After weeks of writing, plotting an planning, one author was chosen as tournament champion in our Historical Heroes writing competition. Our very worthy winner is Tora Williams who’s entry ‘The Welsh King’s Spy’ won the public vote.
We interviewed her for Socialise about what inspired her to take part…
What inspired you to enter the #Historical Heroes Tournament?
It was mostly the guarantee of feedback to every entrant. I suffer from a severe lack of self-confidence when it comes to writing. I love doing it, but have trouble believing anyone else wants to read what I’ve written. I’d finished the first draft of The Welsh King’s Spy some time ago, but decided there were major flaws to sort out, so put it aside while I focused on other projects. By coincidence, just a few days before the Historical Heroes competition was announced, I’d dug it out and reread it, and thought that actually it was quite enjoyable in places. But I really wanted a second opinion, so when I saw the competition announcement I decided the opportunity for feedback was too good to pass up.
I didn’t enter straight away, of course. No, I dithered for the whole week of the Medieval heroes entry, torn between wanting the feedback and terrified the editors were going to die laughing. It was only a few hours before the deadline that I summoned up the courage to send my chapter in.
What was the inspiration for your hero/story?
I was on a writers’ retreat in Snowdonia when I was starting to write The Welsh King’s Spy. I had a good idea who my heroine was and what made her tick, but I couldn’t get to grips with the hero. I’d planned for him to be a Norman Marcher baron called Hugh, but it just wasn’t working. I went for a walk to seek inspiration—and there’s no more inspiring scenery than the mountains of Snowdonia—and asked myself why I couldn’t see Hugh properly, why was he lurking in the shadows? Then it clicked – he was a spy. Straight away, I saw him disguised as a beggar, meeting my heroine for the first time. Then I had to ask why a Norman would be spying on another Norman and realised that he was Welsh. Cue a quick name change to Huw and I had him.
Have you always felt an urge to write?
Definitely. When I was at primary school I loved writing stories and always said I wanted to be an author (except when I wanted to be a zoologist, because I thought it was a great word). I was the one who was always asking my teachers if I could stay in at break to add more to my story. However, as I got older, although I never lost the urge to write, the pressures of my career and life in general meant that I never got further than thinking that I’d like to write a book one day. It was only about four years ago that I decided that if my job was getting in the way of doing what I really wanted, then I should chuck it in and do something that gave me time to write. So now I’m a writer and proofreader by day and a maths tutor by night. What an exciting double life I lead!
How did you feel when you heard you were part of the Top 3?
Once I’d got over the disbelief (I had to read the email three times before it sank in that it wasn’t a ‘thank you, but…’) and then the elation (running round the room, punching the air) the feeling that remained with me the longest was encouragement. It was a real boost to know that the editors loved and believed in my characters enough to put my chapter through to the Top 3 and it’s spurred me to keep going.
What were your thoughts when you found out you were Tournament Champion and how did you celebrate?
I was on the train when the announcement was made. I was sat sweating over my mobile phone, refreshing my Twitter feed every five seconds, when M&B tweeted that the winner was about to be announced. And that was the moment the train hit a reception blackspot. My poor fellow passengers had to put up with a mad woman, stabbing at her phone, screaming, ‘Noooo!’ So when I did eventually get reception and found out that I’d won, I had to be satisfied with a whispered, ‘Yesss!’ and just a tiny air punch. But the best bit was all the wonderful messages I got from my writing friends on Twitter and Facebook. I love how supportive the romance-writing community is.
As for my thoughts—the main one was, ‘So that means I’ve got to finish my ms now, doesn’t it!’
What are your writing ambitions for the future?
I’m going to keep writing and submitting my work in the hope that I will find a publisher one day. It would be fantastic to write for Mills & Boon, so if The Welsh King’s Spy doesn’t make the grade, I’ll just have to write another. And another…
And finally, if your hero and heroine were in the 21st Century, what would they be doing?
Huw’s too addicted to excitement for him to lead an ordinary life. He would have to be a Spooks-style MI5 or MI6 agent. Make it MI6, because that would give him the opportunity to meet Matilda. She’s independent and adventurous so would make the most of the greater freedoms for women in this century. I can see her as a doctor with Médecins Sans Frontières, working in a war-zone. Whatever they were doing, though, they would definitely end up together.
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