The Normans in Wales

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Nest ferch Rhys, the 12th century Welsh princess, is the heroine of my fiction trilogy, Conquest. Nest was wife or mistress to a Norman king, a Welsh prince, and the Norman constables of Pembroke and Cardigan castles. Interpretations of the few facts known about Nest ferch Rhys vary greatly. In my novels I am attempting to imagine and tell her complex story from her perspective. I will be talking with bookshop visitors and signing copies of my books on Friday 28 July 11am at Victoria Bookshop, Haverfordwest.

Victoria Bookshop

And on Sunday 30 July at 1pm, I am giving a guided walk around Carew Castle, which was one of Nest’s main residences, built by her first husband, Gerald FitzWalter, the Norman steward of Pembroke Castle. I will be talking about the historical facts behind my fiction. Taffire Theatre Company are also presenting an outdoor performance on Nest’s life on the same day at 11am and 3pm.

Carew Castle events

Stepping into medieval London

Dunstable Swan Jewel from the British Museum
The Dunstable Swan Jewel

‘The only plagues of London are the immoderate drinking of fools and the frequency of fires’ wrote William Fitz Stephen in his account of the city in the 12th century.

On a recent trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts I came across a little book called Norman London in a second-hand bookshop. The book contained Fitz Stephen’s account of London written sometime before 1183, together with an essay by Frank Stenton and map research on 12th century London by Marjorie B. Honeybourne. The book was a silvermine for my research as a historical novelist and it is ironic that I travelled to a second-hand bookshop in Massachusetts (the wonderful Raven Books) to find it.

Last year my novel, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King, was published by Impress Books. It is the first in the trilogy charting the life of Nest ferch Rhys who was a potent symbol in the struggles between the Normans and the Welsh. The second book in the trilogy, Conquest: The Drowned Court, will be published this autumn. Nest was one of the many mistresses of the Norman king Henry I and parts of the novels are set in London.

Guildhall._Engraved_by_E.Shirt_after_a_drawing_by_Prattent._c.1805.

The complicated business of the great 12th century city was conducted by the aldermen of London in the Husting which met in the Guildhall every Monday. Husting is a Scandinavian word and it is likely that this city institution had its origin during the Scandinavian occupation of London in the time of King Alfred. The Husting was the court of civil business hearing pleas on debts, land disputes, land gifts, regulating foreign merchants, controlling weights and measures.

Stepping into Medieval Worlds is an illustrated talk on Norman London that I will be presenting at The Guildhall Library on 8 June. It will address the literary sources for my fiction, including Fitz Stephen’s account. It is exciting to be speaking on this topic at the site of the 12th century Husting in the Guildhall which is on a street, Aldermanbury, named after those aldermen in Norman London. I will talk about the range of medieval literary sources I employ to construct the fictional worlds of my novels including Orderic Vitalis’ chronicle of the ‘extremely unrestrained’ Normans, viking poems, recipe books, maps, and medical manuals from the Middle Ages, the songs of the female troubadours, and the lascivious writings of medieval archbishops and dukes.

Stepping into Medieval Worlds

Thursday 8 June 2017, 6-8pm

Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH

Tickets: £5.90 includes wine reception. Book at:

https://steppingintomedivalworlds.eventbrite.co.uk

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Carew Castle, Wales

I have more author talks coming up soon in Wales:

Fri 28 July 11am Victoria Books, Haverfordwest

Sun 30 July 1pm Carew Castle

Sat 23 September 10am-4pm Narberth Book Fair

Sat 30 September 11am Tenby Library in Tenby Arts Festival

Sat 14 Sept 10.30am Pembroke Dock Library for National Book Month.

 

 

 

Image credits:

The Dunstable Swan Jewel in the British Museum (Wikimedia photo by Ealdgyth)

The Guildhall, engraved by E.Shirt after a drawing by Prattent, c.1805 (Wikimedia)

Carew Castle, Wales (Wikimedia photo by Nilfanion).

 

Final rewrite

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At that satisfying stage again – ready for the final rewrite of my next novel, before sending it off to the editors at Impress Books. It is the second in a trilogy of novels on Nest ferch Rhys and the struggle between the Normans and the Welsh in the 12th century.

This new book, Conquest: The Drowned Court, concentrates on the action-packed events of Nest’s life and King Henry I’s reign between 1107 and 1121. The Flemish nun, Benedicta, took me by surprise in the writing and also plays a substantial role in this book.

The first book in the trilogy, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King is out now. This sequel will be published in the autumn. I am talking about researching and writing the Conquest series at a number of book events in Wales, London and France over the coming months. Next events:

21 April – The English Library, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

8 June – The Guildhall Library, London.

2017 Book Events

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I have a series of book events coming up this year, talking on and presenting my new historical fiction trilogy, Conquest, which is set in 12th century Wales, England and France. I’ve been researching early medieval toilets, nuns, clothes, castles, and some rather salacious poetry by clerics and dukes. The first book came out last year. I’m working on the second one now and it will be published in the autumn.

Saturday 25 March – LibraryLit at Parisot Library, 82160, France

10.30am-12 noon followed by aperitifs

I will be talking about the first book in the series, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King, in the context of other historical fiction and my work as a writer for Historical Novels Review magazine. The event is part of a new series of author-talks linked to the annual Parisot Literary Festival.

Friday 21 April – The English Library, Villefranche-en-Rouergue, 12300, France

5.30-8.00pm

I will be presenting alongside crime writer Stephen Goldenberg. I’m planning to discuss  the impacts on my writing from living part of each year in France. The landscapes, histories, art and literature of southern France have played a large role in my writing. I’m currently researching the establishment of the great ‘women’s’ abbey at Fontevraud and imagining the lives of some of my characters there.

And coming up later in the year:

Thursday 8 June 6-8pm – The Guildhall Library, London

I will be focusing on Henry I’s London and the role of early medieval literature as inspirations for my fiction.

Friday 28 July 11am – Victoria Bookshop, Haverfordwest

A talk on the novel and booksigning.

Sunday 30 July 1pm – Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales

I’m delighted to be participating in a day celebrating the life of Nest ferch Rhys – the heroine of my Conquest trilogy. I will talk about the history behind my fiction and the various castles that featured in Nest’s life. Taffire Theatre Company will be presenting open-air drama about Nest, who lived at Carew Castle. Their performances in the castle courtyard will take place at 11am and 3pm.

24-26 August – Charroux Literary Festival, 86250, France

I’m excited to be speaking here alongside a wonderful line-up of other writers including Barbara Erskine, Jackie Bennet, Andrew Lownie, Nick Inman, Jane Lythall, Diana Morgan Hill, Vanessa Couchman, Alison Morton, James Vance, Harriet Springbett and publishers Stephanie Zia and Chuck Grieve.

But I’m also excited about it because Charroux was at the heart of the old medieval county of La Marche where my first heroine, Almodis, came from. I’m now working on a biography of Almodis and her two sisters, Lucie and Raingarde.

Saturday 23 September 10am-4pm – Narberth Book Fair at The Queen’s Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire, Wales

I lived in Narberth for several years and my Conquest stories about the Welsh princess, Nest ferch Rhys, were first incubated here so I am delighted to be returning for the inaugural Narberth Book Fair.

Saturday 30 September 11am – Tenby Library, Pembrokeshire, Wales

A talk on my Conquest novels, the Welsh princess Nest ferch Rhys and the Normans. Coinciding with the Tenby Arts Festival.

Saturday 14 October 10.30am – Pembroke Dock Library, Pembrokeshire, Wales

To coincide with National Libraries Week, I will be giving a talk on my Conquest novels. The second book is published in October and is mostly set at Pembroke Castle where Nest and her husband Gerald FitzWalter of Windsor were based.

 

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Castle Escapes

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My blogpost on Gerald FitzWalter, a Norman frontiersman in south Wales in late 11th and early 12th centuries, has just been published on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog.

One of Gerald’s many colourful exploits included an escape down a latrine chute during a Welsh attack in 1109 on his castle of Cenarth Bychan. The latrine chute may have resembled the one shown above, and Cenarth Bychan was very likely the castle in Wales now known as Cilgerran.

Gerald is one of the main characters in my recently published novel Conquest I: Daughter of the Last King, and I am writing more about him now in the sequel, Conquest II: The Drowned Court, which will be published by Impress Books next autumn.

[Photo above of Peveril Castle via Wikimedia Commons. By Dave.Dunford]

Good questions on the writing process

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I am currently on a Blog Tour for my new novel, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King and have been tackling some very good questions from bloggers about researching, writing and publishing processes, as well questions about the novel itself. See some of my answers here:

Trip Fiction, 16 October 2016

The Cosy Reader, 10 October 2016

Wee Reader, 8 October 2016

Portobello Books Blog, 3 October 2016

The Writing Desk, 1 October 2016

 

Photo: Salla Lahtinen.

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