A Warm Welcome

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to my fellow blogger on A Writer’s Retreat (and the reason for renaming this blog), Candace Robb. Candace is the creator of my favorite medieval man, Owen Archer, and the woman I’d love to grow into as I age into wisdom, Magda Digby. While I’m on requests, I’d love to know what happened to Margaret Kerr once she accepted her gift of Sight….

Candace and I share a great deal–house, husband, cats, bodies–but we enjoy thinking and writing as separate entities. Keeps us fresh, keeps us on our toes.

Welcome, Candace! I look forward to your first post.

Edward of Woodstock’s tower in Geronde estuary

Serendipity–I am working on Joan of Kent, married at one point in her life, and most famously, to Edward of Woodstock, in modern times known as the Black Prince (NOT in the 14th century). Yesterday I was doing my usual dawdle around the web before getting down to work when I happened on this story. Fascinating! I’ve highlighted in boldface the paragraph that explains the connection.

A new island in the Gironde estuary waters between Royan and the lighthouse of Cordouan
The ‘mystery island’ created by cyclone Klaus in the mouth of the Gironde estuary. Photograph: Couillaud Pascal/Sud-Ouest/Maxppp

In the early morning of 23 January 2009, the most powerful hurricane-force storm to hit France in a decade came howling in from the Bay of Biscay.

With wind speeds of up to 125mph, cyclone Klaus struck land at the point of the estuary of the river Gironde, near Bordeaux, then charged south-east to Spain and across the Mediterranean to Italy. It left 26 people dead, flattened forests and power lines and caused massive destruction of buildings and roads.

But it also left behind an extraordinary creation at the very point where its devastation began, causing the townsfolk of Royan, a fishing port situated at the mouth of the Gironde, to rub their eyes in disbelief.

Seven miles out to sea, along the frontier between the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary, an island had risen out of the boiling waters. It had a surface area of 11 acres above the highest sea level, and a base of some 250 acres at low tide. Locals soon called it “l’île mystérieuse” – the mysterious island – after the novel by Jules Verne.

“What is so remarkable about this new island, apart from its sudden apparition, is that it has since remained intact in what is often a very violent, hostile sea environment,” said Guy Estève, a retired local geomorphologist. “It could well become a permanent feature.”

The nature of its apparition was all the more fantastic given that it emerged close to the location of the lost island of Cordouan, once home to the Tower of the Black Prince, a legacy of English occupation during the 100 Years’ war. Inhabited from Roman times until the late Middle Ages, Corduan disappeared below the waves after the erosion of its limestone rock. France’s oldest lighthouse, completed in 1611 to replace Edward of Woodstock’s tower, now stands at the site.

Situated one mile east of the lighthouse, created amid Klaus’s fury from submerged sand and sediment, the new island quickly attracted scientific interest, offering a unique opportunity to study the creation and development of its ecosystem.

See the entire article here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/11/france-mystery-island-protection

Edward of Woodstock's tower in Geronde estuary

Serendipity–I am working on Joan of Kent, married at one point in her life, and most famously, to Edward of Woodstock, in modern times known as the Black Prince (NOT in the 14th century). Yesterday I was doing my usual dawdle around the web before getting down to work when I happened on this story. Fascinating! I’ve highlighted in boldface the paragraph that explains the connection.

A new island in the Gironde estuary waters between Royan and the lighthouse of Cordouan
The ‘mystery island’ created by cyclone Klaus in the mouth of the Gironde estuary. Photograph: Couillaud Pascal/Sud-Ouest/Maxppp

In the early morning of 23 January 2009, the most powerful hurricane-force storm to hit France in a decade came howling in from the Bay of Biscay.

With wind speeds of up to 125mph, cyclone Klaus struck land at the point of the estuary of the river Gironde, near Bordeaux, then charged south-east to Spain and across the Mediterranean to Italy. It left 26 people dead, flattened forests and power lines and caused massive destruction of buildings and roads.

But it also left behind an extraordinary creation at the very point where its devastation began, causing the townsfolk of Royan, a fishing port situated at the mouth of the Gironde, to rub their eyes in disbelief.

Seven miles out to sea, along the frontier between the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary, an island had risen out of the boiling waters. It had a surface area of 11 acres above the highest sea level, and a base of some 250 acres at low tide. Locals soon called it “l’île mystérieuse” – the mysterious island – after the novel by Jules Verne.

“What is so remarkable about this new island, apart from its sudden apparition, is that it has since remained intact in what is often a very violent, hostile sea environment,” said Guy Estève, a retired local geomorphologist. “It could well become a permanent feature.”

The nature of its apparition was all the more fantastic given that it emerged close to the location of the lost island of Cordouan, once home to the Tower of the Black Prince, a legacy of English occupation during the 100 Years’ war. Inhabited from Roman times until the late Middle Ages, Corduan disappeared below the waves after the erosion of its limestone rock. France’s oldest lighthouse, completed in 1611 to replace Edward of Woodstock’s tower, now stands at the site.

Situated one mile east of the lighthouse, created amid Klaus’s fury from submerged sand and sediment, the new island quickly attracted scientific interest, offering a unique opportunity to study the creation and development of its ecosystem.

See the entire article here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/11/france-mystery-island-protection

An Upbeat Article about Books

Just wanted to point you toward this refreshingly upbeat article about books.
http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2010/why-books-9-reasons-to-be-optimistic/
Enjoy!

A Making Visible: the gift of fiction

I’ve been slowly digesting an article by Wyatt Mason, “Smarter than You Think,” in the NYRB (15 July). Ostensibly a review of David Lipsky’s book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, it’s much more than that, as NYRB reviews usually are (and why I subscribe to it).

Mason suggests that readers prefer novels with narratives that move along in straight chronology to ones that jump about because the former “provides a serious, sophisticated illusion of a comprehensible world in which causation and moral consequence both obtain and are discernible.” It reminded me of a discussion over lunch several years ago with my publisher and my editor at 51NKukcYzzL._SL500_AA300_Century. I’d proposed what I thought was a compelling narrative structure for The King’s Mistress, beginning with Alice awaiting her summons to parliament and gradually revealing the story of how she arrived at such a crisis via thematic flashbacks. Both my publisher and editor felt strongly that in order to make Alice Perrers sympathetic she needed to be met in childhood, before her notoriety, and then the reader should experience Alice’s life alongside her, how she came to be who she was. As we talked I could see how satisfying this might be to a reader. (Perhaps they also dreaded the prospect of editing a book with such a complex structure?)

All the above is a prelude to presenting the idea that caught my attention this morning. Mason continues, “In the original Greek sense of the word, they [novels] are fantasies—‘a making visible.’ They put before us things that cannot be seen in life: other hearts, other minds. Their endurance is the proof of their value and the confirmation of our need for such shows of rationality.” This is what intrigues me about setting real historical figures in motion—fathoming their hearts and minds. What did they yearn for? What moved them to act? How did they feel about those around them? Whom did they trust? Whom did they fear? With Alice Perrers, I wound up writing the story solely from her point of view (see my earlier blog post about this), and though I found it wonderfully absorbing to remain in her consciousness I did yearn to reveal more of what others were thinking. I found it too close to real life! Now, with Joan of Kent (A Triple Knot), I’m writing in my preferred style, using multiple points of view, playing with what I think of as the counterbalance, seeing events from several perspectives.

Other hearts, other minds. For my own recreational reading I certainly gravitate toward writers who focus on character. My current crime favorites are Henning Mankell and Donna Leon, both with deeply realized protagonists, quite philosophical. I enjoyed Hilary Mantel’s depiction of Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall—how refreshing that she rejected the standard issue Thomas we love to hate. She set out to do for Thomas what I set out to do for Alice, reveal the human being behind the pantomime villain.

A making visible. Revealing the hearts and minds of the characters. Is this what you enjoy about reading novels? Let me know!

Emma