Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Next Big Thing


I am really pleased to be taking part in The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors!
I was tagged by my really good friend, author Judith Arnopp and it's my pleasure to keep this going.
So, what I have done is answer the questions below, tag a new set of authors, then they answer, tag authors, etc.  I’m answering questions about my next novel, ‘Victoria’s Link,’ which I am still working on and which I hope will be completed by the Spring.

 What is the working title of your book?
 The title ‘Victoria’s Link’ has arisen naturally because this book is a sequel to ‘The Chainmakers’, a book written a few years ago, and it continues the chainmaking theme.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
 So many people seemed to enjoy what happened to the family in The Chainmakers, and wanted to know what happened next.  On the last page of  ‘The Chainmakers’ Victoria is a new  baby, and so it seemed logical to explore her youth, as she would be 18 at the outbreak of the Second World War, and so lived through exciting times. I have long distance hopes that there may be a third book entitled ‘Final Forging’ set in the sixties...we shall see!
What genre does your book fall under?
It is Historical Fiction set in World War 11, with big dollops of romance and adventure.
What is the one sentence synopsis for the book?
Rich young woman, trapped in occupied Rome, is forced to question her values, but discovers only love can provide the answers.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am still writing the first draft , but the research took about two years on and off. When the first draft is finished there will still be a lot of re-drafting and editing to do.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
 A movie! What a lovely thought. I am not very good at remembering the names of actors but I will give it a shot. Keira Knightley would make a lovely Victoria, beautiful but able to portray some true grit when required... and for her brother James (who is slightly flaky but decent underneath it all) I think Dan Stevens, who played Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey would be superb. I must have Colin Firth to play Guy, Victoria’s love interest and good egg, and there is an Italian Mafia character named Giorgio who is handsome but controlling, and I think Jason Isaacs would be brilliant in that role.  Pam Ferris (who plays Laura Thyme in Rosemary and Thyme) would be ideal as Victoria’s older friend Guiditta. My! What a sum all those names would cost! And what a movie they could make!
What other books would you compare this story to, in your genre?
I’m not sure.  There are lots of war books around, but the occupation of Italy isn’t covered particularly well, unless you count classics like Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’, and that doesn’t really count because it is written from the male point of view, as indeed are most books about the War. Louis de Berniere’s  lovely ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ deals with the effects of occupation in the island of Cephallonia, but I would not put myself in such august company as these!

What else about the book might pique the readers’ interest?
I think there has been very little written about the occupation of Rome, and one incident there (the Ardeantine Cave massacre) is very little known outside Italy, largely because when it happened was also the time of the Normandy landings, and so there was little newspaper coverage at the time.
I would also hope the privations endured in Rome during the occupation would be of interest, and the wonderful work of the doctors and medics to repatriate the wounded Allied soldiers. The book moves to New York for the second half, and explores the society there as the war comes to an end and the soldiers come home.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey
Legend has it that a hermit monk named Theoc (from whom it is thought Tewkesbury was named) lived on the site of the Abbey as early as the 7th century. Theoc was therefore preaching the new message of Christianity here at the same time as Cuthbert and Wilfred were preaching in the north, and when the Venerable Bede was a boy at Lindisfarne. There is a large stone beneath the old yew trees in front of the Abbey known as Theoc’s stone, on which he is said to have stood to preach to the local people.
Whether or not the legend of Theoc is true, there was certainly a small Saxon monastery here in the 8th century, which was destroyed by Danish raiders, and it was almost 300 years later in 1087 that  Robert Fitzhamon, a kinsman of William the Conqueror, founded the great Norman Abbey which we see today, for an order of Benedictine monks. He engaged  Giraldus, ( the Abbot of Cranborne who was anxious to extend his dominion) as the first abbot. It was a marvellous construction, and when Robert Fitzhamon died in 1107, as a result of wounds received at the siege of Falaise, his son- in- law Robert Fitzroy, (an illegitimate son of Henry 1st ) continued the building until the completion of the Norman phase and its consecration in October 1121.
Mediaeval tomb
Tewkesbury Abbey became one of the richest monasteries in England, largely due to the powerful mediaeval families associated with the Abbey prior to the Dissolution. The lavishly decorated tombs and chantry chapels which still survive from that period give us a glimpse of the wealth and influence of these families. One tomb of particular beauty and interest is that of Simon de Despenser, who was the favourite of King Edward 11. Edward was imprisoned in a hole in the ground in nearby Berkeley Castle near Gloucester, before being murdered in a particularly horrifying way, and his favourite Simon de Despenser was also killed in a barbaric fashion before being given an honoured and beautiful resting place.
When Henry VIII undertook the dissolution of the monasteries, Tewkesbury was high on his list. All the monastic outbuildings were demolished, the monks killed or chased away, and the Abbey stripped of its moveable treasures. To the everlasting credit of the people of the town, they somehow managed to scrape up the magnificent sum of £453 to pay off the soldiers and save their church building. It is still the second largest parish church in England, larger even than 14 of our cathedrals, and it also boasts the highest Norman tower in England, and still dominates the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside which surrounds the town.
Stained glass window
Tewkesbury Abbey has survived fire, the bloody battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, several periods of reconstruction, and the Dissolution, and it is nothing short of a miracle that it has survived in such a complete state. The Norman west front is particularly fine, as is the impressive nave and the beautiful Romanesque tower. A series of 14th century radiating chapels surround the high altar, and one of the country’s finest examples of mediaeval stained glass still decorates the windows in the chancel.
The nave
The pure Norman architecture remains almost untouched. Although the original timber vaulted roof was replaced around 1340 by a splendid lierne vault, it does not detract the eye from the 14 massive Norman pillars which dominate the nave. Each is over 30 feet high and several feet thick, and their stark unadorned majesty seems to epitomise the resilience and grandeur of the Abbey, and the calm dignity with which it has withstood the turbulence of the passing centuries. It is a place of timeless beauty.