Today I am interviewing Toby Venables, author of the new epic historical-fantasy novel, Hunter of Sherwood: Hood, final book in the Guy of Gisburne trilogy.
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DJ: Hey Toby! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Toby Venables: Well, I’m a writer in various media – novels, screenwriting, journalism – and author of four novels, all of which have been in some way historically based. The first was The Viking Dead, which threw together Vikings and zombies, but was as much a love letter to Viking culture as anything else. Then came the Hunter of Sherwood trilogy (AKA the Guy of Gisburne novels). I’ve also written a couple of screenplays – nothing yet produced, but the next one is looking good – teach students in Cambridge, have contributed to an academic tome on zombies, am married with two children and shoot English longbow.
DJ: What is Hunter of Sherwood: Hood and then the Guy of Gisburne trilogy about?
Toby: Essentially, it turns the Robin Hood legend on its head. Abaddon – who had published The Viking Dead, and who knew I had a thing for medieval subjects – suggested the idea of having Sir Guy of Gisburne, the traditional villain of the piece, as a hero of a series of novels. As it turned out, I had been thinking about new ways to tell the Robin Hood story – kind of a Dark Knight version – so I jumped at the chance. I went away and worked out some ideas and they liked them, so we went for the first novel, Knight of Shadows. The challenge I set myself was that the story I wrote had to fit with the real history of the period (it’s set it at the time of King Richard and Prince John) and also had to fit with the legends we know. But it also had to have a genuinely admirable character in Gisburne, and a real villain in Hood, and real reasons why we would root for the man who legend has remembered as the bad guy. Originally, there was talk of this being an ongoing series. After the first book, though, it was clear that this needed a distinct narrative arc, and we all agreed that a trilogy would work better. Gisburne and Hood are destined to have a showdown, and that showdown is what the novel Hood is all about. It has a bit of a Magnificent Seven feel to it. And it is quite grim. Although it isn’t horror, I have a love of that genre, and there are moments where it becomes horror. Comedy too. I like that contrast of tones, and that kind of richness. Life is like that. Continue reading