How I write: Day Six

Can’t wait to get started but one or two things need to be straightened out before I summon up a new file.  For one,  I’m not sure I’ve even got my ducks together in one pond, let alone sitting in a row.  For two, who is it for?  I asked my editor that question, wondering who she was pitching it at, and she smiled and said, people like us.  By that I assume she means readers of  genre fiction but this  always confuses me.  Bearing in mind that there are no rules (see yesterday) I suppose it’s not a bad idea to have some vague inkling about the sort of novel you’re writing. What genre is it?  Even lit. fic, is a genre these days.  This must be crime, yes, because there’s always a body, but if the death isn’t caused by illegal means is it crime then, as such?  this is where  sub-genres come in  –  mystery, suspense, thriller, detection, whodunnit and so on.  There’s even police procedural which for my own books set in the reign of Richard II, I’d dismissed until recently until I saw that  it might have some go in it.  Medieval lawmen went about things in as measured, thoughtful and rule-bound way as the police do today.  They wrote it all down.  They just used different names for what they did and the role they fulfilled.

That aside for now, all I know about The Alchemist at Netley Abbey is that there’s a busy little port down there on the Solent receving shipments from across the Narrow Sea, there’s an alchemist doing his stuff, and there’s a body of a monk with possibly other bodies in the pipe-line, maybe literally.  And there’s Hildegard, Hubert and Co conscious of the ever present danger to their beloved young king, Richard II.  Oh, and there’s the great Owain Glyn Dwr of course.

Purists scoff at anybody who breaks their rules but I hate being bound by arbitrary nonsense.  My real interest, anyway, lies in the long and tragic reign of King Richard II himself and for me  his death transcends all others.  We shall never know the truth about how he died and it seems blindingly obvious that Henry of Lancaster, usurper Henry IV, gave the order to get rid of his cousin to Swynford, his half-brother, who was constable of Pontefract Castle where Richard was imprisoned, but beyond those facts nothing is certain. There are offical accounts, chronicles purporting to tell the truth written up by Lancaster’s paid men, and stray documents and comments that need explanation, but  I want to go into that more fully when Hilegard reaches 1399, the year of regicide.  She has another ten years to go yet .  Although  the forces of darkness are never far away you might ask where is the mystery if we already know how it ends?  Well, there’s what you might call collateral damage, beginning with Hangman Blind.  Now, in book eight, first off is a corpse called Ranulph.  But how and why did he get that way? And what has this to do with the king?

Ah, here’s another duck flying onto the pond.  Let’s wait and watch for the others.

Back tomorrow.


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