Today’s guest on What Cathy Read Next is Glynn Holloway, author of In the Shadows of Castles. In the Shadows of Castles is the sequel to 1066: What Fates Impose which I read and reviewed back in 2018. You can read an extract from In the Shadows of Castles later in this post.
I’m pleased to say Glynn bravely agreed to take part in my ‘Lucky Dip Q&A’ which involves picking five numbers between 1 and 30 and seeing what questions that produces. (Full disclosure: On this occasion I chose Glynn’s numbers for him.)
Q. If your book was set in space what would have to change?
A. The first thing is the technology. My book is set in the mid-eleventh century, so transport is earthbound and dependant on air for horses to breath. Weaponry would be next; the pen is mightier than the sword and so is a phaser. A space suit would be more appropriate than chainmail if you want to survive in space and a spaceship would be a good idea. Once all these changes have been made the plot and characters could remain more or less unchanged. The human condition, (and probably alien’s, too) remains the same. My story would be the same. It would have a beginning a middle and an end and would still be about who gets what, where, when and why.
Q. If you had to experiment with a completely different genre, what would it be?
A. I’ve thought about this a few times. Sci-Fi and thrillers are at the top of the list. Although I write historical fiction, I find the idea of writing Sci-Fi attractive because there’s no limit to what you can do, other than the limits of your imagination. Stories like, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Soylent Green and Minority Report spring to mind. It’s more the moral and political issues that attract me in Sci-Fi rather than the technical stuff. Turning my hand to thrillers has appeal but it’s quite a trick to produce a story with a labyrinthine plot and interesting characters to which readers can relate. I’m thinking Scandi Noir and The Killing in particular.
Q. What scene in a book was the most challenging to write?
A. Battles are particularly difficult, at least for me, especially if there are several in a book. It’s trying to make each one different. It gets harder every time. I change the setting from battlefield, to town, to tunnels, to a hillside, in a valley, in the dark, the rain, snow, fog, blazing sun, using spears, swords, axes, cavalry, infantry and bowmen. And I must make them different from other writers, too. It’s too easy to fall into a ‘he bashed him and then he bashed him back,’ scenario.
Q. What is your most productive time – and place – for writing.
A. This will sound odd, but it depends on what you call writing. If you mean sitting at a keyboard, then the answer is at home in the dining room where I have a computer on a desk right by the French windows that look out into our south facing garden. The afternoon is best for this. On the other hand, the mornings are best for ideas, and they can pop up anywhere but particularly if I’m walking or riding my bike around Durdam Downs, which are close to where I live. Some of my best ideas just seem to jump into my head out of nowhere. It’s like owning a faulty radio with a free roaming tuner that, every once in a while, picks up exactly the right station for what I want. Finally, there is what I call horizontal writing. These are ideas the occur to me when I’m in bed sleeping. I wake up and jot down ideas in a note pad, which I keep by my bedside.
Q. Past tense, present tense of both?
A. I suppose because I write historical fiction something about the past tense seems natural to me and so that’s what I write. It fits in with what I do. However, I’m aware of some writers of historical fiction who write in the present tense and that has a lot going for it. The outstanding quality of present tense is its ability to draw a reader in, bringing them closer to the action, making for a more intimate connection with the characters portrayed on the page. Writing in the past tense is a decision I made intuitively rather than as a result of an intellectual process. It just doesn’t feel right for me to write in the present tense, at least in historical fiction.
Well done to Glynn for tackling that first question. I also love the idea of ‘horizontal writing’.
About the Book
It’s the 1060s, and William of Normandy is establishing a new and brutal regime in England, but there are those who would defy him. As Norman soldiers spread like a plague across the land, resistance builds, but will it be enough to topple William and restore the rightful king to his throne? The English have the courage to fight, but the Normans, already victorious at Hastings, now build castles seeking to secure their tenuous foothold in these lands.
And what of the people caught up in these catastrophic events? Dispossessed but not defeated, their lives ripped apart, the English struggle for freedom from tyranny; amongst them, caught up in the turmoil, are a soldier, a thane and two sisters. As events unfold, their destinies become intertwined, bringing drastic changes that alter their lives forever.
Firmly embedded in the history of the Conquest, In the Shadows of Castles is ultimately a story of love, hope and survival in a time of war.
Format: ebook (434 pages) Publisher: Silverwood Books
Publication date: 17th June 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find In the Shadows of Castles on Goodreads
Link provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme
Extract from In the Shadows of Castles by G.K. Holloway
Whitgar’s problem now would be to make it safely through the snow to Durham, some fifty miles away. He would have to move fast. With enemy troops all around and the terrible cold, he was in danger of dying if the Normans apprehended him or he found no shelter. Hunched up against the cold, Whitgar pushed his horse on to Thirsk. There was a Dane there called Thor, a horse trader he had done business with many times. They had always got on well and even enjoyed the occasional half day hunting. Perhaps he would help.
In ordinary conditions it was a two-hour ride to Thirsk, but with so much snow, it would take longer. Whitgar dreaded the journey but pushed on through the bleached and hoary land, always concerned about freezing to death. His fingers and toes were soon numb, and his legs were stiffening up, but he was soon to discover the cold was not his only worry. As he headed towards the Vale of York, he crossed the tacks of a wolf pack heading north. He judged them to be a pack of at least a dozen. The paw prints were fresh.
‘Come on, Liegitu, we’d better make haste,’ Whitgar said to his horse.
Liegitu responded and increased his pace, he too wanted to get off the high ground and out of the bitter wind. Even if it were only a breeze, it still cut deep into man and beast and the shelter of the valley would be most welcome. They had gone less than a mile when a fearsome howl pieced the white silence of the moors. Whitgar had heard too many stories of people and their encounters with wolves to imagine it would be alone. Where there was one there would be others. Whitgar felt a surge of energy rush through his body and kicked his horse on. Not that he needed any encouragement. He, too, had heard the wolf.
It was a relief, when ten minutes later he made his way off the moors and down into the relative shelter of the Vale of York, which offered some protection against the gusting breeze. He would only have to travel another five miles to safety from here. The thought lifted his spirits but not for long when a wolf howled again, this time much closer. Whitgar turned to see he had company, a wolf. It was big, dark but had a grey muzzle, his breath forming clouds in the air. Whitgar wondered if he was the leader introducing his pack to the next meal. His horse must have picked up the scent because he, too, became unsettled and jittery.
Whitgar began exercising his fingers in anticipation of having to use his bow; they were so cold he thought he would be lucky if he could even string it. He had just begun rubbing his fingers together to get them warm when he noticed something moving in the woods to his right, another wolf and then another, fifty yards further on. He reached for his bow and strung it, no easy matter on horseback, especially with a skittish horse tugging on the reins.
Whitgar felt Liegitu’s distress as their predators began to close in and wondered how desperate his situation was. Liegitu, fast as he was, would never manage a five-mile gallop to Thirsk and in any event, he doubted if he could outrun a pack of wolves. He would have to rely on his bow to save him.
I wonder how many wolves there are, and if I have enough arrows? he asked himself. It was then he remembered something Thor had told him a long time before about the animals, which were a common sight around Thirsk. ‘They hardly ever attack humans, but if you suspect they might go for you, don’t run. Hold your ground. Make yourself look bigger than you really are, make a lot of noise and throw things at them. That should scare them away,’
‘What if it doesn’t?’ Whitgar had asked.
‘You’d better hope it’s all over with quickly,’ Thor said, before bursting into laughter.
The wolf Whitgar had first seen moving up behind him now broke into loping run, not fast but closing the distance between them. At the same time, another one, a little way further up the valley appeared and ran to intercept him. Liegitu panicked and became harder to control. Three more wolves joined the pack and closed the gap between them.
Whitgar did his best to keep Liegitu calm and at a walking pace, and he sent and arrow the way of the closest wolf to see if it would scare it off. The distance between them was now twelve to fifteen yards, an easy enough shot if Liegitu remained steady. Whitgar released the reins, took aim, and released the arrow just as Liegitu jumped forward, making him miss the target by several feet and appearing not to unsettle it.
Retaking hold of the reins, Whitgar tried to settle his horse, but Liegitu was on the verge of panic and the wolves closed in all around them. He tried losing off another arrow but had the same result as the first. Liegitu began bucking and neighing, wildly shaking his head, as fear got the better of him.
Whitgar decided on a change of tactic and slipping his bow over his shoulder drew his sword. He tried waving it around and shouting but he seemed to frighten Liegitu more than the wolves. With Thirsk still more than three miles away, Whitgar was wondering how he would complete the journey when Liegitu bolted. The wolves had achieved their aim and they raced after the horse and rider like demons, closing the gap until they were close enough to make leaps towards Liegitu’s throat. In a blind panic he ran straight into Balk Beck, a small river Whitgar had crossed a few times on his visits to Thirsk. The horse ran straight into the middle while the wolves stayed baying on the bank. Sensing safety, Liegitu came to a halt and he and Whitgar faced their pursuers. This was an excellent opportunity, he realised, and so he sheathed his sword, put an arrow in his bow and shot the closest wolf, which let out a sickening yelp and made off limping and howling with the rest of the pack. Whitgar and Liegitu watched them go as Whitgar patted his horse’s side.
‘You’re a clever fellow, Liegitu,’ Whitgar said to his horse as he patted his neck. ‘Fancy thinking of that. I’ll remember that lesson next time I’m chased by wolves. I’ll just go and stand in the middle of a river.’
About the Author
G. K. Holloway did several jobs after leaving school before taking A Levels at his local college and later a degree in History and Politics at Coventry University.
Once he had graduated, he spent the next twenty years working in education in and around Bristol. After reading a biography about Harold Godwinson, he studied the late Anglo-Saxon era in detail and discovered a time of papal plots, court intrigues, family feuds, loyalties, betrayals, assassinations and a few battles. When he had enough material to weave together fact and fiction, he produced his award-winning novel, 1066: What Fates Impose, the first in a series about the Norman Conquest.
G. K. Holloway lives in Bristol with his wife and two children. (Photo: Author website)