Q&A with R.L. Bartram

1.Please tell our readers about your novel, Dance the Moon Down.
 "Dance The Moon Down" is an historical drama set against the background of the First World War. The novel attempts a new slant on an old theme by focusing on the lives of the women left behind. The novels central character, Victoria, has been married for  barely a year before her poet husband, Gerald, volunteers to fight and then goes missing on the Western Front, leaving her to fend for herself in a male dominated society. Her struggle to survive and her refusal to give up hope that her husband will one day return give the novel, I feel, a uniquely poignant flavor.
It is a story of human endurance. Of one young woman's courage and faith against almost overwhelming adversity.

2. Historical novels set in the WWI time period seem to be very popular. Why do you think this is?

People are always fascinated by global events, especially something on the scale of the Great War. However, I believe that it has more to do with what happened just after the war ended. The casualties were so staggering that the people who were left had to come to terms, to try and make sense of what had happened. The society of the day began to weave a legend around the whole affair, adding an element of romanticism, (the last golden summer of 1914) and furnished it with iconic symbols that suggested a time when personal honor meant more than life itself. A time populated by dashing young men and elegant young women, when gallantry and valor were the watchwords of the day. Add to that the undeniable sense of tragedy that comes through, even today, and it becomes a very potent concoction.
Some, or all of these themes regularly appear in any WW1 novel you care to read. In fact, as I well know, it's almost impossible to write a novel based on the First World War without including some of them. The legend of the Great War has persisted for a hundred years. I believe it will endure for a thousand more and even then there will be somebody weaving a story around it.

3. Victoria goes through a lot in this book. What do you think she'd say to you, given the chance?

 Would that be before or after she's punched me?  Luckily for me, she's too much of a lady to do that. I think, I hope, she would say "Thank you for making me strong. Thank you for bringing me through". I hope she would be glad that I had brought her into being and was proud that I had chosen her to represent all the women of that time, the unsung heroes, I think that should be,  heroines, of WW1, who made such a magnificent contribution to the war effort and for whom no monument has ever been raised. I think there might be a couple of other things that she might like to thank me for as well, but if I mention those, it might give too much of the plot away.

4.  How much of Dance the Mood Down is based on actual events?

About 75%.  Most of the incidents portrayed in the novel are based on actual events. All the historical facts are correct, they lend plausibility to the plot and give the reader a sense of "being there".  It took two years of research to assemble them. Weaving them seamlessly into the story was the hard part. I used the letters and diaries of some women who had actually been through the Great War to set the tone of the book. Naturally I didn't use the material word for word, but adapted it to fit the story and of course all the names are my own invention. I'm tempted to offer examples, but again, I think that would give too much away.

5. How did you come up with the title?

 During my research I read an article in "The Nation" a now obsolete periodical, written by John Galsworthy, the author of "The Forsythe Saga", in June 1914. Basically it was a critique of the times and of the younger generation, entitled "Studies In Extravagance, The Latest Thing". Among other things,  he said of them that they "had been born to dance the moon down to ragtime. Of course we now know that they in fact fought the bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century. The irony of this statement made such an impression on me that I was inspired to write my novel. Hence, "Dance The Moon Down" seemed the perfect title.

6. You're obviously a history lover. Is there a time period (other than WWI) that fascinates you?

 I'm very partial to ancient history, particularly Roman and Greek. The Victorian era also holds a special appeal for me. However, the period that particularly fascinates me is the time of the American Civil war. I suppose a lot of comparisons can be drawn  between that and WW1, but it is unique in its own way. I find the whole subject of the American Civil War quite compelling, so much so, that I'm planning another novel set in that period. This one will also have a female central character.  No- it won't be anything like "Gone With The Wind".

7. What is your writing process like?

Generally everything starts with an initial idea. From there I work up the sections of the story,  that interest me most at the time, until I have several chunks of disembodied plot. After that it's a process of marrying them together with a storyline, until I have a complete first draft. Then it's a matter of re-writing until I'm satisfied with everything. A novel will always run to several drafts. In the case of "Dance The Moon Down" it was six.
I always write in longhand. I find that's faster for me, especially when I'm on a roll and never commit the work to type until the final draft. I usually write from about 11pm to 3am. I like writing through the night, it's much quieter then and it's easier to hear my muse.

8. What are you working on right now?

I think I just let the cat out of the bag on this one. As I said before, it's a story based on the American Civil War. As with WW1, it's a subject that's been extensively written about, so I'm aiming at a new slant. There's a female central character, my favorite, and a ton of research to do if I'm to make it convincing. I think I've found a new angle and I'm happy with how it's progressing, but that's all I'm saying for now.

9.  Who is/are your favorite author(s)? why?

There are many, but the ones that stand out are Henry James, Ernest Hemingway and Herman Melville. James is a brilliant writer. His plots are perfectly executed and always with a superb twist in the tale. He's a master wordsmith. Hemingway's understated but quietly powerful style never fails to impress me. He seemed to have a unique perception of human frailty, probably based on his own, which comes through in all his novels. Melville's "Moby Dick" was, I think, a novel written before it's time. The psychological profiling of his characters is exceptional and cleverly underpins and drives the whole story along. Sadly it wasn't well received in it's own time, but now is rightly acclaimed as a masterpiece.

10.  What's on your desk right now?

You really want to know that? Alright then. To my left the notes for this interview and an empty cigarette packet. To my right a full packet of cigarettes,an ashtray and my glasses case, some letters to be posted and my tea mug. This mug holds a whole pint of tea which I drink black with no sugar. I usually get through three an hour. I'd die without tea. There are also the notes for my next novel nearby. In front of me is my computer. I'm only just getting the hang of this (it's only just replaced my typewriter). Mostly it's a pain in the rear with a mind of it's own, which never fails to throw me a curve when I least expect it, but I suppose that's progress for you.

Author Bio.
Born in Edmonton, London, Robert spent several of his formative years living in Cornwall where he began to develop a life long love of nature and the rural way of life. He began writing in his early teens and much of his short romantic fiction was subsequently published in various periodicals including "Secrets", "Red Letter" and "The People's Friend".
Never one to let the necessity of making a living get in the way of his writing, Robert has continued to write for the best part of his life whilst holding down a variety of jobs which have included Health Food Store Manager, Typewriter Mechanic and Taxidermist. Yes- you read that correctly.
His passion for the history of the early twentieth century is second only to his love of writing. It was whilst researching in this area that he came across the letters and diaries of some women who had lived through the trauma of the Great War. What he read in them inspired him to write his debut novel "Dance The Moon Down" and the rest, as they say, is history.
Robert is single and lives and writes in Hertfordshire.

Link to book: (UK)  http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/eB00A4E7JGA 

(US) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006FKB9OU