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Wednesday, 3 January 2018
Author’s Inspiration ~ John Broughton #HistFic #Saxons @broughton_john
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I welcome historical fiction author, John Broughton, onto the blog today. John is going to tell us about his inspirations behind his fabulous book…
Wyrd of the Wolf
In seventh century England, political and religious upheaval mean that nobody is safe. As the old gods are eroded by the new church, and tribes and ambitious men vie for power, property and precedence, blood is shed throughout the land.
In the south, ealdorman Aelfhere believes that for his only child, sixteen-year-old daughter Cynethryth, marriage to a Saxon king is the way to security. And so, somewhat against her own wishes, Cynethryth is betrothed.
Yet as battle rages around her, and with her betrothed away to fight, Cynethryth too becomes a victim of war.
Taken prisoner by the warrior invaders, she is forced into the presence of another Saxon king, who would also have her for his wife. Yet this is a man she actually loves.
In marrying Caedwalla, King of the Suth Seaxe, Cynethryth allies herself against her father and her own people in a deadly, grisly and complex war — and becomes a key element of events that continue to influence England today.
For the events of the seventh century were crucial in determining the religions, cultures and identities of nations. And Caedwalla, as a fearsome warrior but also in time a religious convert, personifies the turbulent mix of bloodshed, brutality, philosophy and faith that came to define the period.
With its acutely accurate descriptions of the people and events of the Anglo-Saxon age, and meticulous attention to detail, Wyrd of the Wolf is both a superb historical depiction and a thrilling story. As Aelfhere watches the old world slip away, battles his enemies and his torturous feelings for his only child, so Caedwalla balances his lust for blood and power with growing spiritual awareness. In Wyrd of the Wolf, the complications and the conflicts of the dark ages are brought to light, as a compelling tale unfolds.
My inspiration for writing historical novels lies in a lifelong love of history. When I was four my granddad gave me two picture books. One was an illustrated history of England and the other about the natural world. The former book must have fallen apart from overuse. At school I survived the boredom of GCE O-level history and by a hair’s breadth opted for A-level history. Thank goodness I did. We had an inspirational teacher, Mr Williams who wrote factual books on Japanese history. As a result I won a prize for the highest A-level history marks in the county and went on to study the subject at Nottingham University. There I also studied Archaeology, where an interest in all things Anglo-Saxon began.
As stated elsewhere, I had no time to write with teaching and translating at the University of Calabria. When I retired, I decided to return to writing and casting around for a subject, my brother-in-law, the best kind of chauvinist, suggested medieval Calabria. I began to read up on it and found there was a Calabrian pope, Zachary. This led me to a collection of eighth-century letters and among them I found one, nothing to do with the region where I live, but addressed to the Abbess of Wimborne. How a single letter can change a life! What got me started was wondering why two freed men were coerced by the Church to go to Thuringia. Who were Begiloc and his friend Man (Meryn in my novel) and why were they ex-slaves? I was hooked and I hope my readers will be with The Purple Thread and I hope they will be as fascinated by the incredible Leoba as I am. That a woman could achieve so much in that day and age stands her out as a medieval wonder! She even became adviser to Charlemagne. The more I researched this period, the more it intrigued me. Here we have Europe in the melting pot of religious upheaval. Within the action, I try to make powerful themes emerge, on which the reader can reflect for contemporary relevance: religion versus barbarianism and the relative merits of two sets of culture; the place of military violence used by professed peaceful Christianity to spread its word; dictatorial Church evangelism versus freedom; and the construction of personal meaning in my hero warrior’s development when he begins to examine arrogant Christian superstitions and measure them against his own values and natural pantheism, comparing it with ruthless, one-eyed Christian monotheism when he contemplates the beauty of Nature, where he feels most at home. The theme of vengeance is also dealt with, but enough of these spoilers!
My latest novel Wyrd of the Wolf was also written because my curiosity was piqued. How can a serial killer become a saint? That’s what happened with Caedwalla who massacred the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight! Once again, the theme of paganism and Christianity is evident, less so, but there is also a story of intense love of a father for his daughter and betrayal by the same who falls in love with her father’s most hated enemy. I was also intrigued by the wound that Caedwalla sustained on the island that refused to heal and laid him low after a series of cyclical illnesses causing his death a week after his baptism in Rome. I think I’ve found the answer but if you want to find out, you have to read the book!
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About the author
I was born in Cleethorpes Lincolnshire in 1948: just one of the post-war baby boom. After attending grammar school and studying to the sound of Bob Dylan I went to Nottingham University and studied Medieval and Modern History (Archaeology subsidiary). The subsidiary course led to one of my greatest academic achievements: tipping the soil content of a wheelbarrow from the summit of a spoil heap on an old lady hobbling past our dig. Well, I have actually done many different jobs while living in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Leamington, Glossop, the Scilly Isles, Puglia and Calabria. They include teaching English and History, managing a Day Care Centre, being a Director of a Trade Institute and teaching university students English. I even tried being a fisherman and a flower picker when I was on St. Agnes, Scilly. I have lived in Calabria since 1992 where I settled into a long-term job, for once, at the University of Calabria teaching English. No doubt my lovely Calabrian wife Maria stopped me being restless. My two kids are grown up now, but I wrote books for them when they were little. Hamish Hamilton and then Thomas Nelson published 6 of these in England in the 1980s. They are now out of print. I’m a granddad now and happily his parents wisely named my grandson Dylan. I decided to take up writing again late in my career. You know when you are teaching and working as a translator you don’t really have time for writing. As soon as I stopped the translation work I resumed writing in 2014. The fruit of that decision is my first two historical novels, The Purple Thread and Wyrd of the Wolf, published by Endeavour Press, London. Both are set in my favourite Anglo-Saxon period and are available on Amazon as eBooks and paperbacks. Currently I’m halfway through my third novel, as yet without a title. It’s set in on the cusp of the eighth century in Mercia and Lindsey. I hope it will be a trilogy.