The new Shalott: an interview with Felicity Pulman

Today I’m delighted to be bringing you an interview with award-winning writer Felicity Pulman, who has embarked on a wonderful new project: republishing her popular young adult historical fantasy trilogy, Shalott, with new titles, new material and in new formats. The first book, Shalott: Into the Unknown, has just been released, and the other two Shalott: Dangerous Magic, and Shalott: End Play, will be published in September and November respectively.

Congratulations, Felicity! Why did you decide to republish the Shalott trilogy?

I wrote the first novel not realising there was more to come – and it was only when I got to the third novel that I understood what Callie’s quest was really all about. Rewriting and republishing the trilogy was my chance to ‘get it right’; to blend in a wonderful mix of magic and technology, and to seed in the ‘clues’ that there was much more to the teenagers’ quest than they first realised. It was also my chance to bring the books up to date for a new generation of readers, while introducing them to the timeless legend of King Arthur and his knights, and the mysterious and beautiful poem, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The original series came out in the early 2000s. You’ve changed the titles, but was there anything you decided to change within the stories themselves? And did you add any new material?

Basically the story remains the same, although I’ve strengthened the magical aspect, particularly from the points of view of Nimue and Morgan le Fay. Nimue’s magic helps to bring the teenagers to Camelot in order to thwart Morgan’s plans to divide the court through the love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot. But Morgan will stop at nothing to eliminate anything that gets in the way of her ambition for Mordred – and the teenagers are caught in the crossfire. I was also able to update the books to reflect society as we know it today in terms of hot button topics for teenagers, new technology, and even the deadly virus! A LOT has changed over the past twenty years.

Tell us about the process you went through in order to get the books back into print – what were the challenges? And discoveries?

I worked on an already formatted version while rewriting the novels, which caused all sorts of problems during editing and proof-reading. With hindsight I’d probably have been better off retyping all three novels! As a technotwit I knew I’d be better off asking for help rather than trying to navigate the self-publishing process on my own.  Joel Naoum from Critical Mass Services has been a great help to me, finding editors, designers and printers, acting as a sounding board, and generally shepherding me through the whole publishing process. What I discovered was just how many decisions one has to make along the journey!

As a self-publisher this time, how are you promoting and publicising the books?

This is still a WIP.  I’ve updated my website; I’m posting on facebook and other platforms, and also spreading the word via the various societies and writing organisations to which I belong. I need to make much more use of social media than I do, and I’m working on that, plus I’m also considering paying for some advertising. Friends like you have been really helpful with giving me ‘air time’ on your own platforms as well – much appreciated!  Of course I always talk about my books at my workshops and author talks, with the age of the audience determining which books I mention. I’ll be canvassing local bookshops with copies of the trilogy, and also sending out press releases to local and any other media that I hope might be interested. Meantime I’m open to suggestions from everyone!

What advice would you have for other authors thinking of republishing their out-of- print titles? 

 It’s hard work but certainly worthwhile if you want to breathe new life into your books, especially if you’re technosavvy. But buyer beware: go with a reputable print company and make sure your books are readily available for purchase (as mine are through amazon and various other outlets.) If you’re outsourcing the publishing process, as I have, it can be expensive, and unless the book suddenly takes off for some reason you should realise that you’re unlikely to make any sort of profit, or even recoup your expenses.

Another of your novels is going to get a new lease of life, I believe, with your very first novel, Ghost Boy, optioned by a film production company. Can you tell us about that?

Ghost Boy is my most successful book to date, particularly as it now forms the basis of the very popular Ghost Boy tour up at the Quarantine Station in Manly, where part of the novel is set. The QS itself is a fabulous site – very cinematic, very historic, and very creepy, and students studying my novel find that the book really comes alive when they can walk in the footsteps of my characters. The film option was taken out several years ago, but I’ve now signed an option for the sale of my book, which means we’ve come one step closer to seeing my novel (and maybe its unpublished sequel: The Curse of the Quarantine Station) turned into a movie. Exciting – but I must admit I’m finding it very hard to let go!

Where you can buy Shalott: Into the Unknown, first volume of Felicity’s republished Shalott trilogy:

Aus: www.amazon.com.au/dp/B097KYVRLS

USA: www.amazon.com/dp/B097KYVRLS

UK: www.amazon.com.uk/dp/B097KYVRLS

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