Sunday, 20 December 2015

The 'Story Bug' and the 7th Century - Author Matthew Harffy Casts some Light ...

Today I'm delighted to welcome as my guest author Matthew Harffy

I asked him ~

Where did you first get the history ‘bug’?

I don’t know if I would say I ever got the history ‘bug’. I think I got the ‘story bug’. I love good stories, particularly those with epic battles and struggles against terrible odds. I think the heroic age of what is often referred to as the “Dark Ages” (or the more modern-sounding Early Medieval) in Britain provides a great canvas for such tales.
I enjoy learning about any period of history and when I visit a new country or area I always try to visit the important historical sites. I am blessed to have been born in Britain and lived in Spain for several years, both places steeped in masses of history.

What appeals to you particularly about the 7th c?

The early seventh century is a moment of great conflict and upheaval in Britain. Warlords battle for supremacy, with rulers of the different small kingdoms vying to become over-king of the whole island. Angles, Saxons and Jutes, who had come to Britain over the last century or two since the withdrawal of the Roman Empire, fought with the native Britons, as well as against each other. 
At the same time, Christianity was making its way back into the land, both from the south where Roman priests, such as Paulinus, came to convert the pagans, and from the north, where Irish priests came from the isle of Iona. Both of these flavours of Christianity competed for the hearts and minds of the population with the old gods; the spirits of the land and nature and the pantheon of Germanic gods including Woden (Odin) and Thunor (Thor).
This religious, political and military turmoil is the perfect backdrop against which to tell thrilling action-packed tales. 

Tell us about Beobrand – who is he?

Beobrand is the protagonist of the Bernicia Chronicles. In the first book, THE SERPENT SWORD, he is an inexperienced 17-year-old farmhand who has fled a dark past in the south of Britain and travelled to Northumbria in search of his one remaining kinsman, his brother. When he arrives, he finds his brother dead and he is quickly caught up in the war between the Angle King Edwin and the native Briton King Cadwallon. Beobrand is a natural fighter and grows into a formidable warrior. He needs to confront not only savage foes, but also his own weaknesses and past. THE SERPENT SWORD sees Beobrand coming of age, seeking vengeance for his brother’s death and becoming a warrior to be reckoned with.
In subsequent books, Beobrand continues to grow into his role of trusted thegn of the Northumbrian kings, finding himself embroiled in many adventures. I plan for each one to touch on a couple of real historical events and weave Beobrand’s tale in with them, with a few twists along the way.

The Serpent Sword is book 1 of the Bernicia Chronicles. Can you tell us about book 2?

Book 2 is THE CROSS AND THE CURSE. Beobrand proves his worth to the new king of Northumbria in battle and is rewarded with wealth and land. But he soon finds himself beset with enemies old and new. He even fears the power of a curse has him in its grip, as he begins to lose all he holds dear.
Surrounded by treachery and death, Beobrand confronts his foes with cold iron and bitter fury. On his quest for revenge and redemption, he grudgingly accepts the mantle of lord, leading his men into the darkest of nights and the bloodiest of battles.

Who are you when you are not writing?

When I am not writing, I am often thinking about writing! Or working on marketing and promoting the books. It takes a huge amount of effort to propel the work into the public eye and to not get lost amongst so many authors out there.
But if you class that as all part of “writing”, then when not doing that I spend time with my family. I live with my wife and two daughters, so there is always something going on.
I also have a full-time job in IT, which of course takes up a big chunk of my time. On top of all that, until very recently I was singing in a rock band. However, as the writing was taking over my free time, I took the difficult decision to give the music a break for a while and focus on the books. I love singing, and have pretty much been in a band all the time since I was at school, so I don’t think that will be it for music and me. But for now, I think the writing needs to take the driving seat.

Which comes first for you – research, or story? Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

Research. I read around what is known about the next few years in the period I am writing about and find a couple of juicy events that I think I could hang a story on. Then I try to work out how to link it all together to shed some light on what might have happened and to create a gripping plotline for the main characters. I am much more interested in the story being exciting and engrossing than following the known history accurately. That is not to say that my books are riddled with historical inaccuracies, readers have commented that the research shines through the writing, giving you a real insight into how things may have been. But my books are designed to entertain, not to replace a history lesson or non-fiction book. If I need to bend the known events or make something up to fit the story, I will. But I will always tell the readers about any such deviations from what we believe to be fact in the historical note at the end of the book.

What’s next – will there be a book 3?

Yes! In fact, as I type this in mid-October 2015, I have just completed the first draft of it. It is entitled BY BLOOD AND BLADE and traces Beobrand’s involvement in the coming of Bishop Aidan to Lindisfarne, the baptism of King Cynegils of Wessex and King Oswald’s marriage to his daughter, and the siege of Din Eidyn (Edinburgh). It is pretty action-packed and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the editing as soon as I have THE CROSS AND THE CURSE ready for publication.
After that, I have plenty more ideas for books in the Bernicia Chronicles, so if people keep buying them, I’ll keep writing them!

(Find out my thoughts on The Serpent Sword HERE)
Thank you Matthew for illuminating the 7th century for us

Find Matthew at his WEBSITE 

and pre-order the Cross and the Curse HERE

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