06 April 2014

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Danny Adams on LEST CAMELOT FALL

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Danny Adams with his latest novel,  LEST CAMELOT FALL.  The author will offer a free DIGITAL copy of Lest Camelot Fall to a lucky blog visitor.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

Millions of people around the world know the legend of King Arthur, but the stories always end with Arthur’s death and never reveal what happened to the surviving Knights of the Round Table—or Camelot itself. Lest Camelot Fall begins with Arthur’s death and tells of the survivors’ struggle to keep Camelot’s flame of freedom burning against the darkness both of Saxon invaders and native British would-be tyrants.

Lucian Aurelianus is a descendant of Roman emperors and British kings alike, as well as being Arthur’s cousin. He receives an urgent summons to Camelot from Merlin only to arrive after the slaughter of the Battle of Camlann, in time to see Arthur’s body taken away to Avalon. Soon afterward Lucian’s brother, Constantine, claims the right to be High King of Britain—and exiles anyone who challenges him, including the surviving Knights. At the same time, the sons of Arthur’s nephew and mortal enemy, Modred, have joined forces with the Saxons, along with soldiers from a reborn Roman Empire with designs on Britain, for a final attack against Camelot.
Lucian decides he must stay to help Merlin and the Knights—and his increasingly despotic brother—if anything of Arthur’s dream is to survive. Ultimately he will do whatever it takes to keep Camelot alive, even when that means challenging the armies of southern Britain, enduring Saxon slavery, and the possibility of taking what is left of Camelot and leaving Britain behind forever.

**Author Interview with Danny Adams**

How did you come to write about Camelot after Arthur had died?

I’d always wondered what happened to the surviving Knights of the Round Table after Arthur’s death, though the medieval stories weren't much help – some say, for example, that many of the survivors went to the Holy Land to fight the “Infidel”, but in the 6th century A.D. Islam didn’t exist, and the Holy Land was in the hands of the (Christian) Eastern Roman / Byzantine Empire.

I got to thinking about this again after reading Jack Whyte’s fabulous (and super-realistically detailed) Chronicles of Camulod series, and this time went looking for answers among the earliest medieval stories of Arthur, primarily from Wales and Cornwall with some from Brittany thrown in. Those writers were as interested in the question as I was, and not long into the process of this research before I realized I wanted to answer my own question by writing a novel about them. Lest Camelot Fall, well flavored with pieces of those early tales, was the result.

What famous author do you wish had written about Camelot / King Arthur, and what writing styles are best adapted for telling that story?

This is a quirky question for me because the author I would most like to have seen write it didn’t write in the style I think would be best for it. I would have been interested in seeing James A. Michener’s take on it – it would have been epic and the period detail would have been meticulous. (And he likely would have written about all the generations leading up to Arthur’s death too, as Jack Whyte did.)

But while he wrote adventure tales and about people up against incredibly difficult circumstances, the sheer scope of his work meant a lot of characterization was left out. And I think the characters are really at the heart of the story. So it’s a pretty tall order: I would want to see someone take it on who could preserve a spirit of adventure, who understood what a challenge living and fighting in 6th century Britain was, and who would fill the story with fully-dimensional characters as well as lush period detail.

In Lest Camelot Fall, Merlin is a title rather than a single person. What are the challenges of making this character both practically wise and spectacularly magical for readers living in a sophisticated, technology-heavy world?

With Merlin I found myself in the odd position of trying to create suspension of belief over things that were actually real. That is, until the 4th century you had this great advanced civilization existing in Britain; by the 6th century that civilization was gone but its traces were everywhere, most notably in the monumental stone buildings and straight roads. Technology that would have awed whomever saw it, which couldn't be replicated by that point…but if you had access to Roman books, you could pull a lot of it off. So for the magic, there’s nothing that Merlin does that is outside the ability of Late Roman science, but to most people in 6th century Britain it would seem like he had spectacular powers.

As for the wisdom…well, he was inheriting a title, and with that title came knowledge from countless generations of Celts and Druids before him. He understands all the responsibilities this entails, both practical and in other ways. I think by the time someone gets to the point in his training and life that Merlin reached by the time of Lest Camelot Fall, they would have naturally picked up a great deal of wisdom along the way.

Part of the great appeal of Arthurian legend is the tragic love triangle and the tension it creates between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot. What do you feel Lest Camelot Fall offers readers who want the kind of romantic, courtly drama?

I wanted to make Lest Camelot Fall as historically accurate as possible…with one exception. I didn’t think I could tell the story without Lancelot and Guinevere, even though they were much later medieval additions.

On the other hand, after their betrayals—they blamed themselves for Arthur’s death, as did many others—there really couldn't be any kind of happy ending for them. As it is, any romantic ending would likely be out of the question anyway, since both took sanctuary by joining religious orders after Arthur’s death. But there was a possibility of them encountering one another again, so readers of Lest Camelot Fall will see the results of this when it finally happens.

As for the other characters…this book was mainly about survival in the immediate aftermath of Camelot’s all-but-destruction, but if other books follow it, the world they’re building will certainly allow for more romantic drama.

Are there people (contemporary, or at least within the last 100 years) who you think fit into the archetypes set by King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table? Who and why?

My first thought was Nikola Tesla for Merlin – and there’s a story I might like to write someday!

But the more I think about the question, the more I realize – and am ashamed by realizing this – that I don’t know the names of a lot of people I would consider as fitting the archetypes of Arthur and his knights. The way I see Camelot, and the way I wrote it, it was as a band of people struggling against darkness and violence to try building something good that would last not just for their own lifetimes but for the generations that follow. There are people all over the world right now – South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, right here in the United States, and almost countless other places – struggling against violence and other kinds of darkness of one sort or another. These are people whose names we may never know, but they are every bit as worthy of remembrance as Arthur and his knights.

When writing character motivations, how do you prevent contemporary sensibilities from taking over, and instead remain true to the mindset of the times you are writing about?

That’s actually my biggest hurdle when writing historical fiction, and I’m sure I’m not alone. But it has a (deceptively simple) solution.

All historical fiction authors know that they need to become experts in the period they’re writing about if they want it to sound authentic, but in doing so you also have to become an expert in your characters who live in that time. These two are inseparable, flip sides of the same coin. If you intimately know the world you’re writing about, then you should also come to intimately know the people who populate it. What they want and what drives them – and how they’ll be different than someone in the 21st century.

What is the key element for capturing the feeling of a bygone age and translating that for your readers?

I like to make a story as “interactive” as a book can possibly be. That is, I don’t want to just draw a reader into the story in a basic way. I want them to feel the way the character is feeling. To think what the character is feeling. To touch, hear, and smell what the characters are sensing. I tend to do that through a lot of detail, both period detail and what is going through characters’ mind. To feel like they’re living in the place alongside the characters. I can’t time travel (which is still disappointing to me), but I've always felt like historical novels were the next best thing, and if my readers feel like they've at least gotten a good long glimpse at the place and time I’m writing about, then I’m happy with that.

Learn more about author Danny Adams