Elizabeth Chadwick at The Chatty Cat Cafe

Posted by Susanne Saville at Wednesday, February 04, 2009 1:00 AM

imageimageAward-winning historical fiction author Elizabeth Chadwick joins us in The Chatty Cat Cafe today.

Here she is receiving the Betty Trask Award from Prince Charles at the palace of Whitehall.  (Is that brilliant or what?)

Okay, as there's snow in both England and New England, how about we warm up with a hot beverage?

If it's afternoon, then it will have to be a pot of Indian tea of medium strength served with a very quick splash of cold milk and one teaspoon of sugar. 

If it's morning then it'll be a capuccino with a dusting of chocolate on the froth and a small bar of milk chocolate.  I can't drink morning coffee without chocolate!

My kind of gal!  image   Let's begin with how you came up with your pets' names.

I am owned by a dog and two cats.  

Taz is the dog and it's probably not the name I would have chosen for him but it has been a brilliant training name and he recognises it very well because of the short, hard sound.  My son, who was twelve at the time, is responsible for naming Taz. He had an obsession with the Tasmanian devil cartoon character. If I had had his naming, he'd probably have been Grommit!image

Taz is a collie cross.  We're not sure what he's crossed with, only that it was nothing big as he stands not much above shin-height.  He's powerful and stocky though, with a black and tan collie coat and a wonderful feathery tail that curves over his back.  

We've had him since he was eight weeks old when we answered a call from a local rescue centre that had a bitch and her three pups for rehoming.  He's super-intelligent and has been very easy to train. The only time he goes on a lead is when outside authorities say he has too - such as the park or the mall. 

Having turfed out my husband's shoes, he sleeps in the bottom of our built-in wardrobe with his teddy and his marrow bone.  We always know it's bed-time when he fetches his teddy from wherever he's left it in the daytime and runs upstairs with it to his wardrobe.

Taz is a rescued-dog!  That's wonderful.  And it's so sweet that he fetches his teddy and puts himself to bed.  image   And your cats?

Our oldest cat, Jasper, is a very elderly gentleman of 19.  He's a bit of a nuisance round the food dish, but has one of the kindest, softest natures I've ever encountered in a cat - unless you happen to be a mouse of course!  He's so called because he's a tabby with marvellousy marbled fur in many shades of cream and chocolate - from milk to plain, to caramel. 

We adopted him from a rescue centre when he was about two years old.  He was so gentle and friendly and purry, even when caged at the rescue centre, that we had to have him.

Another rescue animal!  I have rescue cats, too.  Best place to get animals.  image    

Dottie our younger cat is now 12 and a street fighter.  She walks from the shoulder like Al Capone and will pick a fight with anyone.  Jasper would love her to bits if she'd let him, but she would rather whap him across his nose.  She and the dog ignore each other in the interests of mutual self preservation.  My older son named her.  She's black and white, so I suppose her colour is dotted about, but mostly she was so named because she's as mad as a hatter and because it suits her.  She couldn't be anything other than a Dottie somehow.

What great names!  Jasper and Dottie sound like they have beautiful coats, too. 
Changing gears, I read on your website that you use the Akashic Record as part of your research through the talents of a friend.  Is that something you wish you were sensitive to yourself, or would that be too overpowering (to both feel it and write it)?

I would love to have the skill, but I know I haven't got that kind of inbuilt software or the training to be able to use that skill. I have occasional inklings and moments, and I guess a lot of historical novelists due tune in to the edges of things that have happened.  

To explain to folk joining us at the cafe table - The Akashic Record is a term my friend Alison uses loosely for her ability to tune into people who have lived before and experience the past through their eyes.  It's a lot more complex than that, but it'll do as a basic explanation.

I have found in around four years of using this method of research that nearly all of it gels and we've had some astonishing results.  It really is like watching a documentary but with the added bonus of thoughts, feelings and emotions. This can become uncomfortable for Alison at times, such as when we access someone in trouble either physically or emotionally.

For example, I asked her to tune into King Henry I when he was dying, to find out if he named his successor on his deathbed.  Alison did so, but Henry was so sick in the stomach that it made her heave too and she had to draw away.  She didn't know that he'd actually died of a stomach upset.  Sometimes I will ask her to go to a birth scene and the labour pains can be pretty uncomfortable too.  Fortunately she is able to back off and go outside of a person if the feelings become too intense.

With reference to animals, Alison can also tune in to them. imageWhen writing A Place Beyond Courage, she saw that my hero, John Marshal, had a dog of which he was very fond and which adored him - a black bitch looking something like a flat coated retriever but slightly bigger. 

She also got a name sounding like 'Dobble or Doublet'.  In the novel I called her Doublet because it was indeed a medieval dog's name and its origins go to the lead hound of the pack, the bravest dog, which was often given a coat, or doublet to mark it out.  John Marshal being the man he was, I was certain that the 'bravest dog' would be his life companion.

Wow.  That is scary-cool.  How wonderful to find out the story behind Doublet!
Okay, Desert Island Disc time - what 5 songs would you take with you to a deserted island?

You have given me an impossible task narrowing it down to five. My tastes are very eclectic but have a bent towards folk and melodic rock but with a good hard edge.

I'd need something with a story to keep me occupied, so I'd take The Highwayman by Loreena McKennit.

Ooo!  I *love* that song!  Sorry to interrupt, go on.   image

I'd need a track to buouy me up, make me happy and keep me fit to dance to. One Wild Night by Bon Jovi would fit the list. 

If I could sneak in another rock track to dance to while you weren't looking, I'd add HIM's version of Wicked Game.

Something a bit melancholy and poignant, but uplifting too - Nothing Else matters, an instrumental by Apocalyptica

I have recently discovered Live - they're not known in the UK.  If you were sending me tomorrow, I'd take Dolphin's Cry because...well because I just love it and it has a lot of resonances with my life.

This being a desert island series, I think I would also choose The Feathers, the Bones and the Shells by Beth Nielson Chapman.

Interesting music choices!  I think I'm going to have to get some of those songs myself. Very evocative.
Last question:  If your pets could read, which of your books would be each of their favorites and why?
Dottie would plump for The Wild Hunt, my first published novel. It's being re-issued this December.  She would do this because one of the characters is a female ginger tabby cat (rare but not unknown) called Melyn who belongs to the heroine, Judith. Melyn, like many a romance heroine is a feisty young creature and when the hero turns up with his white gazehound, Cadi, the sparks fly.  Melyn bests the dog at every turn, so I know my Dottie would love this one.
Jasper would enjoy A Place Beyond Courage because little William Marshal has a pet mouser called Lion who gets to sleep in someone's hat.  Since Jasper enjoys sleeping in illicit places (shopping bags, laundry piles, the airing cupboard etc), I'm sure he'd egg Lion on. 
Taz, I think would probably enjoy The Scarlet Lion because the hero's daughter, Mahelt, adopts a three legged stray dog who would otherwise have been destroyed.  He's named Tripes (Latin for three-legged) and he goes from mangy cur to pampered high-status chamber-dog dwelling in the lap of luxury. Taz, being a rescue pup himself and a high-status chamber dog, would probably identify!

I love your explanations.  What great pets - and great books!  image  Thank you so much for doing this!!

Many thanks for asking me.  I've enjoyed it very much!

Elizabeth has a very cool website with a medieval glossary and research links and information about her books - all sorts of fascinating stuff - make sure you visit!  image  

She also has a whole collection of blogs on many topics - history, music, etc. - so check them out too here!