Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Second Jezebel .. What It Takes To Write

It’s a pleasure today to welcome author Peter Mowbray to Thoughts in Progress to talk about his latest release, THE SECOND JEZEBEL.

Peter's love of history and his fascination with Catherine de Medici is plain to see in his newly published novel. The book, set seventeen years after the infamous Massacre of Saint Bartholomew, concludes Peter's interpretation of Catherine's story which began with his first novel, The Serpent of the Valois.

Here’s a brief synopsis of THE SECOND JEZEBEL:

          The slaughter of thousands of French Huguenots on a sultry August night in Paris 1572 will forever stain the reputation of the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici.
          As Catherine lays dying 17 years later she relives her most heinous crime as well as her machinations to keep herself and her sons alive and secure the throne of France for the Valois dynasty. For their survival she would employ any weapon be it the cold steel of an assassin blade or a subtle, but deadly potion from her personal closet
          Plots, murders, deceptions and fear all play their part in a long life that has turned Catherine from an innocent Italian Duchess to a duplicitous mother who could smile at murder.
          The tempestuous journey from The Massacre of St Bartholomew to her deathbed is remembered, as all she has achieved now threatens to destroy her.   

THE SECOND JEZEBEL is available on Amazon.

Peter joins us now to talk about what it takes to make a writer. Welcome, Peter.

To make a writer
Telemachus, how did it come about?

For someone who has spent a long career treating Thoroughbred horses - for everything from infertility to racing performance - the transformation to writer has been a long, unlikely and tenuous road. I started dabbling with a pen back in the Seventies, realized it wasn’t a natural talent of mine, but doggedness convinced me to continue. I read a lot of fiction, but always with reservations about copying style or ideas. It was my aim, if I might ever succeed, to have a voice that would be distinctly my own and I didn’t want to steal anyone else’s ideas – even subconsciously. So I muddled on and the efforts weren’t very good; if I was learning and felt there were mild signs of improvement – as well as an innate inability to accept failure.

Then, in the Nineties, I was approached to do some equestrian books for J A Allen, in London. That was easy, because I had the training, had read extensively, was very familiar with the subject matter. But that wasn’t real writing, even if there would be a total of 12 books. I’d never be a writer unless I could produce readable fiction.

There’s a myriad of projects here I started and never managed to get an agent or publisher to read. My shelves are laden with ideas and printed pages – but the standard of writing was never good enough. I took classes, but with a terrible determination not to be influenced by others, to be absolutely individual. So I trundled on and all my family said ‘Poor Pete’ – he’s a sad case, and useless.

There were some tiny bits of encouragement, maybe: an agent told me I had ‘a voice’.; another could see seeds in incubation. When my Dad died, I wrote some blank verse and was told I was a poet – not a writer. I’m not a poet.

Then Telemachus slipped into being; a bit of fun really, created in a moment of sadness, but a delight to write – and it didn’t take very long. Perhaps longer to refine, but the story poured out in a matter of weeks in which I could enjoy every moment, every line; have a laugh at my ingenuity.

Still, when finished, it was only my bit of fun and nobody else would want to read it. Classified as ‘rubbish’ by members of my family, even my own children were so convinced I was a failure they raised their eyebrows and tut-tutted.

I thought of trying to put it on Amazon myself, but was afraid I wouldn’t do it properly, that I would mess up the formatting and I really needed an independent edit anyway, an opinion by somebody objective, truthful and professional about its quality - if I personally believed strongly in it. But where do you find someone like that and how could I afford to pay them? You’re thinking ‘hens teeth’!

Then, a year ago, surfing the net one day, I came across a website that offered the whole package for a sum I thought was very reasonable. They would proof-read, edit, format, help with cover design, write blurbs, advice on marketing, place it on Amazon – and all for a figure that was less than the cost of a professional edit. I submitted a Word file on a Sunday afternoon and, to my complete dismay, had a response within an hour. My proposition looked ‘very promising’, I was told. Two days later, I had a seven-page free assessment that was glowing as well as comprehensive. I sent it to two of my children and both screamed loudly ‘Beware, it’s a fraud’. Still, I decided to gamble; it’s in the blood, see? And I felt the work would be ready with an edit. It proved to be the best gamble ever for me; the book was on Amazon’s website within two months. Realistically, they did no proof reading after the initial assessment, I had to change one or two things that should have been blatantly obvious. The editing, too, was a complete farce, had clearly been farmed out, and the standard was so poor I had to spend a couple of days correcting the corrections!

The man responsible for the service was named Dai Williams; he had had a long career in the publishing world and certainly knew all about books. He has since been accused of fraud, but I owe him a debt of gratitude. He died and was no fraudster, just a human being trying to secure his family in the knowledge he was going to die. 

I was quite prepared to take the book down if it got bad reviews, but, to my amazement, they were positive from the start. People talked about the quality of the writing, the intricacies of the story, the underlying mystery of it all. But I was twice as amazed when I got the report from the Writer’s Digest judge, which almost duplicated Dai Williams’ assessment and even went a bit further. To be told by a judge in a competition that ‘ – the depth of the allegory is astounding’ was astounding for me. That he could say it was ‘brilliant’ and ‘an achievement’ meant I had finally got to where I wanted.

Maybe I can call myself ‘a writer’ now!

Peter, thanks for joining us today and sharing this look at what it takes to be a writer. I would say, yes you are a writer now.

For those unfamiliar with Peter’s writing, I’ll let him tell you a bit about his background.

Author Peter Mowbray
My name is Peter Mowbray, I am a “young at heart” 56-year-old, married to Sally and have 2 grown up sons Oli and Ross, we live just outside the regatta town of Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire. I work as an office administrator for a conference and event production

I’ve always had a passion for history, even as a young child, and was fascinated by one particular character from sixteenth-century European history - Catherine de Medici. From the infamous Medici family, who became a Queen of France.

From what I had read and learned, I decided to put together my own interpretation of  Catherine’s story. After studying for and gaining a diploma in historical writing I wrote my first novel – “The Serpent of the Valois” which was self-published in 2013.

The second part of this work is available this month. “The Second Jezebel” concludes my story of this enigmatic woman.

The idea is to learn and write more about some of the fascinating characters that have lived and loved, and who have a story to be told.

Thanks, everyone for stopping by today during Peter’s visit. Has there ever been a character from history that you were (or still are) fascinated with?


  1. Congratulations, Peter. You are indeed a writer. You were when you penned those first few sentences. I think you are amazing for pushing through even when things weren't going your way. Both your books sound amazing. When I first wanted to publish, I was unfortunate enough to have lost a lot of money thanks to a scam literary agent. But, lesson learned. You definitely came out better regardless of your obstacles. Definitely keep writing;) You are good at it.

  2. Peter, thanks again for visiting with us today and telling us about your story. I agree with Murees, you are indeed a writer. Keep up the good work. Wishing you much success.

    Hi and thanks to everyone who stops by today.

  3. You were a writer even before that book. And now you know you can keep writing.

  4. This sounds absolutely fascinating. And yes, no doubt about it, you are a writer. Thanks for sharing, both.

  5. Keeping on keeping on is sure the way to be, sure sign of a writer even before the first word hit the page.

  6. The book sounds fascinating. And, yes, you are definitely a writer.

  7. Hi Mason and Peter - love the sound of this book - and what a fascinating journey to publication ... inspiring for us all. Definitely on my TBR list - as I could do with learning more about that part of history ... thanks - congratulations and good luck - cheers Hilary


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