The Story So Far ...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down - Sunday chat with Anna Belfrage

This week I continue my series of interviews with the 1066 Turned Upside Down authors and it's the turn of Anna Belfrage:~

I began by asking her: You write "Time Slip" and "Straight Historical" novels. Was it difficult for you to 'twist' history in another way for the 1066 project?
Not really. What was difficult was that it is not a period I am thoroughly familiar with, so I had to spend some time reading up on the various protagonists and, in particular, about Sven Estridsen, the then king of Denmark. Fascinating gentleman: married twice, he was obliged to set his second wife aside as she was the mother of the first, and in a fit of pique he then refused to marry again, but fathered twenty or so children with various women. Five of his sons would succeed him as King of Denmark, and to this day, his descendants sit on the Danish throne. I could have submerged myself for days in his story, but fortunately Helen Hollick and Joanna Courtney offered clear guidelines as to what they expected, which helped me stay on course, so to speak.

Without giving too much away, can you set the scene for your story?
Denmark. A concerned Danish king who has no desire to see cousin Harold lose – and especially not to William of Normandy. A teenage girl, Gunhild, and a young and angry cripple, Rolf, are given an impossible task by King Sven. Gunhild is thrilled to bits to escape persistent suitor Magnus, maybe not so much when she realises just what Sven expects her to do…

Can you tell us about the Graham Saga?
Given my longing to time travel, my first series, The Graham Saga, features an alter ego. Alexandra Lind, however had no desire whatsoever to time travel. She was – or so she says – very happy with her life in modern day Edinburgh. Huh. Me, being her creator, knows otherwise, and besides, I really had no choice. You see, the male protagonist of The Graham Saga – aptly named Matthew Graham – was/is a Lowland Scot born in 1630 and raised by his devout father as a devout member of the Scottish Kirk. Come the Civil War, Matthew fought for the Parliamentarians, a young man of firm convictions that was borderline too dour. So I decided to liven things up a bit by presenting him with my time travelling Alex (and if we’re going to be quite honest, by that time Matthew, safe in one corner of my brain, had been throwing longing looks at Alex – on the opposite side of my roomy head – for months).

Graham Saga Banner

So, what have we here? We have a man, a woman, a rip in the sheer veil of time, and Alex is dragged back through time to a new life, a new and frightening world – and a new man. Not exactly a walk in the park, and my reluctant time traveller struggles not only with unfamiliar surroundings, but also with determined avengers, political upheaval and religious persecution. 

The Graham Saga follows Alex on her adventures – from the moors of Scotland to the impenetrable forests of Colonial Maryland – always side by side with Matthew, the man she was destined for since long before she was born. 

In total, there are eight books in this series (well, soon to be nine) and if I may brag a bit, all books have been awarded BRAG Medallions, five have been selected HNS Editor’s Choice, two have been shortlisted for the HNS Indie Award, and one actually won it. 

Congratulations! And about your new series ...
Well, having whetted my appetite by writing a time travelling series, I then threw myself into a project I’ve been nurturing off and on for many, many years. My second series, The King’s Greatest Enemy is set in the 14th century. We are in England, Edward II is king, Roger Mortimer is disgruntled, royal favourite Hugh Despenser is nasty, Queen Isabella has had it, and in the midst of all this mess, my fictional protagonist Adam de Guirande with wife Kit have to navigate a political quagmire that can lead to death and ruin for them both. Not a time traveller in sight, but I have a thing about love stories, and this series is very much about Adam and Kit – and to some extent, Roger and Isabella. 

In difference to The Graham Saga, this series is constrained by real events in history. Not that The Graham Saga lacks historical setting – it most certainly does not – but in The King’s Greatest Enemy, several of the central characters are real people, people with defined life spans and known fates. A challenge, in some ways, but the story of Roger Mortimer’s meteoric rise and subsequent fall is quite the juicy stuff. Add to that my Adam, who was raised by Mortimer and therefore loves him as a father but serves the young future king, Edward III, and you have a nice cocktail of tangled emotions and torn loyalties.

And yes, here too I am rather proud of the fact that there’s one BRAG Medallion, one HNS Editor’s Choice!

Is there another event in history that you wish had had a different outcome, another "What if"?
Well, I would have preferred it if Gustav II Adolf, our famous Swedish warrior king, had not died at L├╝tzen in 1632. And yes, I am also one of those who remain conflicted about the outcome of Bosworth – how would history have shaped itself had Richard III won? 
More recently, what would have happened had the Treaty of Versailles been less harsh on the losers of WWI? Would we have been spared Hitler and the Third Reich, the human catastrophe that was WWII? 

Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to me, Anna.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down - Sunday chat with Alison Morton

Next up in my series of 1066 Turned Upside Down, alternative history author Alison Morton:

I began by asking her:~

In your Roma Nova novels you have created a whole new world. Are there rules that you have to abide by, having created this world? How do you make sure that everything happens within the framework and logic of that world? Or are you, as the author, able to bend the rules sometimes?

Alternative history definitely has “da rulz”!  

A trigger event causes a “point of divergence” (POD) taking our timeline, i.e. the history we know, in a different direction – an alternate timeline. Some things will seem the same as the ones we know; people, shops, work, even names or clothing. Others, including social structures and attitudes as well as politics and nations, may be disturbingly different. 

No aliens, no time-travellers slipping backwards in history to change it, no fantasy, dragons or magic are allowed in true alternate history. Nor is going back; time has been permanently diverted, but then it probably is every day in our timeline without us noticing it…

The geography and climate must resemble the ones in the region where the imagined country lies. Roma Nova is an Alpine country lying in south central Europe, so winters are cold and snowy and summers hot enough for vines. No alternate history writer can neglect their imagined country’s social, economic and political development. This sounds dry, but every living person is a product of their local conditions. Their experience of living in a place, and struggle to make sense of it, is expressed through culture and behaviour. So you have to work it all out, especially who holds the power.

Roma Nova
And breaking the rules? I write at the historical end of the “althist” scale so use historical logic to construct the framework for the stories. The setting has to be plausible and the events in the story consistent with that world. It would be silly to have laser weapons in the eighteenth century – that’s science fiction – but you could have an advanced type of musket. My Roma Novan military and close friends greet each other with the forearm handshake, which actually has no historical foundation but is immensely cool.

Roma Novan Triumphal arch
How did the idea for Roma Nova come about?

It was the long time bubbling of an idea that occurred to me when I was an eleven year old fascinated by my first Roman mosaic. I wondered what a Roman world run by women would be like. Only when I was older did I start building this world in my head. I read Robert Harris’s Fatherland  – a terrific thriller set entirely naturally in a 1960s Nazi dominated Europe – and saw you could alternate history… 

Alison as a child, fascinated by her first mosaic

Without giving too much away, can you set the scene for your 1066 story?

Galla Mitela has been dispatched by the Roma Novan imperatrix to intervene between Harold’s Saxon England and William’s Normandy. The Eastern Roman Empire is pressuring Roma Nova to stop the ‘Northmen’ growing in power and influence. Galla is a former warrior and senior councilor, used to command. Could she influence these tough, ambitious and determined men?

Was it difficult writing about a different period?

Ha-ha! Yes and no.  I had a general knowledge of the period, much as anybody interested in English history does, but I plunged into research straightaway. A few years ago, I did an MA in history, so had some techniques and methodology to hand. It was back to world building, to visualising what the northern French coastline and the Seine riverbanks would look like. When was the stone quay in Rouen built? Were there still signs of Roman presence even hundreds of years later? France was heavily Romanised, so there had to be. How would the Normans take to a woman in command? What was the state of technology and weaponry? What would Roma Novans wear in the medieval period?

Is there another event in history that you wish had had a different outcome, another "What if"?

Well, apart from a different outcome in 1066, I would have liked Roman emperor Julian the Philosopher (or ‘the Apostate’) to have survived the Battle of Samarra in AD 363. Sadly, he’s not well known but his death was a turning point. 

After gaining the purple, Julian started a religious reformation of the state, which was intended to restore the lost strength of the Roman state. He supported the restoration of polytheism as the state religion, i.e. the traditional Roman gods. His aim was not to destroy Christianity but to drive the religion out of "the governing classes of the empire”.  His early death stopped his reform and the empire became relentlessly Christian. 

His memory is revered in Roma Nova where the old Roman traditional religion has been retained; Julian is a favourite name for sons to this day.

Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to me Alison.

If readers would like to try writing an alternative history story, they can download Alison's FREE handout on tips and techniques.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down - Sunday chat with Richard Dee

I'm delighted to welcome the next of the 1066 'Tuddites' - author Richard Dee:

Welcome, Richard, and thanks for joining me for some Sunday Chat. It's fair to say that your novels are a world away from England in 1066! How easy did you find it to write a story which was confined by an historical setting?

To me, the setting is just another character, in theory writing about the future is easier because you don’t have to do any research, unfortunately it’s not strictly true. So instead of sitting down and working out the rules of my setting I had to conform, which I always find difficult! 

The one thing that remains constant, whatever period you’re writing about is human emotion. Everything else is controlled by that. So whether you’re describing 1066 or 8720 the characters emotions are always there. I think that sometimes you can forget that people in the past were just as emotional as we are, because the accounts we have only give us the bare facts.

Of course, what happened in history is fixed but in the worlds I create the events in them are just as real to the characters. Even though the story is based in 1066, it’s not confined by it; we still find it relevant in today’s setting after all.

Without giving too much away, can you set the scene for your story?

The ordinary is always the start in all my work and this story is no different. Even in the far future, for most people, where they are will be ordinary for them. 
I’ve always shied away from over-complicating things; it’s nice to keep things simple. Then when you apply the twist; it’s more of a surprise. And throwing in as many little unconnected clues as I think I can get away with is important, it creates an “A-Ha” moment, especially if it makes people go back for a second look.
So without giving too much away, expect normal – at least to begin with.

Can you tell us about your first two books - would you class them as Sci-fi?

Very much so! There are so many kinds of Sci-fi. From simple tales to galaxy spanning epics.  If you want to you can introduce all sorts of technology and things that require a suspension of logic and physics.  And you can get away with it. There is no limit to what can make a fantastic story. 
Personally, I like to stick to writing about ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things in a different setting. That’s the common thread in both Freefall and Ribbonworld and will be in their sequels.

My style has been compared to that of Asimov and Philip K Dick in reviews (Blush!). It’s high praise indeed and not up to me to comment but if you look at their work that’s what they did. Put believable characters in fantastically imagined situations. The fiction is just as important as the science. 

Can you tell us about your latest release? What exactly is 'Steam Punk?

Steam Punk is a sort of alternative version of today, maybe a yesterday that never grew up into the today we have. In the classic form it’s a sort of Victorian high technology, using different methods to provide the power and things that society needs. So I use steam and clockwork in place of electricity and oil. 
It means you have to abandon the modern approach and think like Brunel or Telford to make it all work but there’s always another way to achieve the same result. The more I’ve delved into it, the more I’ve realised that if we needed to, we could rebuild a modern technological society without oil. It might not be as slick as what we have today but it could be functional. 
Being Victorian, they were the masters of the ornamental flourish, lots of brass and shiny things to make the ugly beautiful. And in an ugly world beauty can often be found in unexpected places.
Once you get things moving in a different direction you can invent things we don’t have today using your new building blocks, I’ve found that there really is no limit to the uses of a good clockwork!
The Rocks of Aserol is available now and the sequel is coming soon.

Is there another event in history that you wish had had a different outcome, another "What if"?

There are so many events that I would like to go back and have a look at myself! I like the idea of a modern Roman Empire or maybe a Viking America but I think that the most interesting one would involve the events at Sarajevo in 1914. If Ferdinand had never been killed then (and it was a close thing; dependant on a lot of chance as all important events are), what would the lost youth have achieved in the twentieth century. 
In the time since Waterloo just look at how the world changed. Who could say what those millions who never had the chance or their children could have made or discovered. (There’s an idea for another story!)

Thanks so much for talking to me today, Richard.

Free E-Sampler (A collection of Short Stories and excerpts, free for all e-readers)

1066 Turned Upside Down is available HERE

Sunday, 4 September 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down - Sunday chat with Carol McGrath

Continuing my series of interviews with the 1066 Turned Upside Down authors, I'm delighted to welcome to the blog Carol McGrath:~

I began by asking her: You've studied history, and you write historical novels based on fact, and non-fictional characters. How difficult did you find it to 'twist' history for the 1066 project?
I did find it difficult to twist history but then history is not necessarily accurately reported. Histories written a long time ago by such medieval historians as Geoffrey of Monmouth were often fantastical histories. This covers the early kings of Britain including King Arthur and Welsh Legends. There is a lot of tosh in there and entertaining story-telling too. However, I like reading considered thoroughly researched Historical Fiction that is, importantly, beautifully written. The stories in 1066 Turned Upside Down are, indeed, well-written and I enjoyed the twists. I would read and write more alternative history now. Possibly!!!

Without giving too much away, can you set the scene for your story?
My short story concerns Harold’s daughter and how she might have felt about her mother, who was Harold’s hand-fasted wife, having been replaced by another wife for political reasons. Harold wanted to unite with The Northern Earls to protect England from invasion. What better way than to marry their sister whose husband’s death he had been responsible for? She was commoditised and Edith Swan-Neck, Thea’s mother who had his six surviving children, all recorded for History, was essentially, to our modern mind, betrayed. The story takes place in April at St Albans Abbey as Harold stops on his way from York to London to show off his new wife Aldgyth. By coincidence Thea and Grandmother Gytha stopped there too on their way to Harold’s Easter Court. Scary stuff happens as it does, and perhaps by the end of the story Thea changes because she views Aldgyth differently.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Daughters of Hastings series?
The Daughters of Hastings series tells the story of regime change from the point of view of Edith Swan-Neck and her two daughters by Harold.

Each lady has her own survival story. Other strong and interesting noble women enter the novels. They show life for women post Conquest- abbey, marriage and exile. They are historical love and adventure novels.

In the Swan-Daughter, the younger daughter’s story, I write about elopement from the abbey and a possibly true love triangle. In The Betrothed Sister, Thea, their elder daughter is exiled and makes a spectacular Rus marriage. In it we enter the late Viking world.
The Handfasted Wife tells Edith Swan-Neck’s story.

It was written on a PhD Creative Writing programme at Royal Holloway. The books are thoroughly researched, though, in truth, these women only get a mention in History’s pages. At least they got this!

You've written the third in the trilogy, so what's next? Do you have anything in the pipeline?
The Woman in the Shadows is next. This is Elizabeth Cromwell’s story, another shadowy woman married to an important man, and it is due to be published on 17th May 2016. This is my first revelation, by the way, concerning this book’s publication. After my venture into early Tudor London life, I return to the Middle Ages with a new trilogy, The Rose Trilogy and three novels about medieval Queenship.

Is there another event in history that you wish had had a different outcome, another "what if"?
Oh dear, another What If? Actually, I am a great fan of The Wars of the Roses. What if Edward V had survived to become king? I fancy writing that Uncle Richard III was assassinated and the boy King brought out of the Tower. He takes on the Tudors and wins!

Thank you Annie for interviewing me. Thank you, Carol, for stopping by to chat about your writing.
Find Carol and all information about her books:

Sunday, 28 August 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down - Sunday chat with Joanna Courtney

Today I'm delighted to welcome another 1066 Turned Upside Down author, Joanna Courtney, to the blog for some Sunday chat.

Welcome Joanna. Can I begin by asking: Where did the original idea for 1066 TUD come from?

Mea Culpa! It originated when I was part of the literary tent at the Battle of Hastings re-enactment last year with Helen Hollick and Glynn Holloway and we were talking ‘what ifs’. For writers of this period the turning points of 1066 are a very addictive topic. We’re a bit like new mothers with their birthing stories – endlessly fascinated by it (except that hopefully 1066 is a bit more engaging than giving birth). We all have parts of that huge year that we are particularly fascinated by and have our own theories on - and also that we cannot help wishing we could change. It seemed to me that a collection of alternative history stories would be the perfect way to address that.
I love writing historical fiction and really enjoy the tension between the set-in-stone facts and the wriggle-room for interpretation by me, but sometimes it can also be frustrating. I’ve recently been editing a contemporary novel and being able to just change things as I see fit has been an exhilarating freedom. Alternative history is a chance to let the fiction really take flight over the history and I’ve loved writing it (see my blog on ‘Ferrari fiction’ *.)

Without giving too much away, can you set the scene(s) for your 1066 TUD stories?

As one of the two originators of the project I’ve been lucky enough to write two stories for the collection. The first is about Harald Hardrada, who is the hero of my novel The Constant Queen, out in paperback this September and who I loved researching. He has a reputation as a ferocious warrior that was well-deserved but he was far from an old-style rape-and-pillage Viking. As a Christian, a long-standing King of Norway and a man of the world (with early years spent amongst the cultural riches of medieval Kiev and Byzantium), he was a hugely respected leader. His threat to England was undoubtedly stronger than William’s and, as part of a long-running set of Viking invasions in the north, would have been greatly feared at that time. I think the single biggest piece of heroism in 1066 was King Harold’s almost miraculous defeat of Hardrada and it could so easily have gone another way. Having also found out about Hardrada’s wife, the intriguing and hugely well-connected Elizaveta of Kiev, I am fascinated by what an England ruled by she and Harald would have looked like so it was a joy to start to explore that in my first story.

My second story was a gift to a writer of this period and I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to get to write it – the Battle of Hastings as if Harold had won. As a writer of history largely from the female point of view I don’t tend to dwell on the battle scenes but clearly I researched Hastings in some detail and this momentous, day-long battle could so very easily have gone the other way at various points. Playing with the ‘might have beens’ was a real luxury and I hope all those who boo William at the re-enactment and who still feel – based largely on what happened in the years after 1066 – that William was the baddie of the 1066 story, can enjoy this little teaser of a different way history could have gone.

Can you tell us a little about your Queens of Conquest series?

1066 is a huge date in English history, perhaps the biggest of them all – a year when great leaders fought for our throne, dragging the whole country into their bitter battles and wasting countless lives.  Three men claimed the crown that year – Harold of Wessex, Harald Hardrada and William of Normandy - and there were three big battles – Fulford, Stamford Bridge and finally Hastings. There were also three potential queens, but who even knows their names?  I felt it was time that changed and my Queens of the Conquest trilogy seeks to bring these women back into the heart of the striking stories of that great year.

Edyth of Mercia, heroine of The Chosen Queen, married Harold of Wessex in 1065 and when he ascended the throne of England on the death of King Edward, she became our queen.  Edyth was the sister of Edwin, Earl of Mercia and of Morcar, Earl of Northumbria. Their family held the north and Harold, a southern earl, needed this alliance to keep the country united against the inevitable invaders from foreign shores. Edyth was also a powerful woman in her own right, having reigned as Queen of Wales (the only woman ever to have done so) for nine years, despite still only being 25 in 1066. In The Chosen Queen, I tell how her marriage to Harold, a man she had admired, even loved, from childhood, was tainted by her friendship with his handfast wife of 20 years and how she had to put personal choices aside to stand strong for her country.

Elizaveta of Kiev, heroine of The Constant Queen, was almost twice the age of her English rival, Edyth, in 1066 and had been married to Harald Hardrada, the great Viking King of Norway, for more than twenty years. It had not, however, been an entirely peaceable match. They’d first met in 1030 when Harald, aged only 15, had fled the defeat of his brother, King Olaf, by Cnut and ended up in the service of Elizaveta’s father, Grand Prince Yaroslav. For years Harald lived by his sword throughout Russia and Byzantium and Elizaveta kept the keys to his caskets and, it would seem, to his heart, but it took him some years to finally win her hand.  In The Constant Queen I tell of how her fire and adventuring spirit kept Hardrada’s passion burning, both for herself and for conquest, and how together they sought to win the throne of England – and very nearly succeeded.

Matilda of Flanders , heroine of The Conqueror’s Queen (out in 2017), was brought up in the court of her father, the hugely influential and forward-thinking Count Baldwin. Highly educated, polished, and cultured, she was not, it seems, best pleased to be offered in marriage to William ‘the Bastard’. In William, however, she quickly came to recognise a man as tenacious, daring and ambitious as herself and theirs was a match held in high regard across Europe. In The Conqueror’s Queen I tell how she battled to find romantic passion with William, a man of steel almost all the way to his core, and what standing as his wife, his consort, and mother of his children cost her, even as she finally ascended the throne of England at his side.

Edyth, Elizaveta and Matilda are the forgotten queens of 1066 and I really hope that in my Queens of the Conquest trilogy readers enjoy uncovering their stories.

You write historical fiction, but using real-life characters and chronicled events. How difficult was it for you to 'twist' history for the 1066 project?

Not difficult at all. In fact, I’d like to do it again! Writing in this period, I have got used to there being big gaps in the factual history so I often have to think up convincing links between those events we do know about to create a coherent narrative. Thinking of how things could have gone another way is a very small leap and one I thoroughly enjoyed. On the whole in this collection we have stuck closely to the actual events of 1066 and how they might have changed but I can already see a possible sequel of stories set in the centuries after 1066 as if things had gone another way. History is wonderful, intriguing, dramatic and exciting as it stands and I love exploring it in my fiction but every so often, it’s certainly great fun to think about all the possible pasts we missed out on.

Is there another event in history that you wish had had a different outcome, another '"What if"?

I’d love to know how the last century might have gone if someone had seen fit to assassinate Adolf Hitler. How much of Nazi-ism was sheer weight of his (warped) personality and passion and how much a product of the terrible times Germany suffered after the first world war? Would someone else have filled his shoes or would it all have died away and the second world war never have happened. It’s not a period I know enough about to truly explore but books like Robert Harris’ amazing ‘Fatherland’ and, more recently, Kate Atkinson’s fascinating ‘Life after Life’ are wonderful reads and I think it’s a rich area for imaginative re-interpretation!

*Ferrari Fiction
The Chosen Queen
The Constant Queen
Find Joanna on her Website

Thank you so much for being my guest today, Joanna.

1066 Turned Upside Down is available HERE

1066 Turned Upside Down Blog Page

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