I’ve just found something I had completely forgotten. It’s a little green notebook, tattered and stained and it contains the first poems I ever wrote.
I browsed through it and was intrigued, though not too much surprised, at how the things I wrote about then are similar to those I am writing about now. I’m fairly sure that the writers we loved when we were younger influenced what and how we write now (my series of talks with historical novelists shows how many were influenced by Rosemary Sutcliff, for example.) But it’s still something of a shock to find that the themes and issues which excited me when I was ten or eleven still fascinate me today.
Here’s the first poem I ever wrote. I was ten years old and I wrote it balancing a sheet of paper on my knee as I watched the Remembrance Day programme on the television.
Scarred with Red
Alas, the cream of Britain’s men are dead
And the fields around are scarred with red,
There’s Pete and Tom and Mick and Ned
There’s all my mates so very dead;
What can I do to help them now
Apart from make a solemn vow,
In days to come none shall forget
Those men their deaths so bravely met.
I am still fascinated by the First World War. I have written a collection of three short stories, ‘For King and Country’ which focuses on the pressures, sacrifice and courage of the participants in that terrible conflict. I am also planning a new novel set in those years.
The rest of my notebook shows the themes and concerns that still excite me: Warfare, injustice, blind obedience and the difficult fight against it, the seasons and the natural world.
Thankfully, I will share you any more of my Juvenilia.
It was later in life, when I was a young man, when I first began to write about clever young people fighting to make their way in the world against the hindrances and opposition of people determined to put them in their place. But that was, I’m sure, pretty much a working out of my own frustrations and aspirations.
Maybe my titles even hint at my favourite themes:
The Lost King: Resistance
The Lost King: Wasteland
The Lost King: Mercenary (to be published later this year)
My work in progress, about a very Machiavellian young woman at the court of Henry VIII will probably be called ‘Beguiled’. I don’t think I aspire to be Henry Tudor but I would like to know my protagonist Alice Petherton. In fact, I’m quite beguiled by her. She was originally only going to be a short story.
- Beguiled Part 3. #SampleSunday #Histnov #amwriting (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- Rediscovering Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels | FInding Dawn Wind (rosemarysutcliff.com)
- Garden of house of Rosemary Sutcliff in Walberton, West Sussex (rosemarysutcliff.com)