Samantha Norman took on a labor of love when her mother, Ariana Franklin died - she finished her half-written novel, Seige of Winter. She's here at the Playground to talk about it today.
Your mother started to write Siege of Winter and you finished it after she died. How much of the novel had she written and how much work was required to finish it?
My mother had written about half the novel before she died. There was an awful amount of work to do to finish it and I had to do a massive crash course in medieval history. Mum had spent about 40 years researching the period and although I had read all her novels and, therefore, knew a little bit about the middle ages, I had nothing like the sort of forensically detailed historical knowledge necessary to do her justice.
How did you handle the historical research? Did your mother keep good notes? Did you have to go back and do research gain yourself?
The strange thing was that although mum was an assiduous note-taker I couldn’t find any, not a thing. The very first thing I did was re-read all her novels and then I joined a place called the London Library which has virtually every book and paper ever written and plundered all their resources. I read everything I could lay my hands on until I felt confident enough to start writing.
Before you started on this project, had you ever written a novel before?
I’d written a couple of children’s picture books but nothing on this scale.
How did you start the project and how long did it take you?
As soon as I got the go ahead from my mother’s agent and editor I started working on it. Mum died in January 2011 and I started writing in earnest in the April of that year. It took about 18 months.
What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of finishing your mother’s novel?
The best thing about it is having done it! My mum had always nagged me to write novels, felt that it would be something I could do and I think she was a little disappointed that I hadn’t. Now, of course, I have it’s just sad that she’s not around to see it although I think she would be pleased.
Did you like writing? Do you have plans to write any more novels now that you have finished this one?
I loved writing. I loved the whole process, the research, the plotting, immersing myself in the period and now that this one is finished and, thank God, published, I’ve started on another one. In fact, I’m writing the continuation of mum’s popular Mistress of The Art of Death series.
What was the hardest part about undertaking this project?
A lot of people ask me what the hardest part about undertaking this project was and assume that it was adopting my mother’s voice. In fact that turned out to be the easy bit, I write like her quite naturally partly, I think, because I knew her so well and also because she taught me to write when I was embarking on a career in journalism. Probably the hardest aspect of it was the research it felt a bit like being asked to run a marathon from the half-way point without having done any training or preparation. A novel like “Winter Siege” depends on being able to convince the reader that they are experiencing what it must have been like to live in the middle ages and you’ve really got to know your stuff to be able to do that. I hope in the end I did.