Today I’m delighted to be talking with Prue Batten, Australian author of historical and fantasy novels.
Hi Prue, before we focus on your own writing would you tell us about the authors and books which have had the greatest influence upon you?
Golly, hundreds! But here are a few of the many – Childhood: AA Milne, Kenneth Graham, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Henry Treece, LM Montgomery, Monica Edwards, Jean Estoril. Adulthood: Jane Austen, Dorothy Dunnett, Rosamunde Pilcher, Bernard Cornwell, Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Chadwick, JRR Tolkein, GRR Martin and for sheer fun whilst I was at university, many years ago, the Angelique series by Sergeanne Golon.
Can you tell us why you started writing?
I’ve always written. When some might have written poetry, I wrote prose descriptions of things that I saw. The next step was to create plots and develop those. I wrote a spy story at high school! I would get into frightful timing issues with pre-university exams in English when part of the paper required creative writing. An hour into a three hour exam and I was writing a novella!
Once my children had reached adulthood, I completed two courses: one in how to use a computer and one on creative writing/editing. I then wrote a YA trilogy – the books one writes as one learns to write and which languish at the bottom of a very deep, dark cupboard.
Finally I thought, ‘Dammit, just do it! Sit and write the book you’ve always wanted to write!’ That was the first of an adult hist.fantasy series called The Chronicles of Eirie. Four books later, a year ago, I finally took the bull by the horns and wrote my first ever hist.fict … it was like walking on hot coals and I loved every minute of it!
How do you research your novels?
I studied medieval history at university; one of my majors was history and post graduation, I trained as a reference librarian and later was a researcher/journalist in the media, so I understand the fundamentals of research. I access whatever printed information is available. I use my local and university libraries, and I access the internet for all the wonderful PH.D PDF’S that have been published. In addition, I belong to an amazing group of English Historical Fiction Authors on Facebook and if I have an information problem, people like Elizabeth Chadwick are very helpful, pushing me in the right direction. I should also add that I have tried where possible to ‘do’ what my characters do, to try and have that underlying veracity in my characters’ lives.
Who are your favourite characters and how do you think they would like to spend a day with you?
Can I take the characters from the hist.fiction exclusively? In Book of Pawns, aside from the narrator of the story, Ysabel, I enjoy the company of Lady Cecilia and of Brother John, Ulric of Camden as well. And in Book of Knights, I am rather taken with the twin minstrels, Tobias and Tommaso Celho. Also Mehmet, the Saracen physician. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I had a huge crush on Guy of Gisborne!
In respect of the second part of the question, it’s a tough one. Ysabel is feisty and reactive. I think she’d love to hitch the folds of her bliaut into her girdle and come out on our boat or the kayak with me and I think she’d love swimming! But Guy of Gisborne would be a challenge. A leader of men of strange and interesting backgrounds and with an instinctive need to source information for kings, I suspect he’d want to meet friends and acquaintances from my old days in the media where he could source truths and untruths. But he loves music and art as well, and plays a mean vielle, so he may like to hop on a ferry with me and travel upriver to Tasmania’s internationally acclaimed Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) … he would be unnerved by the experience, I tell you!
You write historical fiction and fantasy. Do you believe that the genres you work in cross-fertilise your writing and how useful is this to you?
Oh yes, they do. For a start, medieval backgrounds and settings tend to feature in my fantasies, so the cross pollination is immediate. Even though the later hist.fantasies were set in Middle East and Asian settings, the timeframe is still late medieval.
What would be a typical writing day for you? Do you have set times, spaces, routines or rituals?
I’m absolutely hopeless as I’m addicted to fresh air, sunshine and the great outdoors. My husband and I run a sheep farm here in Australia and we also have a large amount of garden. I love gardening, love working on the farm (in winter) and have two Jack Russells who are my best-est friends. So you can see, my writing happens when conditions are right … dogs asleep and the sky grey and gloomy, which in Australia can be fairly rare. I tend to write between 2-4 hours a day. I love writing in the dead of night and always write in longhand on which I perform the first edit as I transcribe onto the computer. I write on a laptop and sit wherever I have a view of outside. If it’s in the little townhouse, it’s on a couch looking out the window. If it’s away from the city, it’s by the window, overlooking the garden with a door or window open so I can hear the birds and waves. If it’s the middle of the night, I am often in bed with an A4 pad on my knee and a Nanna pillow behind me!
What’s been your favourite moment in your writing career?
I think I have been fortunate enough to have a few and because there have been a number, they are all equal in favour.
1. Being told by a reviewer that my writing has Dunnett-esque moments.
2. Being commissioned by BoPress Miniature Books to write a short story on Guy of Gisborne which continues to sell exceptionally well.
3. Winning the Readers’ Favourite silver medal from the USA last year for A Thousand Glass Flowers
4. In 2013, finding out that the same book and also Gisborne: Book of Pawns have made it to the final judging of another award in the USA.
5. The final moment of joy was in July 2012, when Gisborne: Book of Pawns was ranked #3 on Amazon behind Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Who in your life would have been most surprised by your writing career and why?
Myself, because I’m a mere independent writer, a Luddite and a marketing ingénue.
What is your next writing project?
The final book in The Gisborne Saga – Book of Kings.
Thank you very much, Prue.
Thank you, Martin, for your hospitality. I always find interview questions tap into parts of a writer that they themselves most often don’t know exist!
Prue’s books are available at:
And you may find Prue at these locations…