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Blog Tour – ‘Blood and Roses’ by Catherine Hokin

Blood and Roses Blog Tour

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.

Book Launch Picture

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…

 

Extract

Towton 1461

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

Author Picture

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 Roseswhich 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.

 

Social media links:

https://www.catherinehokin.com/

http://catherinehokin.blogspot.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/cathokin/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter @cathokin

‘Blood and Roses’ is available to buy from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1MIvm2T

 

 

Short Story by Catherine Hokin

Halloween Stories

Who is ready for another short story?  I know I am!

 

Stolen Moments

By Catherine Hokin

Alice Morgan liked to steal. “You’re such a little Magpie!”

Her mother had been highly amused by the treasure trove of shiny trinkets she’d found burrowed into the tummy of five year old Alice’s teddy bear. A jumble of old coins and broken necklaces mostly and, yes, her eternity ring which she thought she’d lost for good, but nothing really important. All children did it and Alice would grow out of it so no need for a scene.

But Alice didn’t grow out of it and her mother’s laugh lost its sparkle when other parents muttered about ornaments that vanished and the party invitations began to dry up.

“You do understand that this is wrong, don’t you dear?”

Mrs Drake, the well-meaning head-teacher at Alice’s Primary School always smiled when she posed the question but, as the pile of hair slides and toys that Alice acquired and other children cried over, grew larger, the smile gradually grew more strained. It only reached her eyes again when Alice’s parents agreed with the gently unmovable suggestion that, yes, a new start would be best for everyone.

“I know you know it’s wrong so why do you do it?”

A more direct question from the harassed form tutor as she waved her hand across another heap of purses, watches and rings tipped out from Alice’s bag. But Alice merely smiled and eyed her teacher’s pretty brooch and the tutor had too many other challenging pupils to deal with to push the matter.

“If you’re going to do this, maybe you should at least try to hide the evidence or do you actually want to go to prison? You’re sixteen, Alice, we can’t protect you anymore and the world outside certainly won’t. But the choice, my dear, is yours.”

Head-teachers at secondary schools are far more direct and far less interested in solving the problems of pupils who choose to follow their own paths. It was that very lack of concern that finally caught Alice’s attention. Consequences were, to be honest, usually of little consequence to her but a lack of control over her comings and goings? That was worth a thought or two. So she looked at the mobiles and IPods gathered from her locker and concluded he was right: the choice was indeed hers and there must be more interesting options open.

***

“You can’t have him!”

Karen’s mascara-streaked face made her look like a clown, the cliché of a clown. “He’s my husband and you can’t have him!”

Alice shrugged, “That’s fine; I don’t want him.”

She watched with interest as Karen’s face seemed to collapse in on itself, barely listening as the older woman bleated out the usual litany.

“But he wants you…You made him fall in love with you and now you don’t want him… You stole him from me…why would you do that if it meant nothing?”

Better people than you have asked that question, thought Alice but she simply smiled and moved on.

Boyfriends, married men (she’d married one of those in a registry office with witnesses pulled in from the street and left within a month); all so very easy to acquire and just as easy to leave. Everything she’d ever wanted: she simply took it until she didn’t want it anymore, whenever that might be. There was always something else to be had, something new. Alice never planned anything: that would have caused too many complications. She just waited to see what would fall into her lap. It always seemed to work out.

Her latest acquisition had been no different.

Alice had been in London for a week, slipping away from her latest boredom to another place where no-one knew her. She’d taken a short let on a flat in an anonymous block through an agent, paying in advance from the bonus her last boss had paid her to leave her post, and not heard never mind seen her neighbours. Now she was starting to think about getting a job, nothing too demanding just enough to pay the rent while she waited to see what might happen next.

The café had attracted her because it was so quiet, the staff too busy with their mobiles to care much about her. She had settled herself with the local paper and they had left her to it, taking her order without bothering to make eye-contact. The one waitress who hadn’t slipped out back for a cigarette had barely looked up from the delights of her screen when the door opened again.

The woman who entered was exhausted: the dark circles under her eyes gave her the look of an abstracted panda and the lank hair drooping round her pale face spoke of too many broken nights. But the child, Alice couldn’t take her eyes off her. She was such a darling, about 6 months old, all chubby face and giggles topped off with a hat that looked like a strawberry. Alice grinned and the mother, grateful for any human contact, smiled back.

“Don’t be fooled by the angelic appearance, she cries like a banshee half the night.” The woman was weighed down by shopping, struggling to balance the load with the heavy pram.

“Here, let me help.” Alice pushed back a chair to make room for the buggy and took some of the bags, stowing them under the neighbouring table. The waitress looked up for a second and glanced away again as quickly; this wasn’t the type of customer to tip.

“Thank you.” The woman sat down heavily; she was bigger than Alice had realised, still slow with baby weight. “It’s always such a challenge to get out and get anything done, even the simplest things…” She looked at Alice without really seeing her, responding to the tiny kindness she’d been shown. “I don’t suppose you could watch Chloe for a moment could you? I shouldn’t ask and it sounds silly I know but just to be able to pop to the Ladies without juggling everything would be the highlight of my day!”

“Of course.” Alice nodded towards the back of the café, “it’s just over there. She’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

And it really was that simple. As the door closed behind the mother, the waitress slipped away from the counter behind the dividing curtain. It was the easiest thing in the world to pluck the baby from the pram, slip the changing bag over her shoulder and leave. Two minutes later Alice was on the underground, the baby perfectly content against her shoulder; thirty minutes later she was walking down the deserted street to her flat.

The baby had napped happily on Alice’s bed while she packed, soothed by one of the bottles her careful mother had stowed in with the spare nappies and change of clothes. Chloe (a pretty enough name but not one Alice could live with) hadn’t even stirred when Alice had popped out to the local High Street to buy a car seat and a travel cot from the bored teenager in a branch of Mothercare that had seen far better days.

The car packed up and Chloe (Emma?) strapped in, Alice had driven north; Manchester was somewhere she hadn’t been yet. The first couple of nights were spent in a Travelodge while she practised a story no letting agent was interested in hearing. Emma (Laura?) was soothed by a dummy but became fractious at night; no one in the hotel seemed to care. Alice had seen the story of the abduction breaking on the news but neither the distraught mother nor the defensive waitress had been able to give a clear description of the woman and the baby looked like any baby: lose the strawberry hat and the little red coat and who could tell one from the other? Alice had switched the television off, it held little real interest.

Two days in a confined hotel room where she couldn’t escape Laura’s (Kerry’s?) gaze was enough. This time Alice rented a little house with a garden. It was winter now but she could imagine sitting outside when the summer came with the baby crawling on the grass. Such a lovely thought and she would have made it happen, she really wanted it to happen; it was nice to want something. But the baby was so much harder to manage than she expected: it never slept and it pushed against Alice with such a frown sometimes it was as though it knew.

Staying and playing mommy was really too difficult and Alice didn’t like difficult, she never had. It was such a relief when she closed the door behind her and got back into the car. She’d tried, she really had; time to move on.

Copyright © Catherine Hokin, 2015

 

Links

Catherine Hokin’s Website – www.catherinehokin.com

Twitter – @cathokin

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/cathokin?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

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