Robert Rice is the author of From Every Bitter Thing and The Last Pendragon.
1) What originally inspired you to get into writing?
Desperation, actually. I hated my desk job and couldn’t think of anything else to do. I’d always enjoyed writing stories but avoided doing it because I had always been told it was a lousy way to make money. That’s true but I’ve never been sorry I became a writer.
2) What made you want to write about Lancelot and Guenevere?
3) Was there any character (or characters) you were particularly able to relate to?
Like a lot of people I grew up with the Arthurian legends. Arthur was interesting, but several of the other characters intrigued me more, especially Bedwyr, Guenevere, and Merlin. Bedwyr, because he was Arthur’s favorite and disobeyed Arthur’s final command to destroy his sword Excalibur. What must his life have been like after that moment? It was that question that moved me to write about Bedwyr in the first book (The Last Pendragon).
Guenevere intrigued me because of how she was treated by the church, once the legend was taken over by Christianity. She was pretty much blamed, like Eve, for the fall of paradise, and I wanted to tell her side of the story.
As a wizard, the character of Merlin fascinates everyone, I think, and has been perhaps the most enduringly popular character of the legend. In the future I hope to explore his character through the same semi-historical lens I used to view Bedwyr and Guenevere.
4) Was any scene particularly difficult to write about?
Yes, several of them. The most difficult for me was the death of Gawain, who turned out to be my favorite character.
5) Was any scene particularly easy to write?
Quite a few, which surprised me. There were moments when it almost seemed as if I were just recounting something I had witnessed.
6) I noticed quite a lot of things had been changed from the original mythos—the inclusion of Arthur’s mistresses, for one thing, and how Galahad came across in the book. What made you choose to change these things?
Actually, nothing in my version of the story was made up by me. The legends and myths surrounding Arthur grew and morphed over the centuries and varied among writers who dealt with the story. Arthur’s son, Lohot, for example, was first mentioned by Chretien de Troyes, a French poet writing in the 12th Century. In that version Lohot’s mother was a woman named Lisanor. In earlier Welsh sources like the Mabinogion, Arthur’s sons were named Llacheu, Gwydre, and Amhar, and mentions his mistresses. Sir Thomas Mallory gave Arthur a son named Borre by a woman named Lionore (perhaps a variety of Lisanor), and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, based almost entirely on Mallory, also gives Arthur two illegitimate sons.
The character of Galahad appeared quite late in the medieval Arthurian legends, first appearing in the Vulgate cycles, which emphasized Christian themes and focused on the quest for the Holy Grail. As the only person to achieve the quest, Galahad was the perfect knight who did no harm; pure in spirit and body. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, Sir Galahad begins:
My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
Galahad rejected worldly love and regarded himself as a God-like figure, a man without human weaknesses who has no doubts about his views and actions—the very definition, to me, of a fanatic. After all, who is perfect in this life?
7) Have any particular books or authors inspired you?
Yes, indeed, many. Any book that makes me want to live in that world with those characters inspires me.
8) Are you planning to write any more books to follow on from this? Or to further explore one of the other characters?
I’d like to write a third book in the series, perhaps one that explores the character of Merlin.
9) Do you have any advice/pearls of wisdom for budding writers?
Write because you have stories wandering around in your head that need to come out. Don’t write for money. And I would echo Cato the Elder’s advice: Res tene, verba sequentur, which, very loosely translated means “Hang in there, the words will follow.”