William, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion for your book, "Requiem," please tell your audience about your story.
Requiem is the first in a five-part saga tracing the fortunes of a family from the Victorian age until the present day. Under the umbrella title Byland Crescent each book in the saga will concentrate on a successive generation. The story tells of Albert Cowgill’s rise from poverty in the squalid slums of Bradford in West Yorkshire, to become one of the leading figures in the textile industry. When he and his family move into Byland Crescent in the genteel seaside resort of Scarborough, it seems as if they have it all, and that their contentment will be endless. However, betrayed sometimes by their own passionate nature and at other times affected by events they cannot control, their lives are turned upside down, and the onset of World War 1 signals the requiem for a lost generation.
I am conscious that when writing historical fiction, the need for accuracy in relating factual events is crucial, so a lot of time was spent in research – and in checking dates. I may know when a particular event took place, but that doesn’t mean my fingers will transcribe it accurately. The research that was most rewarding and necessary included the assassination in Sarajevo and the events leading up to it that led to the outbreak of World War I. What I didn’t begin to comprehend was the sheer scale of the casualties during those four years. When I read the bare statistics I was both shocked and appalled by them. Nor did I appreciate how quickly it all began. Bearing in mind that in 1914 there were no computers, internet or email, no radio or TV and that very few people had telephones, for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on June 28th to lead to the whole of Europe being at war by July 28th led me to the belief that nobody was prepared to negotiate. In other words they were spoiling for a fight.
The war scenes were the most difficult and challenging part of the book to write. The more research I did, the angrier I became, both with the headlong plunge into war and the senseless slaughter that ensued. That slaughter, of millions of young men (and women) more often than not achieved absolutely nothing. I was also sickened by the increasingly brutal tactics adopted by both sides, which was signified by the concept of ‘total war’. That meant that men, women and children, be they combatants or civilians, are to be considered legitimate targets. I believe my sense of anger is reflected in the passages I wrote about this, thinly disguised as sarcasm.
Who or what inspired you to write this story?
Byland Crescent was inspired by the sight of a beautiful crescent of fine, stone-built Victorian terraced houses in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. As I looked at them, I wondered what stories those houses could tell about the people who have lived there over the years. The original concept was to write a story about each house, but I got so involved with the lives and loves of the inhabitants of No.1 that I stayed with them. However, the neighbours do enter the story from time to time, and the actions of one of them have a pivotal impact on the outcome of book 5, Reunion.
The cover photograph is of Byland Abbey, the ruined Cistercian monastery close to where I live in North Yorkshire, which gave its name to the crescent and therefore the series. The abbey itself is crucial in the lives of at least three of the leading characters in the series. I took the photograph under the expert guidance of my wife, Val, who designed the rest of the cover, including the text, blurb and review quote.
What is next up for you?
Renaissance, book 2 of the saga, which covers the period between the two world wars, is in the final editing phase. This should be available sometime in early spring. In addition, I am a third of the way through the first draft of book 3, Retribution, and have just started work on the second book in a new crime series set in the 1980s. It’s nice to be busy!
That’s a very tricky question. I enjoy a wide variety of books, but principally some historical fiction and a lot of crime.
I have just finished re-reading The Snow Geese by William Fiennes, and have started To Defy A King by Elizabeth Chadwick.
I read a thriller with what I consider to be the perfect ending, in that all the strands of the plot were drawn together by the final word of the epilogue. That word, which is a surname, caused me to gasp aloud with surprise. I don’t think you can improve on that. The book is The Stranger House, by the late Reginald Hill.
The choice would be paperback for me and e-reader for Val. However, I am increasingly aware of the value of e-readers, both to read in bed, and to take on holiday, where air travel luggage restrictions are limited. Last year, Val read 11 e-books on holiday. That would have cost a fortune in excess baggage! There is a greater than ever choice for readers thanks to the availability of e-readers, and this means they are not restricted by what established publishers consider they should read, but by what they themselves actually want to read. This increased freedom can only be good for readers and author’s alike, especially independent authors.
I found out about BRAG via the medium of social networking. Considering the network I was on, you could say that a little bird told me! I read a message congratulating Helen Hollick on one of her titles being honoured with a Medallion and decided to investigate. I liked what I discovered and put Requiem forward for consideration.
My favourite quote comes from cricket commentator and legendary West Indian fast bowler, Michael Holding, who said ‘the only problem with commonsense is that it isn’t as common as it ought to be.’
Bill Kitson is a writer of crime thrillers and historical fiction. He lives with his wife and their slightly eccentric Labrador I North Yorkshire. He lists his interests as cricket, crime, Crete, cooking, cryptic crosswords – and alliteration!
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview William Gordon who is the author of,Requiem , one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Requiem merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.