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G. R. Grove, author of Storyteller (January 26-February 9)

Author Chat

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Jan 26, 2009, 1:55pm Top

Please welcome G R Grove, author of Storyteller! G.R. will be answering questions until February 9th.

Jan 26, 2009, 2:13pm Top

Thanks, Abby! Since I know not many people on LibraryThing have read my books, I've provided links on my profile and author pages to sample chapters and free e-book downloads of my first book, Storyteller - please help yourselves and let me know what you think. There is also more information about the series on my profile page.

Aside from the books, I'm also happy to chat about early medieval Britain, the status and future of the Welsh language, publishing with Lulu.com, how many cats I have, or anything else that interests people.

Jan 26, 2009, 9:03pm Top

How many cats *do* you have, out of curiousity?

I am working on some questions relevant to the books themselves, but am having trouble finding a particular passage that I want to reference. I will post them soon. :)

Edited: Jan 26, 2009, 9:34pm Top

Only two at this point (cute kitten picture here). The maximum I ever had was nine, but two were visiting and four were kittens. The current two are brothers, Falco and Titus (I was reading Lindsey Davis's Roman mysteries at the time), now six years old.

(edited to try & fix touchstone.)

Jan 27, 2009, 3:27pm Top

I know you didn't want to append a massive bibliography to your books, but for the curious, perhaps this would be a good place to list a dozen or so of your most important research sources?

Jan 27, 2009, 5:14pm Top

5:Oh, my, where to start... Well, one place would be my Listomania! lists on Amazon, which I set up for this reason before I got heavily involved in LibraryThing. Of course, when we get collections... :-)

Let me think about this and reply more fully later.

Jan 27, 2009, 5:35pm Top

Along those same lines, I would be interested to know where you departed from your research, or where you had to make up information to fill in the gaps. Was it difficult to make those sorts of decisions? (And I apologize that my question isn't better-informed - I just started reading the e-book yesterday and haven't gotten very far yet. I might ask about specific instances when I read more!)

Edited: Jan 27, 2009, 6:07pm Top

7: A good question! I discuss some of this sort of thing in the afterword to the books, which I posted on my blog here. Briefly, regarding Storyteller, since there isn't much in the way of historical sources for Wales in that period and since archeological survivals are also rather thin on the ground, I had to look at a lot of sources from other parts of Britain and Ireland both in the sixth century and one or two centuries earlier and later to come up with a coherant (if unverifiable) picture of the material culture. My only conscious anachronism regards the harps - there's no evidence for triangular harps in Britain or Ireland until at least a couple of hundred years later - but I felt it was such a basic part of the bardic archeotype that it had to stay.

I got into a somewhat similar quandry in Flight of the Hawk where Gwernin meets the Picts - in this case I had to review the available literature and make some decisions. Whether I got it right, who can say? At least I hope it was consistant and entertaining. ;-)

(eta - another blog post here on using archeology in fiction)

Edited: Feb 10, 2009, 6:42pm Top

5: Back to the subject of references. The two I actually list in the back of Storyteller are The Mabinogi and other medieval tales by Patrick K. Ford and Lords of Battle by Stephen S. Evans. To this I would add, in no particular order, a set of Landranger Ordinance Survey maps of Wales, Economy, Society and Warfare Among the Britons and Saxons C400 - C800 AD, Early Irish Farming, The Law of Hywell Dda, The Welsh King and His Court, Trioedd Ynys Prydain: The Triads of the Island of Britain, The Poems of Taliesin, and A Welsh Classical Dictionary. There were a lot more, but those are some that float to the top of my mind. For Flight of the Hawk, which takes Gwernin up into what is now Scotland, there was an additional set, but that's a separate post.

Jan 28, 2009, 10:44pm Top

Wrong touchstone in the previous post: it should be Lords of Battle.

Feb 2, 2009, 4:07pm Top

Well, this chat still has a week to run, and I'm hoping to get a few more questions before it's over. In the meantime, here's a question for anyone reading this.

LibraryThing's new member book giveaway program is in the process of going live today. I've been thinking of using it promote my books, but I'm not quite sure how best to do it. I'm planning to release the third book in a trilogy this summer, but clearly the appeal of a third book might not be great to people who hadn't already read #1 and #2 -- or would it?

I've been giving away free .pdf versions of the first book during this chat, and that will continue through mid-February (see my profile for details). I *might* give away a few hard-copies of the first and second books before the third comes out. (And it's also just possible that by then the books might actually qualify for ER - but that's another story.) Any ideas, suggestions, other feedback?

Or we could continue to swap cat pictures ;-)

Feb 2, 2009, 5:10pm Top

I think you might have more luck releasing a few copies of the first book to generate a bit of buzz. I know I'd be reluctant to jump into the middle of a series.

I definitely snagged one of the free downloads, but find reading on the computer v. tiring, so I'm not far enough to have any good questions yet. I'll be back, though!

Feb 2, 2009, 11:58pm Top

For what it's worth, I got an ER book that was a sequel to a book published in the 1970s. As part of the PR for the sequel, the author made a PDF of the first book available on her website for a limited time. I downloaded the PDF and read it, and then read the ARC of the sequel. I wouldn't have read the first book if it had been made available as a PDF (although reading PDFs of novels definitely has major drawbacks). In this particular case, the sequel was absolutely abysmally horrible, so it's a good thing I enjoyed the first book, otherwise my opinion of the author would be very low indeed - I don't think you'll have that problem. :)

So I guess the point of all of that is, I think people are more likely to want a promotional copy of the third of a trilogy if the other two parts are available as PDFs. In a best-case scenario, they'll enjoy the first parts so much that they'll buy them to own the whole trilogy.

Thank you for making Storyteller available in PDF, by the way! I still want to buy a copy, but my book budget is limited and most of it has to go to books for my research.

Feb 3, 2009, 1:56pm Top

12 & 13: Thanks for your responses. I agree reading on a computer isn't optimal, but it's a good way to get a taste of something. I spend all day in front of a screen, and when I settle down to read for enjoyment, I prefer an actual book ;-)

I probably will offer at least 3-4 copies of Storyteller presently, but then there's the question of the second book, Flight of the Hawk. I supposed I could offer it with a PDF of the first one included... and then offer the 3rd book with PDFs of the first two ;-)

Gwendydd: I hear you about the cost of academic books - I don't know how anyone affords graduate school any more!

Edited: Feb 4, 2009, 4:07am Top

To Caramellunacy: A Tablet PC or a dedicated etext reader device is vastly different from your average CRT or LCD monitory screen. I highly recommend trying one of those two options for eText reading.

I use a Toshiba Portege M400 tablet since it can double as a laptop when necessary and it is not bound by silly and arbitrary Digital Rights Management rules like dedicated etext reader devices often are. With over 30,000 ebooks and entire decades worth of academic journals in Adobe PDF on my (2.5 inch) hard drive, it is difficult to be too nostalgic for what used to be a monstrous task of lugging large boxes every time I moved to a different city. :)

Edited: Feb 4, 2009, 4:17am Top

To Gwernin: this is a bit obvious, but since the topic is being discussed... if you get people addicted to your texts with this trilogy, they will want more. Use this trilogy in selected and specific ways to lure a larger pool of loyal readers, and then publish, oh, say, a few dozen more books. No problem, right? :)

We will buy them. Particularly if you decide to write another trilogy based on Y Gododdin or the Mabinogion. =) The Mabinogion is especially in need of a *good* novelisation.

Edited: Feb 4, 2009, 4:26am Top

Gwernin: what is your opinion, as an author of historical fiction using primary history sources, of those same primary sources as authentic depictions and descriptions of British / Kymric culture and religious attitudes during the period of time in which your stories are plotted? By primary sources, I include nearly everything from Gildas' ravings to the monastic attempts at compiling what we now call the 'mabinogion' (four primaries plus the secondary tales).

Do you think that they they show too much Christianisation to be particularly useful as primary sources, and by that opinion relegating them to the pool of secondary source material? Or do you use them as guidelines rather than set-in-stone points of reference, which would make them at least somewhat useful primary sources?

Edited: Feb 4, 2009, 4:39pm Top

16: Regarding the trilogy, this is more or less what I'm hoping, and one reason for packaging the first three books as a trilogy instead of an open-ended series. ;-) In terms of the way I wrote it, it is really volumes 1 and 2 of a single book plus a shorter sequel, but "trilogy" sounds nicer. I have another six planned - two more trilogies - in the series, plus a prequel about Taliesin. Y Gododdin falls in the third trilogy. After that we'll see. ;-) Re-doing the Four Branches does sound like a fun idea!

On the topic of book give-aways, I'm a bit disappointed in the way the Member Give-away program has been defined. I wasn't bargaining for being part of a clean-out-your-attic free-for-all. Have to see what it looks like in a couple of months, when I'm closer to publishing The Ash Spear.

(edited to correct spelling)

Edited: Feb 5, 2009, 1:11pm Top

17: Sorry for not having got back to your second question sooner, but there have been a few things going on here which distracted me.

Regarding primary sources, their value and possible Christianisation, I think that sources of any kind for this period are too scant for me to throw anything out arbitrarily. The Taliesin and Aneirin poetry is a good example. We don't know how long the period of oral transmission was for this material, or who first wrote it down, or how much generations of monastic copiers may have changed it. And yet as guidelines to the society and material culture of their time the poems are invaluable. Do I believe every word of them is accurate factual reportage? Of course not. For one thing, I'm a poet myself, and too aware of how the demands of meter may influence word choice. But just as a few threads of cloth stuck to the back of a metal artifact in a grave can tell us much about subjects as varied as agricultural production, cloth manufacture and dyeing, and the prestige value of certain colors, so the things mentioned and not mentioned in the poetry can give us ideas of what the poets and their audiences considered important. I am not convinced that the warband of Y Gododdin consisted of exactly 300 (or 360 or 363, depending on which lines you prefer) warriors. I do believe that someone early in the poem's history thought that was an appropriate and/or plausible number for such a warband.

I'm not sure this answered the question - feel free to restate it ;-)

(edited for clarity and spelling)

Feb 7, 2009, 10:35am Top

It's saturday morning, and this chat ends monday. If anyone has questions after that, feel free to either leave a message on my profile, or (if the question is long, or of general interest) start an appropriate thread elsewhere and leave me a comment to tell me about it.

Also, I just put up a sample chapter from Flight of the Hawk here. (I picked a chapter a little way into the story because Chapter 1 contains too many spoilers from the end of Storyteller.)

Feb 7, 2009, 2:54pm Top

Gwernin, I'm assuming you have a day job in addition to your writing. Or are you lucky enough to get to research and write all the time? If you do have a day job, how do you balance research, writing, and work? As you continue writing books set in early medieval Wales, do you find that you have to keep researching, or has the research you did to write your first book carried you through the others?

I'm thoroughly enjoying Storyteller, by the way! I have had a week from hell (the planets must be aligned wrong this week), so I haven't had as much time to read as I would like....

Feb 7, 2009, 5:28pm Top

21: Hi, Gwendydd - yes, I have a day job (currently a computer geek - formerly a mining engineer/mineral appraiser, which was more fun). How do I balance research, writing and work? - with difficulty. I mostly write evenings and weekends (taking a break from that now). The problem with that, of course, is that when life intervenes, or I do something else fun for a weekend or two, I lose momentum and sometimes have trouble getting started again. However, I'm hoping to retire fairly soon (this was supposed to have been my retirement project!) and then the time problems should sort themselves out somewhat.

As far as research, yes I keep doing it - partly because Gwernin keeps wandering out of Wales and into other parts of Britain (the Pennines and Scotland in Flight of the Hawk, Yorkshire in the current book) and I have to research those areas and languages. Also I keep finding new sources for Wales. Due to the on-going research there are a few details I would change if I was starting over - for example, I didn't initially realize that there were Irish colonists in Dyfed at that period - but so far nothing major. Lack of evidence sometimes has its benefits for the storyteller as well as its drawbacks ;-)

Glad to hear you're enjoying Storyteller, and I think you're right about the planets - my week wasn't exactly great either. Hopefully next week will be better!

Feb 7, 2009, 6:46pm Top

What got you interested in early medieval Wales? It's a big jump from engineering and computers to early medieval historical fiction! I'm always fascinated to see why people are interested in the history of an obscure country like Wales.

Feb 8, 2009, 2:06am Top

I've always enjoyed historical novels, starting with Rosemary Sutcliff's books set in Roman and sub-Roman Britain, and my first declared major in college was history (ancient & medieval), but somewhere along about my sophomore year someone pointed out that job prospects for history majors who didn't plan to teach were not good. I was also taking geology then (my other hobby) and enjoying it, so I decided to switch. And on the whole it worked out very well and took me to some interesting places.

I also like studying languages, and along the way have dabbled in Latin, Spanish, French, German, Russian, and Scots Gaelic as well as Welsh. About 15 years ago I had an idea for a fantasy novel with a Welsh-speaking character, and decided to learn a little of the language so his English could reflect this. And I sort of fell in love with Welsh.

I also have some Welsh connections in my family background a couple of generations ago, which added to my interest. I visited Britain a few times and spent a week or two in Wales, following pretty much Gwernin's itinery in Storyteller. And after I got back our local newsletter editor (in the SCA - I've admitted to self-publishing, so I might as well admit to that too!) was looking for filler material, and I said I could write a couple of travel articles about Wales. Then I thought it would be fun to write them in a medieval persona. That was when I realized how little I knew about daily life in medieval Wales - and I've been researching ever since. ;-) I've been to almost all the places mentioned in Storyteller, and most of those in Flight of the Hawk. And this October we're planning to visit Ireland, so I suspect Gwernin will eventually get over there, too ;-)

Edited: Feb 8, 2009, 1:46pm Top

I haven't said anything because although I have The Storyteller I haven't read it yet-- and due to various non-fiction commitments probably won't get to it real soon. (If only it were on audiobook for my commute!) But I wanted to say that what led me to buy it was reading your recommendations on Amazon for various literary and historical works about Wales and Dark Age Britain -- all very intelligent, helpful, and well-written. That was almost a year ago, and now I see your Amazon reviews on these and related subjects have been greatly expanded and re-organized. Thanks for all the work that must have gone into that. I hope to get to The Storyteller soon, and follow up with the sequels. (And buy more of your recommendations...)
I hope this isn't a sensitive subject, but are you content to self-publish them? Compared to some of the stuff I see coming from 'real' publishers these look like something they ought to snap up...

Edited: Feb 8, 2009, 7:08pm Top

25> Thanks for your comments. I fell into self-publishing almost accidentally. As I've mentioned elsewhere, the greater part of Storyteller was written as monthly serials. After I had a fair number of chapters, I xerox-published what is now the first half of the book (A Circuit Round Wales) in a comb-bound edition for my friends. (Very limited edition - maybe 20 copies). I wrote a few more chapters, then the newsletter ceased publication and I stopped. There the project rested for several years. I thought occasionally about submitting to publishers, but I was busy with other things; besides, I had collected a few rejection letters in my twenties for stuff I wrote then, and wasn't keen to get more. Then one day I came across a mention of Lulu (I think on the Guardian site, the same place I found out about LT). I tried it out with a couple of volumes of poetry, liked the product, and decided to publish Storyteller that way. And people bought it, and I wrote more ;-) Without hassling with publishers (who it seems don't take unknown submissions any more anyway) or agents (ditto) etc. I like putting the books together (I've had a lot of experience doing technical reports) and I don't particularly want to be a best-seller. With Storyteller's history of partial previous publication and its unusual structure (which I wasn't interested in changing), it didn't seem like a good bet for traditional publication anyway. This may change as I go farther into the series, and in fact I've had an inquirey lately. But on the whole I'm enjoying what I'm doing now.

I guess that was a really long-winded way of saying that, yes, I'm reasonly content. I'm enjoying writing the stories, and enjoying sharing them with other people who like them. And I think that's the only sane reason for being a writer in the first place ;-)

(ETA I'm also thinking about audiobooks after I've finished The Ash Spear, and/or a spoken recording of some of Gwernin's stories, which I tell as a storyteller myself.)

Feb 9, 2009, 3:28pm Top

Today is the last day for this chat thread - my thanks to everyone who's participated. The free download link for Storyteller will be live for another week - see my profile for details. And watch the Member Giveaways in March, when I may be making a few hard copies available as well!

Feb 9, 2009, 11:22pm Top

Thanks, Gwernin! This has been interesting, and I'm so glad to finally get to read Storyteller!

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