A brilliant new release from historical fiction author D.K. Marley is featured on Author Chats today. I fell in love with the gorgeous cover, and the story lives up to the promise. Enjoy D.K.’s interview, and a fabulous excerpt from Kingfisher.
The past, future, and Excalibur lie in her hands.
Wales, 1914. Vala Penrys and her four sisters find solace in their spinster life by story-telling, escaping the chaos of war by dreaming of the romantic days of Camelot. When the war hits close to home, Vala finds love with Taliesin Wren, a mysterious young Welsh Lieutenant, who shows her another world within the tangled roots of a Rowan tree, known to the Druids as ‘the portal’.
One night she falls through, and suddenly she is Vivyane, Lady of the Lake – the Kingfisher – in a divided Britain clamoring for a High King. What begins as an innocent pastime becomes the ultimate quest for peace in two worlds full of secrets, and Vala finds herself torn between the love of her life and the salvation of not only her family but of Britain, itself.
From award-winning historical novelist, D. K. Marley – a story for OUTLANDER and MISTS OF AVALON fans – comes a time-traveling historical spanning centuries.
“It is, at the heart of it, a love story – the love between a man and a woman, between a woman and her country, and between the characters and their fates – but its appeal goes far beyond romance. It is a tale of fate, of power, and, ultimately, of sacrifice for a greater good.” – Riana Everly, author of Teaching Eliza and Death of a Clergyman
Tell us more about your writing process, D.K. If you could go anywhere for a year to be inspired for your next book, what setting would you choose and what would you write?
This is an easy one! I would definitely go to Wales and Cornwall. I am currently working on the second book in the Kingfisher series and have spent a great deal of time looking at pictures and videos of both places. My husband and I had plans to visit before the pandemic hit, I had it all mapped out, but as we all know, things have changed and hemmed us all in quite a bit. I think to be there, to walk among the ruins of Tintagel, or wander through the Brecon forest, or Caernarfon would truly inspire me to push forward in finishing. Of course, whether I can go or not, I still have plans on releasing later this year, probably November.
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success? Well, I am a true believer that whatever you can give to others finds a way back; through my grief, I have had so many historical fiction authors and readers offer great support through the years, and I wanted to find a way to give back with this new website that my team members and I have created. To have a place to support others is a literary success to me. I mean, I love having people buy my books and give me great reviews, but whether I ever got one single purchase or review is not the reason I write. I write because I have no choice. The need compels me, pushes me, like some sort of innate part of my DNA. Literary success was when I wrote ‘the end’ on my first novel, got the first 5-star review, the first award, and the first author that used my website – all the rest is cake.
Are any of your characters in this book based on real people?
Yes. I have four real people in my book “KIngfisher” – The author, H. G. Wells; Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey; and the philanthropist sisters, Gwendoline and Margaret Davies.
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
This was a challenge for this book since I came across some rather shocking and scandalous accounts, especially for Mr Wells and Sir Grey. I believe very strongly that you must portray a historical figure as accurately as you can within your limitations of never having met them in person. I mean, we are all contained as historical fiction writers within that boundary, so we are all basing our knowledge on the people on what others have written about them, or from first-person records. With both Wells and Grey, I wanted to maintain their social status and the incredible things they did during WW1, but I also wanted to show their frailties, their mistakes – you know, things that connect all of us, and things that a reader could relate to. Wells was known to have what he called ‘passades’ or little flings with women, some married, and he associated regularly with a group of men, such as Sir Grey, who felt their free-thinking ways were the future. And, in a sense, the Davies’ sisters were also forward-thinkers in the sense that they both remained single and became entrepreneurs at a time when women did not have those kinds of opportunities. All of these people influence my main character, Vala Penrys, in a profound way.
How long did it take you to research and write this book; were there any “wrong turns” along the way?
I researched for about six months before writing or starting on this book, and then I continue to research while I am writing. There are always things to look up or check! And one of the wrong turns I made was in keeping the timeline straight. Writing a time travel book is quite an organizing challenge. I found I had to keep a written timeline of events in front of me, one for the past, one for the present, and one for the future. I had to go back and rewrite whole scenes in order to keep things straight, and remembering dates and ages in whatever era my characters were in sometimes drove me to trash entire sections.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favourite? Why?
My favourite scene is when my main character Vala is wandering the galleries at the British Museum with H. G. Wells, where they discuss the past and fate, and the choices we make as humans – something we can all relate to. Here is the excerpt:
We wandered along the passages, beneath the spatial colonnades, passing ancient Babylonian winged beasts and Assyrian statues, into the Egyptian gallery. Standing next to the towering sculpted image of Ramses, I couldn’t help but spout the questions forming in my mind.
“I wonder about so many things these days. Now, when I look at these ancient wonders, I am curious about the lives of the people living then. Who was this man? What did he eat, what did he wear, what were his passions and disappointments? This statue tells me nothing of the person except a vague impression of what he might have looked like. I suppose my curiosity is natural given who I am, is it not? I never used to wonder about such things, I felt quite content to dream about imaginary characters in books rather than ponder the realities of people’s lives. When faced with the knowledge of a book character, one you imagined as a mere creation of the author’s mind, as truly real, standing in her shoes, as I said before, the floodgates are lifting with great speed.”
Wells put his hands in his pockets and gazed up at the figure. “Historians and archaeologists are shamed next to you, Vala, for your ability gives you true insight into our past. I suppose, if you truly wished, you might search Ramses out and ask him yourself.”
My skin prickled upon his words and I touched the back of my neck as the hairs along my hairline stood on end.
“The book I am writing,” he continued, “at least, the one I am taking notes on, touches on these things. It is a book of fiction or will be, and I intend on using moments like this to expound my own thoughts of the past. This Ramses must have been very much like all of us, dealing with the same unending days, thinking their world would go on forever as they knew it . . . century after century . . . losing their past and ignorant of their future. We become dull, Vala, like children believing our walled gardens will stand there forever, and yet, what was before? I envy your ability for all I can do is use these pieces of stone here, or the sites of Stonehenge, or Avebury, or Carnac, as instruments of remembering, persuading myself to peruse my mind for some ancient voice calling from the past. Doctor Freud is an expert on the creative daydreaming mind . . . you should write down that book, as well. I’d like to think the things I conjure come from some latent memory from centuries ago, but I imagine I am just an ordinary man.”
I chuckled and glanced over to him. “Ordinary? No, sir, you are by no means ordinary.”
He bowed to me. “Coming from the extraordinary Lady of the Lake, I take that as the highest compliment I have ever received.”
I looked back to the imposing sly grin of Ramses. “Interesting, is it not, that we all imagine life in the past to be simpler, less complicated? Why even just a year ago, before the war broke out, we all drifted along in our lives, passing from afternoon tea to grand balls, commiserating over the foolish plight of filling our dance cards or turning the head of the next eligible suitor. Just one headline in the newspaper changed everything, overnight, and here I am trying to discover my place in all the chaos.”
“It is a very weighty thing you are doing, Vala.”
I shook my head and huffed. “And yet, the one question no one can answer is ‘why’? Taliesin and I have had endless discussions on the matter. In truth, I wonder if anything I do will change anything or if this deep yearning I have is simply of my own selfish desire for peace. Do I really even care about the fate of Britain or if King Arthur was real or not? Or is my need for escape, for this endless daydream, leading me down the dangerous path of madness? Now that the portal has opened, I can never get away from this incessant pull, this drive to save my family, to save Britain. It’s like some old gentleman who has lost his way in a speech and keeps on repeating the same thing—‘the empire, the empire, gentlemen, the Empire’. Very much like you, H. G.”
We both started laughing as he reached in his pocket and took out a small note ledger and pen, and started scribbling away along with his chuckles.
“What are you writing?” I asked.
“That was a good line, Vala . . . Empire,” he repeated, finishing and tucking the ledger back into his coat pocket. “I told you I was taking notes on you. You must always be careful round a writer for you never know when they might include you in one of their books.”
He directed me towards the stairs to the upper floor and the galleries of the ancient world.
“As for what you were saying,” he continued as we wound up a small circular staircase near the Nimroud Saloon, “despite our differences in the actual ability to time travel, we are very much alike, you and I. Whilst I daydream of shooting through time, there is a burning core to why I write and why I make speeches about my hopes for the future of Britain . . . and not just Britain, but the world. At some point in our primal existence, even before your life as Vivyane, we all were born with eternity and peace fixed in our minds. This life we live now, this vacuous existence full of war and disunity is not normal, that is why those Victorian virtues, the idle existence, appealed to us. That being said, while we adore those peaceful times, we cannot ignore the need for development and knowledge. The problem is that selfish men and governments seek to use those two things to advance their own agendas instead of what is truly needed.”
I took a breath at the top of the stairs, more so to help my brain process his lengthy dissertation, and another to adjust the tight bindings of my corset.
“Which is what you are trying to initiate with the group you are a part of, the round table of men bent on bringing knowledge, peace, and unity to the world,” I replied.
“Exactly,” he answered back, opening the door to the Celtic gallery.
I stopped in front of one of the glass cases and turned to him. “But, why you, H. G.? Why, out of all the people in the world, does Fate appear to choose you to do these things? Or can it be that there is a bit of your own agenda in the matter, as well . . . a bit of selfishness. After all, your idea of free morality fits well into your own selfishness.”
“Mmph,” he gruffed. “The pot calling the kettle black, is it not, Lady of the Lake? For those primal doctrines of the teachings of the High Priestess are not any different, except the roles are reversed.”
I did not answer back, for I knew he was right.
D.K. Marley is a history-lover whose writing journey started at the age of eleven when her grandmother, an English professor, gifted her a set of college textbooks – The Complete Works of Shakespeare and an English Lit book full of works from Milton, Chaucer, to Dickens. She read both books, cover to cover, and never looked back. The words filled her soul. While in school, she immersed herself in books, reading, and writing; and wrote her first novel during her high school years with the help of her English Lit teacher, Ms. Centa. All of those books remain on her shelf to this day as a reminder of where she started and of the teachers who directed her on the path. But life had other plans, and she put her writing aside for many, many years – getting married and raising two beautiful kids. After tragedy struck in 2015, the loss of her daughter and son-in-law, her grief therapist urged her to find a way to funnel the grief into an avenue of release. Thus, she took up the “pen” again, and in 2018, published her first book “Blood and Ink”, an alternate historical book delving into the Shakespeare Authorship question that took 15 years to research properly. Her second book came out later that same year – “The Prince of Denmark”, following with “The Fire of Winter” (historical Shakespearean adaptations) and “Child of Love and Water” (American Historical) in 2019 and 2020. Now, her new book, “Kingfisher”, her breakaway into historical time-travel, blossoms. All of her novels are a labor of love as she travels this road of child loss, and continues to find avenues to ‘pay forward’ to the historical author and reader community that has helped her so much during this time. Her newest venture, The Historical Fiction Press, is a one-stop hub (something she always wanted for herself) for authors and readers to buy and sell books, a community and social network exclusively for Historical Fiction, and a place to find reputable author services and research resources. Her published books and the new website are her dreams come to life. When she is not writing or managing, she is a devoted wife of 35 years to the love of her life, a mom to a handsome son and beautiful daughter-in-law, and a happy Nana to one amazing granddaughter who continues to help her see into Wonderland.