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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Fascination of Anglo-Saxon Britain

The mere thought of Anglo-Saxon Britain is enough to send me scurrying to my keyboard, ready to write. I focus exclusively on novels during this era for a number of reasons.

Dark Age Britain stretches from roughly the time when the Romans left our country in 450 AD through to the Norman period directly following on
from the Conquest in 1066. During these centuries, Britain experienced tumultuous times and myriad peoples. The Romano-British and Celtic tribes were eventually subsumed and vanquished by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who came over in the 5th and 6th centuries. Major kingdoms emerged, each seeking superiority over the other. By the 800s, the Viking threat reached Britain, with repeated raids eventually leading to wars, settlement and rule. Then, in 1066, the Normans took over the country and the Anglo-Saxons became a conquered people.

Stories thrive on conflict and the era is full of it. It was a time of contrasts: early paganism vs. the spread of Christianity, peace vs. warfare, tribe against tribe, people against people. The Anglo-Saxons were a rural folk who shunned the Roman towns and villas (believing them to be the work of giants). Many of them were farmers. Yet the kingdoms held their own courts and hierarchies, with kings, ealdormen and thegns administrating the countryside. It was a time of hard work and harder play, with fires roaring in mead halls and warriors drinking ale while listening to poets recite the great stories of Beowulf and his contemporaries.

Historical romance stories work best when there's a deep division keeping the hero and heroine apart. A mere glance at this era offers numerous possibilities for conflict and romance: perhaps between a Brittanic princess and Saxon raider; or an Anglian woman and Viking invader; maybe a Norman lord and the Anglo-Saxon woman under his yoke. The possibilities are boundless.

Let the adventures begin.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Historical Romance?

I often get surprised reactions when I tell people I'm a romance author. After all, I'm a bloke - shouldn't I be more interested in crime novels and thrillers? You know, so-called masculine pursuits? I think it's worth going over the reasons I've chosen to stick with this particular genre.

I hadn't really encountered romance during all my years of reading, aside from when I studied the novels of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte during my university days. I was more of a horror buff - you couldn't drag me away from the novels of H. P. Lovecraft and his contemporaries.

I have Sue to thank for properly introducing me to the contemporary romance novel. Sue is, and always has been, a huge fan of Harlequin Mills & Boon and she inspired me to try out one of the books. Soon, I'd been introduced to the wonderful writing of Liz Fielding and the many other authors working for the publisher. It didn't take me long to progress onto historical romance novels, where the likes of Nicola Cornick, Carol Townend, Joanna Bourne and Michelle Styles bring long-forgotten eras back to sparkling life.

Before long, I decided to write my own historical romance. It was a difficult beginning, not least in the huge amount of research that needs to be undertaken when first starting out. I wrote a story about a highwayman roaming the roads of 18th century England, and submitted it as part of the RNA's new writer scheme. The critique I received was enough to inspire me to carry on writing - and submitting to the NWS. Since then, I've switched eras - I now write exclusively in the Dark Ages - but my love of the historical romance novel hasn't diminished.

As genres, romance and horror actually have more in common than you might think. Both are frowned upon as examples of the basest genre fiction by fans of highbrow literature. Both devote their time to human emotions. I think that's why I love romance so much - the stories are all about getting inside the hearts and minds of real people, dealing with thoughts and feelings that all of us can identify with today.

Meanwhile, the historical angle gives me the opportunity to indulge in my passion for the delights of kings and queens, warriors and knights, castles and siege warfare. The historical romance genre is one that offers me everything I could ever want to write about. I doubt my enthusiasm will ever diminish.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Backlog back online

Unfortunately, all of the archived posts on this blog were previously moved, in error, to draft format. I've just loaded the entire blog back online. One of the consequences of this is that some followers may find their inboxes spammed with back-dated posts.

I can only apologise for this.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blog revamp

This blog has been pretty quiet for the past couple of years, so Sue and I have decided to give it a major revamp. This will be taking place from now until the end of the month. We're still on our journey to becoming published historical romance writers, and we want this blog to once more become the useful resource it once was to both readers and writers.

I'm going to be keeping the blog updated every week with an assortment of the following posts:

  • Our writing journey. A mix of day-to-day progress, successes, failures and everything inbetween. An important part of this will see me blogging about inspirations - the things that help me sit down and write. It could be anything from a photo of a thatched cottage to a description of a summer's walk through the countryside.
  • Local history. Sue and I are lucky enough to live in a place surrounded by history in terms of the little stories that most people don't know. For instance, in our neighbouring village we had a medieval outlaw beheaded outside the very church in which he'd sought refuge. Again, we find things like this hugely inspirational and I hope to be sharing some of that stimulation.
  • Writing advice. Here's where we'll be sharing the tips, tricks and lessons we've picked up to help fellow authors with their work.
  • Anglo-Saxon history. Our novels are firmly entrenched within the Anglo-Saxon era, so I'll be including posts detailing archaeological discoveries and research linked to those times.
  • Romantic inspirations. Here's where I'll be looking at important fictional heroes and heroines as well as actors and personalities who act as our muses.
  • Reviews. As and when we come across any relevant media.

We're both looking forward to what we're hoping will be an eventful and useful year.