The Story So Far ...

Sunday, 21 August 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down - Sunday chat with Annie Whitehead

Well here's an odd thing - If I am to interview the authors of 1066 Turned Upside Down in the order in which their stories appear in the book, then I must now interview myself!

How did I get involved with the project?
I was contacted by Helen Hollick - of whom I've been a fan for a very long time - and asked if I would write a story for the project. I must have hesitated for about, ooh, two seconds before I said yes!

Without giving too much away, can I set the scene for my story?
My story concerns the northern earls and the Battle of Fulford, just outside York. It was here that the English were defeated by the forces of Harald Hardrada of Norway and Tostig Godwinson, brother of King Harold. This defeat meant that Harold had to ride north to the Battle of Stamford Bridge and thus had to endure a long but swift march down south again to meet William of Normandy. What if the northern earls had won at Fulford, and Stamford Bridge never happened? This was the premise for my story but, actually, those northern earls were mainly Mercians. I love my Mercians, so I decided to think a bit more about their likely attitude not only to battle, but to Harold himself...

Did it go 'against the grain' to change history?
Usually I am at great pains to depict history as it happened. Occasionally I change something minor, if it helps the narrative to flow more easily, but I make this clear in my notes. The job of the historical novelist is, in my view, to present the facts but to fill in the gaps - plausibly - and to put flesh on the characters' bones, to try to give them a back story, to present possible reasons why they, as humans, behaved the way they did. With 'A Matter of Trust' (my story in 1066 Turned Upside Down), I tried to stick to this principle and to give logical reasons for the behaviour of my characters. Once I had got past the blatant twisting of the history, I found it quite natural to then tell the tale using the personalities of the people involved.

What draws me particularly to the stories of Mercia?
History belongs to the victors, to a large extent. The ancient kingdom of Mercia was eventually swallowed up by Wessex. The King of Wessex, Alfred the great, commissioned the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, one of our main primary sources for this period. Thus the history of Mercia was somewhat sidelined, which is a shame, because Mercia produced some wonderfully charismatic characters: Offa (he who built the dyke) Aethelflaed (Lady of the Mercians, subject of  To Be A Queen), 
Lady Godiva, and even evil old Eadric Streona, who vacillated so much during the time of King Canute that he must have made himself utterly dizzy!

Some, less well known, simply deserved to have their stories told, in my opinion: King Edgar, who managed uniquely in those times to rule peacefully, and his right-hand-man Aelfhere (Alvar), whose reputation suffered because not only was he an earl of Mercia, but he also took on the Church establishment, and at this time, the Chronicles weren't just written by Wessex, they were written by Wessex monks. 

What really attracted me though was the anomalies - Aethelflaed was a woman leader, Ethelred was a man who wasn't a king, but fought like one anyway to save his country, Edgar was a king of peace in a very turbulent age, Alvar went up against the Church, Aelfthryth fought like a lioness for her youngest child, but had left two children behind. Why? What was the story there? 

Is there another event in history that I wish had had a different outcome, another "What if"?
There is one episode in history which I really wish hadn't happened. Not because it would have changed the course of history, but simply because it was unnecessary: Anne Boleyn's death. As it turned out, her daughter came to rule England anyway, so in terms of history, this brutal act achieved little, other than to set a precedent for Henry's dealings with Catherine Howard.

If I could write another 'What if', though, it would probably be the history of Wales. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, (Llewelyn the Last) was killed during campaign against Edward I and his daughter was sent to Sempringham Priory in England where she spent the rest of her days as a nun. Llywelyn's brother, and named successor, is reputed to be the first victim of hanging, drawing and quartering. I have a strong dislike for Edward I, and I would relish a re-telling of history which preserved the Royal House of Gwynedd.

Thanks for talking to me today Annie.
It was my pleasure Annie!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down: Sunday chat with Helen Hollick

For the next few weeks, I shall be chatting to the authors of the new e-book 1066 Turned Upside Down, a project which I am immensely proud and honoured to be part of. First up in the Sunday Chatroom is author Helen Hollick:

Hello Helen, and thanks for joining me today. Where did the idea for 1066 TUD come from?
It was Joanna Courtney’s idea. She mentioned writing a few ‘what if’ stories about 1066 and I jumped at the idea!

Without giving too much away, can you set the scene(s) for your stories?
I have two: the first is set in January; what if Harold Godwinson had not been offered, or had not accepted, the Crown after Edward the Confessor’s death? And my second story is a long-held passionate belief of mine: what if William’s fleet had been destroyed mid-Channel by the English schyp-fyrd (navy). I firmly believe this did happen – although not in the way this particular story ends up. Both stories are taken from my novel Harold the King (UK title – called I Am The Chosen King in the US) but I enjoyed giving them a different twist.

You've written an Arthurian Trilogy (semi-legendary), books about Emma and Harold (real characters) and Jesamiah Acorne (fictional). Which, if any, do you prefer to write about? Which is the most challenging to tackle as a writer? 
I prefer my Sea Witch Voyages because the series is meant to be light-hearted fun – they certainly are fun to write, I just hope my readers gain as much pleasure from reading them as I do from writing them. They are not meant to be taken seriously – they are tongue-in-cheek sailor’s yarns.

Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of research for the background historical facts, and for the nautical elements, but I also include fantasy along with the adventure. The thing is, no one would believe the made-up bits if the real bits were not realistically written. 
I’ve a soft spot for the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy because they were my first novels, Emma (A Hollow Crown UK title / The Forever Queen US title) is a favourite because I feel I paved the way for bringing this most intriguing Saxon Queen to light (I was the first, I think, to write a novel about her, now everyone’s doing her proud!) And Harold, well I reckon the other major character in that novel was the greatest challenge. Duke William. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I detest the man, so I found it really hard to write his scenes.
I have no idea why I hate him so much, although being British with a long genealogy of British ancestors I would hazard a guess that someone in past was directly affected by the Norman Conquest, even maybe by the Battle itself.

Please can you tell us about your latest release?
My latest is the fifth Sea Witch Voyage, On The Account, another swashbuckling adventure for Jesamiah Acorne and his crew – along with the eBook 1066 Turned Upside Down, that is. Two books released in two months! Goodness I have been busy!

Is there another event in history that you wish had had a different outcome, another "What if"?
I would have liked Boudicca to have won her battle against the Romans. She tried so hard, and so deserved to win – yes she inflicted a lot of damage, killed a lot of innocent people in most unpleasant ways, but then, her daughters had been raped, she had been flogged and she had been the victim of foreign invaders who had all the arrogance and greed. What would Britain have been like if the Romans had been turned out? 
Although I guess they would merely have come back again at a later date.

Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to me today, Helen.

Twitter: @HelenHollick

1066 Turned Upside Down is available HERE

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Past is a Foreign Country ...

... they do things differently there.

Or do they?

The opening line to LP Hartley's The Go-Between is so famous that people often quote it without knowing where it came from originally.

I'm going to take his meaning and mess with it. Because I've been thinking recently about how authors of historical fiction grab me with their first lines, or pages, and suck me in to that place called the past, without describing anything fantastically unfamiliar.

This isn't a tutorial, a 'how to write great historical fiction' (particularly as I wouldn't presume to suggest that I'm well placed to give such a lesson in the first place!) No, this is just me putting together some of the phrases or descriptive passages that I've read recently which have made me think "Oh yes, I like this."

This, from Prue Batten's Tobias:

"The fist pummelled into Tomas’ jaw, his head jerking sideways, his teeth splitting his bottom lip.

‘Son of an arse for a mother!’ the little man shouted. ‘Boiled arse of an excuse for a drunkard!’ He ran between his opponent’s legs, turning swiftly, balling his hands to punch up at the soft parts before the thug could turn around. As the fellow made to turn, he stumbled, fell and hit his head hard on the edge of a protruding paving stone.

‘Tomas, leave it!’ Tobias called in German as he grabbed his brother’s fist. Around them jeers and calls goaded the small man. ‘Leave it, I said.’ Toby grasped his brother’s arms, pushing him ahead, kicking his backside and shouting ‘Move it, get going and fast if you value what’s left of your face.’

Surprisingly Tomas ran as the attention transferred to the unconscious drinker, Tomas laughing and whooping all the way down the street until the two pulled into a Venetian alley of shadows, far from the ruckus."

So, why did I like this so much? It makes up the opening lines of the book, and actually, apart from the mention of Venice, we could be anywhere, anytime. And yet, it plops the reader right into the heart of the action, the heart of the story. We've read the blurb, so now we plunge right in to the world of Tobias (Toby) and his brother. We are off and running - right alongside Toby and Tomas.

A few paragraphs later, we have this:

"As he spoke, William of Gisborne could be heard in the courtyard, calling the two pups. A tick-tack of racing claws sounded on the stone cobbles as they raced after William..." 

Well, I simply loved the 'tick-tack' of the racing claws. It was so evocative, so unusual and yet so apt. And again, it dragged me into that world, where I could hear and see everything in the scene. 

Tobias (The Triptych Chronicle Book 1) by [Batten, Prue]

Sometimes, a book grabs me because it shows me what I don't expect. This, from Louise Turner's Fire and Sword - a battle scene that was refreshing in its approach. As the main character, John Sempill, rides into battle, the author gives us this:

"No way out. Nowhere to go but forwards, through the enemy lines ahead. Holy Mary, Mother of God, protect me. Holy Mary, Mother of God. . . The words circled around and around in his head. Terror brought a foul taste to his mouth. Was that really his own voice, yelling out in wordless frantic terror as the collision approached? Just audible over the sound of his own ragged breathing, and the pounding of the blood in his veins." Visceral, in a literary and literal sense.

Choreographing fight or battle scenes is difficult. A whacks B, C charges at D, E knocks F off his horse. Done well, these scenes provide a real sense of what warfare is/was like. What was arresting about this passage was that I was placed right inside John's head, and was informed, (or maybe reminded, because I must have known, surely?) that battlefields are terrible and terrifying places. 

Fire and Sword by [Turner, Louise]

Staying in Scotland, I was drawn to a sentence (in Margaret Skea's Turn of the Tide) which, although actually light on description, told me so much about Munro, about his wife whom we've not met at this point, and gave me a clear picture of what the man is wearing:

"Despite his wife's best efforts, [he] wore his clothing almost to extinction: his leather jerkin polished to a shine around the buttons and his boots heavily scarred along their length."

I don't know exactly what his leather jerkin looked like, how it was styled, nor do I know the precise shape of his boots. But not only did I still get a vivid sense of his attire, I knew that his wife wished he would present himself better, but that he thought such things unimportant. An economy of words, but a wealth of information.

Characters in action, characters' thoughts, and their clothing. Nothing here, specifically, that proves the truth of Hartley's words. Fighting, fear, and making do with old clothes - these are things not limited to any one period of history and yet each one put me right at the heart of the period in which its book was set.

And the description of scenery can add to the feeling of being in the past, even when the landscape has barely changed in the intervening years. 

In Malcolm Archibald's Shadow of the Wolf, Fergus' journey through Scotland - yes, Scotland again! - is punctuated with descriptions of the Scottish landscape which must surely have survived to be visited today, and yet add to the atmosphere of the setting of the novel:

"Hugh's widow lived in a small croft about half a mile from Dunkeld, not far from the River Braan and near a waterfall that crashed over a smooth lip to splinter in a hundred million particles of seething water far below. All around, trees dipped their heads in submission."

(Malcolm tells me that the place described above is now known as the Hermitage.)

Yes, the past is a foreign country, and they do things differently there. But sometimes the historical novelist needs to paint a world where details are familiar, in order fully to immerse the reader in that foreign country. We believe in the history because we believe in the people - we can see them, feel for them, we get a sense of the world in which they are walking.  Please do take a look at the books mentioned here.

Fire and Sword
Turn of the Tide
Shadow of the Wolf

Over the next few weeks, I shall be talking to the authors - myself included! - who collaborated on the new book 1066 Turned Upside Down. This involved looking at the past in yet another way...

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Digging for Gold: Historical Research and Story Gaps

Today I am delighted to hand over the blog to author Catherine Hokin:~

Digging for Gold: Historical Research and Story Gaps

"Writing historical fiction can be a strange endeavour particularly if, like me, your novels are woven round real people. Readers frequently come to your work with considerable knowledge of the period, passionate opinions about the people (woe betide anyone in the current climate who paints Anne Boleyn as a black-hearted witch) and a pretty clear idea of how it all ends. I was once advised to imagine my audience as a room full of Sherlock Holmes clones who all have a starred first in the subject I’m writing about – it was good if terrifying advice!

No matter what period you write about (and my chosen area is medieval) research is king. A reader has to feel, taste and smell your timeframe and they have to be able to trust that you have done your job thoroughly or they will walk away. Your credentials have to be made clear in the details but there must be a balance in how research is used: if your reader needs a PhD to work out what you’re on about, you’ve overdone it; if they can’t tell whether your soldier is slugging it out with a sword at Towton or dodging machine gun fire at the Somme, you need to have a think about your ingredients mix. It’s historical fiction but the key word is fiction: we are story-tellers not professors. 

So we writers head to research to underpin our novels but we also head there with shovels at the ready to mine it for gold. The art of historical fiction is accepting the limits the genre imposes and then wriggling through the facts to find the wow. In other words, you cannot change the end but you can look deep into the sources and find the ‘I can see what they did but why on earth would they do it…’ moment. That’s where the stories lie. Very often both primary and secondary accounts of a time or a specific event will give you the deed but not the reason. 

Or they will give you the reason wrapped in a thick coating of propaganda: ‘history is written by the victors’ is a truism not a cliché. The job of a writer is to look at what was done and then dig into the character’s head and work out what the triggers were for the murder or the betrayal or the so-carefully planned late-arrival at the battle. Social conventions and attitudes change and they need to be respected – no medieval queen mistook herself for a suffragette – but people’s motivations remain fairly constant and there’s usually sex, jealousy, money, hatred, love or sex somewhere in the mix. Shakespeare got a lot of history wrong but he got people very right.

When I was researching my first novel Blood and Roses about Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the fifteenth century Wars of the Roses, I knew I was dealing with a women who had suffered badly at the hands of propaganda. The Shakespearean She-Wolf portrayal was what he was paid for, it was clearly a long way from the truth. So I had a character with plenty of dimensions to explore, including her relationship with her husband (complex and politically frightening) and her son (a deep bond not an incestuous one), but I knew that was not enough to turn a plot on. So I went digging and a little fact started nagging.

At a crucial point in the ongoing conflict between the Houses of York and Lancaster (Margaret’s side), at a moment when victory looked to be in Margaret’s hands, her army was refused entry to the city of London and her campaign fell apart. She should have been admitted, she expected to be, but she was refused. Not by the Mayor, not by the House of York but by Jacquetta Woodville, her one time friend and ally. All the sources record it but no one explains why. So I started to wonder: why would a strong female friendship collapse to the point where it ended in devastating, calculated betrayal? I had my story…

My second novel, which I have just completed, went through the same process. This time my story centres on Katherine Swynford and her long-standing affair with the twice-married John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III. There are lots of interesting things about Katherine’s life, not least that she was the poet Chaucer’s sister-in-law, but one of the most fascinating is that she is incredibly absent from the period’s chronicles. 

Now you might be rolling your eyes and thinking: that’s because she was a woman and didn’t hold any office or importance, doh. (There’s always a doh). Fair comment but it doesn’t wash. Katherine lived in a time when propaganda was beginning  to emerge as a strong political tool, when royal mistresses were not well-treated by the chroniclers and when John of Gaunt was widely-reviled as the cause of everything from plague to poverty. Change the angle of your gaze and her absence starts to look rather strange or, perhaps, rather deliberate. I got my spade out; I have a story.

Perhaps one day one of the awards given for historical fiction will be in the shape of a little golden shovel. I hope so, it would be fitting and there are a lot of writers out there who know exactly how to wield it. While I wait for those who know about such things to tell me whether book two has cracked the right seam, I’m working away on book three. I’m deep in the twelfth century, I’ve spotted something and there’s a Disney soundtrack on a loop in my head: “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go…” 

Thank you so much, Catherine!

Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This sparked an interest in hidden female voices resulting in her debut novel, Blood and Roses which brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses.  Catherine also writes short stories - she was a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition and has been published by iScot magazine - and regularly blogs as Heroine Chic

Buy Blood and Roses
Find Catherine on FacebookTwitter, on her Blog and at her Website

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Short Stories and Dual Timelines - with author Kathleen McGurl

Today I'm delighted to welcome as my guest, author Kathleen McGurl:~

I began by asking her:
You've had phenomenal success with your short stories. Can you tell us how that all began?

- I wouldn't quite call it phenonenal but I did sell a few dozen to women's magazines in the UK and Australia, back in the day. When I began writing I experimented with all kinds of writing before settling on women's mag stories. It helped that I was going to a regular writing class run by Della Galton, the Queen of womag! I remember my first sale - to Woman's Weekly. It was so exciting. I bought a handbag with the proceeds.

Short story-writing is a very exact and exacting discipline. You're the author of How-to-write books. What prompted you to do this - were lots of people asking you for advice?
- I had a blog, called Womagwriter, which focused on writing short stories for women's mags (the blog is still going but is now run by Patsy Collins). It had become quite popular and through it I'd developed a non-fiction 'voice'. I had an urge to self-publish something just for the experience, but didn't want to just do a short story anthology. I'd sold quite a few ghost stories, and while reading the magazine Writers' Forum one day I suddenly had the idea to put them together and write a book about how to write ghost stories, using my own as examples. This book, Ghost Stories and How to Write Them, did pretty well so I followed it up with another of the same format, Short Stories and How to Write Them, and then a little book on time management for writers called Give Up Ironing.

I'd like to ask you about your novels: firstly, what made you decide to write full-length novels?
- I'd always wanted to write novels, and to me the short stories were a stepping stone towards them. I'd done some genealogical research and decided to write a novel about one set of ancestors, just to prove to myself I had the staying power to write a full length novel. Part of this book eventually became my novella Mr Cavell's Diamond which I self published, before finding my publisher Carina UK with my next novel The Emerald Comb.

And secondly, what is it that appeals about the dual timeline? How do you find the stories, and then how do you go about researching the historical strands of the books?

- Dual timeline novels have always been my favourite genre to read, so it made sense to have a go at writing them! My first in this format, The Emerald Comb, is about a woman who's obsessed with genealogy, and who digs up rather more than she bargains for when she moves into a house once owned by her ancestors. I love intertwining the historical and present day timelines, and allowing my contemporary characters to gradually uncover the secrets of the past.
The story ideas come from anywhere and everywhere - I love it when an item from the past turns up unexpectedly and triggers a strand of research into it. When Richard III's skeleton was found under that car park in Leicester I was tingling all over - if only I'd come up with that idea before it actually happened!
I tend to set novels in eras I know a little about - mostly the Victorian era which I love. If I need to do some heavy research, as I've had to for my work in progress, I'll buy a decent book or two about the topic to get me started, and use the internet for back up and to check small details.

Can you tell us a little about your latest release, The Daughters of Red Hill Hall?
- Yes, I'd love to! It's a tale of friendship and jealousy. Gemma works at a small town museum, and comes across a pair of duelling pistols with a note attached saying they were the pistols used in the infamous shooting at Red Hill Hall, which involved two sisters, Rebecca and Sarah. As Gemma researches the story her own life begins to mirror that of Rebecca's, and her closest friend Nat becomes dangerously jealous of her...

Are you working on anything at the moment? And if yes, can you tell us anything about it?
- Yes, I always have a novel on the go! My work in progress is mostly set in Ireland, with the historical story covering the horrendous famine of the 1840s. Researching this has been upsetting at times - it was a truly terrible tragedy. I am working hard to provide an uplifting ending to my book despite its backdrop of misery. 

Thanks so much for hosting me here on your blog, I really appreciate it!

Thank you, Kath, for taking the time to pop over for a chat.


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Changing History - 1066 and Not All That

Earlier this year, I was contacted by author Helen Hollick and asked if I would like to be part of an exciting new project in which I would get the chance to re-write history. Well, I must have thought about it for all of ten seconds before saying Yes!

1066. We all know what happened - Edward the Confessor died, and Harold became king. Look at him up there, sitting on his nice comfy throne ...

But of course, that was January. By October, things weren't going quite so well for him:

Is that Harold, with an arrow in his eye? Well, that's a debate for another time. Fact is, he didn't come out of the battle unscathed. And this fella became king.

End of story. Except that Helen and co-author Joanna Courtney decided that perhaps things could have gone differently, if only...

What if Harold had won that day at Hastings? But, even more intriguingly, what if the other battles that year had gone differently, or perhaps had never happened at all? What about the other contenders for the throne?

1066 Turned Upside Down is a collection of short stories, by nine authors, all taking one of these 'What ifs' and re-imagining history.

I don't write as much about the 11th century as I do about the 10th. But I do write an awful lot about the Mercians. And it just so happens that a Mercian family was very much involved in the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to take up with a new cast of Mercian characters, and, unfettered from historical facts, take them where I chose to lead them.

My story, A Matter of Trust, is not a complete flight of fancy though. It is grounded in fact, and I think it's a very plausible scenario. Over on my website, there is an article outlining the background to the story, and introducing the main characters in it. Pop over to the link HERE

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Over-looked 13th Century - Darius Stransky Casts Light ...

Today I am delighted to welcome author Darius Stransky onto the blog for some Sunday Chat.

I began by asking Darius:~
The King's Jew is an intriguing title and one which also speaks eloquently for its subject matter. Where did the idea come from? (By which I mean to have a Jew as the central character).
Answer – Hmm, that title “The King’s Jew” therein lays a tale. It happened like this … I love history and one of my favourite characters from the past happens to be Edward the First (1239 to 1307). Edward ruled England from 1272 to his death in 1307.

He was also known as ‘Longshanks’ because he was over six feet tall and went down in history as “A Great and Terrible King”. BUT – and here’s the rub as Shakespeare would say – there are not many Hist Fic books about Edward (also known as ‘The Hammer of the Scots’). 
Yet I wanted to write something different, to approach Edward from a different angle and perspective and what better way to achieve this than to tell Edward’s story through the eyes of one of his closest friends, Cristian Gilleson? 
Are you following this dear reader? 
To continue – Most people are aware that King Edward ordered that every Jew in England must leave the country in 1290 (officially no Jews lived in England again until the 1600’s!) 
Now then, what if I told you that King Edward’s best pal, Lord Cristian Gilleson, was actually, under the laws of Moses, born a Jew? Can you imagine the ramifications of such a revelation? Many people in thirteenth century England had their suspicions – none more so than the Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare – but even in those days you had to prove things in law and though people tried to split Edward and Cristian their friendship lasted a lifetime (they were actually born on the same day in the same year!)
To sum up – Cristian Gilleson is known as ‘The King’s Jew’ by his enemies because of the rumours that abounded at the time and the fact that he always had a good word for the Jews of England. 
And just as a historical note – did you know that the medieval Jews of England belonged to the King? He actually ‘owned’ them! At one time King Henry the Third (Edward’s father) sold them to his brother!!

I didn't know that! You obviously have a deep interest in all things Medieval but why particularly the 13th century - what is it that attracts you?
Ahh, the 13th century. I am attracted to this time because not many people write about it. To my mind the Tudors have been done to death. The wars of the Roses are still being re-enacted on the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire (only kidding you Yorkists!) and the good old 1200’s were a time when the world was on the cusp of an early renaissance / enlightenment. 
Ancient texts were being re-discovered and translated from Arabic and Greek to the vernacular. Weaponry was undergoing a transformation. New ways of looking at and administering the law were taking place. Towns were being laid out to new patterns. There was a wave of optimism throughout the Western World that hadn’t been seen for a generation. 
Remember, this is only 200 years after the Norman Conquest and so much had changed in our little sceptred Isle since William and his henchmen took over. OK so we had two civil wars in England at the time – the second Baron’s War is covered in Book One – but the tenets and precepts of Magna Carta were being built upon and the times – as Bob Dylan would say – were a changing.

Talking of times a changing, you had a 'previous life' writing freelance articles. At what point did the 13th century and the story of Cristian invade your life? And what were the circumstances?
Ah the good old days!!! When as a Freelancer you could charge £100 minimum for a mere 1,000 words. The pen really was mightier than the sword in those days.
Just to mention here that if I’d been paid the same for the first book in The King’s Jew trilogy (120,000 words) I would have received £12,000. Where did it all go wrong? 
To continue – it happened like this … I was reading an article about the Jews of England and Edward’s expulsion in 1290. This got me to thinking about medieval Jewry. I’d known about Edward’s life and times so decided to immerse myself in his story. Then I had the idea of amalgamating those two threads (Edward and the medieval Jews).
But the real clincher was when a representative of Trinity Mirror Group - who I did a lot of Freelance work for - phoned me to ask if I’d consider taking a 50% cut in remuneration! I asked if that meant they wanted a 50% cut in the word count and they said ‘no, the column length remains the same’. So I asked if he was taking a 50% pay cut and he said ‘no, because I’m staff.’ So I told him where to secrete his proposed economies of scale and decided to write novels. And that your honour is the case for the defence!

So, how new was this new direction? How much did you already know about the period and where did your research take you?
Let’s just concentrate on the research question here. I learned so much new information that I could write another three books on thirteenth century England and not mention Edward the first or his court once! Some writers say research is the best part of the job but to me it’s the hardest. 
Oh it’s easy to follow a trail of new knowledge for as long as it takes BUT the clever part is knowing when to stop and what is relevant. So much of what a writer will glean from research is totally irrelevant! It has to be distilled to the Nth degree and when you’ve done that – do it again!
What I have done though is ensure that 90% of the characters you come across in the books are real people. They lived and breathed at the time and place detailed in the novels. Look ‘em up folks, Google them. They are real! Just like me and you! Start now – Gilbert de Clare – He’s the man who hates Cristian Gilleson – and the feeling is mutual! - go on I dare you!

Book Two will be released soon. Tell us about it?
Book Two should have been out as we speak but due to circumstances beyond my control it’s been delayed. It will definitely be released on Thursday, October 27th this year – so you have time to buy and read Book One folks! 

Book one took us from the birth of Edward and Cristian in 1239 up to the Battle of Evesham in 1264. Book Two picks up where book one ends and takes us up to the year 1290 and the expulsion of the Jews. 
Both books open on Friday, October 27th 1307 when the funeral of Edward the First is taking place and 2016 is exactly 709 years after the event!
The new King (Edward the Second) and his ally Piers Gaveston is intent on bringing Cristian Gilleson down. Cristian is still in Westminster Abbey hoping to live long enough to see the tomb of his friend sealed – you can go see that famous tomb in the Confessor’s Chapel of the Abbey. 
You will meet old friends in this second book though some of them will not be around at the final chapter. Fresh characters are revealed as new loves and old feuds are perpetuated. 
The plight of the medieval English Jew sometimes brings a tear to my eye but let me tell you something – there were more than a few Christians out there who did their best to ameliorate their suffering. I’m not re-writing history here, I’m just telling you like it was. 

At what point did you know that this was going to be a series and how, if at all, has it affected the writing process?
I knew at the outset it was going to be a trilogy as one novel could never do the timescale or subject matter justice. Each book can, however, be read as a stand-alone piece. The writing process is the same as it ever was – tell a story and carry your readers along with you. Sounds so simple doesn’t it? 
Thought for the day – “If it was that simple everybody would be doing it!”

Are there any more characters nagging at you to tell their stories, or have you any unfinished business with Cristian?
Hmmm … The third and final book in the series is due for publication in February 2017 and guess what? Yes, you got it – I have two endings written.  And in those two endings there are four further options. SO in answer to your question - Cristian hasn’t finished with me just yet! 
In conclusion can I just say a big thanks to Cristian of Longhurst for letting me tell his story? 
Thanks, Cristian.
And thank you, Darius, for talking to me today about your writing.