This is an unusual blog for me as I don’t often write about my books (a situation that will change as I am upgrading/changing my website soon – watch this space!) but the notion came via a lovely invitation from the wonderful writer, Josephine Pennicott, author of the fabulous Poet’s Cottage and Currawong Manor as well as award-wining crime novels. This is a “meet my character blog”, where I answer questions about a character from one of my books or a work in progress. I have chosen to discuss the lead character in my latest novel, The Brewer’s Tale which is published by MIRA, Harlequin. I really hope you enjoy learning a little more about her – thank you for the opportunity, Josephine!
1.) What is the name of your character?
When the reader first meets her, she’s called Anneke Sheldrake but due to circumstance, she undergoes a slight name change, taking her mother’s family’s name and hoping it gives her some anonymity and autonomy as well as the ability to put the past behind her.
2.) Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
She is most definitely a fictional person but her life-story is grounded in historical research and fact. Some women had incredibly tough and poignant lives and Anneke’s, with all its trials and tribulations, reflects that.
3.) When and where is the story set?
It’s set in early Fifteenth Century England, commencing in the fictional town of Elmham Lenn (on the east coast of England and loosely modelled on Bishop’s Lynn (now King’s Lynn) and Cromer) before moving to Dover, then Southwark. In order to be authentic, I not only read many, many books, articles, spoke to brewers and distillers and poured over old maps, but in the final stages of editing, travelled to the United Kingdom. At one stage, I wandered along the Thames, walking in my characters’ footsteps. I stood on the banks of the river, in Southwark, in approximately the place Anneke ends up living, which is in a dwelling called “The Swanne”. Lo and behold, when I turned my back upon the river to see what was built there now, what did I see but this…
A modern day pub called “The Swan”. I confess, I welled up and then went had a drink (or two) to celebrate! How amazing is that – not that I was drinking – but the serendipity of it all?
4.) What should we know about him/her?
After her father drowns at sea, and Anneke and her young siblings are left orphans, she is forced to make a living in order to keep her family together, so turns to what once made her mother’s family in The Netherlands prosperous, brewing ale. This not only drives her into competition with nearby producers but more significantly, the local priory who dominate the market and do not like others impinging on their trade. Beyond being an excellent and ethical brewer, Anneke is loyal, brave, smart and lovely – inside and out. But she finds being a female brewer tarnishes her reputation and exposes herself and those she loves to terrible danger.
5.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
The main conflict comes in the form of people and organisations with power – familial, social, financial, class, political, those who don’t like seeing a single, talented and lovely woman succeed – so the people representing these forces come in various shapes, sexes and sizes, from family relations to bailiffs, ale-conners, sheriffs, and the church.
There is much that “messes up” her life, and in this regard, despite so much happening, it reflects what women of that era endured. But there is always hope and love and friendship as well.
6.) What is the personal goal of the character?
To be ethical and successful; to be loyal in love and life, to care for those for whom she is responsible and to not let injustice, in any guise, win.
7.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
It’s called The Brewer’s Tale. It was its working title (drawing inspiration from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales – it even features the Wife of Bath as a character) and that never changed. You can read more about it at Harlequin’s website (which also features a video with me discussing this and my next novel) http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781488742620 or just Google the title.
8.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?
It was published by MIRA, Harlequin October this year!
Now it is my turn to nominate another author to introduce you to their character. It is with great pleasure, that I would like to introduce you to Sheryl Gwyther.
Sheryl is a children’s author and artist who has written many books, such as the wonderful Secrets of Eromanga, as well as
plays and short stories and is actively involved in the writing community and very generous with her time and support. I know she is juggling many writing balls at the moment, so I’m looking forward to discovering which of her characters she decides to let us meet.
Over to you, Sheryl!