Fan showcase: Prue Batten (part 1)

This is the fourth of four interviews I planned for last summer. It was originally intended to coincide with the publication of Prue‘s last novel, A Thousand Glass Flowers (2011), but I was delayed by my move. So the subject changed, perhaps fortuitously for fans of Richard Armitage. Now it coincides with the publication of Gisborne: Book of Pawns, today. This title is Prue’s first historical fiction, and it stems from a fanfic she began eighteen months ago entitled “The Sheriff’s Collector.” (Some readers may remember several of its episodes as a memorable facet of FanstRAvaganza 2, but it was under construction well before then.)

You can get Gisborne: Book of Pawns at amazon for only $2.99, but Prue has also been so kind as to provide one free e-book for a reader of this blog! Details on how to enter are here, but the gist is: leave a comment on a segment of this interview, which will run in three parts here, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Prue and I both hope you have as much fun with this as we did putting together the interview.

Speaking of which … !

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I encountered Prue for the first time in August of 2010, when Fanny, who’s a big fanfic lover, left a comment on my blog about a really good illustrated Guy of Gisborne fanfiction. I have to be told things, but this was a particularly useful piece of information, and I started following the author, Prue Batten, who writes at Mesmered’s Blog. She writes relatively little about Richard Armitage: her topics extend to her farm life in Tasmania, her stitching, her relationships with her animal friends, and the things she’s enjoyed reading. But the thing that’s intrigued me most, frankly, is her documentation of her journey towards publication — first, working with a consultancy that coaches beginning manuscripts toward potential conventional publication, and then, still not having her work picked up by an agent, moving toward accepting and embracing an identity as an “Indie Chick” — an author who publishes independently and perhaps principally in e-book format. Her readers encouraged her on this path (although I can’t find that post at the moment and fear it might have disappeared). Once decided, Prue jumped in with both feet. And A Thousand Glass Flowers, her third novel in a series with a character inspired by Richard Armitage, the Chronicles of Eirie, sustained an amazon.co.uk rating for quite some time — potentially proving her right, and inspiring all of us who write in corners of the Internet but dream of a little more than that.

I enjoy Prue’s writing. She’s developed an elegant style that’s never overly mannered; she somehow manages to lend the reader a feel of the past while avoiding the pitfalls of over-ornamentation or affectation. Her narratives are gripping and keep me hitting the page turn button. I’m admit that I’m not a huge fan of fantasy, where she started her odyssey but Gisborne: Book of Pawns firmly establishes a new home for her in historical fiction. In the first part of this three-part fan showcase, Prue discusses her first encounters with Richard Armitage and the parts of his work that made her want to write a whole historical fiction about the adaptation of Gisborne he helped inspire her to see.

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Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne in a promotional photo for series 3 of Robin Hood. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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Servetus: What was your first exposure to Richard Armitage?

Prue Batten: I can’t remember the year, but it occurred during the second series of Robin Hood. It was shown in Australia much later than in the UK. I had enjoyed the anachronistic approach to language and costume and the delightfully sharp in-jokes of the first series, but hadn’t noticed Richard Armitage much at all. While watching series 2, however, I was sitting in front of the television embroidering, and I heard a rich, rumbling voice on the show and recall looking up to see who it was.

S: What kept you watching and made you a fan?

Prue Batten: I loved Robin Hood and would have kept watching till the very end regardless, but something about the complexity of the character of Guy of Gisborne caught my imagination. The show was spoof-ish and it was interesting to see how Armitage gave his role a degree of depth that might not otherwise have been apparent in the character.

***

Asked to isolate favorite moments in Armitage’s work, Prue’s thoughts naturally turned to Robin Hood. She focused on three points that gave her food for thought as her imagination moved toward a project that initially began as a Guy of Gisborne fanfic. The first is from RH 2.7, in the scene when Marian learns of her father’s death. Prue says, “I thought that Gisborne showed potential for redemption at that point.”

S: You’ll have to explain this reaction to me; I watch the scene and think, at the end, that he’s still scheming.

Prue Batten: Watch Guy’s face initially. We see concern, even a form of pain, as if he remembers something from his own past. When he tries to help her and she pushes him away and runs through the market, he follows, not because he wants to manipulate her, but out of genuine concern. As the scene progresses, he warns her of imminent danger. When he holds her, I don’t see him scheming at all. I see a man desperate to persuade the woman he believes he loves that he can protect and care for her. When he begins to kiss her hair, he is gentle and sensitive and almost relieved that she is compliant enough to let him, but then his mouth moves toward her neck and the moment is lost. Prior to the mood breaking, I saw Gisborne capable of many things, not the least of which were love, honor and care.

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S: At this point, many of my interlocutors say, “and then I watched everything he did.”

Prue Batten: I have never had great conviction in terms of fandom. I go for months without learning about any of Richard Armitage’s activities except when they relate to news about The Hobbit, and my interest in that project dates from way back. I’ve been a Tolkien fan since the 1970s, and I carted The Lord of the Rings in three thick paperbacks right through Asia. I’ve been a fan of Peter Jackson since the LOTR movies. I’m also interested in the production’s connection to New Zealand. NZ is the most beautifully eye-catching country, and it would be the first landmass I hit if I sailed in a straight line from the beach outside my door.

S: So you’re not a “completist”?

Prue Batten: No. I watched North & South on the advice of Maria Grazia and enjoyed it immensely. I also bought the Naxos audios of the Georgette Heyer narrations because the quality of RA’s voice is remarkable. He has a talent for the weighted nuance and can produce a dozen different voices and continue the narrative smoothly, making for enjoyable listening. I once felt obliged to write a blog post on A Convenient Marriageas his reading of the story almost caused me to drive off the road.

But, as with The Hobbit, most of my exposure to his other work arrived in conjunction with other interests. I came across him quite by accident in The Vicar of Dibley because Dawn French is one of the exceptional collection of English actresses who impress me. My husband and I were committed fans of Spooks from series 1, so I didn’t start watching it because of him or continue watching it for him. I watched Strike Back because my husband enjoyed it. (I had to close my eyes quite a bit.) Along with the BBC radio production of Clarissa, that is the sum total of my Richard Armitage exposure.

***

A second series of moments in Armitage’s work that Prue remembers as striking were his sequences with Meg in Robin Hood 3.9. Prue remarks, “Perhaps he came into his own more there than in any other part of the series. The ‘hell’ reference and Guy’s realization that he is cursed forever by his terrible misdeed provided important moments for my developing thought process about Gisborne.”

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S: What about Armitage’s Guy of Gisborne inspired the writing of an entire historical fiction about him?

Prue Batten: If I hadn’t seen Armitage’s Gisborne, I doubt I’d have written a historical fiction about that particular (literary) character. I would have found some other figure to concoct an adventure around and placed that individual sometime between 1200-1600 A.D., because those are the periods of history that arouse my interest.

Once I started watching him more attentively, I liked the subtle aspects of Gisborne’s nature introduced by Armitage within the parameters of the legend and the script. The scenarios in the clips above and below were tiny seeds that germinated and climbed to the light.

As per the legend, Guy of Gisborne in the BBC Robin Hood was doomed. The producers stayed very close to the tale’s original trope with Gisborne and the Sheriff as the villains and Robin as the hero, so I felt it would be an interesting exercise to take Gisborne far from the accepted canon. I remember a discussion I read online from last year’s FanstRAvaganza about Gisborne’s potential for redemption. I always felt that amongst the ashes of bitterness and jealousy, Armitage’s Gisborne was a man desperate to find something meaningful, something that made his life worthy. By writing Gisborne my way, I hoped I might give him that chance without being twee or precious about it.

***

The final clip Prue chose of a highlight from Armitage’s work that inspired her creativity comes from Robin Hood 3.10, where, as she says, “Guy and Robin reconstructed the tale of Robin’s libidinous father and Guy’s lonely mother, albeit with fire and brimstone, helped out by a rather leprous gentleman.”


Prue says, “Throughout the episode, the evidence for the development of Guy’s bitterness and desperation thunders in front of us all ‘like stones from a trebuchet.’ I doubt there would have been one viewer who didn’t believe Guy deserved redemption as the back story was revealed.”

***

S: So these scenes spawned the novel?

Prue Batten: Not immediately. They planted in my mind the conviction that Gisborne could be a man with enticing depth, given the chance. I began to wonder what he might have been in a different plot scenario – one with no Robin, no Sheriff, no Marian. However, I knew that if I were to write such a story, the desire to maintain Gisborne’s innate integrity as an anti-hero would be paramount, as I certainly couldn’t imagine him as a conventional hero dusted in gold leaf. But I did nothing about the storyline immediately. That came later.

S: Gisborne began its life as a fanfiction called “The Sheriff’s Collector.” You’ve said that your decision to participate in FanstRAvaganza 2 spurred you to put a lot of extra effort into it, but what made you think that this developing story could be a novel? Was it the popularity of the story and the fan response?

Prue Batten: It all seemed like some fortunate accident — serendipity, just like the whole of my writing life. I began the fanfiction spontaneously, just as a bit of fun. Novel writing is accompanied by literary rules and constraints; in contrast, writing fanfiction frees a writer because fans are notoriously kind and forgiving. Rather surprisingly, the fanfiction got a very positive and often thoughtful response from its readers. But the point of change from fanfiction to historical fiction, the epiphany if you like, came when I researched the medieval horarium so the characters could move credibly within a daily time frame. I realized that if I changed the narrative around, reforming the structure, paying the storyline the respect it was due with richer and far deeper research than I had done for the fanfiction, that I might potentially have a genuine historical fiction on my hands. Eighteen months later, I had it finished.

S: What are the positive features and challenges of starting a freestanding novel as a fanfic?

Prue Batten: I had never written fanfiction before, so writing for <a Wattpad and later, blog-driven story uploads, was like writing for a weekly magazine. It required dedication and application. As an experience, it was quite disciplined, and that was good for me, because my real life usually precludes writing to such a timetable.

Tomorrow, more on the book. From the back cover: “Ysabel of Moncrieff .. Guy of Gisborne .. Two people drawn together by loyalty, lust, and a lost inheritance and whose existence depends on whom they trust.” Intrigued? You should be. Buy your own copy here, or leave a comment on this post to be entered in the ebook giveaway!

***

Neither Prue nor Servetus needs to report much about Prue; she’s a truly globalized personality. Her own bio’s here. Judi interviewed her on writing. She talked about her attitude toward historical fiction in an interview supporting Richard Armitage’s Richard III ambitions. You’d think a lady who spends a lot of time on a complicated form of embroidery‘d be sedate, but she participates in those twitter novel projects, proving that she has her wild side. What can Servetus add? She’s fascinated by a thousand-year-old book. If she could have any superpower, she’d want to breathe underwater. She’s afraid of snakes (seems sensible to me).

***

[Fan showcases are an irregular feature on “me + richard armitage.” These segments seek to highlight the opinions and activities of a cross-segment of the very diverse group of people who have become fans of Richard Armitage. Previous showcases can be found here: bZirk, Eli, LadyKate63, fitzg, Angieklong, khandy, jazzbaby1, Amanda Jane, Jane (part 1, part 2, part 3). I plan to continue this feature intermittently, so if you are interested in being interviewed, please let me know. My email address can be found in the sidebar under “About.” — Servetus]

~ by Servetus on February 27, 2012.

27 Responses to “Fan showcase: Prue Batten (part 1)”

  1. From another Aussie, thankyou for this interview. I have bought and downloaded the new Gisborne book and look forward to reading it in full.
    Tasmania is a beautiful part of Australia, especially the east coast. 🙂
    I agree with Prue on the point she made about Gisborne in the first clip. I don’t believe he was scheming either. He was certainly guilty of being clumsy, trying to take advantage of the situation, but I also think he was genuinely concerned about Marian and her welfare, and he was hurting for her.
    The scenes with Meg were a turning point for me also in my intial discovery of Gisborne.

    Like

  2. Servetus, seeing the actual interview go live is wonderful. You’re aware how much I enjoyed delving deeply to find out what lay behind the soul of the book and your introduction is really very humbling. Thank you.

    Like

  3. I’d love to participate in the give-away 🙂

    I wonder, if Prue ever watched RH S1 too?

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  4. Thanks for the great interview. I’ve been waiting anxiously for this book since I first read portions of the fanfic a year ago.

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    • yeah, that fanfic was a major highlight when it appeared. I can confidently say the book is just as good / even better.

      Like

  5. Great interview. I am a fanfic fantatic and think that writing fanfic must be a super power in itself. Prue, I wish you much success and I the book has been downloaded to my kiindle.

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  6. Congratulations on the book! Success!

    Like

  7. […] forget to check out part 1 of my interview with Prue Batten marking the publication of Gisborne: Book of Pawns, and leave a comment to win a free copy! […]

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  8. Cindy, Gracie and Ana: one of the problems of living in the southern hemisphere is not being able to engage directly comments are made on a northern hemisphere blog. Thank you all so much for your wishes, your book buying and your interest. I hope you enjoy my version of Gisborne!

    PS: Ana is the name of one of the major characters in The Stumpwork Robe. A young girl in love with an Other!

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  9. Great chat, ladies. I’m even mentioned , wow! I “met” Prue because of Richard’s Gisborne in the TV series and I must thank him for this fortuitous acquaintance of a very special woman. I’ve found a real, dear friend on the other side of the world whom I dream of meeting one day. I loved her “A Thousand Glass Flowers” and her Finnian (who was also inspired to RA’s Gisborne ) and I ‘ve really liked reading her first historical novel. I admire Prue as a writer and as a woman. Good luck and great success to her Gisborne!
    By the way, if you want a double chance to win this book, there’s a giveaway on my blog FLY HIGH too, linked to my review (http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.com/2012/02/gisborne-book-of-pawns-by-prue-batten.html)
    Thanks a lot Servetus for another interesting interview!

    Like

  10. Let me win!

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  11. I’ve been looking forward to both this interview and the new book. Great interview Serv. Wishing you great success, Prue. 😉

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  12. I wish you success with the book Mesmered! I’m sure it’s been a labour of love and it must be amazing to see it finally finished and “out there”. As always Servetus, the interview is fascinating to read! Congrats Ladies 🙂

    Like

  13. […] and author of Gisborne: Book of Pawns, which appeared on Sunday. Part 1 of the interview is found here. Leave a comment on any segment of the interview for a chance to win a free e-book of this great […]

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  14. While you may still comment here, entries for the contest have now closed.

    Like

  15. […] fitzg, Angieklong, khandy, jazzbaby1, Amanda Jane, Jane (part 1, part 2, part 3), and Prue Batten (part 1, part 2, part 3). I plan to continue this feature intermittently, so if you are interested in being […]

    Like

  16. […] Prue Batten’s Gisborne novel, which started as a fanfic, has been nominated for an award. Congratulations to Prue! She was interviewed on this blog about the novel when it came out, starting here. […]

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  17. […] on this blog in a fan showcase around the publication of the first book in the series, starting here (part 1). Follow links on that post to parts 2 and […]

    Like

  18. […] make in the fandom. Writers just seem to spring out of our ranks. I’ve done interviews with Prue Batten and Kate Forrester; in the ranks of the legacy fans are Rosy Thornton and Philippa Ashley, and no […]

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