Guest blogger: Alison Stuart
A love affair with the English Civil War
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.
(*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!)