Here’s a repeat post by Camilla Brown about my book The Lost King: Resistance.
Camilla Brown – Why did you chose to write it in the 1st person? To make it more personal?
MartinLake- I started writing in the third person and in many ways this would have suited the sweep of the novel with its multitude of settings and characters. Yet, somehow, it didn’t work. As soon as I started to write in the 1st person, using the protagonist rather than another character, I realised that I had an immediacy which would work well for the story.
C – Does writing as 1st person help you feel what it would be like to be King of England? How did you get into character?
M – I was often surprised by Edgar’s reactions to events, and continue to be. I felt him develop his own personality and view-point which was great fun. I learnt to see things through his eyes. Whenever I’m stuck I often act out the part, waving my arms around and pulling faces. Luckily I don’t often write in public.
C – What is your writing process? Do you wait for inspiration to come to you or do you set yourself up for a day of writing with a good breakfast and a coffee?
M – I used to wait for inspiration. The muse was rather fickle, however, and the novel crawled along. After I had an accident which meant I couldn’t drive or focus as much on my business I knuckled down to writing. Now, I start work early in the morning, sometimes very early. I use a series of storyboards which I use on Powerpoint. This keeps me on track but is still very flexible. I use a writing log which shows how many words I have written each day. It’s a great motivator as long as you don’t get too obsessed by it. I find that time flies like it never has before.
C – The Battle of Hastings was a time of massive change in British history, what is it about this time which interests you?
M – I am fascinated by times of change in general. I once read that a Roman nobleman the year 500 AD said, ‘We used to be Romans but we are all Italians now.’ (I’d love to find this quote by the way.) This got me thinking about times of transition, especially massive, dislocating transition. I have always been fascinated by Anglo-Saxon and Viking times, partly because of reading the Viking books of Henry Treece as a child and an interest in Alfred the Great. I have a more complex relationship with theNormans. I have always been suspicious of the old view that they were more civilised than the Anglo-Saxons who they brought kicking and screaming into the eleventh century. There was plenty of kicking and screaming, of course, but not because theNormanswere more advanced or superior, far from it. English history did not start in 1066.
C – Did you need to research much to write this book, or is it an area which you already knew?
M – My fascination with the period gave me good background knowledge. I have read widely in the field over the years. Latterly I have use the internet a lot for original documents, commentaries and maps.. In particular I have made great use of the PASE Domesday site (http://domesday.pase.ac.uk/) which gives masses of information about land ownership and wealth. I discovered this after I had written Resistance but was able to use it in Wasteland, the second novel in the series. Some of the characters in this novel are derived from obscure land-owners listed in Domesday.
C – How accurate have you tried to be? Have you strayed much from ‘fact’? Did you use your artistic license to describe their appearance and mannerisms?
M – There is heated debate about this. I believe that it is the responsibility of the historical novelist to be as accurate as possible. I learned a lot of my history from such writers as G..A. Henty, Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliff and Frans Gunnar Bengtsson and I see no reason why novelists should tamper with historical facts. Altering history for dramatic effect is misguided and unnecessary.
The great thing about Edgar Atheling is that he was at the centre of historical events but his part in them was white-washed by the Normans. This left me with a large canvas to invent story within the overall framework, which I kept scrupulously accurate. The only time I have had to make a choice about events is in Wasteland where there are conflicting accounts of his sortie to Lincolnshire, one saying he went by land, the other by ship. I chose to send him by land as this gave me more opportunity for story.
It is the same with characters. The overwhelming majority in my novels are real historical figures. I have invented a few others but I hope that I have kept to the character of people who would have played such roles at this time.
Because the story is set so long in the past, almost a thousand years, there is little hard evidence of physical appearance or mannerisms. I realised part way through that William was very tall and strong and had to alter that and I have kept to the description of his family. For the rest, there is deafening silence. Apart, maybe from this picture.