I spend a good bit of my time writing historical fiction about brave men and women who have graced the pages of history, trying to bring more light to their legacies so readers of all ages will enjoy them. My favorite things to do are writing, obviously, listening to and playing Irish and Scottish folk music, practicing with all eras and types of historical weaponry, drinking GOOD COFFEE, and reading good books. I currently live in Florida.
Author Link: Character Purgatory - http://hazelwest.blogspot.com/
BK: Please tell us a little about yourself...
Well, first of all, I'm a writer *laughs* and an avid reader, and history buff. I also really love coffee, chocolate, and cream puffs. When I'm not writing or reading, I enjoy listening to or playing music (folk mostly, stuff that's not just old, it's nearly ancient) or sketching. I also like to make jewelry, practice historical fighting techniques, that sort of thing. I'm a very eclectic person. I also have a bad habit of talking to myself, which I'm sure is very amusing to other people who I pay very little attention to when I'm in my own little writer's corner of the world.
BK: Please tell us a little about your book....
"On a Foreign Field" is what I hope comes across as a meaningful story about loyalty and camaraderie. The hero, Reeve, is a young English knight who has never been able to live up to his father's expectations, but chooses to follow his heart and fight for England as he always wanted to do. However in his first pitched battle, he is wounded, left for dead on the field by his comrades and captured by William Wallace's army, by one man in particular named Gavin, who plays a large role in the story. After the incident, he turns bitter as a wounded prisoner surrounded by the enemy but at the same time, he cannot help but notice that the Scots have everything he ever wanted and thought he had: friends like brothers, and undying loyalty to their commander, who, even through his bitterness, Reeve sees as someone who might very well be worthy of their devotion. He eventually finds himself faced with the difficult decision of whether he wishes to go back to England, the people who left him for dead, or whether to join Wallace and fight against his country, thus committing treason and forgetting the oath he swore as a knight to his king.
BK: What inspired you to pen this particular novel?
Several things inspired this novel. It had been an idea I was toying with for a while born of my love for "what if" kind of novels. I have never read a Wallace novel told from the point of view of an Englishman, and I love stories that show different view points, so I had the idea to write a story about, 'what if an Englishman was captured by Wallace's men' and 'where would that lead?" I didn't really have much of a story line beyond that to begin with, and even after that, I thought it was just going to be a story about Reeve and Wallace and a growing respect between them, but then I started thinking up other characters. I wanted to explore different personalities of people, and also a darker more accurate look into wartime and what it and trauma can do to people. I wanted to write a "real" approach to what life really would have been like for soldiers back in the 1200s, and my characters are flawed like real people. That does not mean that this is literary fiction--I promise, without giving too much away, that this book does have a good ending!
Truthfully, my real inspiration for this novel was Rosemary Sutcliff. Her books have been a huge inspiration to me, and the way she writes brotherly relationships between "sword brothers" as she terms them, is beautiful, and something that is truly lost in todays' fiction. I wanted to write something with characters like that, and I think that that was truly what inspired me to write the end result of "On a Foreign Field".
BK: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I really started writing when I was about ten, though I was making up stories long before that. My first finished novel, I wrote when I was fourteen and first started studying Scottish history. I was just simply so fascinated by the stories that I really wanted to write my own novel about it, and thus I wrote a story about the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745--if you don't know it, you might know Bonnie Prince Charlie ;-) but the twist was that I changed all the characters into animals.(And the secret's out!) My writing has definitely gotten much better since then, *laughs* but I've not stopped writing since, nor do I think I could even if I wanted to!
BK: How do you keep your story flowing?
Well, that depends. Some stories just flow. I wrote "On a Foreign Field" in a little over a month, though I had written probably about a quarter of the book in random scenes before hand. When I wrote "Ballad of the Highwayman" however, that one had to be coaxed a little more. Typically, if it's a matter of plot, then I will mull that over, make some charts and write lists of things that may or may not work. I also like to read historical accounts about the time periods I'm writing about because they always inspire me, and I might come up with something totally different and even better than I had before! Usually though, I will read books that are like my own. Alexandre Dumas and Louis L'Amour were huge inspirations for me when writing "Ballad of the Highwayman". Watching movies is good too, and sometimes just free writing will make something appear.
BK: Do you ever run into writer's block, and if so, what do you do to get past it?
I'm not really a believer in writer's block, I just think there are certain times when writers are less prolific than others ;-) But when I do get stuck, I might just have to do some of the things listed above, or start to work on something else. It's very hard to work on one story when you have characters from another nagging at you. I truthfully have so many story ideas that I am rarely at a loss for anything to write. And at the times I don't feel like writing, I read for a while, and usually I will find my muse again.
BK: What is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks, or must-haves to write?
Well, first off, I won't write until the sun goes down ;-) But that's because it's usually too noisy in my house due to younger siblings to really concentrate at any other time. Plus I think better at night. Usually just sitting down and starting is the hard part for me, but once I do that I can write for hours. I like to have a good supply of coffee and snacks when I write like Pringles, cherry sours, Nerds, and occasionally Reese's peanut butter cups. I usually listen to music too, something that will set the scene for my book. I have different folders on itunes for battle music, quiet stuff, ect. But when it comes to editing/formatting, I always listen to Gaelic Storm or other peppy Irish music.
BK: Where do you hope your books/writing will be in the future?
Well, I think every author hopes to be a little bit famous *laughs* ;-) But I truthfully do not write for the money. I would still write even if no one read my stuff besides my mom and grandma, but I hope to have a following because I love to interact with fans and other writers. So even if I never get on NY Times' Bestseller's List I won't care as long as I have a few loyal fans who truly enjoy my books. You can all be assured that I will be writing many more in the future!
BK: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
I hope they will take away the feeling I have when finishing a good story. In the case of "On a Foreign Field" I hope readers see my attempts to show what brotherly love and camaraderie really are. It's something lost in fiction today, and I love reading stories about men who share a common bond and are like brothers despite the fact that they are not related or even from the same countries. It sounds cheesy putting it that way, but that's how I feel about it, and I truly hope, especially for teen readers of my novel, that it might make you a little bit stronger. I remember reading books that did that for me as a young teen and I think I always truly wanted to write a story like that. I hope I have achieved that in "On a Foreign Field". But apart from that, I hope it is also a good story, and a good adventure as all my books are.
BK: What is one piece of advice you received that you carry with you in your writing?
Probably to never stop writing, and in the course of editing, always check everything twice! There's so many things I've learned over the years that I truthfully don't remember where I got them from or when I picked them up. I'm still of the opinion that experience is the best teacher.
BK: What is one piece of advice you would give to new and aspiring writers?
Don't stop writing! No matter what anyone says. Also write what you love. Don't write what you THINK people want to read, write what YOU want to read. If you do that, then every story will be written with meaning and to your best ability. And while you can ignore mean slanders to your story, always listen to constructive criticism, especially if it comes from an experienced writer. It might just help you become a better writer yourself so get people you can trust to give you an honest opinion to read your stories.
BK: Are you currently working on any new projects? What can we expect from you in the future?
I am currently working on two books right now. One is a Victorian Steampunk mystery (if you go to my blog, you will find that I have created a Facebook page for my main character). My other work in progress is a novel about Romans and Britons called "By Blood and by Bond" . It follows the stories of a Roman centurion and a Celtic chieftain's son who are thrown together under bad circumstances. It's got gladiators, angst, corrupt politicians, and one pretty, but smart, girl as well who turns the tables in the whole story ;-). I have also written the first of three backstories for this book, "To Save a Life" that will be published on Smashwords probably during the course of this tour. I'm not sure which one of these novels will be done first, but I plan to have another book out by Christmas.
BK: Where can readers find you?
My blog, first and foremost: http://hazelwest.blogspot.com
I'm also on Goodreads and Smashwords and have recently gotten an account on Wattpad, and you can find all of these pages on my blog in my link list. Feel free to drop me a message any time if you have questions about my books, or just want to say hi, I'd love to hear from you =)
Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. It's been a pleasure having you and I wish you much success in the future.
Thanks for having me, BK!
Sir Reeve Montgomery is an Englishman born and bred, proud of his heritage and the right to serve his country fighting against the Scottish rebels. But when the tide is turned unexpectedly during the Battle of Stirling Bridge, he is wounded by an English arrow, left for dead by his comrades, and taken captive by Wallace's army. Wounded, and alone on a foreign field, he knows he should expect nothing but torture and death at the hands of the Scottish rebels who are known to be complete savages. But as he comes to know this tight brotherhood better, and sees Wallace's utter devotion to his men and the cause of freedom, Reeve begins to wonder whether the English are right to oppress them. Faced with these troubling thoughts, Reeve must decide whether he will stay true to his king, or join this brotherhood of freedom fighters, thus turning his back on everything he has ever known or believed in. This new novel by Hazel West is a thought-provoking, heartfelt read about the true meaning of loyalty and brotherhood.
Genre: YA Historical
Release Date: July 25, 2012
Chapter 1 — Updated Jul 17, 2012 —
It was in a spilt second that Reeve realized how desperate their situation was now. They had been cut off from the rest of their army with no hope of them being able to find a ford in the river to cross in time. Their numbers were now mostly equal to the Scots and Reeve hoped they would have the sense to stand and fight as one instead of scatter and make it easier to be picked off by the enemy. Men could train for years to hold a formation, but one never knew how they would react when faced with the real enemy.
The Scots had charged at them in two columns, trapping the English in the middle. The archers released their deadly rain and arrows found targets as they fell onto the opposing army. Reeve and his companions spurred their horses on immediately, knowing that to stand still was to die. Reeve swung his sword from its sheath and urged his horse forward at the charging Scotsmen, swinging the blade in a flashing arch and shouting out a war cry of his own. There was a huge clash that sounded as the two armies met head on. Reeve was immediately separated from Harold and Gerard in the mess. A lot of the knights realized too late that they had been led into a marsh and their horses were sinking in the muck, weighed down by armor. Reeve hoped neither of his friends were caught in the mire to be easy prey for the Scots. He wanted to go back and look for them, but he knew how foolish that was in a battle. You looked ahead, only at your enemy and you killed and killed again until it was done; only then could you spare the time to look for lost comrades.
He hacked left and right with his sword, catching a spear wielded by a screaming Scotsman on his shield with enough strength behind it to bruise his shoulder. He gritted his teeth against the pain as he stabbed downward with his blade and took the man through the chest. He felt hands grip his tabard from behind and he spun just fast enough to stop the man from hauling him from his saddle where he would be sure to meet a grisly end at the point of the long broadsword the man carried. He jerked his sword pommel-first into the man’s head and his attacker fell back instantly.
Reeve suddenly caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and he turned with his sword swinging up for a blow but the man who had been there was already gone. Then his horse lurched under him and whinnied in pain, rearing up before it bolted.
Reeve was flung from the back of the beast, realizing that he had been victim to one of the Scottish dirkers; lithe, fast men, who ran around the field, ducking underneath horses and jabbing their bellies with their dirks to make them throw their riders. Reeve was flung onto the boggy ground, hauling himself up with difficulty in his heavy armor. He quickly un-buckled the plates that covered his shoulders and the greaves protecting his legs. There was no need for them now on the ground; they would only hamper him, and if he was going to have to swim the river...
He quickly looked around at the warriors and knights who were rushing past. He caught sight of a fearsome Scotsman running toward him, his giant claymore upraised. Reeve stood his ground and met the man head on, ducking under the great sword and swinging a blow to the man’s legs. The Scotsman leapt to one side and with a wild yell, swept his heavy sword at Reeve.
The knight flung himself to the ground and rolled just in time, coming up several feet away only to be struck from behind by an arrow. He staggered forward as it drove into his side, cutting through the chain mail and the padded tabard under it to his flesh. He gasped at the sudden pain and subconsciously thought in one of those oddly perceptive moments in a time of danger, that it was one of their own armor-piercing arrows. He looked back up at the Scotsman who had been fighting him. The man was sneering now, raising his sword for the final strike. Reeve got his sword up just in time, but the man swung lower than he had judged, and the tip kept going, cutting deeply into Reeve’s thigh. The Englishman gave one last wild yell as he lunged forward with his sword and stabbed the Scotsman through the middle, his leg giving out at the last minute so that he fell headlong into the boggy ground.
He hauled himself up again, breathing heavily from the pain. He could feel himself weakening from blood loss and he knew he had to get out of there soon before he was killed; perhaps find a horse to ride. He suddenly looked up at another knight, recognizing the tabard he wore.
“Gerard!” he cried and his friend looked over at him before he ran to his side. He too had lost his horse, it seemed. Reeve ripped a piece off of his tabard to tie around his leg wound, trying to get to his feet. His leg had no strength, however, and every move he took jostled the arrow in him, making him groan and clench his teeth.
“Reeve! You’re wounded,” Gerard said, getting an arm under his shoulder and hauling him to his feet. “Come on, they’ve called the retreat! There’s nothing we can do. Cressingham’s been killed and the Scots have us trapped. We have to go now!”
Reeve barely heard what he was saying as he was keeping all his mind on just putting one foot in front of the other. Gerard hauled him away as well as he could.
“Come on, Reeve, just a little farther,” he said. “Come on, I’m not dying here today!”
Reeve tried to pick up the pace, but he fell again, his wounded right leg was bleeding profusely and the arrow still sticking from him twisted and dug deeper as it was pressed against Gerard’s side where he leaned against him. Reeve cried out in pain and crumpled on the ground. Gerard cursed and tried to haul him to his feet again. Reeve looked behind him, panting, and saw that a group of Scots were coming toward them. Gerard saw them too and looked down at Reeve, fear clearly written on his face.
“Get up! Get up!” he screamed. “They’ll kill us!”
“I can’t,” Reeve told him weakly. “Make a stand with me, we might be able to hold them off.” Somehow, he realized, he had still managed to hold onto his sword. He made an honest effort to get to his feet and he swore he would fight to his last breath.
Gerard looked back again and then started to back away, dropping Reeve’s arm from his grasp. “I can’t, I’m sorry.”
“Where are you going?” Reeve asked him, trying to haul himself to his feet again with the aid of his sword.
“I’m sorry Reeve. Elizabeth—I—I can’t leave her. I’m sorry.” And just like that he sprinted across the field with the retreating knights and Reeve was left stunned, not knowing what to think. When he got his voice back he finally screamed after him.
“You coward! You leave your comrade on the field?! Coward!”
“Look what we have here!”
Reeve spun around as hands grabbed him and hauled him up and he found himself looking into the wild face of a dark-haired Scotsman. He struggled to get out of the man’s grasp, but his sword was knocked disdainfully from his hand and he was too weak to fight them single-handedly with only his fists. The man struck him across the face and he fell into a puddle, sprawling out on his back. The Scots laughed as he was hauled upright again, gasping in pain as the arrow dug deeper.
“A knight is good for a ransom, I’m thinking. Perhaps we shall take him back to camp and we might get some money out of him.”
“He’s no worth it, Gavin. He’s damaged goods,” said another man.
“Well, he can always be our camp tràill. Someone needs to do the mending and wash the dishes.”
Reeve struggled up again but the man’s foot was on his chest and he was grinning down at him.
“Don’t bother yerself,” he said in mock pity. “You have no strength left. You should rest.”
“I have all the strength I need,” Reeve spat then gritted his teeth with a bitten off scream as the man nudged the broken-off arrow shaft sticking from his side.
“I think you might do better with a little rest,” the Scotsman told him in a mock kind voice. “Sleep tight, Sassenach.”
The last thing Reeve saw was the hilt of a sword coming toward his face before he blacked out.