Uncaged welcomes Fil Reid

Welcome to Uncaged! Your first book in a series, Guinevere: The Dragon Ring, will release in January. Can you tell readers more about this series?
Is this your debut novel?

Thank you very much for asking me to talk to you. I’m very excited about your invitation.

This will be my first published novel. It stems from an experience I had about twenty years ago. My husband and I visited Glastonbury Tor where he took four photos from a distance on motor drive with infrared film loaded in his camera. In those days he had his own dark room, so when we arrived home he developed the film straightaway. And what a shock we got when we looked at the negatives. In the first photo the ruined church tower is there on the summit of the Tor, in the second it’s fading, in the third it’s totally vanished, and in the fourth it’s back. This made me wonder if we’d had a glimpse into the past, just for an infinitesimally small moment in time, back to when no tower sat on top of the Tor. And I wondered what would have happened had we been inside the tower when it vanished. I’d always wanted to write an Arthurian novel from the point of view of Guinevere, and much later, with my children all grown up, I put finger to keyboard and these books were born.

21st-century librarian, Gwen, is the daughter of an obsessive Arthurian scholar who named her and her twin brother after Arthur and Guinevere. When she goes to fulfill her late father’s wishes by scattering his ashes on top of the Tor, she finds a dragon ring inside the ruined tower. Touching it snatches her back in time to the Dark Ages to become the woman she’s named after – King Arthur’s legendary queen, Guinevere. So she’s a conundrum herself, a classic ‘which came first – the chicken or the egg?’.

There’s an element of magic in my books but I try not to make it overbearing. It’s magic that brings Gwen back to the end of the fifth century, and magic that gives her a perfect understanding of both Brythonic Celtic and Latin, but apart from that the world she finds herself in is basic and primitive. And very dangerous. Not just from the terrain – a lot of perilous marshland where she could drown and forests full of wolves and brigands, but from hostile villagers thinking she’s a bog spirit or Saxon spy, and from Merlin himself, who informs her that he’s brought her here to fulfill a prophecy and marry Prince Arthur.

There will be six books in all, recounting Gwen’s life as Arthur’s queen, experienced through the critical mind of a modern young woman. And not just any modern young woman – one who, thanks to her father, intimately knows all the legends and history surrounding Arthur and his era. Unfortunately for Gwen, she also knows the story of his ultimate tragic fate – if the legends are correct. As time passes, and that fateful day draws ever nearer, Gwen is forced to count down the days to the terrible finale she foresees.

All the places in my books exist, and I’ve visited practically all of them. I’m lucky enough to live in the UK and be able to travel to, and experience for myself, every location I include in my stories. I like to stand where my characters stand, and see what they see. From South Cadbury Castle (Din Cadan), through Glastonbury (Ynys Witrin), to Wroxeter (Viroconium), Wall (Caer Luit Coyt) and Chedworth Villa (unnamed in my book but there) – all are places you can visit if you want to, and stand in the footprints of Arthur and Guinevere. The above are just the settings for book one – the other books will take you further afield, but don’t worry, as maps will be included.

You won the Dragonblade Publishing Writestuff Competition 2021, a contest that is running now. What would you say to authors that are hesitant to enter?

Don’t hesitate. In no way did I ever think I was going to win this competition. I didn’t think my book was the sort of novel that would win because it’s not about the Regency period, or Scotland – although there is a bit set in Scotland in book three – and the books are a saga of one woman’s lifelong love, rather than separate stories linked together.

I entered as soon as the competition opened, then forgot about it. I’ve entered a lot of competitions in my time, and this was the first one I won, although I’ve been shortlisted before now. In April 2021, I was more than surprised to find I’d made the semi-final list, but when I googled the other finalists, I felt sure I wouldn’t win, as many of them were already published authors with success under their belts.

On the day they announced the results, July 1st, because I live in the UK, I was a good six hours in front of the US, so I didn’t see the announcement until after 10 in the evening. As Kathryn Le Veque read out the winners in reverse order, I became more and more convinced I had no chance, until she reached the overall winner. I screamed. Literally. Several times, in fact. No one could have been more surprised than me! So however you see yourself and your chances, definitely enter this competition – because you never know. It could be you next year.

Read the rest of the interview below


Fil, who’s from Southern England, has always loved horses. She’s worked with them and owned them for much of her life. Consequently, she likes to include horses in all her books, which is handy as her favourite thing to write about is the Dark Ages, when horses were essential.

When she’s not writing she’s researching, because she loves to learn new things, and she’s taught herself both Latin and Greek, and is now embarking on learning Brythonic Celtic – for reasons of research, of course.

filreid.com

The Dragon Ring
Fil Reid
Medieval Historical

The present day – 24-year-old librarian Gwen goes to scatter her father’s ashes on Glastonbury Tor and is kidnapped back in time to become King Arthur’s Dark Age queen – Guinevere.

Welcome to book 1 in the exciting new series Guinevere from Dragonblade Publishing author Fil Reid!


Gwena twenty-four-year-old librarian, lives with her boyfriend, Nathan, in a small house, with all the accoutrements of modern living any girl could ask for. When her father dies, and with her ne’er-do-well twin brother on the other side of the world, it’s left to Gwen to fulfill her father’s wishes and scatter his ashes on the top of Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, England. Stepping into the ruined church tower, a gold ring catches her eye – a ring embossed with a dragon emblem. When Gwen picks it up, she’s snatched into the dangerous world of the Dark Ages, where she discovers she’s expected to fulfill a prophecy, by marrying Prince Arthur and helping him become the king of legend.

Will she stay with Arthur?

ArthurPrince of Dumnonia, and son of the ailing King Uthyr Pendragon, has ruled the hilltop fortress of Din Cadan for his father since he was a boy of sixteen. But he has an older brother who looks set to inherit both the kingdom and the High Kingship. Tall, handsome, ruthless, he’s less than convinced that any prophecy can decide his future, and he doesn’t think he needs a wife. But news comes that his father is at last dying in far-off Viroconium. Taking Gwen with him, further and further from the Tor where she had hoped to return to her own world, he sets off to outwit his brother.

Will he grow to love Gwen?


Excerpt

Chapter One

When I went to scatter my father’s ashes, I didn’t expect to get kidnapped.

On that chilly Sunday morning in November, I wanted to be alone for the last words I’d ever say to him. With Dad in my backpack, and leaving my boyfriend, Nathan, asleep in bed in our Glastonbury hotel, I climbed the steep path to the Tor.

In the half-light of early morning, thick mist lay over the town, and no one else was about. For miles around only the odd dark treetop and the tip of a church spire emerged from the sea of white.

Easy to see why some people believed this hill could have been part of Avalon, that mystical land King Arthur had vanished to after being mortally wounded in his last battle. My father had been one of those people.

Shouldering off my backpack, I pulled out Dad’s urn. It weighed surprisingly heavily in my hands for someone who’d only been skin and bone when he’d died. I stood him on the grass beside the roofless church tower.

“I wish Artie could be here, Dad.”

No answer, of course. My twin brother was on the far side of the world on a prolonged trip with his mates, and I’d have to imagine him here with me, spiritually, despite the fact he hadn’t made the effort to get back. Typical.

A bitter frost sparkled on the short grass. For a minute or two, I stood looking at the bleak hilltop, remembering the last time I’d been up here seventeen years ago. Artie and I were seven, our mother was already dying. Although being so young we weren’t aware of the limitation on our time with her. I remember it so well because it was the first time I saw the Fancy-Dress-Man.


The trees’ naked branches rattle in the wind beneath a dull grey sky. Damp cold penetrates to my very bones. My mother’s skin is parchment pale, her once glorious auburn hair wispy and colorless beneath her hand-knitted hat.

My father, over-enthusiastic as usual, expounds on the history of the Tor. He looks old, with his bush of grey hair, jutting eyebrows and thick-lensed spectacles. He’s a university professor and obsessive Arthurian scholar, which is how my brother and I have come to be called Arthur and Guinevere. Although my mother shortens those to Artie and Gwennie.

The hump of Glastonbury Tor rises out of the surrounding flat farmland, long since reclaimed from ancient marshes. Dad parks our Land Rover on a rutted grass verge, and we take the shortest route to the summit.

Artie and I run on ahead, our boots splashing through the puddles. We’re oblivious to the quiet suffering of our mother as she and our father slog along behind us. It’s a pilgrimage for them, as it will be the last time she sees the Tor. But to exuberant seven-year-olds, she just seems annoyingly slow.

We reach the summit together, well ahead of our parents. For a moment the gaunt outline of the tower holds me mesmerized, even though I’ve seen it countless times before. Artie and I have been visiting Glastonbury since just after we were born.

“Race you to the tower.” Artie gives me a backward push and sets off at a run. I sprint after him, but he’s long-legged and athletic and taller than I am, and besides, he’s given himself a cheating head start. He wins, of course. I pretend I haven’t been trying. We walk round to the far side of the tower and look out at the view over the Somerset Levels.

Voices carry on the wind. I peer through the arches of the tower. Our parents appear at the far end of the hilltop.

Read the rest of the excerpt below in the January/February issue of Uncaged Book Reviews