Mary Ann Yarde is an award-winning, international bestselling writer of historical novels. She lives in England and, in true British fashion, is a copious tea-drinker!
Q: Who is the real Mary Anne Yarde?
A: Mary Anne Yarde is a bit of a dreamer who follows a drumbeat no one else can hear.
Q: As a mother to four with an aversion to cooking. How do you cope? Or should I rephrase that to, how does your family cope?
A: My culinary disasters are legendary and are a source of great amusement for my family and friends. In my defence the whole birthday cake disaster wasn’t my fault — that was the oven’s. And the Spaghetti Bolognese incident had nothing to do with me —I was an innocent bystander who was left deeply traumatised by the whole affair and please, the less said about the pancakes the better. Luckily, my husband is an exceptional cook, and my daughter taught herself how to cook very early on so she didn’t have to put up with any more of my burnt offerings!
Q: I hear that you cry when you write some of your stories, is that true?
A: I adore my characters and yes, I do cry when bad and good things happen to them! Writing is a very emotional experience for me.
Q: Was it your love of History or living closer to Glastonbury in the Arthurian-fabled county of Somerset that made you want to write stories based on Sir Lancelot du Lac’s offspring?
A: l grew up near Glastonbury. Stories of Arthur and his Knights were as familiar to me as Santa Claus was to other children. I cannot remember there ever being a time when I didn’t know who King Arthur was or what he stood for. I had my favourite knight as a child, who strangely wasn’t Lancelot, but Sir Gawain, and I would gallop around on my pretend horse and rescue anyone who was in peril!
My love for anything Arthurian has never diminished, and I have always been fascinated by the Great Poets who documented Arthur’s life, but the ending of Arthur’s story always left me with a sense of anti-climax. Arthur is fatally wounded at The Battle of Camlann, he is taken to Avalon and is never heard of again. As for the Knights, if they haven’t already been killed they become hermits. Hermits? The Knights Of The Round Table become hermits? — is that really the best they could come up with?
I don’t buy this ending, I never have, so I decided to do something about it and write a book about the next generation of Knights.
Q: How much of what you write is historical fact and how much is fiction? How much time do you spend researching each title seeing that book 1, for example is set in AD 495 Wessex, Briton?
A: I want to give my readers a real sense of what it was like in the 5th Century and the only way I can do this is to research, research, research! I spend more time researching the period than I do writing because I want to get it right.
I am also heavily influenced by folklore, because when you are dealing with this period in history, you cannot dismiss it. I have come to the conclusion that folklore is its own special brand of history. You can tell a lot about a people by the stories they told.
My books are a mix of historical fact, folklore, and my imagination. Hopefully, I have got the balance right.
Q: You put your characters into impossible situations and yet you always manage to come up with plans to save them. How difficult is it for you to find solutions for them? Are solutions planned well ahead or do you have to think about how to save them after creating the problem?
A: My poor characters, yes they certainly do find themselves in some impossible situations. I spend a long time staring vacantly out of the window as I try to find a solution to their problems. I don’t tend to write plans down, which I really should. Instead, I will write several different scenarios and see which one works best. I could probably write an entirely different book with all the scenes that I have taken out!
Q: You’ve had a lot of fun creating Budic, who is a rather nasty piece of work. Tell us more about him.
A: Budic du Lac is based on the historical figure, Budic II of Brittany. Budic II, it is said, ruled the kingdom of Cornouaille in Brittany sometime in the late 5th early 6th Century. His name, like Arthur’s, is surrounded in folklore and myth and trying to figure out what is the truth and what is fictitious is a near on impossibility. But I have taken the small amount of knowledge that is known of him and expanded upon it.
As a fictional character, Budic is a writer’s dream. He is arrogant, extremely volatile and seemingly lacks all empathy. Budic never takes responsibility for anything — if something goes wrong in his life, it is never his fault. These characteristics make him very unpopular, not just with his immediate family but with the general populous as well, but he doesn’t care about popularity. He is the King, and that is that. Budic is completely unpredictable, and even I don’t know who he is going to upset next!
Q: On the other hand, young Merton Du Lac, a little bit of a tortured soul, but very dependable, is loved by your readers. What does Merton bring to the story?
A: Merton brings the emotion. He is a very human character, and by that I mean, he feels everything. Merton is a great warrior, who, unfortunately for him, has a conscience. He doesn’t take life lightly and is plagued with guilt — not only by the things that he has done but also by the things he did not do, as well as the many things that he has witnessed. However, he never shows this internal struggle to anyone — he buries it, and the world only sees a formidable warrior. But there is so much more to Merton than how he handles a sword.
Merton loves deeply. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for those he cares about. His brother, Alden, is his Achilles Heel — Merton would sell his soul to keep Alden safe.
Merton is also renowned for his one-liners. He uses humour as a weapon, and his sarcasm is legendary.
I am often told by readers how much they love Merton and how he is their favourite character, and I can understand because he is my favourite character too!
Q: The Pitchfork Rebellion was only 51 pages, whereas the previous two books were well over 350 pages each. What was the reason for writing a novella after two full novels in the same series and do you think that your readers were disappointed by the fact?
A: I had this idea for a rebellion in Alden’s kingdom, which would be a pinnacle moment in Alden’s and Merton’s relationship. I never had any intention of publishing The Pitchfork Rebellion when I wrote it. I wrote it so I could understand Alden’s and Merton’s complex relationship and I used it as a sort of springboard for writing The Du Lac Devil (Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles). So, I had this novella just sitting on my computer doing nothing, and I thought well this is stupid. Initially, I was giving the story away if readers signed up for my newsletter, and then I thought I might as well publish it as an interim-novella, and that is what happened. I haven’t ever had any readers come back to me and say they were disappointed with the length of the story; their usual response was to ask me when the next book was out!
Q: Your readers have said that your books are classics in the making, that if they were turned into movies they could be the next Game of Thrones. Have you ever been approached by a film agent, and if not, would you ever think of giving your books to a screenwriter for submission?
A: It was a surreal moment for me when I read the first review that compared The Du Lac Chronicles to Game of Thrones. I wasn’t expecting it, and then I convinced myself that I wouldn’t get another review like that — it was a one off. But then it happened again and again. Readers were messaging me and saying The Du Lac Chronicles is an Arthurian Game of Thrones (without the dragons I should add) and they loved it, and they wanted to know what was going to happen next. I am of course, deeply humbled that my books are being compared to George R. R. Martin’s, Game of Thrones — who wouldn’t be?
Have I been approached by a film agent? I wish! To be honest, I haven’t really given it much thought. I am so tied up with the story that I just want to get it down. Maybe this is something I might look into in the future.
Q: As an international bestseller of your Du Lac Chronicles, what do you think is the magic ingredient to being a successful writer?
A: I don’t think there is a magic ingredient, you just have to want it enough to never give up.