On Paula Lofting’s blog, “The Road To HAastings And Other Stories, author Lynn Bryant discusses her new release THIS BLIGHTED EXPEDITION.
On Friday, June 28, my friend Prue Batten released a new book. This book, PASSAGE, is a departure for her: this one is contemporary fiction. A gifted writer, she is already well-known for her historical fiction series, THE TRIPTYCH CHRONICLES (3 volumes), and THE GISBOURNE SAGA (3 volumes), as well as her wonderful fantasy series THE CHRONICLES OF EIRIE (4 volumes), and a delightful children’s book WOMBAT. PASSAGE is already receiving acclaim. Today, she is visiting my blog to talk about what inspired this new direction.
The Inspiration for Passage by Prue Batten
I never intended to write a contemporary fiction.
But it is a genre I’ve always enjoyed reading – authors of the calibre of Rosamunde Pilcher and Alexandra Raife in my earlier days and then Cathy Kelly, Joanne Harris, Maggie Christensen, Joanna Trollope, Jan Ruth, Maeve Binchy and others more recently.
The attraction of the genre is the way it deals with the human condition – no writer shies away from the tough or the tender.
So what was the motivation for me? Well, the oddest little thing really…
My last historical fiction, Michael, had been released and I was taking some time out, re-reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. In awe of her atmospheric and descriptive writing, I contrived a paragraph about a woman sitting in the sun, trying to give it the Pilcher style. Subsequently I copied and pasted it to my Facebook wall – just for fun.
But then, Juliet Marillier, globally loved writer of myth-based fantasy and also a fan of Rosamunde Pilcher, challenged me to write a contemporary fiction. More particularly, one with a woman in her later years as the protagonist.
I didn’t even think twice (Probably a bad idea. I’ve always been too impulsive.) and thought why not?
So Passage, in the first instance without a title, was born.
My protagonist became a woman on the cusp of her seventies who faces the worst moment of her life when her adored husband of fifty years has a traumatic farm accident. As the blurb indicates, Annie loses Alex and Passage becomes her journey from grievous loss to a gentler existence.
I was determined that it should not be a depressing novel and wanted there to be wry humour and comfort in the reading of this story and so Annie has a crazy little Jack Russell as her companion, along with a dry-witted and kind French woman who is completely Yang to Annie’s Yin.
In addition, Annie converses with her husband. Is she mad? Is he a spirit? Heavens’ knows.
But it comforts Annie and has the approval of her psychologist.
Writing the novel has enabled me to understand grief much more. I now realise that it has its own agenda, its own timeframe and that it can be bridged and that there can be life on the other side.
My dearest wish is that folk will travel with Annie with affection and enjoyment, knowing that grief has many forms and many faces but that all are ultimately bearable…
Thank you, Lauren for inviting me today.
If you would like to read Passage, here is the link. mybook.to/Passage
And if you want to find out more about Prue:
I enjoy cooking shows, and was a fan of the Two Fat Ladies. In series 2, Clarissa Dickson Wright made a salmon dish based on a recipe from Robert May’s cookbook. Her version of the recipe is included in THE TWO FAT LADIES RIDE AGAIN, written by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. During the episode, Clarissa gave a little information about Mr. May which intrigued me. Since I also enjoy old cookbooks, when I ran across a facsimile of Mr. May’s work, I ordered it and it arrived today. I’ve learned that he was born in 1588. His father was cook for Lord and Lady Dormer, and taught Robert how to cook. Robert was sent to Paris by Lady Dormer, where he studied cookery for five years before returning to become cook in the Dormer’s kitchen under his father. After several years passed and Lady Dormer died, Robert went on to cook for other nobility. He died in 1664.
Mr. May’s cookbook, THE ACCOMPLISHT CHEF OR THE ART AND MYSTERY OF COOKERY was first published in 1660 in London. He was chef for noble households (primarily Catholic) during the reign of Charles I, the English Civil War and Parliamentary era, and into the reign of Charles II. In today’s terms, Mr. May was something of a celebrity chef. Robert’s cookbook is very large, and includes his own recipes (as well as some borrowed from others, to whom he apologized). I obtained a copy of the 5th edition published in 1685, which is pictured above. The cookbook was dedicated for the use of master cooks and young hopeful cooks. It addressed carving and serving, and contained bills of fare for each season and special days, The recipes were arranged in alphabetical order and the book contains a useful table of contents.
In perusing Robert May’s cookbook, I was able to find a recipe that I believe may be the one which inspired Clarissa Dickson Wright’s adaptation. (It must be said that hers, being geared for the modern cook, seems simpler to prepare as quantities are clear and it is designed for 4 people.) It involves cooking a thick cut of salmon from the middle of the fish in red wine with slices of orange, orange juice and spices and served with toast points. I have not yet attempted this dish, due (in part) to the logistics of acquiring the right cut of fish in my area. However, it sounds very different from other salmon recipes I’ve seen and I want to try it. It could be a delicious dish for a special occasion dinner. Robert May’s cookbook itself is another treasure, with its insight into another era.
May, Robert. THE ACOMMPLISHT COOK OR THE ART AND MYSTERY OF COOKERY. A facsimile of the 1685 with foreword, introduction and glossary supplied by Alan Davidson, Marcus Benn and Tom Jaine. 2012: Prospect Books, London. Reprinted 2018. (See recipe on page 232.)
Paterson, Jennifer and Dickson Wright, Clarissa. THE TWO FAT LADIES RIDE AGAIN. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York. Originally published in 1997 by Ebury Press in Great Britain. (See recipe on p. 39.)