Sunday, 30 October 2016

Diana talks to - Manda Scott


It was a true privilege to have heard Manda Scott  talk at HNS16, when she spoke on a panel with Rory Clements and Antonia Hodgson about Writing the Historical Thriller: Methods and Approaches. It was an even greater privilege that she agreed to answering a few (?) questions for me.

Thank you Manda.

1: If your latest book INTO THE FIRE was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

I do have this in development for television but have not got near the casting.  The lead would have to play in both the contemporary thread as Captain Inès Picaut and in the historical thread as The Maid.  I’ve always thought that Archie Panjabi would be excellent in both roles, but I barely watch television, so I’m probably not the best person to decide that. That is amazinglygood news for the many, many fans of this TV genre!

2: If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
I do but I’m pitching it to my publisher just now and can’t talk about it. I’ve always written in an effort to move the great ship of society/culture.  Writing history was a chance to do this - the Boudica: Dreaming series were based on the premise that ‘this is who we were, this is who we could be’ (‘We’ being the peoples of the British Isles) but I am beginning to realise that the world is not about to drop 2 millennia of Roman thinking and return to something more sustainable. So I may look forwards instead. Exciting!

3: Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
I have a very set routine. I wake and do a morning ceremony which is a bit like Tai Chi and then walk/run with the dog in the local hills/woodlands where I can practice a mindful/contemplative kind of walking on the way out and think about the book on the return journey.  I have my desk set up with ergonomic keyboard/mouse (Microsoft split keyboard and Evoluent left handed mouse, for those that are interested. I’m not left handed, but I do mouse with my left). I take endless breaks. I try not to read too much else that is fiction while I’m writing but read a lot in the evenings.  I write from mid-day to about 8 pm unless there’s a reason to stop sooner.  

4: Marmite: love it or hate it?
Love it, but can’t eat it - it brings me out in a bizarre rash. 

5: Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Chancellor of the Exchequer. I’m currently taking a 6 month sabbatical to do an MA in Economics for Transition (to a sustainable way of living) and would love to be able to implement it. If not that, I’d be a journalist on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

6: Coffee or tea? Red or white?
None of these. I don’t do any of... tea, coffee, alcohol, chocolate or sugar. 
Total respect!

7: If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I genuinely have no idea. Whatever one is most readable. I’d ask my partner, who is a graphic designer. 

8:  Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be? The full works of Tacitus. 

9: Historical fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
Not so far.  I would like *not* to have had to see Boudica die at the end of the four books, but history is what it is… 
As a devoted reader of those four books, I would also have liked her *not* to die!

10:   Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this ?
Not knowingly. The point (for me) is to work with the known facts and discover how and (more importantly) why they arose
11. Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
I’m not sure any of us knows ‘facts’.  

12:   Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
I love a lot of my characters.  The one I identify with most is Bàn, who becomes Valerius, though I was surprised the extent to which I really connected with a half Gaullish spy by the name of Sebastos Pantera. 

13: What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
I love it I read mountains of non fiction. I particularly enjoy books on ciphers and coding.  In fiction terms, I read anything that’s good.  Really, really good.  Hilary Mantel, Andrew Taylor, Antonia Hodgeson, Imogen Robertson.  There’s so much that’s outstanding.  I recently fell in love with a series of spy novels by Adam Brookes, a former BBC correspondent.  NIGHT HERON is outstanding. 

14: What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Skullcap tea.  It’s my current favourite drink and is amazingly uplifting, but you have to keep to small doses. One mug a day. 

15: Favourite historical author.
Tthat’s hard.  Actually, that’s really, really hard. For a long time, it would have been Mary Renault: her ‘Fire from Heaven’ was my Desert Island Book.  But then Wolf Hall came along. And then Andrew Taylor wrote The Ashes of London which is just a delight.  So… any of those, really. 
Author, columnist and screenwriter, Manda Scott has written thirteen novels beginning with contemporary thrillers. Her first, Hen's Teeth; was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, No Good Deed was nominated for an Edgar Award in the 'Best Thriller' category.

Having served her writing apprenticeship, she went back in time to write the four novels of the bestselling Boudica:Dreaming series, followed by their direct sequels, the Rome series (as MC Scott), featuring the spy Sebastos Pantera.

Into the Fire was published in 2015: "A Masterclass in writing Historical fiction"

Both Into the Fire and the Boudica series have been optioned for television and are under development.

She is Founder and former Chair of the Historical Writers' Association. She writes reviews and columns for the Independent, the Express, the Telegraph and the (Glasgow) Herald. She writes television scripts, blogs and is working on two non-fiction books.
© Diana Milne July 2016 © Manda Scott September 2016

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