Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Passion for the English Civil War

Timothy Dalton as Prince Rupert of the Rhine - 1969

HOOZAH! On April 1, I have a new book coming out, SECRETS IN TIME, my first foray into time travel, and I am delighted to be back in my 'happy place', writing about the English Civil War.

The English Civil War is used to roughly describe the period from 1642 to the execution of Charles I in 1649. The period from 1649 to the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 is properly called the "Interregnum" (between Kings), although it is generally lumped in with the English Civil War period.  I don't propose a lecture on the causes of the English Civil War when Horrible Histories does it so much better! (Scroll to end of this blog!)

"When did you last see your father?"
Perhaps it is best described in the romantic parlance of cavaliers and roundheads. The dashing cavalier with his long curls and wide brimmed beaver hat, and the sour faced roundhead with his cropped hair and puritan collar. 

Boo...hiss..."Right but Repulsive" according to 1066 and All That

 My love affair with the Roundheads and Cavaliers 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.

Oh, give me a wounded hero...
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, Honor. 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! 

More Timothy...Cavaliers "Wrong but Wromantic"...1066 and all That
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’m not sure if I have really answered the question I set myself. When something grips you as a passion, it is very hard to put a logical rationale to it. 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! Above all I love the opportunity, through my stories, to share this wonderful period with readers. Sadly, because it is not well taught at schools (despite being such an important foundation stone of our modern democracies and judicial systems), or lacks the “glamour” of the French and American Revolutions, it is often overlooked as a rich source of fabulous stories and interesting characters. I have lost track of the number of publishers who have told me they love my books but sorry, “we can’t market the period”. 

So, if you are bored with regencies, medieval and blokes in kilts, try a cavalier such as my two gorgeous and troubled heroes from  BY THE SWORD and THE KING'S MAN. If you just want to dip your toe into the period then have a look at SECRETS IN TIME with a gorgeous (and for once, level headed) cavalier and his adventures in the modern world with a thoroughly modern and sceptical doctor.

And if you're interested in knowing more about the period, I blog regularly about all things seventeenth century on a blog dedicated just to that century - Hoydens and Firebrands.


You will find SECRETS IN TIME (ebook only at the moment) at Lyrical Press, Amazon and all reputable on line book stores. 
For more information and an excerpt see my website.

*I should add that I would go to sleep willing myself to wake up and find myself magically transported back in time. Thankfully writing about time travel is so much more comfortable!


Christina Phillips said...

I read THE KING'S GENERAL when I was about 11 or 12 and remember being really upset by the ending :-) In fact by the time I re-read it I'd convinced myself Honor wouldn't end up crippled, or at the very least would marry the man she loved!

Congrats on the upcoming release of SECRETS IN TIME, Alison. I enjoy reading historical romances set in more unusual time periods :-)

Suzi Love said...

Congratulations on your upcoming book. Great post.
Thanks for sharing all your wonderful historical knowledge.

Alison Stuart said...

Oh, Christina...I know what you mean about The King's General...definitely tears at bedtime for all the characters, but of course, Sir Richard Grenville was a real person so Du Maurier was working within the confines of the facts of his life and somehow managed to make him sympathetic. I think I have been trying to redress that ever since.

Thanks, Suzi :-) I am fighting the good fight for unusual historical periods!


Anonymous said...

I agree with you Christina, I find myself searching for those stories of more unusual time slots in History.
And where would I be without my Horrible History Books (I have them all- I think) and the You-tube films as well.
As always, enjoyed your post Alison :)