David Pilling Interview

Today I have the pleasure of speaking with author David Pilling. Thanks for taking time to talk with me today David.

To start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Certainly. My name's David - obviously - I'm 32 years old and currently work in the Library and Archive at Tate Britain in London. I have a background working in various heritage and arts institutions, previous jobs including stints at The Royal Opera House and the School of Oriental and African Studies, and also had a brief career as an English teacher in the Czech Republic. I am also a total history geek and my idea of a good time is studying printed medieval court records in the British Library - seriously, much more fun than you might think.

Could you tell readers a little bit about your upcoming release Folville's Law?
Folville's Law is set in the early 14th century, and is essentially about one man's struggle to rediscover his true nature after several years in the wilderness. Sir John Swale is a poor knight from Cumberland, which at the time was a very poor and lawless part of England, plagued by cross-Border warfare, and blames himself for not being present when his family was slaughtered by a raiding Scottish war-band. He is in the service of Hugh Despenser the Younger, a corrupt and avaricious royal favourite, and has done dubious things in Despenser's service.

The story follows Swale's attempts to investigate the murder of Sir Roger Beler, an important noble and baron of the Exchequer, on behalf of his increasingly paranoid master. Along the way he meets a rich widow named Elizabeth Clinton, and falls foul of the outlaws Eustace Folville and James Coterel. Meanwhile the Despensers and their master, King Edward II, struggle to hold onto power while Edward's estranged wife, Queen Isabella, and her lover Roger Mortimer gather an invasion army in Flanders.

What was your inspiration for Folville's Law?
The original idea stemmed from my interest in medieval outlaw legends, such as Robin Hood, Hereward the Wake, Fulk Fitzwarin etc, and where they derive from. That led me on to reading accounts of real-life outlaws, of which Eustace was one of the most notorious, and I realized that no-one had portrayed Eustace in fiction. Hardly surprising, perhaps, since he wasn't exactly hero material, but the obvious solution was to make him one of the villains. That dovetailed nicely with the chaos at the end of Edward II's reign, which makes great raw material for fiction. Edward himself was a catastrophe as a man and a king, and made a complete hash of his life, which is always compelling, so I wanted to include him as well, and the coterie of oddballs and psychopaths that populated his court.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The hardest thing, though I enjoy it, is the research. Getting all the obscure facts and fine detail down is difficult, and it's easy to miss something. It's also difficult to self-edit and be disciplined about what to leave out - I could have added many interesting facts about the extent of the Coterel estates and their annual revenues in Derbyshire, for example, but perhaps they are best left to an academic essay!

What is the most interesting thing you've done in the name of research?
Joined a sword-fighting club in East London, using replica German medieval broadswords, which left me with a fractured knuckle, numerous bruises and a vague idea of just how dangerous (and painful) swashbuckling could be.

If you could meet one of your characters, who would it be?
Maybe the adolescent Edward III, a young man under a great deal of pressure. I'm not sure I would want to meet the likes of Folville and Despenser (especially not in a dark alley), no matter how compelling they might be to read about.

If you could pick any celebrity to be on the cover of your book, who would it be and why?
Difficult one…James Purefoy in armour, preferably spattered in mud and someone else's blood, would be a striking image.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write in short, intense bursts, about half an hour to 40 minutes at a time. Then I spend rather longer staring blankly at the wall, or drinking tea for inspiration.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I'm wary of doing so. I've had a fair amount of articles and short fiction published in the past few years, but I didn't really consider myself a writer until Musa accepted Folville. Now I consider myself an apprentice writer.

If you had a warning label, what would it say?
'Warning - do not assume low intelligence or lack of industry.'

What's the most interesting obscure fact you know?
Many! Take your pick. Henry II was a dab hand with a needle and thread, how about that?

Which one of the characters you've created is most like you?
John Swale, probably, in that he's always questioning himself and is anxious about how the world perceives him. He is also dogged by the fear that he's an under-achiever.

What can your fans look forward to in the next twelve months from you?
More Swale and Elizabeth, in the form of a series of short stories or 'mini-sequels' to Folville's Law, to be released by Musa in the next few months, and a Fantasy novel, 'The Best Weapon', which I co-wrote with my friend and co-writer Martin Bolton. The Best Weapon will be released by Urania, Musa's Speculative Fiction imprint.

Is there anything else you would like to add today?
Only that I haven't had any breakfast yet and the caffeine is starting to wear off…

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us today David!
No problem! : )

Interviewed by: Tammy