Wednesday, 19 December 2012

King John Research

My new book on the Lords of Gower and King John needs a chapter on John, so I'm deep in research. Here's the first interesting thing I found:

king john[Talking about all the film depictions of Richard the Lionheart and King John] Since all these screen depictions showed Richard as the good guy and John as a creature of the night, I assumed that this was a stereotype that could quickly be dispatched after some serious historical research. Imagine, then, my surprise, when my own sleuthing in ancient documents turned up what is in effect a reinforcement of the stereotype. But the honest historian must perforce go where the evidence leads him.
(Introduction to Lionheart and Lackland by Frank McLynn)

I did find some good things about John:

He was well-read, was assiduous as a judge, personally supervised the work of the exchequer, oversaw the creation of a national customs system based upon standardised weights and measures, improved the 'pipe rolls' system of accounting and helped found the English Navy.
(The Movers & Shakers of Medieval England by Susannah Jowitt, p.15/16)

And some ideas in mitigation:

John's three older brothers, Henry, Geoffrey and Richard, had spent much time in childhood with both their parents, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, but for some reason John was packed off to Fontevraud Abbey at the age of three for five years, leading historians to suggest he was maladjusted. Recent speculation is that he was somewhat autistic, which would go some way to explaining his later bad behaviour.

Who thought King John would be so interesting!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Blog Hop - The Next Big Thing

What's a Blog Hop and how does it work? You first mention the person who tagged you to post “The Next Best Thing,” then you answer questions in your post about your Work-in-Progress (WIP). At the end, you list up to five blogs that you are “tagging” to do the next post.

I was tagged by Nancy LaRonda Johnson who is working on the second book about the relative of a serial killer, trying to make amends, and his gay friend, trying to find his place as a Christian. Sounds like a fascinating book. She also writes Christian stories and offers writing prompts on her blog. See her Blog Hop post here. So here are my answers about my Work in Progress:

1. What is the working title of your book?
The Lords of Gower and King John

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The research for my first book Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
Local history (non fiction).

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
King John: Michael Sheen
Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Prince of Wales: Ioan Gruffydd
William de Breos, Lord of Gower: Liam Neeson
Reginald de Breos, William's brother: James Macavoy

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The changing fortunes of the de Breos barons are tracked through the little Lordship of Gower in South Wales, as it repeatedly changes hands between King John, the barons and the Welsh.

6. If you plan to publish, will your book be self-published or published traditionally?
I am expecting to have to self-publish, as I did with my first book, but if a publisher would like to take it on it would be great. On the strength of the sales of my first book, I may approach some publishers.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Still in progress, but I would like to finish in a couple of months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I haven't found anything to compare with this. My first book Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, is the only book on the subject. If you Google Alina de Breos, you get me. I believe I've found a gap in the market.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I was standing in front of Swansea Castle one day and wondered what it was like when it was in use. I went home and Googled it, like you do, and my interest was piqued. As I did more research, went to the library and talked to people, I found out about the Lords of Gower in medieval times, stories that have been largely forgotten. There was a de Breos involved in just about every major event of English history for 3 centuries after William the Conqueror, yet history hardly mentions them. This will be my second history book about them.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
William de Breos was a close friend of King John. His support for John's claim to the English throne when Richard the Lionheart died brought him such rewards as to make him one of the richest barons in England. Yet a few years later he fell out of favour and lost everything. His brothers then sided with the Welsh in their fight against Norman rule, but that didn't go well either. As with my first book, this book will have an easy, readable style but with full endnotes and bibliography for use by academics. I hope to have line drawings by the same artist as the first book.

Thank you Nancy for the tag!

I expected to have a lot of people from my writing group wanting to be tagged, and was very surprised to find that none of them have a blog. I'm giving a talk about self-promotion on the internet, in February, but that's too late for my blog hop. So sadly I only have one tag for the next post of The Next Big Thing on Wednesday 19th December:

* R Clint Peters runs the Book Reviewers Club blog on which he does author interviews as well as book reviews. He has two series of books: Pegasus Rising and The Alberta Connection, and is also running a collaborative novel-writing venture. Busy man! His site is well worth a visit for lots of reasons.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Lords of Gower and King John

oystermouth-castle-interior


My book Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth began with an interest in Swansea Castle and developed into a fascination for the medieval period in the history of Gower, in South Wales. The events surrounding Alina de Breos were the ones which captured my interest, and the resulting book luckily coincided with the refurbishment of Oystermouth Castle and extensive work on the chapel which Alina built there. So far I have sold about 250 print copies and a few ebooks, actually going well into profit – unusual for this type of book.

But there are more fascinating events in Alina's family tree, and I've finally decided to take the plunge and write another book. I won't have the 'hook' of Alina's chapel this time, but I hope the people who enjoyed the first book will come back and buy the second, and I'm hoping many more people will have their curiosity piqued enough to buy too.

king john
As before, it will be written in an accessible style, but with full bibliography and endnotes to satisfy the academics. This time it's further back, a whole century earlier – King John reigned from 1199 to 1216, whereas Alina lived from 1291 to 1331. So far I have the basic story and I'm doing detailed research on each stage, starting with King John.

I'll report my progress in my Writing Wednesday posts, and I hope you'll leave suggestions and encouragements in the comments.