Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Author Deborah Valentine: Writing Historical Time Travel

I recently had the pleasure of reading author Deborah Valentine’s historical time travel fantasy, THE KNIGHTMARE, and now I’m delighted to welcome her to Thoughts to talk about her writing.

Deborah is a ‘new-to-me’ author who once lived in California. Knightmare_signatureHowever she far prefers the British weather, so she fled to London where she has resided for many year. With the publication of THE KNIGHTMARE she has embarked on a new series of books with a supernatural edge. 

Here’s a brief description of THE KNIGHTMARE:

    France, 1209: A Knight Templar riding through an eerie forest is suddenly attacked by an assassin as a man and woman watch from a distant hillside. When his death seems certain, the woman takes up a sword...
    Present, Formula 1 race, Magny Cours: Observed by the very same couple, Conor Westfield, a career-obsessed Scottish driver, is in a horrible racing accident. Miraculously, he survives what seemed to be certain death.
    As he is recovering from his injuries Conor’s childhood nightmare recurs, a strange jumble of terrifying images that feel more like memories than dreams. Can it be mere coincidence that the very next morning he is informed a mysterious woman with whom he had very brief affair has died and left him as her heir? But this was no ordinary woman and no ordinary affair. Dogged by a niggling feeling of déjà vu, Conor travels to Amsterdam to identify the body. At her home he finds an illuminated book that transports him back in time, to a woman he left behind and a life lived in the shadow of a tragedy that cries out across 800 years for resolution.
    Weaving history with the present, fact with fantasy, The Knightmare is an unforgettable story of angels and alchemy, betrayal and sacrifice, and a truly extraordinary love.

Deborah has graciously answered some questions about her book and her writing.

Mason - THE KNIGHTMARE has such an intriguing plot, what inspired you to write this story?

Love. Love of history, love of the story of Abelard and Heloise who lived in the 12th century. I based Conor’s medieval parents on them, though I’ve changed their names and, as is the way of storytellers, altered facts and fiddled time frames. But I also wanted to make the story directly relevant to contemporary audiences. I’m fascinated by how watching our parents’ lives as a child influences us as adults. The story is an exaggerated illustration of this idea. 

The Knight Templar’s perception of his parents’ unhappiness is the driving force in his decision-making. Conor has to go back to this past life as a Knight Templar to discover the influence his parents’ passions have had on him even to the present day and come to terms with his parents as people in their own right and not judge them harshly. In learning to accept them just as they are, his human understanding deepens and he finds his own ability to love.

Also, love of action/adventure (I’ve talked a lot about the sub-text, but I do believe in character-driven plot) and fantasy rooted in something that might – just might – be possible. Dr. Ian Stevenson did some fascinating academic research on reincarnation which is definitely worth a read.

Mason - Your book is a historical time travel fantasy, how did you do research for it?

As a teenager I read THE COLLECTED LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE, a Penguin Classic
and it made a big impression on me. It’s a period I’ve studied ever since. I’ve read books,

travelled to relevant locations, gone to museums and exhibitions – anything medieval gets my attention. So I guess I should say it’s been a life-long study. I start losing interest in history around the 16th century – not completely, but certainly after the medieval period it doesn’t capture my fancy with the same intensity, at least not at this point. I also read up on magic and alchemy, and used myself as a guinea pig for a Tarot reading which was great fun – a bit strange but, as I say, great fun and just a wee bit spooky.

Mason - As a British author do you find blogdom helps or hinders you in getting your books known in the US and other parts of the world?

Definitely, yes, it helps. Not just that, it’s just lovely to connect with people in this way.

Mason - Of all the characters in THE KNIGHTMARE, do you have a favorite and if so, who and why?

That’s a hard one because I’m terribly attached to all of them. However, if forced to make a decision... probably Van Cleef/Saracen. He’s so rude! I love that. He’s blunt and earthy, yet honest and honourable. He has one line in particular: “I take heart that perhaps in this life I was ugly born, then made exceedingly ugly, so that I may be beautiful in another. A hope not unlike that of your heaven, but more earthly bound.” And that kind of sums him up! 

Despite his brutal observations there’s something always good-humoured about him, and his perceptions are very often accurate. In his medieval incarnation he has been grotesquely mutilated, but in the contemporary incarnation he’s truly beautiful-looking, one of those people whose age you just can’t guess. And, of course, being honest – no false modesty there! — he knows it. He never fails to make me laugh. He’d be a great night out if you were looking for company and weren’t too sensitive.

Mason - Tell us at least one thing (more if you’d like) about THE KNIGHTMARE and its characters that we won’t discover reading the book.

I didn’t discover this myself until several drafts in – that I’m a lot more like the Conor character than I ever suspected! It came as a bit of a shock. I’m no hero, of course... but certainly I think I have some of his less attractive, more anal qualities! We are far from being carbon copies though.

Also, the character of Alun has a great secret but you won’t discover what it is until the next book, so I can’t say any more or it would be a spoiler. The same thing is true of Mercedes’ so-called guardian, The Baron. Despite what Conor as the Templar thinks, he actually does exist but there will be more of that later... and it’s a shocker. And Mercedes has scars across her hands that are unexplained in the book but will be revealed when the time comes. I’m sorry, that’s all I can say or we’re heading into spoiler territory again!

Mason - What other type of books have you written?

I have a series a crime fiction published by Victor Gollancz in the UK, and Bantam and Avon in the US. In July 2013, they are coming out as eBooks through Orion’s The Murder Room imprint. They centre round the characters of former California Sheriff Kevin Bryce and his artist girlfriend Katharine Craig. They have a rather complex relationship! Not the smoothest. The books themselves change in tone from more ‘conventional’ crime to noir to thriller as well.

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

I’m working on a sequel to THE KNIGHTMARE called WHO IS HUGGERMUGGER JONES? It’s at the first draft stage right now. I’m having a good time researching it. It’s set in Wales, one of the most beautiful magical places on earth. I don’t outline – I know the first line and I know the last when I start a book – so I’m looking forward to seeing how it all pans out! I can only say it will be a mixture of magic, danger, adventure and romantic chaos with a bit of second sight thrown in for good measure. Life as usual.

Deborah, thanks for joining us today. Your love of the medieval period definitely comes through in the book and transports the reader there. Sounds as though we’re in for another treat with your next book.

Here’s a bit of more background on Deborah. She is the author of three books previously published in the UK and the US. UNORTHODOX METHODS was the first in the series, followed by A COLLECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHS and the Ireland-based FINE DISTINCITIONS. A COLLECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHS was short-listed for an Edgar Allan Poe, a Shamus, a Macavity and an Anthony Boucher award. FINE DISTINCTIONS was also short-listed for an Edgar. They featured the characters of former California sheriff Kevin Bryce and artist Katharine Craig, charting their turbulent romance amid murder and mayhem. They are soon to be available as eBooks on the Orion imprint The Murder Room. 

For more on Deborah and her writing, visit her website http://www.deborahvalentine.co.uk/ or THE KNIGHTMARE Facebook page. She is also a Goodreads author.

Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Does the medieval period make you think of knights, mysteries, magic and romance?


  1. Deborah, thanks again for joining us. The medieval period is fascinating and you've created an intriguing story from it. Wishing you much success.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Deborah.

    Deborah - It's good to hear that your interest in writing was fueled more than anything by love of history. I think that an author's love of a topic comes through in what s/he writes. I wish you much success.

  3. I admire anyone who can master time travel in a novel. I've never heard anyone say they prefer British weather. I moved from London to California as soon as I could.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.