We’re Highlighting Historical Romance with Nicole Evelina who brings us a treat. I’ve been fascinated with Arthur since I read the Boy’s King Arthur at 10 or so. My love of story telling links directly back to the Arthurian legends.
While I’m not a trained historian, I spent 15 years studying Arthurian legend as research for my Guinevere’s Tale trilogy. In addition to reading about 80 books on the legend, the characters, the possibility of Arthur being real and all aspects of British Celtic history (religion, politics, culture, etc.), I also traveled to England twice.
There is nothing like being able to travel for research. Even if you’re writing historical fiction, when you stand in the place where your characters would have been, it helps to peel back the layers of time. You can see how the light looks, how the air smells, and get a sense for the energy of the place.
My first research trip across the pond was in 1999, right after I started writing the first book. That was when I fell in love with the Lake District, and coupled with research on a northern Arthur, decided to set Camelot in that area as opposed to the more traditionally popular location of Cadbury in southern England.
In 2013, I was fortunate to take an Arthurian legend tour of southwest England (officially called From Avalon to Camelot) with Gothic Image Tours. (Photos from all the places we visited are on my Flickr page.) During this trip, I was fortunate to consult with internationally acclaimed Arthurian author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, both of whom helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.
Glastonbury Tor – The Tor, the tallest hill in the otherwise flat lands of Somerset, was made famous in Arthurian legend by Marion Zimmer Bradley in her book The Mists of Avalon. But it really has been a holy site for centuries. The area used to be marshland and was surrounded by water, creating the lake associated with the Lady of the Lake and Avalon. Today, the land is dry and the Tor is topped with the ruins of St. Michael’s Tower, all that remains of the medieval church that once stood on the site. Some say there used to be a stone circle at the top and that the labyrinth-like terraces carved into the sides were a ritual procession path. Whatever it’s true origins, the Tor has become a New Age and Arthurian sacred site and climbing it (and it is one heck of a climb, even using the stairs) should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
Connection to my books: The Tor is the center of Avalon in my books and is the sacred place where all rituals are held. You see more of it in the first book than the second, but it’s still an important spiritual location throughout the trilogy.
Cadbury Castle – Nowadays, Cadbury is little more than an earthwork fort, but in its heyday it must have belonged to someone spectacular. The ramparts are still impressive and from the top (you can climb to it) you can see for miles around. Cadbury is thought by many to be the true location of Camelot. The land behind the hill was thought to have been the real Round Table, and is the area Guinevere brought to Arthur as part of her dowry. If this is true and we assume Cadbury was Camelot, then Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere makes strategic sense.
Connection to my books: Because my Camelot is located in the Lake District in northern England, near Carlisle, Cadbury is Arthur’s southern power base. There are several scenes in Camelot’s Queen that take place in this castle.
Avebury – Much larger (both in terms of geographic footprint and stone size) than it’s more famous cousin, Stonehenge, Avebury stone circle is a place of peace and power. As part of four local ceremonial sites, it is thought to have been a meeting place for local tribes at least once a year, likely on the Celtic holy day of Lughnasa (August 1). It includes largest stone circle in Britain – originally of 98 to 105 stones – which in turn encloses two smaller stone circles. There is even a processional way that leads visitors to the circles, and a stone believed to be where the high priestess sat to preside over ceremonies.
Connection to my books: In Camelot’s Queen, the Grail Maidens visit The Sanctuary of the Stars – which is a name I made up for Avebury – while they are moving the Grail from one place to another, just before the Grail quest begins.
Guinevere is much more than the unfaithful wife/seductress of medieval legend. Now she tells her story in three parts. Before queenship and Camelot, young Guinevere was a battle-trained noble and a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her. Learn the true story of her early life in Daughter of Destiny.
The sequel, Camelot’s Queen, proves there is much more to Guinevere’s story than her marriage and an affair. History remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first. See the legend you think you know through her eyes and live the adventure of Camelot’s golden days yourself – but be prepared to suffer its downfall as well.
~Excerpt from the Prologue
I am Guinevere.
I was once a queen, a lover, a wife, a mother, a priestess, and a friend. But all those roles are lost to me now; to history, I am simply a seductress, a misbegotten woman set astray by the evils of lust.
This is the image painted of me by subsequent generations, a story retold thousands of times. Yet, not one of those stories is correct. They were not there; they did not see through my eyes or feel my pain. My laughter was lost to them in the pages of history.
I made the mistake of allowing the bards to write my song. Events become muddled as ink touches paper, and truth becomes malleable as wax under a flame. Good men are relegated to the pages of inequity, without even an honest epitaph to mark their graves.
Arthur and I were human, no more, no less, though people choose to see it differently. We loved, we argued, we struggled, all in the name of a dream, a dream never to be fulfilled. Camelot is what fed the fires that stirred us to do as we did. History calls it sin, but we simply called it life.
The complexity of living has a way of shielding one’s eyes from the implications of one’s role. That is left for others to flesh out, and they so often manipulate it to suit their own needs. To those god-awful religious, I have become a whore; Arthur the victim of a fallen Eve; Morgan, a satanic faerie sent to lead us all astray. To the royalty, we have become symbols of the dreams they failed to create and Arthur is the hero of a nation, whereas to me, he was simply a man. To the poor, we are but a legend, never flesh and blood, a haunting story to be retold in times of tribulation, if only to inspire the will to survive.
We were so much more than mute skeletons doomed to an eternity in dust and confusion. We were people with a desire for life, a life of peace that would be our downfall. Why no one can look back through the years and recognize the human frailty beneath our actions, I will never understand. Some say grace formed my path; others call it a curse. Whatever it was, I deserve to be able to bear witness before being condemned by men who never saw my face.
It ends now. I will take back my voice and speak the truth of what happened. So shall the lies be revealed and Camelot’s former glory restored. Grieve with me, grieve for me, but do not believe the lies which time would sell. All I ask is that mankind listen to my words, and then judge me on their merit.
For more on The Guinevere Trilogy including buy links:
Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Been Searching for You, a romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
She also writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Later this year, she will release Madame Presidentess (July 25), a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female Presidential candidate, which was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
Her website is http://nicoleevelina.com.