Monday, January 10, 2011
So how do you start a novel, people ask me, and it's hard to know where to start, because I've usually forgotten by the time they ask. As I say, I've only written five books, so - as Madonna used to say - I still feel something of a virgin.
But here I am, with the proofs of Shieldwall on one side of the desk, and the beginning notes for the sequel on the other side. So, as I'm here and the moment is still vivid, I thought I'd pull out a ball of wool.
At the moment I'm reading Antonia Fraser's biography of Charles II. Why might you ask? Well, I'm looking for insights into the character and lifestyle of Edward the Confessor - who is a central figure in the story of 1066.
The Normans portrayed him as Edward the Confessor, a saintly figure, who gave his saintly blessing on the Norman take over of England. This of course strengthened their position. BUt no contemporary source says anything about his religiousity. Yes, he finished Westminster Abbey, but then it was practically compulsory for rich magnates to found or endow religious institutions. In fact, the only comments we have about his character mention his love of hunting (like Charles II) and his fiery temper. And these are more interesting than a saintly man with a long white beard.
He and Charles suffered similar fates. Growing into a time of turmoil. Exile whilst still a child, or at least before adulthood. Coming to adulthood across the channel in France, and returning to England as a unifying king in thier thirties. And both ended up heirless.
So I'm reading this book - a very fine tome from my old publishers, Weidenfeld and Nicolson - and making notes on the character of Edward the Confessor.
When you know the character of the major characters, then you can see the conflicts between them. And bingo!