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- Exploring the Creative Process-Part IX: Interview with Abby Vegas May 27, 2016
- Exploring the Creative Process-Part VIII: Interview with Hazel Osmond April 28, 2016
- Exploring the Creative Process-Part VII: Interview with Charlotte Hawkins March 12, 2016
- Exploring the Creative Process-Part VI: Interview with Catherine Winchester January 7, 2016
- Exploring the Creative Process, Part V: Interview with Julia Daniels December 17, 2015
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Tag Archives: John Thornton
We welcome the last fortnight of 2015 with the fifth instalment in our Creative Process series. This time we chat with another published romantic author, Julia Daniels.
What type of environment do you need to write?
I have two wonderful teenagers in my house. I thought when they finally reached this age, they would be less needy of my time, but I was wrong! I try to be wherever they are, because I want to be around them as much as I can before they leave home!
So, to avoid distractions and still be somewhat accessible, I wear headphones and listen to music to drown out the noise from their video games and whatever Netflix show my daughter happens to be watching. I create a playlist for whichever book I am writing at the time, with a certain theme to the music. For example, when I wrote Master of Her Heart, I used a lot of British tunes, classical music they may have listened to at the time, or music with lyrics that reminded me of scenes from the book or mini-series. It usually puts me in the right frame of mind as I write, too.
How do your ideas come to you?
My ideas usually start with the characters. I think about what odd situations I can create for them to fall into. Mr. Thornton is hard to manipulate much, he’s pretty perfect the way he is, but Miss Hale… now she definitely needs her head adjusted from time to time!
My latest idea came about in such an odd way. A friend of mine develops cross stitch, rug hooking and needle punch patterns. She was selected as a finalist in a contest Martha Stewart was running at her website for “Handmade in America” products. Well, my friend didn’t win, but the company that did is a family-run sock manufacturer in a sleepy town in the south. Alarm bells went off in my head and immediately I had Thornton as a sock manufacturer in the south and Margaret a snooty gal from the north. This one will be a contemporary novel. I cannot wait to write it!
Do you plan a story from the beginning to end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they do?
I started using a new software called Scrivener that lets me skip around. So, on the current book I’m working on for my upcoming Mill Master’s series, I had all these scenes way later in the novel suddenly popping in my head. With this software I can add whatever I want and not get lost in the storyline.
Usually, I have the major plot points and characters in my head from start to finish, but there are often scenes and incidents that suddenly appear as I write, so I have to be flexible to let the characters lead the story!
Which do you find easier to write: dialogue or description or are the equally hard/easy?
Good dialogue is the key to a good book! It shows the interaction of the characters, and characters are the driving force of the book. Description, of course, draws the pretty picture of the scene, but without strong characters and snappy dialogue the book falls flat for me.
I am not a big fan of erotica or sexually explicit romance. That’s not to say there won’t ever be flush-worthy scenes in my novels, but sex for sex sake won’t happen. I’m also not very comfortable with child abuse or graphic incidents of harm to animals or people.
What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories?
Go for it! I’m hungry for new stories, and new authors. Remember there is no “grade” associated with your submission and the comments I have received are very kind and supportive. Take a risk, you will be really glad that you tried! Just make sure you are willing to keep up with your stories. I get super frustrated when I get addicted to a story and then it’s never updated.
Oh so many! The Little House on the Prairie Series, Sarah Plain and Tall, Pride and Prejudice and of course North and South (although I do like many of the adaptations better!).
Visit Julia’s official site: https://juliadaniels.wordpress.com
You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. To purchase Master of her Heart or any of Julia’s works, go to AmazonUS or AmazonUK.
Sample the first chapters of her latest North & South story, “Milton’s Mill Master: A Variation of North & South”, on Wattpad.
ETA: Julia’s posting a Christmas story that will serve as an epilogue to her North & South novel “Master of her Heart”. You can find it on Wattpad: “A Mill Master’s Christmas”
Hello! We’re Back!
Thought we’d vanished? No such thing. The Armitage Authors Network is back with a new assistant administrator and contributor: Lillianschild (also known as Lexie171170 in some venues).
Lillianschild has been active in the RA fandom for five years and has rather extensive knowledge of the fan fiction out there. She’s agreed to help Jazzbaby and me introduce our blog readers to stories and writers that make up this fantastically creative fan world.
We hope you’ll welcome Lillianschild to the blog. If you don’t already know her, you’ll enjoy reading about her discovery of Richard and some of how her writing takes form. Links to her stories are found at the end of our interview. Enjoy getting to know our new assistant blog administrator!
Tell us a little about how you discovered Mr. Armitage.
Although I’d seen his first jobs on the screen- including Cats- just like most of Richard’s earliest well-wishers, I truly “discovered” him and started following his career with interest when I saw his portrayal of Mr Thornton in North & South.
Living in South America means I didn’t get to see his breakthrough performance back in 2004 but some five years later. Actually, I stumbled upon it on a now defunct blog written by an anglophile and devoted to shows and films from the UK. It had a special section focusing on programmes inspired on literature and had a great directory of BBC costume dramas, amongst which was North & South.
I was already familiar with Gaskell, whose Milton tale I’d read as part of one of the four British Literature courses I attended to get my English teaching degree. Having a huge soft spot for Victorianism and the Industrial Age and being an incurable romantic, I was pleasantly surprised when I learnt the novel had been adapted by the BBC… and well, the brooding, tall, dark and handsome man on the DVD cover sealed the deal for me.
Mr Armitage grabbed my attention the minute he appeared on the screen for the first time and stood on that platform surveying his “kingdom”. I just knew I was about to witness something really special. And oh, he won my heart over with his “No one loves me – no one cares for me, but you, mother”!
Needless to say, I too am amongst the besotted well-wishers who devoured the show in one sitting and stayed up until the wee small hours of the morning to see John and Margaret’s love story unfold. And that was just the beginning, I binged on it several times in a row- once with my Mum, who insisted on my playing the second DVD when episode II finished even though I had to get up for work four hours later.
I’ve lost count of how many copies of North & South I’ve given away as presents to my friends and my parents’, all of whom have had nothing but words of praise for the production and the wonderful cast, including our lovely Mr Armitage. Of course, I’ve taken pity on the males from time to time and supplied them with copies of Spooks and Strike Back.:)
Oh, my, that was long-winded! I’ve just remembered the phrase ” a little” was part of the original question. 😀
What character was it that first impelled you to write fan fiction?
That’d be Smallville’s Lex Luthor.
I suppose what attracted me to this particular portrayal of Superman’s nemesis is what also won me over when I saw Sir Guy of Gisborne in Dominic Minghella’s Robin Hood. Both are survivors with a tragic childhood, constantly fighting to find their place in the world while struggling with the darkness within them. Both take morally questionable decisions that send them into a downward spiral from which they try to emerge when love unexpectedly comes knocking at their door; a love that becomes a destructive obsession when the only woman capable of seeing beyond their protective armour chooses their nemesis over them.
I loved Lex’s humanity as portrayed by Michael Rosenbaum on that show just as much as Richard’s incarnation of Sir Guy. They’re both very gifted actors, who managed to elevate a cartoonish character off the page and turn him into a fascinating multi-layered creation. Both Lex and Guy are so human in their flaws and therefore, so relatable- they’re perfect embodiments of humankind’s duality.
The reason why I decided to put pen to paper and write my first fanfic was pretty much the same that led me to create my first story for RA’s fandom, the need to set right what I felt the writers had messed up. It was also my way to honour the painstaking and loving labour of two actors whose creations were often maligned with capricious and unbelievable retcons or OoC storylines- a karma for many a character portrayed by Mr Armitage (Lucas North, anyone?).
I wrote fifty-four fanfics with Lex as an inpiration before activity in the fandom started to dwindle when the show went off the air and my Luthor Muse stopped whispering into my ear.
Were you a writer before you found Richard Armitage?
Yes. I’ve always been fond of telling stories- I remember having my mum put them on paper when I was too young to write on my own.
I began writing fanfic almost nine years ago. After having read fanfiction for two years, I told myself it was high time I gave it a try. 2006 was the breaking point for me; I realized I had spent too much time correcting other people’s essays and papers- an English teacher’s karma- and I asked myself: why not put pen to paper and do it for fun?
Although Richard wasn’t the first actor to ignite my creativity, he was the one responsible for reawakening my Muse after almost a year of inactivity.
Is fanfic just a hobby for you or do you hope to go further with your writing?
I consider writing the perfect means of escapism. Still, I won’t deny I’d love to go further with it. Starting a story from scratch with characters that you infuse life to and whose backgrounds you invent can be liberating, but I haven’t reached that point yet.
I’ve toyed with the idea of a Guy of Gisborne or North & South-novel. I love their historical periods and both leading men have a very special place in my heart; plus, they’re in the Public Domain.
However, publishing a book in paper or digital format – even independently- would be a venture I can’t afford right now. Writing in English means I’d have to commercialise the novel via the UK or America, and my country has no royalty or tax agrements with either of them. In short, I’d have to pay taxes everywhere and charge an astronomic price to my readers in order to make it worthwhile. And then there’s the nightmare of how to cash in my sales.
It’d take a whole book to explain to you all the intricacies of Argentina’s current economic and copyright/royalty policies, all of which violate rights protected by our Constitution. And I guarantee once finished you’d still be completely at a loss.
In short, I’d love to. But, unless things change dramatically here, it’ll remain just a dream.
What type of environment do you need to write?
I’ve been known to write in the oddest of places – from a bench in the park to the waiting room at my dentist’s. I don’t need to be anywhere in particular to be able to write. I’ve always been a multi-tasking kind of person and can work even with background noise. I’ve got the ability to create my own bubble at will even when I’m not alone, to the point that sometimes I don’t know what’s going on around me.
The best time for me to sit down with paper and pen are the summer holidays. As a teacher/tutor I get a forty-day summer holiday every year, and I try to take as much advantage of it as I can so as to have enough material to post throughout the year. Unfortunately, for my readers, that routine was disturbed the last couple of years when I travelled to the UK. There was just too much to see and absorb for me to be able to focus on my writing.
How do your ideas come to you? Do you always write them or do you let them disappear?
There isn’t a fixed pattern. The germ of a story may be triggered by a line of poetry, a few chords, a photo or a particular scene of either a show or film. More often than not ideas seem to come out of the blue; it’s as if someone were whispering them into my ear.
I always start writing when an idea comes to me. I don’t keep a notebook with notes, though, I begin the story right away.
Do you plan a story from the beginning to end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they do?
I only planned a fic in detail once, and I have to say it was the least satisfying of my works. Considering a large number of the stories I’ve written have an element of mystery in them, I prefer not to know what will happen beforehand. It’s the best approach to surprise readers when the enigma is solved since, in all certainly, I’ll have been the first one to be suprised when writing the twists and turns and the ultimate ending my Muse has come up with.
Do you prefer writing easy, quick stories or long, layered stories?
Long stories used to come easier to me than one-shots when I began writing fanfic. I imagine this is only natural; one can’t expect to run before crawling. The ability to create a scene with a few strokes of the brush comes to a painter after having spent hundreds of hours in front of an easel, and so it is for an amateur or professional writer when writing a brief piece. You can’t paint or write in abstracts without mastering the art of painting or writing with great attention to detail. It’s only after you’ve been through such a descriptive phase that you’ll be able to tell a whole story with a few simple strokes of a brush or a pen.
Writing vignettes or one-shots has been my safe haven during my tutoring months, particularly when the second semester arrives and my workload increases exponentially. Brief pieces allow me to keep my creative juices flowing and my Muse satisfied without keeping my readers hanging. As a matter of fact, that’s how one of my best-received RA-inspired series was born- Guy & Marian’s Acrostic Series.
Quick stories are also the perfect vehicle to delve into the mind and heart of a character. I also find this format the most appropriate to deviate from the typical third person omniscient narrator, and it’s the one I’ve chosen for most of my Guy or Guy & Marian fics, the POV being that of the Black Knight. These works have often been described as my most powerful and lyrical, which I suppose is due to the extra care one has to take when choosing the right words and imagery to convey so much in such a small package.
I love writing long, layered stories as well. However, my very busy teaching and tutoring schedule- my working day sometimes lasts twelve hours- leaves me very little time to work on them. So far, I’ve only completed one multi-chaptered fic for RA’s fandom, an Alternate Series 7 Lucas North story called “A Voice in the Dark”.
At present, I’m writing and posting two long fics, “To be Worthy” (a what-if story which explores what impact an earlier acquaintance with Marian and another mentor might have had on Gisborne’s life and ultimate fate) and “From Russia with Love” (another alternate Season 7 fic; this time focusing on Lucas and Vyeta’s marriage).
We loved bringing you the sweet North & South romance “A Merry Little Christmas” this weekend and now The Armitage Authors Network is pleased to bring you our interview with the author, Catherine Winchester. We talked to her recently about Richard Armitage as an inspiration for her heroes, her writing process and what it’s like to market herself as an independent author.
Armitage Authors Network: Welcome to the blog, Catherine. Can you tell us a little about how you became a fan of Richard Armitage?
Catherine Winchester: Watching North & South. I’d been on a historical drama bend and having rewatched all my favourite classics, I looked for ones I may have missed. N&S had good reviews so I tried it.
AAN: What was it about him that’s been an inspiration to you as a writer – him as an actor, a particular character, etc.? How are your heroes inspired by him?
CW: I can’t say what it is about him that inspires me. All I can tell you is that to write a scene, I have to be able to see it, and he’s such a versatile actor that he’s very easy to picture in a myriad of different roles.
AAN: You’ve published two North & South novels, one a continuation of Gaskell’s story and one a time-travel romance. Can you tell us a little about the difference between writing John Thornton as the husband of Margaret Hale in Northern Light and John Thornton as the employer and suitor of modern woman Carrie Preston in What You Wish For?
CW: They were very different, actually. For Northern Light, I wanted to focus on Margaret’s desire to affect change among and for the working classes, something that John came to see the logic in too. The Victorian era was full of social change as many in the ruling classes sought to improve things for the working classes. The Victorians brought in the first laws governing things such as child labor and working hours, they made education compulsory and they gave the working man the vote, so it was an era of huge social change. The whole story was built around John and Margaret’s desire to build a “model village” for their workers, which I based on the village of Saltaire. Saltaire was built in 1851 by Titus Salt on the river Aire, hence Salt-aire. He wanted to provide his woolen mill workers with decent living conditions and although there were older model villages, Salt’s was in the same time period, region and in a similar industry.
I also had to stay true to the social mores as they were written by Gaskell. Her writings are very clean, morally speaking, and I had to honor that, despite my historical research painting a very different light of the times. One example is sex. Much Victorian literature ignored it completely and it is just assumed that both men and women were virgins on their wedding night. Actual figures for illegitimate births and pregnant brides show that at nearly fifty percent of women had sex before marriage. Prostitution was the second biggest employer of women, second only to being a servant and syphilis infected one third of the armed forced and 10% of the general population in metropolitan regions. In addition, birth control was available in the form of condoms made from animal intestines, sea sponges soaked in vinegar, quinine or olive oil, vaginal douches and even diaphragms, usually called rubber pessaries. Advertisements for such devices appeared in many publications of the time but it’s worth remembering that few people could read in the 1850s, so only the educated could access them as proved by the difference in birth rates between the working and upper classes. Many examples of such devices still exist in medical museums.
Clearly there was a lot more sex being had than the Victorians would have us believe but aside from a brief mention of there being ways to impede pregnancy and a doctor’s advice to stop ‘marital relations’ when Margaret’s pregnancy faces complications, I never touch on the subject of sex in Northern Light. The Victorians were also very hypocritical with sex though, assuming that men would seek sex and while that was frowned upon, it was acceptable, while a woman who was discovered having premarital or extra marital sex was a pariah.
In What You Wish For, I have a modern day female heroine who has obviously lived by our modern social mores and isn’t a virgin. I felt that I had to address this in some respect as it was probably one of the biggest differences in how we live our lives and likely, the most shocking thing about how modern British women live to a man from the Victorian era. I also gave John a past that would be in keeping with the times, he isn’t a cad or a bounder, but he isn’t a virgin either. Then of course, it was fun to explore some of the other differences between then and now in things such as medicine. The Victorians actually knew very little about the human body, for example many doctors still believed in bloodletting as a treatment and cure and they believed that bad smells transmitted disease and caused infection. Ignaz Semmelweis, the first doctor who suggested that doctors and surgeons should wash their hands in between patients and wear clean aprons — they wore dirty ones as a sign of their good trade — died in disgrace, a broken man.
So yes, the approach to each was very different but as an author, both were rewarding.
AAN: You’re incredibly prolific, can you tell us a little about your writing process?
CW: It stems from insomnia. I’ve had trouble sleeping since I was a child and it only got worse with adult problems. While I lie there, rather than replay events or worry about things, I have always created stories to distract myself. Once I began to write, certain scenes would plague me night after night, until I purged them by writing them down, then the next night, the story could move on in my mind.
AAN: You write in several genres, do you have a favorite?
CW: Honestly, it’s speculative fiction, sci-fi and fantasy type, but while my works in that area have been well received, they aren’t big sellers. I like all the genres I write in though, or I wouldn’t write them.
AAN: You’ve been very open about having dyslexia. How has that affected the way you write?
CW: It stopped me for many years. I would write stories in school feeling as proud as punch but they came back covered in red ink. They never commented on the story, only the spelling and grammar used to tell it, so I ended up thinking the whole thing was rubbish.
I kept creating stories in my head though and then I discovered Star Trek tie-in novels. I didn’t even know fan fiction existed but began to craft stories around my favourite TV shows of the time, which back then were Star Trek: The Next Generation and Quantum Leap. I would write stories based on them in spiral bound notebooks then later, on my school computer. I never showed them to anyone though, I didn’t see the point. When I finally got a home PC, I discovered fan fiction and began to post a few stories, they were in email groups then, rather than on a specific site. I’d moved onto Buffy the Vampire Slayer by then.
I think the internet was generally a nicer place back then and everyone was supportive and appreciative of my efforts. I don’t recall my spelling mistakes ever being brought up back then. Slowly, I learned how to better craft and pace my stories, and I’ve taught myself far more about spelling and grammar than my school was ever able to teach me. It still took over 10 years before I felt ready to try writing an original book.
AAN: What was the first piece you published?
CW: The first book was Past Due, part one of a vampire series. There are five planned, of which I’ve written three.
AAN: What made you decide to publish independently rather than through a publishing house?
CW: I sent the book to publishers and while I had a couple reply asking for the full manuscript, it went nowhere. But the book was written and just sitting there, doing nothing, so I looked into self-publishing. I had nothing to lose by that point, and my family rallied around to help me edit and proof it. I taught myself to use GIMP graphics program (which is open source and free) and bought stock photos for the cover.
AAN: How did the audio version of The Reluctant Duchess, narrated by Eva Hathaway, come about?
CW: I’d heard about it, it’s another amazon company, basically self-publishing for audio books with the royalties usually split 50/50 between author and narrator. You can also pay a flat fee to the narrators. It was a very new thing for me as I was expected to critique the version and make changes. Considering that I knew nothing about audiobooks and voice work, it was very uncomfortable for me, but I was lucky to have picked someone who seemed to know what she was doing and she did a very good job. When I can face it, I intend to turn my other books into audio books too because with the 50/50 royalty split, you have nothing to lose.
AAN: You do all the marketing on your books, can you explain to our readers a little about what’s involved in that?
CW: I have tried almost every marketing trick going and have found that very few of them actually pay dividends for the time involved. The best promotional tool I’ve ever used is Amazon’s Select’s free program. For every three months you agree for your eBook to be exclusively with Amazon, you can give it away for free for five days. I know it sounds counterproductive but it really does encourage new readers to give your book a chance, which results in reviews on your page, sales of your other books,assuming they liked what they read, and recommendations to their friends and family. A lot of people tie their Amazon and Goodreads accounts to Twitter, so purchases and reviews automatically appear on their Tweets.
Other than that, I’ve rounded up my personal experiences with other marketing ideas on my blog.
You can find Catherine Winchester’s books on Amazon here. Her books are archived here under the tabs John Thornton, Armitage Inspired Heroes, and Other Works by Armitage Authors. Follow her on Twitter @CatWAuthor and on Facebook here. She also blogs at Catherine Winchester.
After watching North & South for the very first time, I was desperate to talk about the story with others because I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it. I found C19 within a few days. It saved me from certain lunacy (or did it?). What a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one suffering from the effects of watching a Victorian cotton mill owner smolder for nearly four hours. Finally I could discuss and ask questions … but that was not all. There were stories there! Other people, whom the gods had allowed to find N&S years before me, had written stories about John and Margaret.
I had discovered fan fiction! Cue the music from on high.
I spent hours upon hours immersing myself in Milton again through the creative talents of many fellow fans. I devoured all the stories set in the Victorian Era and then, still hungry for more, tried those that transferred the romance to a modern setting.
Eventually, I turned to writing my own stories. It’s the most effective way of getting the story fleshed out in exactly the way you see it playing in your head.
But what if you’re not inclined to write your own N&S story? There are plenty of tales to get lost in, written by those who couldn’t leave the images of Margaret and John swirling in their heads until they had attempted to transcribe it for others to enjoy.
Here are some of my favorites, heavily influenced by my long-term love for and connection to the C19 forum:
Traditional continuation stories
Pack Clouds Away My all-time favorite continuation from the book. So Gaskellesque: tender and passionate all at once.
True North Wonderful continuation from the mini-series written with historical detail and a little spice.
Mistress of Marlborough Unfinished, but a favorite at C19. They go to Cadiz to visit Fred!
Variations stories / What-ifs
Fate & Circumstance Unfinished, but so worth it anyway! The prose is incredible. I’m left with my jaw hanging every time. And the sexual tension is staggering. A must-read, but be prepared for a grinding halt to the story.
Under Compulsion Margaret is pressured to marry Thornton to save her reputation after the riot. Margaret warms to John as his wife.
Bring the Heart to Earth The premise is tough to take, but the reconciliation involved is a slow-burn delight.
Past and Present There’s a magnetic attraction between Milton hotel owner John Thornton and the girl who’s just moved into town. Intense! I love this author’s writing.
East and West Sweet story based on N&S although the names are changed. ‘Margaret’ is a California liberal who moves to NYC where she meets the conservative financial executive ‘John Thornton.’
Come Back to Me Maggie and Jon endure a tumultuous relationship that includes crossing social classes.
Deep Blue Sea Fantastic Regency world story based on N&S. The names have been changed, but ‘John Thornton’ is a sea captain! A creative and spicy spin on the story.
North and Spoof This is a hilarious spoof that throws a little Thorin in with the stolid Mr Thornton. It takes a special skill and a little inherent wackiness to create a brilliant parody. The author talks about her craft and inspiration on another post here.
North and South for Dummies Who doesn’t need a good laugh now and then? A zany look at a few of the episodes in N&S.
You’re welcome to tell us your favorites!
The Armitage Authors Network is delighted to invite Damaris Osborne to reveal a little of how her parody, North & Spoof, came into being. A long-time fan of Richard Armitage, Damaris concocted her spoof shortly after Peter Jackson’s casting announcement that gave Richard the role of Thorin. With inimitable wit and a generous dose of zaniness, she’s combined Thorin and Thornton into the always-brooding Mr Thorinton. Her work is nothing short of gently deranged genuis!
by Damaris Osborne
[This article contains a basic spoiler if you have no idea how The Hobbit ends.]
The parody or ‘spoof’ is a genre that is sometimes sniffed at, because it is not ‘original’, and it is not ‘heavy literature’. Well, sometimes one does not need ‘heavy literature’ but the chance to forget what your superior said about your latest idea at work, or how grim it is queuing in the supermarket when their computer systems are on a go-slow, or how much you hate clearing up fur balls from Godzilla the kitten. At such times, I think we all need something superficially mindless to cheer us up. A spoof is there as ‘comfort food’. Like ‘comfort food’ it is best not taken day after day, not because it makes you fat, but because it jades the palate. However, taken as a treat, an indulgence, it may even be better than ‘a nice cup of tea’ at improving your mood.
It is not ‘original’ since it is parodying something already created. However, there is originality in the manner of the spoofing. Spoof writing is not for everyone. You need to be on top of the material from which you are drawing the ’spoofables’ and you need to be able to look at things through a form of mental mirror that does not simply distort, but also focuses on literal meaning. An awful lot of word ‘jokes’ are founded upon the fact that what we say is NOT what we mean. You then combine what you see with what you know of the contextual material and await what your slightly kooky mind concocts.
North & Spoof just had to be, from the moment Mr Richard Armitage was announced to play Thorin in The Hobbit films. I wrote it in November 2010 before he ever flew to New Zealand. Thorin and Thornton were within a hair’s breadth as names, and I had always thought Margaret Hale’s line ‘I have seen Hell, and it is white, snow white’ really ended with ‘and has seven dwarves’. From that starting point I just did as Top Cat (or Boss Cat) used to say in the cartoons – ‘Mingle, mingle, mingle’.
Tolkien wrote from a deep knowledge of Viking and Anglo-Saxon literature and culture, and this influenced Middle Earth tremendously. The dwarves were especially northern (whilst the elves had quite a lot of Celtic in them). It was therefore proper that a northern mill town would have dwarves, who would be John Thorinton’s kinsmen, although they would be dwarven height, and he was six foot two. You might see this as a problem, but in fact the answer was obvious to me. Mr Thorinton was filled with Longing, which meant he was still a dwarf, but over the centuries Longing had made his blood line grow ‘longer’ and their beards shorter, which meant John Thorinton did a great line in stubble, but never risked getting a beard stuck in the warp and weft. He would also be running a mithril mill, making a form of Crimean War period kevlar equivalent, which made military uniforms tougher against projectiles. With me so far?
I hold my hand up and admit that Terry Pratchett’s concept of dwarves also influenced me, rather more than Walt Disney, who only made me use ’suitable’ names for the seven dwarves ( plus Musically, who works in the office). This set up the environment in which I would poke fun at North & South, and primarily the BBC version, because so many things were known about the making of it. One of those nuggets was that the house the Hales lived in was actually filmed in Edinburgh, so I made their address 14, Lookslikeedinburgh Street, and of course the ‘300 mile look’, where the steps to the Town Hall up which Margaret Hale climbed are 300 miles from the window from which John Thornton saw her. That is, of course, way before we reach ‘the Woman in Brown’ at the station scene. With so much to reference for N&S fans, the opportunities seemed endless. As an example, here is Margaret’s meeting with Mr Thorinton in Middlearth Mills, where she sees him dismissing a worker, with violence. The F word, in this context, is ‘Fire’, the mere mention of which might set the mithril ablaze, and I changed Hale to Hile, because I was longing (not full of Longing) to use ‘Miss Hile’ and ‘crisis’ together.
‘Bully!’ she cried.
‘You do not understand.’
‘No gentleman would shake a man like that.’
‘How would he do it?’
‘Politely, and after asking permission in writing, of course.’
‘Ah, soft Southern ways. Well, here, Miss Hile, we act, not write notes about acting.’ He paused. ‘You should not be here. What is it you desi . ..want?’
‘The key to the cupboard in the basement.’ It sounded a bit silly now.
‘The key to a cupboard? You came right across Millstone for a key to a cupboard.’
‘I, er, needed the walk?’ she suggested.
He looked broodingly at her. My, how well he brooded. She had never seen a soft Southern brood half as fine as this. It was dark, glowering, like chocolate. Once you had a little brood, you wanted more. She shook herself, and it looked as if she had severe dandruff.
‘This place,’ she murmured, ‘how can you stand there and look me in the eye?’
‘By inclining my head downwards a little.’
‘No. I mean, look about you. This is . .. appalling. Those poor children. Have you no . . .’
She stopped, as one of the ‘children’ crawled out from under a loom and stared up at her angrily.
‘Children! Why, you size-ist wench!’
‘Hush, Lowly.’ Mr Thorinton spoke gently to the short and heavily bearded figure. ‘She means no insult.’
‘Sounded an insult to me. We may need to place it in the Grudge Book.’
‘No need. Be about your work.’
‘Aye, Maister John. And thank you for saving us from the F word.’
‘My duty, Lowly. Now, off you go, and tell Grimly, Glumly, Irascibly, Huffily, Curmudgeonly and Cheesedoff that they can take their tea break now.’
His face hardened as he looked at Margaret Hile.
‘You speak of what you do not know. The dwarves are my kinfolk, many generations back. Few will employ them except upon short term contracts, and they are short and contracted enough. There is less work in the mines nowadays.’
‘You? But you are so tall, dark and ha . . . hard to talk to. You cannot have dwarf blood.’
‘I do, but I am filled with Longing.’
‘No. Longing. It is the reason I am six foot two and stubbled, not bearded.’
She lowered her gaze. She had noted the stubble. It was something that in the past she had only seen in cornfields after the harvest. She wondered, suddenly, what it would be like if . . . she swallowed hard.
‘You were cruel.’
‘I have a temper. It is a dwarf thing. But I protect my people. These are my people. I will not let them be claimed by the F word. Long, long ago my ancestors were driven from great riches by a beast that breathed it. I have installed Smaug detectors around Middlearth Mills to protect the place.’
‘Smaug? I thought it was a form of metropolitan fog?’
‘Ha. In the soft South perhaps. But here it is a great dragon that sweeps from its sleep upon the hoard.’
‘How dare you!’ Margaret flushed scarlet.
‘Er . . .’ Mr Thorinton looked confused.
‘To mention such women in front of a lady.’
‘Er . . .’ The penny dropped. He picked it up, since every penny counted. ‘I said ‘hoard’.’
Margaret covered her ears and went lalala. He gave up.
I did say I was a bit kooky, didn’t I?
What I found interesting was that however much I poked fun at the story, John Thorinton’s character was not mocked. That he would be like Thorin in so many ways was not a surprise. From the Gimli of Lord of the Rings, and Thorin from the book form, I made calculated guesses about Mr Armitage’s Thorin. He would bear a Grudge, with a capital ‘G’, have a very strong sense of kindred and duty, a temper, and frown a lot. Hey, that was pretty much John Thornton anyway. There is an integrity to them both with which I never tampered, and I think keeping a core of truth in the lunacy accentuates the madness. Had there been a huge discrepancy in how I saw the two characters, I do not think I would have found the inspiration to create North & Spoof.
It was then a case of working through the story, the scenes and situations, playing with words, stretching concepts. ‘The colour of fruit’ had been something picked up upon by N&S followers, so I used it as a theme, and also the North and South divide, in attitude and in accent. Having lived from the ages of eight to sixteen in a fairly remote area on the coast of the English Lake District, I was painfully aware how real the language problem could be, especially in an era without modern communication. In Britain we hear accents on television and radio from all parts, and become used to them. The Hales/Hiles would have never heard the northern intonation, let alone northern dialect words. The potential for misunderstanding, as with ‘hoard’ and ‘whored’ was too good to ignore. One other aspect I wished to highlight was the way Fanny was very much a peripheral person in Hannah Thornton’s eyes, and in her heart. This was a woman focused on her son, almost exclusively. There was therefore a running joke in which she called her daughter all sorts of names beginning with F except Fanny.
I wrote North & Spoof because it was in my head. That is what happens with wordsmiths, and the head can be a crowded place. With a spoof inside it, well, that really needs letting out as soon as possible. The actual writing of the chapters, and the whole thing is only forty something thousand words, was completed in a few days, after which I returned to sanity ( I hope). It was over a year before I saw Thorin on the big screen, and my guesses were proven accurate. I know the brow was prosthetic, but wow, it furrowed and he brooded! Huzza!
So here we are, in November 2014, a decade on from North & South, though it feels as if yesterday (much like that look seeming a hundred yards not 300 miles), and with the final part of The Hobbit trilogy set for December. Thorin, always the tragic hero, is doomed, but his last fight, his death, is his redemption, and we always knew it would happen, since it was in the book and has been building up in the films. To avoid carrying a large box of tissues to the cinema, and under a compulsion from Mr Armitage wondering about Thorin’s ‘lost love of his life’, I wrote, in far from spoofing form, a back story for Thorin, a back story that then continued, without me knowing how Jackson, Boyens and Walsh would handle it, to the end of the tale. It gave Thorin, in death, reunion in the Halls with his beloved. It even gave a new slant to his changed manner when back in Erebor. It is available to members of the C19 forum only, and is titled “Thorin’s Loss.” There was only ever one hard copy, and so it will remain. I doubt it was read, and I doubt it still exists. I let out my ‘inner dwarf’ for “Thorin’s Loss,” and filled the early part with details of dwarven courting protocols, and a youthful and impulsive Thorin. It was an odd thing to write, because The Words came largely because I felt Mr Armitage had commanded them to do so. It began quite lightly, with things that would make one smile, but then spiralled into the tragic, and in places I had tears running down my face as I typed. It hurt to write, though the tragedy of the loss of Thorin, King Under the Mountain, was tempered by his passing to an eternity with his Sigrid. Tragedy and comedy are two masks of the same face. At least with North & Spoof you get all comedy and a happy ending . . . and the ‘Woman in Brown’ hitting a dwarven station master over the head with her reticule.
North and Spoof is available at Amazon here.
How Far the World Will Bend – review by Trudy Brasure
The Armitage Authors Network is thrilled to introduce How Far the World Will Bend by Nancy Klein for our first review.
If you haven’t read any of Nancy’s works, you’re missing out. Beloved by many for years at C19 and Wattpad for her Thornton and Guy stories, Nancy took the indie publishing plunge and released How Far the World Will Bend as an e-book in July.
This was the fanfiction-turned-published book that helped instigate the idea for this blog.
And what a story to be introduced to the wider North and South-loving public! This is not your traditional sequel to the story. Nancy loves to create variations of Gaskell’s tale, with new twists and turns.
As the title of her work hints, Nancy throws in some time-travel magic to swap Victorian Margaret for a slightly more modern-minded “Meg” from the 1920s. Meg finds herself in 1850s Milton with a mission to save the Master from a fateful riot. And this Margaret is not as resistant to the allure of the cotton mill master of Gaskell’s story that we all love to imagine looks and sounds just like Richard Armitage in a cravat!
I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t certain I would thoroughly enjoy a N&S variation with a time-twist, but it didn’t take long for me to be swept up by the unfolding story. And who am I to balk at a little science fiction added to a love story? With all the Outlander mania, time-travel romance is all the rage!
The romance between John and ‘Margaret’ develops a little differently than the original, and it’s entrancing to read. Nancy is a skilled storyteller, and she has a knack for evoking powerful images that linger in the mind. There’s a particular scene where a look across a crowded theater had my heart thudding, and then there’s an unforgettable scene where they finally kiss …
( no, not like this gentle kiss)
… and THIS kiss rates just a notch below spontaneous combustion on the passion meter! Phew!
There’s not much of the plot that I can reveal without spoiling the adventure of reading this creative story, but if you enjoy Thornton angst and intensity, I believe this story will deliver. How Far the World Will Bend also deftly pulls at the heartstrings of deep emotions about destiny and loneliness. This tale has the honor of being the only North and South fan fiction that ever made me cry. (But don’t worry – it all ends well!)
I’ve given this a five-star rating at Amazon. It was pure enjoyment to read. If you loved North and South and have a heart for romance, I recommend this piece of romantic drama highly.
How Far the World Will Bend by Nancy Klein (cover by Judy Worrall) is available at Amazon.
Trudy Brasure is co-founder of The Armitage Authors Network and is author of A Heart for Milton and In Consequence. The reviewer confesses that Nancy Klein is a personal fandom friend and her editor. However, no favors or moneys were exchanged for this glowing praise; the reviewer swears that she has not exaggerated her experience in reading this book.