19 August 2014

HNS Indie Award 2014 - Shortlisted author Bill Page

This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced for the first time, an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.
Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog

So please welcome 
Bill Page, author of 
The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams


Firstly, my thanks to Helen for giving me space on her blog. Secondly, my apologies for not providing a photograph of myself: inexplicably, I don’t seem to show up in photos (or mirrors).

The fourth century has rightly been called the Golden Age of Roman Britain. My first two novels, The Moon on the Hills and its stand-alone sequel, The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams (of which more on my website, www.billpageauthor.co.uk), are partly set in the Cotswolds of the late 360s AD, towards the end of that Golden Age, when the cracks in the façade were only just beginning to appear. The (distant) background to both novels is the Barbarica Conspiratio – those seemingly co-ordinated invasions in 367 by Picts and other barbarian tribes from beyond the frontiers of the empire – and the depredations of the roaming bands of army deserters which followed in their wake.

Why set the novels in the Cotswolds? Three reasons. First, because unlike so much of lowland Britain, its landscapes, particularly those around the steep scarp edges of the north-west, have in essence altered very little since Roman times. Second, the Cotswolds were the centre of a materially rich villa culture, perhaps the richest in all Britain. And third, because even today, away from the chocolate-box villages, it can be a lonely, mysterious land. A land where it is possible to imagine, as the people of those times must have imagined, one or more of the Genii Cucullati – that triad of little hooded gods depicted in almost abstract form on a stone plaque now in Corinium Museum – drifting through a wood or crossing a hillside sheep pasture in the dying light of a summer dusk or winter evening.

But for all its material wealth, fourth century Roman Britain is something of an enigma: artefact rich but document poor, and the biographies and even the names of many of its people have vanished forever into the black hole of the fifth century Dark Age. Of the few documents that have come down to us, the most important is the history of the period 354 to 378 written by Ammianus Marcellinus, although he was an army officer whose home city was far-away Antioch and who had almost certainly never visited Britain when he wrote his account of the Conspiratio and subsequent events.

Although the fourth century saw the beginning of the slow transition from the Ancient to the Medieval world, in Britain evidence for Christianity is sparse and it would seem that, particularly in the countryside, belief in the multiplicity of dark old gods and goddesses of the Romano-Celtic pantheons remained strong.  
It was also an age where, empire-wide, individuals finally began to lose faith in the power of the state to defend them against the evils of the world (or perhaps came to regard the state as the greatest evil of all) and to search for a saviour god or gods – Christian or pagan – who they prayed would protect them, both in this life and the hoped-for better life that awaited them after death.  

Because I had no real choice. Some ten years ago I approached a number of literary agents with an earlier version of The Moon on the Hills. I received a (very) few encouraging replies, but nothing more.  So I re-wrote Moon (and re-wrote, and re-wrote), by which time several more years had gone by. Then, rather than again go through the interminable, soul-destroying (and probably futile) process of trying to get an agent, I decided to self-publish through Matador of Leicester.

After most re-writes I paid for a manuscript appraisal by one or other of the more prominent companies which offer such assessment services. Would it be heresy to suggest that the feedback was usually not worth the not inconsiderable sums required? Probably, but I’ll suggest it anyway.
Now well past 60, I am aware that my chances of landing a real publishing contract (ie. one where some optimist publishes your work for free, and even considers paying you for the privilege) are as near zero as makes no difference. So, no benevolent editor to encourage me, chivvy me along and steer me away from the rocks; but also no one (except myself) to steer me onto those rocks either. I tell myself (and sometimes even believe) that this is a curiously liberating situation, because it leaves me free to write whatever I choose and take as long as I need to do so. And if a few people actually like the end result, then hurrah!  

Is a third novel, provisionally titled One Summer in Arcadia, which I am in the process of re-writing (again). Set in 370, in the months following the crushing of Valentinus’s attempted rebellion, it opens with Canio living the life of a country gentleman in a villa he bought with the looted gold acquired in Sower. With the villa came the woman who is now his mistress, the beautiful, enigmatic Trifosa, who spent her childhood at the great Chedworth villa, only some ten miles away to the south. And there at Chedworth, newly returned home after seven traumatic years in the army on the German frontier, is Antoninus, a man who has unexpectedly inherited following the deaths of his estranged father and twin brother. And it seems that Antoninus and Trifosa were once very close.

Canio’s villa is based on the one in Spoonley Wood, a couple of miles south-east of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. Built around three sides of a large courtyard in a once-idyllic spot between two streams tumbling down from springs which rise on the high ground above, in its day it must have been an impressive sight and the centre of a great estate. Today it is little more than a few crumbling walls and a scatter of stones half-hidden among the rampant vegetation of the wood, a sad contrast to the beautifully preserved remains of Chedworth villa (which also plays a prominent role in the novel). Perhaps in some small way Arcadia will make it live again.

Links: website www.billpageauthor.co.uk

The Sower of Seeds of Dreams:
In the aftermath of the devastating barbarian invasions which came to be known as the Barbarica Conspiratio there are:
• A soldier searching for a fortune in looted gold which a dying man told him lies hidden beneath the waters
of a lake on the far side of the Great Marshes, many miles to the south of the Cotswold Hills where the story
• A young priestess searching for a man who mysteriously disappeared a year before, hoping that by finding 
him she will restore her faith in the goddess she thought was protecting him.
• A small brass figurine of the sinister underworld goddess Hecate.
And linking all three is a story said to have begun with a girl picking flowers in a meadow in Sicily on a summer s day long, long ago when the Ancient World was young.

The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams is set in those parts of the Roman province of Britannia Prima which were later to become Gloucestershire and Somerset. It is a stand-alone sequel to The Moon on the Hills Matador 2009 . 

About the Author:
Bill Page has had a lifelong interest in Roman Britain, particularly the villas and settlements of the Cotswold Hills. He lives in South Worcestershire, within sight of the northern end of the Cotswolds where the novel begins and ends. 

Read the HNS review of  
The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams

HNS Indie Award 2014

HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross

1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

full details and rules can be found here
Elizabeth Chadwick: website
Indie B.R.A.G. website

HNS Conference 2014

Details of how to submit an Indie / self-published historical novel for review can be found here 


  1. Love all that obscure history, Bill. And Helen, thanks for doing this!

  2. I love reading about how other authors came to be indie. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Great to see more early Romano-British/Romano-Celtic history coming through. It's been a slow process for me gathering writer friends who have written in or before the Dark Ages (my first book is set in 433AD). Lovely post and Bill's book sounds very interesting. Thanks both xx

    1. My Arthurian Pendragon's Banner Trilogy is set in the latter half of the 5th Century, post Roman Britain. I loved writing it - and entirely agree with you about connecting with like-minded writers!


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