TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Sean: The first serious piece of fiction I remember writing was the tale of an adventurous cat named Sam, penned when I was about eight years old, and I suppose I have been creating long and rambling stories ever since. This has always felt like a natural activity for me.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Sean: A headmaster at a school I attended in England once told me I was good at writing “rolling” sentences, by which he probably just meant they had too many words in them.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Sean: I suppose my natural inclination is toward the latter approach, and this is how the early drafts of my novel came into being. But I don’t think it worked very well for me. The version that became the final draft was plotted in intricate detail before I began writing it in earnest.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Sean: I am never satisfied, and I find it very hard to let go of a particular passage and call it finished.
TQ: Describe Finding Camlann in 140 characters or less.
Sean: A literary and romantic Arthurian quest set in a landscape evoked by the secret places and powerful mythology of the British countryside.
TQ: What inspired you to write Finding Camlann?
Sean: The fragmentary evidence for the historical King Arthur found in scraps of ancient chronicle and verse has been a source of fascination to me for many years. I wanted to write a novel that would allow me the freedom to explore these themes and perhaps even to advance some of my own ideas, but above all I wanted to tell a good story.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Finding Camlann?
Sean: Probably far too much. I found that I wanted to know everything there was to know about certain aspects of British history and mythology, which made the writing process both fascinating and slow.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Sean: My male protagonist, the archaeologist Donald Gladstone, came the most easily. As to why, I couldn’t say for sure, but perhaps because he is a little bit like me? Julia Llewellyn, with her complex scholarly quirks and unusual mindset, was more of a challenge; but her scenes were not too hard to write once I had her character traits properly fixed in my mind.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Finding Camlann?
Sean: The opening scene in the pub, with a roaring fire and a game of Scrabble, would come near the top of the list. Also, I would say, Donald’s visits to his father, and Julia’s return to Dyffryn Farm.
TQ: What's next?
Sean: I’ve been mulling over some ideas for a second novel for a few years now.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
About Finding Camlann
Finding Camlann: A Novel
W.W. Norton & Company, January 7, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
An ancient poem and a mysterious burial inspire an enthralling historical and literary quest.
Despite the wealth of scholarship that pretends to offer proof, archaeologist Donald Gladstone knows there is no solid evidence that a real King Arthur ever existed. Still, the great popular tales spun by medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, and embroidered by Chrétien de Troyes, Sir Thomas Malory, and so many others, must have found their inspiration somewhere. A dramatic archaeological find at Stonehenge and the rediscovery of an old Welsh battle poem, buried among the manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, open up enticing—and misleading—new possibilities.
When the beguiling Julia Llewellyn, a linguist working on the Oxford English Dictionary, joins Donald on the trail of clues, their fervent enthusiasms, unusual gifts, and unfulfilled yearnings prove a combustible mix. Their impassioned search for truths buried deep in the past, amid the secret places and half-forgotten legends of the British countryside, must ultimately transform them—and all our understandings of the origins of Arthur.
An intellectual and emotional journey of myriad pleasures, Finding Camlann is at its heart a love story—not only of romantic love but also the love between parents and grown children; the intense feelings of professors and students; the love of language, place, and home; and the thrill of scholarly research and detective work. Throughout, Sean Pidgeon’s lyrical prose brings together history, myth, and dream, sweeping the reader into the mysteries of the past and the pure delight of storytelling.
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