It’s my turn on this wonderful blog tour today. The lovely Catherine Hokin has written a guest post, but first I want to tell you all about Catherine’s book launch which I attended last week with my husband.
The ‘Blood and Roses’ launch took place on Wednesday 13th January 2016 at Daunt Books in Holland Park Avenue, London. Not having been to many book events I was really looking forward to it. We arrived at the bookshop whereupon we were greeted by Catherine who recognised me first. She had the most amazing shoes on. Soon the place started to fill up with people all there to support Catherine. The wine was poured out and the mingling began. It was a great atmosphere.
Soon after, Catherine started off by answering some fascinating questions. This gave people a very good idea about what ‘Blood and Roses’ was about. She then read a couple of extracts from her book which I’m sure made everyone want to buy it. Afterwards, people queued up to have their copies signed, followed by more wine and mingling.
Here is a picture of me with Catherin Hokin.
It was a fantastic night and we went home feeling really happy.
Now follows Catherine Hokin’s guest post and an extract from ‘Blood and Roses’.
TELLING STORIES FROM THE PAST TO THE PRESENT
One of my strongest memories as a child is discovering, for the first time, a book on my own. The Chronicles of Narnia: not something my teacher had read, or my parents, but a world that uncovered itself, as I thought, just for me – a wonderful secret world of the imagination where the characters had the voices I spun in my head and the back-stories I happily wove when I couldn’t stretch reading time any further into the night. The power of stories has never left me and I still have a reading pile that threatens severe concussion to anyone walking too close.
When I realised I wanted to tell stories myself, it was also natural to look back to another lifelong passion: history. What is history if not stories? Because I write short stories that are contemporary and rather twisted and a blog that is also contemporary and, I hope, quite funny, I frequently get asked why I chose historical fiction for my debut novel. The short answer? People.
Whatever time frame you choose, people lived and loved just as we do today. War, disease, loss, political decisions that sweep people into conflicts not of their making are as familiar to us as our fifteenth century counterparts – the mechanisms available for response change but the challenges don’t. For me the study of history helps us to see what is eternal, it is the re-imagining of events that fiction allows that then creates a bridge to new perspectives and voices. This is particularly important for women whose characters and opinions are often far too silent in the pages of the text books.
And that is where Margaret of Anjou comes in: an intriguing, powerful woman too often filtered down to us through hostile voices or melodramatic portrayals courtesy of Shakespeare. She is being re-evaluated to an extent but she is still rarely centre-stage. I wanted to re-imagine her from a woman’s perspective and from a mother’s – there has been so much written about Margaret’s relationship with her son but never from the point of view of what it is like for a strong woman to raise a man in challenging times and then let him go. My son was 17 when I started this project – the age Margaret’s son was when he died – and I have to admit I drew on our relationship a lot, to the point where he went very white at the death scene!
The people of the past: us with different technology and none more so than Margaret. A fascinating, complex, infuriating woman – look around, you probably know her…
I thought I knew everything about battles; I thought I knew everything that they could be, that I had witnessed all the horrors a battlefield can deliver. I knew nothing.
It was such a hard winter: even in February the snows were still falling heavily from a sky that seemed to have been leaden for weeks. There was no thaw, no break as the Lancastrian army moved away from London towards the North, avoiding York by a matter of days as he swept his forces down into the City. And what a reception their stony hearts gave him. Margaret knew that the messengers who brought the description of his triumphal entry expected her to scream and rail; she was simply too exhausted, too out-played. All the times she had used tricks and tableaux to win sympathy and support or to make the story of her family far greater than it was. She was a novice compared to York and his advisors.
He knows so well how Londoners love the look of a king and he gives them everything they could have dreamed of and more.
She sat in silence, her stomach churning, as she listened to the messengers fight to keep the awe from their voices as they described how York rode in splendour through gates now flung open with abandon and wreathed in flowers to greet a golden god on his huge charger, and how the people cheered themselves hoarse at his coming.
No matter he is as vicious in battle as any commander of mine; no matter the soldiers they welcome with smiles and wine could be just as dangerous as mine. They do not see it. They see the showman and love him for it.
Every man who stood before her elaborated on the tale. They were almost breathless by the time they described the great rally York held on the 1st of March, with food for all and work forgotten, and the triumphal procession he made to St Paul’s, the solemn ceremony that followed it a few days later; a coronation in all but name. She listened in mounting dismay but could not stop herself asking for every tiny detail. How he had the City Criers summon the people in great crowds. How he had long lists of Henry’s failings read out by Bourchier, resplendent in his Archbishop’s robes and matched them to equally long lists of his own virtues, these loudly declaimed by George Neville, York’s handsome Chancellor. And again at the Cathedral: the same charade of the strong man versus the weak but this time with York’s great royal lineage spelled out so even the simplest commoner could catch it and scream for joy at this King of miracles they were offered.
My efforts were like a child playing make-believe with a paper crown compared to this.
And all through the telling, the same refrain: what a difference to his father’s poor misguided efforts. This York could not have thrust the crown away even as pretence, the people would have forced it on him. It was all so perfectly done. Everyone applauded the title of Edward IV, looked at the furred robes, saw the sceptre and the crown, attended the lavish banquet and truly thought they had witnessed a coronation when it could be no such thing. Margaret could not match him, she knew it: all she had was a hollow-eyed man, his crown a mockery on his empty head, and a child who would be snatched from her if she stayed still too long.
She could not capture hearts but, in that at least, she and Richard of York had been evenly matched. Now she faced a gilded paragon of nineteen with a laugh as loud as a lion’s roar and a golden mane to match, framing a face that made even the matrons around her go giddy. Put a crown and an ermine on him and it was as though she was pitted against a storybook hero to defend a cause that seemed suddenly to have no more weight than a butterfly’s wing.
And yet I cannot stop. I cannot accept defeat. I cannot let him win.
She was afraid, her advisors were afraid: to continue meant war, war to the death, slaughter unleashed. And to stop? To surrender? That was fear of a worse kind, fear that caught at Margaret’s throat and kept her without any rest, turning over the same questions night after night. What usurper would ever allow another anointed king to live? What usurper would ever allow a child who would become the focus of every rebellion and discontent and misguided plot to live? War might be a death-sentence for them all but surrender was a death-warrant for her son.
About Catherine Hokin
Catherine is a Glasgow-based author with a degree in History from Manchester University. After years of talking about it, she finally started writing seriously about 3 years ago, researching and writing her debut novel, Blood and Roses, which will be published in January 2016 by Yolk Publishing. The novel tells the story of Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses, exploring the relationship between Margaret and her son and her part in shaping the course of the bloody political rivalry of the fifteenth century. About a year ago, Catherine also started writing short stories – she was recently 3rd prize winner in the 2015 West Sussex Writers Short Story Competition and a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition. She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and often hysterical, eye over women in history, popular culture and life in general.
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‘Blood and Roses’ is available to buy from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1MIvm2T