Friday, November 22, 2013

**GIVEAWAY** Author Interview-Toby Venables- Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows

If you're like me you love the Robin Hood legend and being true to the legend sometimes means obliterating it, author Toby Venables has done just that with his more true to the times novel, Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows. So enjoy his interview and then his publisher Abaddon Books is offering two paper copies open Internationally of the novel!

  • ISBN-13: 9781781081624
  • Publisher: Abaddon
  • Publication date: 9/24/2013
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 544


    Guy of Gisburne has a story, one the liar Robin Hood has obscured for centuries. In legend he was the Sheriff of Nottingham's henchman, the man who could not defeat Hood. But this errant knight, spy for the crown and hunter of Sherwood was never anyone's accomplice, or petty hoodlum. This thrilling reinvention of the Robin Hood legend is the beginning of a major new series.

    Toby tell us a bit about Knight of Shadows
    It’s the story of Guy of Gisburne, traditionally the villain of the Robin Hood stories, but here he’s the hero. And it really does turn the legend on its head. Some people confessed to me that prior to reading it they thought it would simply be the familiar tale, just told from Gisburne’s perspective. It isn’t that. There’s no question that Gisburne is the good guy, and that we should root for him, and that Hood is a villain – but of a quite complex kind. One problem that Gisburne has is that almost no one sees him or his employer Prince John as good in any way, and many are coming to regard Hood as heroic. It’s partly about that – how legends and stories can become more powerful than the truth. Having said that, it mostly involves lots of bloody fighting and the torching of ships and castles! Gisburne is kind of a 12th century James Bond, so he tends to leave a fair bit of destruction in his wake.

    I’m a big Robin Hood fan and have read many versions from time period accurate to the romanticized legend we all know.
    Where does your version fall in the scope of things?
    It’s aiming for period authenticity, so it’s sort of a de-romanticized version. The issue with Robin Hood folklore is that, like Arthurian romances, it doesn’t really ‘fit’ any historical period very easily. We can’t trace any one figure who is Hood – although it appears to have been inspired by something – and only really know that certain references begin to appear after a certain date. Ballads about him, or including him, have been dated back to the 1400s, but there are also references in court records which indicate that ‘Robin Hood’ had become a general term for a thief or rogue before that time. When a man was arrested for poaching in Rockingham Forest in 1337 and was asked his name, he responded ‘Robin Hood’. The suggestion is that he was simply being cheeky – like a modern day villain answering ‘Al Capone!’ or ‘Jack the Ripper!’ – but it does at least show that Hood, whoever or whatever he was, was well-known by that date. It has been argued by some – quite compellingly – that he existed some time during the reign of Edward I, but over time the legends have settled themselves into the reign of Richard the Lionheart and the unofficial regency of Prince John during the king’s absence. In these, as we all know, John is the ultimate villain and Richard the ultimate hero, returning at the end to bless Robin and save Saxon England like some kind of Arthurian saint. This is all fine, except that the real Richard had no interest in England, and even less in its Saxon population. He spoke no English, hated the weather, and spent as little time in England as possible – only coming over to be crowned and to sell everything he could find in order to finance his crusade. He famously said: ‘I’d have sold London if I could find a buyer...’

    The historical Richard actually provided the key for my whole story. If Richard was a warmongering hothead with no love for England– which is essentially what he was – then Hood’s motivations and character are thrown into a very different light. And it actually becomes logical to make Gisburne a heroic figure, albeit a tragically misunderstood one, striving to maintain order in a chaotic world like a prototype Dark Knight. It’s really his story, not Hood’s, and there’s a new, rather horrific villain in Knight of Shadows. But Hood is his ultimate nemesis, always lurking in the background, and we’ll have to see where that leads...

    In terms of the story, I’ve tried to keep some elements of high adventure in there – think James Bond and Indiana Jones – but with real sights, sounds, smells and textures. I also had a list of elements from classic Robin Hood stories that I wanted to include. One is a sword fight on a staircase, as in the great climax of the 1939 Errol Flynn version. In my world, though, this fight is far messier, with a lot more blood, pain and stumbling. The next book will have a few more traditional elements – including the famous archery contest.

    What kind on novel research did you do for Knight of Shadows?
    Lots! Probably more than I needed to. I plundered hundreds of sources, and actually quoted some primary texts – first-hand descriptions of the battle of Hattin and of medieval London, for example. I also had correspondence with the Royal Armouries and Historic Royal Palaces who look after the Tower of London to better understand what the place was like in 1191. Then I went off into speculation at various points. I created some 12th century gadgets for Gisburne, for example, which was great fun – but they had to be things that actually could be realised using 12th technology.

    I think you always need to know more than actually appears on the page. You have to feel comfortable and confident in your own view of that world (and it is always only a ‘view’) – to do the research and then have it clear enough in your head that you can put the research to one side and focus on what’s really important – the characters. There’s always a possibility of the historical and cultural stuff taking over, so you end up writing ‘research’ instead of a good story. Without that backdrop, it would be totally unconvincing – but the backdrop has to remain the backdrop. It must never obscure those who carry the story. And sometimes you have to leave out interesting things that you discovered when they don’t serve the needs of that story.

    I expect there will still be moments when I didn’t get things right, and eagle-eyed readers who are even more needy than me will surely pick up on them, but I can live with that!

    So would any of your friends or relatives recognize themselves in the pages of your novels?
    Ha ha! I couldn’t possibly say... Actually, there isn’t any main character who is based on a single person – at least as far as I know. A few smaller ones may have snuck in. My parents live in Burgundy and I’ve travelled around France a lot, and there are a few cameos in there by real people I met along the way – as well as a few jokes at the expense of various places. Some things never change, the English and the French making fun of each other being one. It was more of a live issue in Gisurne’s time, of course, with a significant linguistic divide in English society – French-speaking aristocrats at the top, English-speaking commoners at the bottom, and a sometimes rather confused mix in between.

    Your first book was a fantasy/horror.
    Was it easy to switch genres?
    Do you have a favorite to write in?
    It didn’t feel like a switch at all. The Viking Dead was a kind of a historical-horror mashup, introducing zombies into a Viking context, but before the zombie action really kicked off there was a lot of time spent establishing the Viking world (featuring a couple of rather bloody encounters between rival Viking crews). It was as authentic as I could make it, with – probably – far more resaearch than a zombie novel really required! But that’s just how I wanted it to be. If you create the world convincingly, enough to really draw readers in, then they are prepared to accept all manner of strangeness later on. And, in fact, it seems all the stranger when it appears. One of my favourite reads of the last couple of years was Dan Simmons’ The Terror, which creates an utterly convincing, enthralling 1840s historical reality – then gradually goes crazy. It’s a fantastic book, which brings a horrific situation vividly to life. You can taste and smell everything in it. That’s what I want from a novel. Knight of Shadows was approached in exactly the same way. The key difference for me wasn’t the lack of a fantastical element, but the fact that it needed to tie in with real historical events. The Viking Dead didn’t do that – it didn’t need to. All the research was cultural, day-to-day stuff. But Knight of Shadows deals with kings, big events, and real people, and I wanted to ensure that it fitted the known facts as closely as possible. Each time Gisburne meets Prince John, for example, John is in a location that I know he was actually in at that time.

    Having said that, there was a moment when Knight of Shadows felt like it was turning into a horror novel... There’s a section where Gisburne’s grip on reality falters, and also some scenes involving a torturer called Fell the Maker which almost felt like I was straying into Texas Chainsaw Massacre territory. Knight of Shadows has no supernatural or fantastical elements at all – it’s recognisably the real world – but I still managed to sneak a zombie in there. You’ll have to read the book to find it. But I think whatever I were to write now, there would probably be horror elements. It’s part of my DNA.

    In a previous interview you stated that you’re also a screenwriter.
    Do you write for the big screen or for TV?
    Would we recognize any of your work?
    I’m a newcomer to screenwriting – only ten years! – and have nothing produced yet, but there is a feature screenplay that has been through numerous drafts with a film company and is now ready to go out and try to attract finance. It’s not period at all – it’s a contemporary action-thriller that starts with a huge heist, then shifts to rural Ireland where the gang is hiding out. Then some local trouble starts to brew... It’s kind of a western, in essence. There are lots of other projects, but at the moment the novels are dominating – which is fine, as they’re easier to make! Cinema is my primary influence, though, always. Writing style aside, both novels have been far more influenced by films than by other books. Some of those influences are easy to spot – but I like things that pay homage to their points of inspiration. At one point in Knight of Shadows I even have a character quoting The Italian Job. I Just couldn’t resist. In the next book – whose working title is The Red Hand – there are also some sly references to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. But I’ll say no more on that.

    Your day job is also in writing.
    Is it your hope to one day be a full time novelist?
    That would be nice! I do various writing and editing jobs, and currently edit two magazines, but also teach at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge (Screenwriting and Film Studies things, mainly). I think I’d always like to maintain the link with teaching. Discussing and exploring new ideas with students can be incredibly stimulating, but it’s also helpful to question one’s own processes from time to time, which teaching forces you to do. Plus of course, it’s social and interactive, which is a nice contrast to the solitary pursuit that writing mostly is. Having said that, if I were to spend half my time travelling to wonderful locations to research my books, and the other half writing them, I probably wouldn’t complain...

    Toby, thanks for taking the time out of your hugely busy schedule to answer these questions.
    Will there be any signings across the pond where your US fans could meet you in person?
    That would be nice! No plans at the moment – I’m getting stuck into the next book – but Knight of Shadows has gone down incredibly well in the US and it would be great to get out there and say thanks. Keep the spare bedroom free, just in case. Coffee and pancakes at 9.30am, please – and an Islay single malt on the bedside table.

    Connect with Toby - Website - Twitter

    a Rafflecopter giveaway USA, LLC


    1. I've really been loving the twists on the classic tales. So fun to have it mess with your mind a little and have you looking at things completely different.

      1. Anna, I've read one other Robin Hood novel that was more historically correct and although it's more vividly violent it clearly represents the era much better. I can't wait to read Toby's version

    2. I'd gift this book to my son! Thanks for the chance :)

    3. I'd definitely keep this for myself...I've loved anything to do with Robin Hood since I was about three years old and this sounds amazing. Thanks for a chance to win!

      1. Hi Marie, thanks for the comment and I hope you get to keep it for yourself
        Good Luck!

    4. I'm reading it now, enjoying very much. I especially appreciate touches such as the horsehide coat, which goes back to the mediaeval Robin Hood ballads.