Saturday, September 18, 2010

Welcome, Anita Davison

I was born and brought up within easy reach of all those landmarks that epitomise London, The Tower, St Paul’s, Christopher Wren’s Churches, tiny cobbled streets that run behind the concrete and glass of the modern business district of the City. Enthralled from a young age, I imagined men in tall periwigs and frock coats carrying canes walking through those streets, and rows of Victorian carriages lined up outside Georgian terraces while ladies in elaborate hats and velvet cloaks walked arm-in-arm through the garden squares.

On school trips to historic houses, I was the kid who dawdled at the back waiting for the room to empty of chattering schoolchildren so I could visualize the people who once walked the halls and slept in the beds. I think my teachers thought me apathetic, but I loved those places and revisit them whenever I can.

I began reading historical fiction in my teens, mainly the works of Anya Seaton, Jean Plaidy and graduated to Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Being a born scribbler, I was always writing stories, but mostly for myself. When I contemplated writing an actual book, my ambition was not publication – I assumed that was for far more talented people than me: until I joined a critique group. With their help and encouragement, I learned how to put my rambling prose into some sort of order and tell a story.

My first novel is about a family in 17th Century England caught up in the Western Rising of 1685, and its sequel, was published by a small press. I wanted to prove, mainly to myself, that I wasn’t a one-trick pony, or rather a one-era pony, and embarked on a Victorian Romance. My heroine, Isabel Hart, was very clear in my head, and as I brought other people onto the pages, they developed their own characters and took me off in different directions, demanding their own sub plots. This, I was told, is not the formula for a standard romance, but Lea Schizas at MuseItUp loved the whole story and understood the symbolism of the title, so ‘The Maze’ will be released in June 2011. My main fear of ‘The Maze’, is will the readers like it? Will I have any readers? Will someone write a review and say, “Who told this woman she can write?”

My website is and I have a blog called The Disorganised Author [Link:] A satire on all those dynamic authors who manage to run a home, care for four children under eight, raise funds for distressed donkeys, make their own bread and write a book a year. My method is far more chaotic!

I wasn’t looking for an e-publisher, and my agent is trying to bring my work to the attention of a mainstream publisher. However, Lea is someone I have known, virtually, for a while and when she announced her new company, the buzz it created was hard to ignore. Lea is a respected member of the writing community and her team approach makes the process of publishing such fun, I am glad I didn’t pass up the chance to be part of it.

The Maze Unedited Excerpt

Chapter 1

The long case clock in the entrance hall worked its way to chime the hour with a clunk and mechanical whine. At the bottom of the stairs, Isabel slid a hand over the newel post, large as a man’s head, patting the carved wood three times to banish evil spirits. A childhood ritual her siblings raced each other to perform first.

A fragrance of lavender overlaid with the tang of vinegar permeated the hall; a combination used by the servants to bring life to rooms that had lain empty since winter.

The green baize door swung wide to a murmur of raised voices from the basement that grew louder. Before a servant could emerge and see her, Isabel hurried across the chequered floor into the morning room and out through the casement door onto the terrace; the route to the outside with the quietest door.

Smoke-like mist rose from the meadows in a blue haze of early morning. Her feet skimmed the terrace and down the stone steps onto cropped, spongy grass that leached dampness into her thin soles. Sleepy fantails strutting the grass scattered, indignant, at her approach.

Tucked into a corner of the grounds, the maze sat, squat and menacing in geometric perfection. Two stone lions stood sentry on either side of an entrance which gaped - black, beckoning.

Isabel hesitated as the loamy earth and damp leaf smell propelled her back to the last time she had ventured here. On her sixth birthday, she became lost in a dark labyrinth of strange noises, and no matter how much her siblings teased, she had never come near it again.

In two weeks, Isabel would be twenty one; far too old to be frightened of a few hedges. Time to banish the monster forever. The post-dawn silence offered a perfect opportunity while everyone slept off their fatigue of the previous day’s journey from London. The lush green foliage looked anything but threatening now, and yet she still had to force herself over the threshold and onto the path.

On silent feet, Isabel crept to the end of the first corridor and turned left through a gap into another straight tunnel. Rounding a corner, the waxy leaves on an untrimmed hedge slapped her cheek. A shadow at the edge of her vision darted away, followed by a low scurrying of feet, or possibly wings. Startled, she ran clammy hands down the sides of her skirt and fought the urge to turn back.

The statue of a boy on a stone plinth changed her mind. Sightless eyes gazed straight ahead, the folds of his breeches buckled below the knee. He looked smaller than she remembered, his French horn in dimpled fingers, and hair a mass of short curls like thick worms carved in stone.

Reciting the route she had worked out a hundred times from her bedroom window, a burst of confidence sent her through the next gap into a small clearing where white colonial roses covered a wrought iron ornamental arch. The ivory blooms exuded a sweet, cloying fragrance which partly obscured the damp leaf and earth odour.

Their unexpected beauty stilled the moment and Isabel halted, entranced. Had she got this far on that long-ago birthday, how different the following years might have been. Years without the insidious fear of aloneness the maze engendered. Pondering this thought, a movement caught her eye.

Isabel turned her head and sucked in a breath.

The scene before her made no sense. She blinked and looked again.

Beyond the arch stood Isabel’s father. Tall and imposing in a charcoal grey tailcoat, his dark hair touched by silver wings at the temples, and his arms wrapped tightly around her mother’s nurse.

Amelia clung to him, her head tilted to receive his kiss. Her long, white fingers entwined in his hair messed the pristine order in a way he would never have tolerated in a hug from Isabel.

Pressed close, he held one broad hand spread across Amelia’s back, while with the other...

Isabel backed away, pressing against the hedge where sharp privet scratched the base of her neck. Like a small child caught in a misdemeanour, she waited, each second loaded with anticipation of her father’s voice raised to summon her back.

Apart from a low rustle and a murmur of wind, the maze remained still and silent.

Isabel ran. The statue of the boy flashed past and she hurtled through a gap in the hedge, pleading with the fates she had chosen the right path. Her heart pounded in rhythm with each step, the entrance loomed ahead, and dizzy from her erratic breathing, she burst between the hedges into bright sunlight.

Her skirt threatened to wrap around her ankles, but she reached the far side of the lawn without mishap. The arched wooden gate in the wall stood open and hurtling through, she shouldered it shut. The latch clicked loud in her ears and old wood cut into her upper arm through the fabric of her blouse.

A hand clutched to her chest as if to massage away the pain, her eyes snapped open and she gasped. That’s where his hand lay, on Amelia’s. . .

How could he?

A lump formed in her throat as furious tears welled.


Ginger Simpson said...

I had the good fortune of meeting Anita on an historical critique group. I fell in love with her writing the moment I read her first chapter, and I will always be a fan and friend.

Although she tends to question her own talent, she's been very instrumental in helping me hone my own work, so I really don't understand her insecurities. She's honestly on my favorite author's list, and I'll continue to read anything she publishes.

Of course, a hope that will probably never be realized is meeting her in person so I can give her a real hug instead of all the virtual ones I send across the pond. She a great lady.

Karen McGrath said...

Anita, you write beautifully. The only thing the reveiwers will say is "Why haven't we seen this author until now? Who's been keeping her under lock and key?" Excited for you! And for historical romance lovers everywhere when they get hold of your books. Best wishes always.

Dragonmuse said...

Anita writes beautifully, dragging the reader into her world whether they like it or not. Magical talent. Of course she wont admit to being so clever, but like Ginger I have had the absolute pleasure of reading Anita's writing before. She might not say it herself, but she is amazing.
Great extract. Wonderful to re enter the world you create Anita. Well done again!
So good to see your work find a good home.

Anita Davison said...

Thank you so much, Ginger, Karen and Rosalie, you made my Sunday morning with your lovely comments. The release of 'The Maze' is a little way off, but I'm quite excited about it now and can't wait to begin the edits.
Thank you again, and to Rosanne for inviting me