Please give a warm welcome to historical-paranormal author, Jennifer C. Wilson. Jennifer is going to share with us her inspirations behind…
Tower of London
A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…
In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.
Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.
With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?
My inspiration for writing comes from a wide range of sources. Sometimes (rarely, sadly, but lovely when it happens) an idea leaps fully-formed into my head, for example one of the ideas about the life of Richard III I’m currently working on, but most of the time, I’m attracted by a tiny snippet of historical trivia, or even a name. A few years ago, I visited Sweetheart Abbey, and whilst reading about the history of the place, came across Dervorguilla of Galloway, who founded the abbey in memory of her husband. I loved the name, and have subsequently imagined a whole story around a woman of the same name, nothing to do with the real Dervorguilla’s life story at all.
Likewise, the feel of a place can have a significant effect on me. Some places just have a ‘sense’ to them, whether that’s foreboding, romantic, welcoming, or fear. Even without knowing the history of a site (and sometimes it’s better this way), you can get a feel of what characters made their home there, and what life was like. That for me is enough to spark something off. A dark, almost-hidden corridor is obviously the perfect place for secrets, whether conspiratorial or romantic in nature. Likewise, when perched on a rock in the middle of Glencoe, or standing on Culloden battlefield, my mind is filled with conversations that took place (or should have taken place), and the people who lived and died there. I often imagine being a fly-on-the-wall in such places, imagining what happened behind closed doors, or away from prying eyes.
For my debut published novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, the inspiration came very specifically from a competition for poems about ghosts. I had this idea that if the ghosts of Richard III and Anne Boleyn were to meet, they would have plenty to talk about, and a lot in common. The only place I could logically think their ghosts would both be was the Tower of London, so I worked and worked at the poem.
It was dreadful. I didn’t even enter it.
But the idea seemed half-decent, and worth sticking with. I kept reading and researching, finding out who else might be about, and was lucky enough to visit the Tower twice during 2013, in the run-up to NaNoWriMo. By the time November came around, I had my cast, or the central group at least. Anne Boleyn was still my heroine, but I added Katherine Howard, Jane Grey, Jane Boleyn, Georges Boleyn and Plantagenet and William Hastings. Most were from a fairly narrow historical range, but I thought trying to incorporate everyone who had a reason to haunt the Tower would rapidly get out of hand! Looking over peoples’ life stories, relationships and opinions gave me plenty of scope as to who would have some interesting conversations with who, and whether friendships would form or fail as history progressed.
For those who have never taken part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I cannot recommend it highly enough. True, you can say goodbye to a decent night’s sleep for a month, and being able to live by ‘heating up’ rather than ‘cooking’ is a benefit, but if you ‘win’, then your prize is glorious – 50,000 words (or more, if you’re a real glutton for punishment!). Thanks to long evenings, a few days of annual leave, and the television’s off-switch, I made it. And then stopped. I glanced at it once or twice in the following year, always thinking I should do something with it, but never quite getting around to it.
Then they found Richard.
There’s a limited band of writers who can say that their hero made national (and international) news by being found in a carpark! Finding Richard III’s body in Leicester helped boost my motivation, especially once I’d been to the new Visitor Centre and seen the grave-site. It’s been beautifully presented, in almost a chapel-like setting. It still wasn’t quite enough though.
It was the funeral that did it. I’d entered the ballot for a place just to be a part of the whole experience – he was my favourite monarch, my leading man: how could I not go for a place at the re-burial? The envelope arrived, crisp white and gold-trimmed, in early 2015. My first thought was how nice it was, that the organisers had written to everyone to let them know they were unsuccessful; nope, I had a place at Compline. In truth, I didn’t even know what Compline was, but really, did it matter to me? I was going to part of Richard III’s funeral!
This, then, was the final push that I needed. One month after the service in Leicester, my manuscript was edited, polished and submitted. From there, things just went from good to better, with the novel being published as an e-book by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015, and in paperback in April 2016.
As for my latest inspiration, holding a copy of my own novel in my hands will take a lot to beat!
Links to Purchase
(27th ~ 31st October)
(27th ~ 31st October)
About the author
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.
Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, she won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing as an e-book in October 2015, and paperback in May 2016.