I grew up reading a dozen different versions of the King Arthur legend and loved them all. When I hit my most impressionable years, there were a few really good movies and stage plays that came out – I even saw Richard Harris live in Camelot. There was a fabulous movie, Excalibur, featuring Nigel Terry and Nicol Williamson as Merlin, Camelot of course, and the TV mini-series based on the The Mists of Avalon books.
There have been some wonderful variations on the theme. My favourites of all time, up there where I’d have trouble ranking them (so I won’t put numbers on them) are:
- Mary Stewart’s Merlin series: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment and The Wicked Day
- The Once And Future King by T.H. White
- The Pendragon by Catherine Christian and Sir Malory Thomas, which was the only novel I carried over from Australia.
The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper, most especially The Grey King, the second last in the series, which always makes me cry. This one is a bit of a stretch when it comes to King Arthur, but it’s related and if you read it as an adult, there are deeper and more profound connections to Arthur than a kid will get out of the books.
Once I became published, it was inevitable that I would turn my hand to an Arthurian tale. As it happened, I did it sooner rather than later. And because I was published first in romance, I approached the Arthurian legend from the romantic aspects.
But I didn’t want to do a sweeping bodice-ripper style story, and I didn’t want to do another The Mists of Avalon style fantasy. So I looked at the real history of the time for inspiration.
There was inherent conflict right there: The period when the “real” Arthur existed was when the Romans had more or less abandoned Britain while they concentrated on troubles closer to home, just before the Saxons conquered Britain permanently and claimed it for their own. It was a few brief years when Britain was a lost land that tried to maintain its own independence, and if there really was an Arthur, he would have had a genuine battle on his hands. The remaining Celtic tribes would have been hard enough to meld together as a fighting force – it would take a rare leader to bring them into battle against invading Saxons and win.
With all the political and cultural upheaval in Britain, battling tribal Celts and the remains of an unloved Roman culture still driving most of the daily habits of the people who lived there, I didn’t have to invent any fantasies to build my novel. I had all the conflict I needed right there in history itself.
The story wrote itself in about six weeks, once I had done my basic research.
I eventually published the story with Hardshell Word Factory, in 2000. Unfortunately, at that time, ebooks were not popularly accepted and the book failed to find any traction with readers at all. When I managed to talk anyone into reviewing the book at all, I got fabulous reviews, but that didn’t convince anyone to buy the book. Resistance to ebooks back then was the equivalent to bubonic plague. Many people didn’t know what ebooks were and promotion was mostly a matter of education, followed by rejection.
After ten years, I finally got a second chance with Diana by the Moon. Ebooks had become – well, not quite the norm, but much closer to being a more common way to read than they were ten years before, so I didn’t have to work to explain what an ebook is, but could concentrate on selling the story, instead. It was such a relief! Diana by the Moon was nominated for the Frankfurt Ebook Award the year it was first released, came fourth in the Emma Darcy Award, and received so many five-star and rave reviews, it was great to it finally got a chance to reach new readers.
In mid-2011 I began pulling all my books from from Ellora’s Cave, including Diana by the Moon, where it was published under the Ceridwen Press imprint (the non-erotic side of the publisher). Now I get another swipe at another fantastic cover, give the book a permanent home, and share it with even more readers.
What’s your favourite Arthurian tale?