For this month’s Author Spotlight, I’m happy to focus on author ANDREW RICHARDSON, whose latest book The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn was just released (today), adding to his already impressive list of published fiction in several genres. Congratulations Andrew on your latest release!
Andrew lives in Wiltshire, England with his wife, a rescue cat, and a son who occasionally pops home from university. He’s within easy reach of Stonehenge and other historical places whose regal solitude provides a clear mind for working out plot difficulties and story ideas. And with a background in archaeology and having worked on sites in England, Scotland, and Wales, it’s not surprising that much of his writing reflects this interest and experience. Most of Andrew’s published work falls in the horror or historical fantasy genres.
Synopsis of The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn:
Dancing with her friends in the mortal realm, Penni, the fairest Tylwyth Teg, has no idea of what she will unleash by disobeying the law. A mortal attacks the handmaidens and blocks Penni’s return to Annwyn. Banished for breaking the law, Penni is forced to take refuge with Pelling, a mortal, and his family. Penni and Pelling find love and marry, despite his brother’s hatred of the fairy folk. He wants to sell her – Tylwyth Teg slaves fetch a princely price, a great temptation for a poor farmer. The couple moves to the capital of fifth century Wales where King Maelgyn rules. Subjected to prejudice and cruelty, they are trapped in the bitter struggle between Christianity and the Old Ways of paganism. Accidentally burnt by iron – the fairy folk’s greatest fear – Penni seeks sanctuary and a cure in Annwyn. Can their love surmount the differences in cultures and religion? Can their marriage survive their separation?
I talked with Andrew about details of the mythology surrounding his new book and other aspects of his successful writing career.
Can you talk about the mythology of your new book and what inspired you to write it?
One of my passions is sixth century Britain (The Age of Arthur), particularly north Wales where I studied the period at university, and another interest is north Welsh myths and legends. ‘The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn’ combines the two. It follows an ageless story about a man who married a fairy. I set it in sixth century north Wales so I could include some of the period’s events and people, particularly the colourful King Maelgwn who is a fascinating character with countless myths and legends surrounding him.
Tylwyth Teg (fair folk) are the Welsh equivalent of fairies and feature a lot in Welsh stories. Their kings and nobles appear in a lot of different places – even Shakespeare – so it was fun including some often-used characters around Penni, the story’s main focus. The original is set in the Nant y Betws, a stunningly beautiful Welsh valley I know well, although sadly the meadow where the fairies danced and where Penni met her husband is now a sewage works. Annwyn is the traditional Welsh Otherworld where Tylwyth Teg live, and while there’s no obvious sign of an entrance in the Nant y Betws these days, walking through the valley it’s easy to imagine the fair folk watching from behind one of the ancient field walls.
You have an impressive list of publications, and even more impressive is your experience writing in very different genres. Is there one genre you feel more at home with than others?
Horror and historical fantasy are the two genres I work in most and I enjoy each equally. As a generalisation, horror stories tend to be relatively simple and linear, while fantasy has a more complicated structure and needs subtle sub-plots. I like being able to just get on with a horror novel without having to plan too much, but on the other hand historical fantasy is more rewarding when it comes off because of the extra work involved.
Which genre made the biggest impression on you as a child and as a young reader?
My parents don’t like horror or anything remotely dark, so I wasn’t brought up with it. That led me to wonder what it was all about when I was in my teens so I read a couple of horror novels (James Herbert’s ‘The Rats’ was my first) and I was fascinated not so much by the horror itself, but by discovering a genre I hardly knew existed. In my teens and early twenties I read as much horror as I could get my hands on, so the structure of horror stories slowly sunk in which is why my first writing attempts were in the genre. Historical fantasy came a little later with my interest in Arthur’s period. I wanted to see how different authors explained some of the more improbable elements of his story.
For novice writers wanting to break in, what are some of the industry “rules” about writing historical fantasy? Are there any challenges, or else any advantages to writing in this genre that you might not have in other genres?
The usual rules for writing fiction apply, like strong characters and imaginative plots. An important ‘extra’ is to know the period because although you’re writing fantasy you’re also writing history, so you need to get the clothing, habits, beliefs, and the like right. That’s why my fantasies are set around Celtic Britain; the time and place has always fascinated me and I feel comfortable setting stories there.
An advantage of writing stories set in a period where there are hardly any written records is that events and characters are often very shadowy. This gives writers a wonderful opportunity to interpret what happened, and the people involved, in the way they want or the way that fits best into the story, which is great fun.
How and when did you start writing books and who was your most important teacher or writing-mentor?
My wife works shifts, and when our son was born in the mid-nineties I wanted a hobby to keep me occupied in the evenings after I’d put him to bed. I’d always enjoyed writing at school so I decided to give fiction a go, and loved it.
I’ve never had a formal teacher or mentor but after writing for a few years I met both Phil and Carole. Both are an invaluable help in terms of critiquing early drafts of my work and giving moral support when I’ve needed it, and have become very good friends as well.
What else do you have brewing at the moment and do you have any future publications lined up?
I’ve just finished a horror about a group of archaeologists who uncover an ancient goddess, which is looking for a publisher. It’s not a fresh idea so while I’m happy with it I’m not sure anyone will want to take it on, but it’s in the sort of 1980s fiction I grew up reading and it was rewarding to do a homage to the style.
I’ve also started work on a fantasy/horror about changelings. Changelings were babies believed to be fairy children swapped by malevolent fairies for human babies in the night. I’m writing about what might happen if this still took place in the modern day.
Is your latest book a standalone or part of a series?
It’s a standalone. I’ve never written a series, I’m itching to try something different by the time I’ve finished a novel. And my first interest was horror, which isn’t a genre lending itself to series so I’ve never really thought about it.
Thank you, Andrew, for joining us this month and sharing your writing experience and inspiration with us!
Learn more about Andrew here:
- Andrew’s blog: andrewjrichardson.blogspot.com/
- Buy his book or write a review on Amazon US
- Or on Amazon UK
- Check out Andrew’s Author Page on Amazon
- And follow him on Twitter: @Richardson_Andy