet, in Britain to make a film about Bonnie Prince Charlie. What follows is a series of exciting events which will change the history of the country. Romance, conspiracy, kidnapping, plot and counter plot create a fast moving thriller which will keep the reader on the edge of the seat to the last page.

Out on Kindle on June 23rd. Available for pre-order now.

Swan Lake — Scottish Ballet

I went to see the Scottish Ballet’s new production of Swan Lake at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool last Thursday. I have to admit I was disappointed.

The objective, obviously, was to produce an updated version, freed of the clutter of the traditional staging. So, out went the beautiful scenery and the lovely costumes. No opulent court, no mysterious, magical forest, no lake – and no swans. The corps de ballet wore leotards, colour shaded to give each of them a very unflattering white bum. Out went all the conventional choreography,; no dance of the little swans, no variations for the attendants of the potential brides. Out, too, went most of the story. No pushy queen mother desperate to get her son married off, replaced by a friend of the prince’s own age who seemed unnaturally concerned that he should find a girl friend. More importantly, no wicked wizard Rothbart, thus removing the mainspring of the plot. Just who Odette was, and what her problem was, was never made clear. We had Odile, and her seduction of the prince was the liveliest section of the ballet; but no mutual suicide after his betrayal, no apotheosis for the lovers; instead a fourth act which largely consisted of an overlong pas de deux for the prince and Odette, who should have been swept out of his reach as soon as he proposed to her double.

So what are we left with? A group of talented young people dancing their socks off in a grey box. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll take the conventional production any day.

Newsletter for January, February ad March 2016

This is a hard letter to write. As you know, I was working as a creative writing teacher on board the Marco Polo, en route to S. America. We got as far as Rio and then received a phone call to tell us our elder son had been killed in a road traffic accident in China. He was there on business and he was in a taxi on his way to the airport when there was a collision and he suffered fatal head injuries. Of course, we had to cancel the rest of the cruise and head for home. It took us 28 hours to get back. Since then, life had revolved around arrangements for the funeral, which will take place on March 18th. We have had to wait such a long time because it took weeks to get his body repatriated. It is a time when your whole view of the future is completely disrupted and so much needs to be re-thought. He leaves a wife and two children – Amy was 18 just a week after her father’s death.

Needless to say, I have not been writing; but there seems little point anyway. My career as an author has hit the buffers. Now that Robert Hale Ltd has gone out of business I am without a publisher and so far I can’t get any agents interested in my work. I have two volumes of a projected trilogy set around the time of the First Crusade ready to publish, but no one is interested. I don’t know whether to go back to writing about WWll or try something completely different. We had such hopes of Twice Royal Lady. John Hale said it was one of the best pieces of historical fiction he had ever read, but sales have been disappointing. It seems you have to write either about the Romans or the Tudors to find a readership these days.

Enough of my moaning! Perhaps I will be able to write more positively in a month or two.

NEWSLETTER FOR DECEMBER 2015

It has been a quieter month than October/November, thank goodness! Less rushing around, but still busy. The talk at Darwen was a bit disappointing because very few people turned up; but on the plus side it was lovely to meet Elizabeth Ashworth, a facebook friend and fellow writer, in the flesh. We found we had a lot in common and had a good chat at the end of the session. The ladies who did come along were very friendly and seemed to really enjoy the talk, and bought several books, which was encouraging.

The big new is that we are off on another cruise on January 5th. I’ve been asked to teach Creative Writing on board the Cruise and Maritime ship Marco Polo, cruising to South America. We call at ports all along the eastern coast, including Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, then go over to the Falklands and the Straits of Magellan, and then work our way back northwards. It sounds really exciting, as we have never been to South America before. I shall only have to teach on the days when we are at sea, but that adds up to about 30, so it is a lot of time to fill. I am hoping for a really lively group of passengers to help things go with a swing. Whatever happens, it will be easier than the drama coach job I did on the last voyage!

This means, of course, that I have had to get ahead with a lot of things I might otherwise have left until after Christmas, particularly in the garden. We shall not be home until the last day of February, so clearing up dead stuff and pruning shrubs can’t be left until we get back. That, along with the usual preparations for Christmas, has kept me pretty busy, as you can imagine.

I am still hoping to find an agent who will take me on and, hopefully, get a publisher interested in IRONHAND. I’ve finished the sequel, GOD’S WARRIOR, but the third book in the series will probably have to wait until we get back from the cruise.

I’ll try to keep in touch while we are away, but knowing how difficult and expensive internet connections can be on board ship I shall have to keep my posts to a minimum.

Meanwhile, I wish you all a Very Happy Christmas and health and good fortune in the New Year.

Hilary

NEWSLETTER FOR SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2015

Oh dear! Is it really that long since my last letter? Time just seems to disappear these days.

So, what news is there? At the end of September I was in Whitley Bay again, at the studios of Soundings, to record the audio version of TWICE ROYAL LADY. It’s a pretty intensive exercise, two six hour days plus another couple of hours on the last morning. We work in sessions of one and a half to two hours, and reading aloud for that length of time, trying not to fluff and to bring out the characters and the changes of pace and mood in the story, is quite hard work. But the producers, who sit at the recording desk in the next studio and keep a check on everything, are very helpful and understanding. In spite of the effort of concentration, I really enjoy doing it because it seems to bring the characters to life in a way that reading the text doesn’t – even when it is something that has lived in your imagination for months. I hope that it does the same for people who listen to the books. If any of you have listened to one of my recordings, I’d love to hear from you.

If you remember, I told you that sales of the printed text of ‘Lady’ were disappointing, particularly to the libraries. So I spent a long time checking the on-line catalogues of as many libraries as I could contact to see if they had a copy. To my surprise, I found that several of them had the audio version and not the book. I emailed all those who did not have it, and found that quite a few did not even know it had been published and said they would order a copy at once. It seems that in many cases some unknown person at some central point decides which books get sent to the libraries, instead of the librarians being able to choose. So it would be very helpful if you could check your own library’s catalogue to see if they have it.

In October I went down to London again to teach the Brick Lane group, as mentioned in my last letter. It was an very interesting weekend. There was a wide variation among the members of the group, in age and background. Many of them were of Asian origin, some born in the UK, others recent immigrants, but there were also ethnic Brits, so we had a variety of cultural perspectives. They were all lively, intelligent people, well educated and well read, so they were a pleasure to work with. I hope that as a result of the classes they will be able to come up with some really interesting stories.

As it happened, I already had tickets for the Cumberbatch Hamlet on the Friday night, so that worked out very well. I thought the production was excellent and I admired Cumberbatch’s interpretation very much. It was the first time I’ve seen a Hamlet with a sense of humour! He really enjoyed pretending to be mad and the audience laughed more often than at any other production I’ve seen; but that did not distract from the inherent pathos of the play.

We also managed to get tickets for ‘Farinelli and the King’, with Mark Rylance, another actor I admire very much. It’s an ingenious story about a king of Spain who suffers from some kind of mental instability and can only be calmed by the voice of the castrato, Farinelli. It was staged as if we were back in the C18, with candlelight as the only illumination, and the part of Farinelli was doubled, shared between an actor for the speaking part and a counter tenor for the singing. Rylance is brilliant, as always.

As far as the writing goes, I am at a bit of a standstill. It’s hard to motivate myself when there is no assurance that the work will get published. I’m hoping that I might find an agent who will take IRONHAND on and find a publisher; meanwhile I’m working on the sequel, GOD’S WARRIOR. If the worst comes to the worst I can always self-publish, as I did with THE LAST HERO.

Speaking of which, I was excited a week or so back to hear on the radio that a group of archaeologists from the University of Cincinnatti had made a fabulous discovery while excavating near Pylos. They have found the tomb of a Bronze Age warrior, complete with a wonderful collection of treasure in bronze and silver. Pylos, is, as those of you who have read the book will know, the setting for THE LAST HERO, and much of my research was based on the earlier work of Professor Carl Blegen of that university, in excavating the palace of King Nestor. The warrior whose grave they have discovered lived earlier than that, but he must have been an ancestor of my hero, Alkmaion, and the discovery is further evidence of what a brilliant and sophisticated society existed there. I managed to find the name of one of the leaders of the current excavations and sent her an email, telling her about the book. I’m delighted to say that she is a fan of historical fiction and asked for a copy. I’ve sent it and shall wait with bated breath for her reaction.

So, it’s been a busy month, as usual. On December 4th I am talking about my books at Darwen library, near Blackburn, so if any of you live near there and would like to come along I’ll be delighted to meet you.

Newsletter for August 2015

NEWSLETTER FOR AUGUST 2015

I’ve been a bit lax in keeping up to date with these letters. Blame the garden and a glut of French beans, runner beans, courgettes etc etc – to say nothing of the weeds!

I have also been busy working, though not doing much writing at the moment. Until I find a publisher for IRONHAND there isn’t much incentive to write more. However, at the beginning of the month I was in London, teaching another two day course on writing historical fiction at the City Literary Institute. It all went well and as a result I have been asked to repeat the course in October for a group in Brick Lane, who are working on a project about the history of the East India Company. We managed to squeeze in a couple of theatre visits while we were there, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed in both. ‘Hay Fever’ is one of favourite plays and I was looking forward to seeing Felicity Kendall as Judith, but it was the last night and I had the impression that she was very tired and couldn’t wait to get the performance over! Next night we saw ‘Constellations’, a two hander with an interesting premise – that in parallel universes the same actions can have very different results. Unfortunately, this led to a great deal of repetition as the same scenarios were played out with different endings.

Later in the month we had a few days away, first on Derwentwater and then in Pitlochry. Both are lovely places and we were lucky with the weather, so it made a nice break. Pitlochry has a beautiful modern theatre, which stages an ambitious summer season. We saw a new play, ‘Pyrenees’, extremely well written and acted and better than anything we saw in London.

So here we are in September and the summer (what summer, I ask myself) is almost over. Next week I’m off to Whiteley Bay to record ‘Twice Royal Lady.’

Adventures of a Visiting Speaker

I was asked to talk to the Little Bollington WI – subject Women At War. Looked up the venue on the net and it seemed fairly straightforward – basically straight up the M56 and then a short diversion. However, decided I’d better take the Sat Nav just in case. Big mistake! Instead of sticking to the M-Way she (my Sat Nav’s name is Jemima by the way) decided we should take the scenic route. After about half an hour of wandering through the country lanes she told me to turn right, down a road that was clearly marked as a dead end. I ignored her and hoped she would find another way round. After a long diversion she brought me back to the same point. ‘Turn right!’ she ordered. I was in the middle of nowhere, with no identifiable landmarks. Beginning to panic by this time, I telephoned the number of the lady who had asked me to speak. She had left, but her husband eventually managed to work out where I was. ‘Oh, you’re almost there.’ he said. ‘Keep on along the main road and take the first turning on the left.’ Reassured, I set off again. None of the roads to the left seemed to be what I wanted and I found myself at a busy and complicated roundabout system. Jemima had completely lost the plot by now and wanted to take me back across the M-Way, which I knew must be wrong. I consigned her to the glove box and phoned again. No answer! I headed back the way I had come. Now half an hour late and reduced to a gibbering wreck I rang the lady’s mobile. ‘I’m completely lost! I’m sitting outside a pub called the Swan with Two Nicks.’  ‘Oh, you’re nearly here. Wait and I’ll send someone to find you.’ This she duly did and it turned out I was withing half a mile and had already driven past the place once! So, instead of arriving in good time, cool, calm and collected, I arrived hot, bothered and teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Luckily, the members were still dealing with the business of the meeting so I had time to draw breath. In the end, the talk went very well and I sold a lot of books – and afterwards I was given a guide to get me back to the motorway. So it was worth it in the end – but boy! was I glad to get home!

Review of The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton

This is an intriguing book but I found it ultimately disappointing. Set in Amsterdam during the 17th century it tells the story of Nella, an initially naïve country girl trapped in a marriage of convenience to a wealthy merchant. The author admirably conveys the claustrophobic atmosphere of a city in the grips of extreme puritanism and Nella’s desire to become a ‘proper’ wife and to fit into this society. Little by little we come to understand that her husband, Johannes, is hiding a deep secret and that he is in rebellion against the laws and customs of the time. He is shown as an attractive man, but Nella cannot understand why their marriage is not consummated.

Another character who plays an important part in the story is Nella’s sister-in-law, Marin, who has been used to running the household and seems to resent Nella’s arrival. She appears to be a very strong personality but she, too, has a secret. As the story progresses we see these two strong people slowly disintegrate under the blows of fate, while Nella grows into someone capable of taking over her husband’s business and coping with, first, the death of Marin in childbirth and then the execution of Johannes by drowning.

So far, so good. The characters are believable and we become involved with their fates and the slow transition of Nella from a rather pathetic little girl to a strong woman is well portrayed. But here is what I find is the weakness of the book. Early in the story, Johannes buys Nella what amounts to an elaborate doll’s house, which is a miniature copy of the house she now lives in. Nella see an advertisement by the miniaturist of the title and orders some pieces of furniture for it. From then on, more and more items arrive, unordered, and each one shows an uncanny knowledge of the household. Later tiny dolls representing Nella and Johannes and Marin appear and the miniaturist appears to be able to predict what is going to happen to them. Nella makes repeated attempts to contact this mysterious person, who is apparently female, but only catches tantalising glimpses of her.

All through the book I waited to discover who this person is and how she knows so much, but the changes in the miniature dolls, echoing or foretelling what is happening to their real life counterparts, became more and more inexplicable and ultimately unbelievable. The book ends with no resolution to the mystery and I found this most unsatisfactory. If an author chooses to present her readers with a mystery at the start of a book, I feel we have a right to some explanation by the end of it. Did the author herself have any answer?The use of the miniatures is a clever plot device, but ultimately I felt Burton was cheating. There seems to me to be a trend in modern writing to introduce supernatural elements into otherwise realistic stories in order to add twists to the plot, but personally I think this is illegitimate. It is a pity, because the book stands on its own merits and does not need this extra elaboration.