This week, I have historical novelist Deborah Swift visiting the blog to share her inheritance books. I met Deborah at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference earlier this year, where we had a lovely chat about period costumes and book covers with headless women on them .
Hello Deborah. Welcome to my blog. Tell me a bit about yourself.
I am a novelist and poet from a small village on the edge of the English Lake District. My writing is strongly influenced by my previous career as a set and costume designer for film and television. I enjoy conjuring a whole world for the reader, a world that has been lost to us,or perhaps one that never existed except in myths and stories handed down to us by our parents or grandparents. I am fascinated by history and storytelling, and love to hear stories told live.
Which book have you inherited from the generation above you?
As a child a big part of reading for me was in the illustrations as well as the words. My mother gave me several books which have lovely line drawings in them done by fantastic illustrators. In those days book illustration, especially for children, was not considered an art, so hardly any of the artists are credited for their work.
One of these books is the fabulous King Arthur’s Knights. There is also no author’s name visible anywhere on the book, though internet trawling has revealed they may be written by Mary McGregor, also known as Marian Keith. I was surprised to find she was a Canadian who was born in 1874 in the small town of Rugby in the Ontariotownship of Oro, which would become the setting for many of her early novels. Her father was John Miller, an Ontario-born schoolteacher of Scots ancestry, and her mother was Mary McIan Miller, born in Islay, Scotland. More biography can be found at http://www.bookrags.com/biography/marian-keith-dlb/
Reading it again now, the prose seems old-fashioned – wooden and stilted, the stories full of telling and not showing, but as a child I adored them.
By using a magnifying glass I can see some of the pictures are signed with Morgan Rendle, but I know little about the artist, except that the pictures are in the style of the well-known Scottish illustrator Anne Anderson. Anne Anderson (1874—1930) was a prolific Scottish illustrator, known for her art nouveau children’s book illustrations. Her illustrations are a wonderful example of the illustrator’s art and I had another book from my mother, “The Golden Wonder Book” full of colour plates of her work.
The other reason I have chosen King Arthur’s Knights is because the book gave me a love of history, chivalry and romance that has not left me to this day. As British myth it also has deeper levels of meaning, and perhaps even influenced my explorations into alternative spirituality. The book includes “Sir Galahad and the Sacred Cup” or the search for the Holy Grail,
“and they had been told how sometimes it was seen carried by angels, and how at other times in a gleam of light. But in whatever way it appeared, it was seen only by those who were pure in heart.”
Which book will you leave to the generations below you and why?
To pass on to the next generation I would choose the complete works of Roald Dahl. My daughter loved these, especially Matilda, the story of the girl who loved reading and her horrible parents. Dahl’s stories work because they are funny, and in some senses true. What child hasn’t thought of his or her parents as the monster?! I’ve also chosen it because the illustrations by Quentin Blake are a big part of its appeal. These days book illustrators are recognised as the artists they are, which is wonderful.
Yay! King Arthur! I love reading about Arthurian Legend. Actually, I’m a big fan of Merlin on TV – not even remotely historically accurate, but so much fun. Thank you so much for sharing your Inherited Books with me. It was lovely to see you. Do come visit again soon!
Deborah’s latest book, The Gilded Lily is about two girls who are profoundly affected by the stories they were told in childhood, and also by the stories they told about themselves. Here is a link to the book trailer, I hope you enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WmjR6LMxbs&feature=youtu.be