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Guest blogger: Alison Stuart

31 October 2010

A love affair with the English Civil War

Thank you Debbie and the lovely girls from ARRA for inviting me to blog this week.

Scratch any writer and you will find that they have a passion for writing and for those of us who write historical novels, for a special period of history and for me that is the English Civil War (1642-1660). Sadly this is not a popular period of history for the mainstream publishers but for those of you who love historicals with romance and are looking for a change from the regencies and medievals, can I invite you into the world of roundheads and cavaliers?

My love affair with the English Civil War began when I was probably no more than about 8 or 9. My darling father would read to us every Sunday afternoon (no TV in Kenya in those days!). He had a wonderful reading voice and if his choice of subject matter tended to rather reflect his taste than ours, neither my brother nor myself complained.

One such book he chose was Daphne Du Maurier’s THE KING’S GENERAL, the story of the ill fated love affair between Sir Richard Grenville and his crippled mistress, Honour . Du Maurier remains one of my all time favourite authors and the struggle between King and Parliament, laced with romance and skeletons in secret tunnels had me in a thrall. I was lost!  The very idea of a Civil War threw up so many possibilities for an over active imagination:  father against son, brother against brother, friends destined to become foes!

A few years later the movie CROMWELL was released with Richard Harris as Cromwell and the wonderful Alec Guiness as Charles I (and of course who can ever forget a young Timothy Dalton as Prince Rupert*!).  Ignoring the historical inaccuracies, it still gave form and substance to my growing passion for the period and I immersed myself wholeheartedly in it.  I kept scrapbooks of articles cut from magazines, I read every single book (fiction and non-fiction) I could find in the local library and lived and breathed English Civil War from the moment I woke up until sleep claimed me.

My best friend at school was a budding writer like myself and we set out on our first venture to write a novel at the grand age of thirteen. Mine was, of course, set in the English Civil War and titled “The Locket of Grace” (note to self:  not a bad title – I should find an appropriate use for it!). Hers was science fiction and titled “The Intermittent Brain”. We did wonderful illustrations but I don’t think either of us ever finished our ‘oeuvres’. Over my school years I filled shorthand notebooks with stories, all of which closely resembled the last book I read!

Of course nothing is more guaranteed to kill a grand passion more than studying it at university and in first year of my Arts degree I made the mistake of taking “Sixteenth and Seventeenth History”.  All my wonderful imaginings and colourful characters were rendered dull and lifeless and I have to confess it was many years before I started writing again, but when I did (following a fortuitous skiing accident) I went straight back to my roots and the book that was to become my Eppie Award Winner, BY THE SWORD, was born.

I just love the English Civil War- I love bucket top boots, lace collars, wide brimmed beaver hats, buff leather coats and lobster pot helmets and, of course, dashing men with large swords! Above all  I love the opportunity, through my stories, to share this wonderful period with readers.

So, if you are bored with bucks in buckskins, knights in armour and blokes in kilts and would like to know more about buffed men in buff coats, come and visit me and my fellow seventeenth century passionistas  at our regular blog, Hoydens and Firebrands for something a little bit different!

Both my books are available as ebooks and in print and as a special offer to ARRA members if you would like to purchase either (or both!) of my books in eformat  you just have to click here and for 25% off the list price you quote the following gift voucher numbers (valid until 31/12/10):

BY THE SWORD #  HJ86T

THE KING’S MAN # JG68E

or leave a comment and go in the running to win your choice of print book.

Alison Stuart

(*For the scene in Cromwell where Charles banishes Rupert – go to Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuKrzaycK2k and you may get an inkling of why I love the English Civil War!)

7 Comments
  1. 31 October 2010 8:00 am

    Hey, Alison, looks like I’m numero uno to visit you today! Loved your story about learning the love the Civil War. I remember the two of us bonding over a mutual love for Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Rider of the White Horse about Thomas Fairfax. I was thinking about what you said about uni killing your love for that period – at least temporarily. You know, the same thing happened to me. I was madly keen on the Tudors when I went to uni and doing all the dry as dust stuf (which in reality wasn’t dry as dust, it was just how it was taught) just killed my fascination for the era. Sigh. That’s not how it’s meant to be! Oh, and I remember seeing Cromwell and sighing over Timothy Dalton as dashing Prince Rupert when I was about 14. He really did capture the spirit of the character I think – and he looked amazing in those elaborate costumes!

  2. Helen Sibbritt permalink
    31 October 2010 8:43 am

    Great interview Alison and I have read The Kings Man and loved it and I have By The Sword on the TBR pile must move it up the list. I love visiting other time periods and so enjoy learning about the different era with their clothes and the ups and downs of that period.

    Have Fun
    Helen

  3. Malvina permalink
    31 October 2010 1:07 pm

    So much easier to learn about history – even the slightly more ‘unpopular’ periods – by reading romance novels! Just about everything I know about history I’ve learnt by reading romance, LOL… including The King’s Man. So Alison, just keep writing and we’ll keep reading. :)

  4. 31 October 2010 4:52 pm

    Hi Alison,

    I loved history at school, but to write about it. I’d probably fall into a false beginning. lol.

    All the best with your novels. Lovely to read about you and how to.

    You must be an English civil war expert by now. :)

  5. Barbara permalink
    31 October 2010 7:43 pm

    Hi Alison

    I will have to read your books as I can imagine the places as I was bought up in the UK and lived not to far from some old villages. I love to read books that get your imagination going.

  6. 2 November 2010 3:01 pm

    Thanks for dropping by for a chat everyone.

    Yes, Suzanne, I am a bit of an expert now (although not in an academic way!). I just have a “feel” for the period and tend to write instinctively. I only notice it when I come to write in other periods and realise how much RESEARCH I have to do!

    If you are interested in reading more novels set in the period, I can highly recommend Pamela Belle’s Wintercombe and Heron family series. Sadly (for me) Pamela switched to Sci Fi!

    All the girls on the Hoydens and Firebrands have novels set in the seventeenth century – and what I love about my fellow Hoydens is we’re all different!

    Cheers
    Alison

  7. 7 November 2010 11:38 am

    Well my week is up and I’ve put my hand in the hat…and Barbara is the lucky winner.

    Barbara… I can’t hyperlink to you from the blog so I hope you get this message. Can you email me privately on alison@alisonstuart.com and let me know which book you would like and details of your mailing address and I will get it off to you.

    Thank you everyone who commented.

    Cheers
    Alison

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