Inheritance Books: John Jackson

Today’s guest on the Inheritance Books sofa is a regular at the RNA parties – the historical novelist John Jackson. 

Hi John. Welcome to Inheritance Books. I’ll go put the kettle on, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself.

JOHN JACKSONI am a retired ship’s Captain, now living in York. I’ve loved historic fiction since I first read Treasure Island, and the romantic side of histfic since I discovered Georgette Heyer.

The history thing got combined with a love of genealogy and a REALLY good mix of ancestors, from the boring and humdrum to the scarily bad! Writing a historical novel, with a strong thread of romance running through it sort of fell into my lap.

After I met some members of the Romantic Novelist Association their siren calls started, and soon the pressure to “give it a go” and try and write something myself became too strong to resist!

Which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?

Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books – Dad spent some years in India as a child; my grandfather was in the Indian Army. I still love the stories, and reread them most years.

Kipling was a writer of his time. Mum and Dad also gave me The Wind in the Willows, and Winnie the Pooh. All still magical favourites!

Dad put me on to Georgette Heyer, and there are three of her books which I have reread many, many times.

Frederica, the complete Regency romance and the longest book she wrote. (I have a first edition)

An Infamous Army, her story of Waterloo. Wonderfully accurate; it was, for many years, in the library at Sandhurst as a textbook!

The Spanish Bride. A fantastic tale of Wellington’s Peninsular campaign, and the story of Harry and Juana Smith (Later the Lady Smith who had the town in South Africa named after her) Also a novel with a stunning, and true, love story running through it.

My Great-great-grandfather had a career very similar to Harry Smith, only without meeting the love of his life on the battlefield. He too joined Wellington’s army as an Ensign, and finished up as a Lt. Colonel at Waterloo. (He will be in book 3 or 4)
I can see you’re having trouble choosing one book. I’ll let you off.
Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why? 

20171022_183512

Swallows and Amazons. We’ve loved them, our children love them, and he was a cousin of mine (Arthur Ransome) Wonderfully evocative for a time gone by. When we lived in the Falkland Islands our girls and their friends had some of the same freedoms that the children of the books enjoyed.

Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials series. A truly wonderful imagination, and brilliantly told.

Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden continue to turn out wonderful historical novels. I’ve included Azincourt and The Lords of the Bow as representative examples of their work.

Thank you for sharing your favourite books (all of them!) with us, John. All the best with Heart of Stone. Hope is soars up the charts.

thumbnail_Cover - 1John’s Book Heart of Stone is available to buy now. You can find out more about John on his website or chat to him on Twitter (@jjackson42) or Facebook.

Inheritance Books: Carolyn Hughes

Children Reading by Valerie Everett

This week’s guest on the Inheritance Books sofa is history buff Carolyn Hughes. Welcome to Inheritance Books Carolyn, make yourself comfortable. While I put the kettle on, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself.

carolyn-publicityI’ve come to writing, or rather publishing, quite late in life. I’ve written creatively on and off all my adult life but, for many years, work and family were somehow always the main focus of my life, and it wasn’t until our children flew the nest that I realised writing could now take centre stage.

Even then, although I wrote some short stories, and one and a half contemporary women’s novels, my writing was rather ad hoc, and my tentative attempts to approach agents met only with rejection. Thinking that a Masters degree in Creative Writing might give me more focus, I enrolled at Portsmouth University. It worked! I wrote the historical novel that is now published as Fortune’s Wheel.

Why an historical novel? Well, when I had to choose what to write as the creative piece for the MA, I mostly just wanted a change from the contemporary women’s fiction I had been writing. But the choice I made was somewhat serendipitous… In my twenties, I’d written about 10,000 words of a novel set in fourteenth century England. By chance, I rediscovered the fading, handwritten, draft languishing in a box of old scribblings. Although, to be frank, the novel’s plot (and the writing!) was pretty dire, I was drawn to its period and setting. The discovery gave me one of those light bulb moments and, a few days later, I was drafting an outline for the novel that is now Fortune’s Wheel.

It was true that I’d long been intrigued by the mediaeval period, for its relative remoteness in time and understanding, and, I think, for the very dichotomy between the present-day perception of the Middle Ages as “nasty, brutish and short” and the wonders of the period’s art, architecture and literature. I wanted to know more about the period, and, through writing an historical novel, I’d have the opportunity both to discover the mediaeval past and to interpret it, to bring both learning and imagination to my writing.

Having written Fortune’s Wheel, I’d enjoyed being back at university so much that I decided to read for a PhD at the University of Southampton, and the result was another historical novel, as yet unpublished, The Nature of Things. By then, the historical fiction bug had well and truly bitten me. I soon realised that I had more stories to tell about the world I’d created for Fortune’s Wheel – a fictional manor, called Meonbridge, situated in Hampshire’s Meon Valley – and I started to plan a series of sequels. So, when Fortune’s Wheel was published last November, it was as the first of “The Meonbridge Chronicles”. I hope that the second will be published later in 2017.

 

Which book have you inherited from the generation above?

What an interesting question. I assume the thought behind it is to tease out possible img_1357_1influences on my writing life? (That is, indeed, the intention! – RB) However, in trying to find an answer, I realised that I couldn’t recall either of my parents (or their siblings) ever reading, or encouraging me to read, fiction! We certainly had books in the house, but, apart from the usual run of children’s books (Enid Blyton, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Hans Andersen…), they were mostly reference (although, as a child, I would pore over them avidly for hours). But there was no Plaidy or Seton to inspire a love of historical fiction!

So what special book might I say my forebears passed down to me? I’ll choose one that perhaps inspired my love of history: This Land of Kings 1066-1399. A children’s book, published in the 50s, with bright illustrations, it was a school prize – I was nine – attained for “Progress”! As it covers the Middle Ages, perhaps, long ago as it was, it sowed the seed that grew into Fortune’s Wheel?

 

Which book might you like to leave to the next generation?

img_1358I will take “next generation” to be my children, one boy, one girl – both very much adults now. I think I will leave them a “history book” too, one that has more recently inspired my plunge into writing historical fiction. I have a facsimile of The Luttrell Psalter, a wonderful fourteenth century religious tome that is full of illustrations of medieval life. I love it, and I’d like to think my children would love it too, knowing how much it has meant to me these past few years…

 

 

 

Thank you for sharing your favourite books with us, Carolyn. All the best with Fortune’s Wheel.

9781781325827-300dpi-cmykCarolyn’s book Fortune’s Wheel is available to buy now. You can find out more about Carolyn on her website, Facebook (CarolynHughesAuthor) or Twitter (@writingcalliope)

 

 

 

Would you like to share your own Inheritance Books? Email me or mention it in the comments.

 

 

Inheritance Books: David Ebsworth

This week’s Inheritance Books are from David Ebsworth. Hi David, welcome to Inheritance Books. Would you like piece of simnel cake? The marzipan balls…er… rolled off… but there’s still the cake.

So, tell us a bit about yourself.

Ebsworth1 1Hello Rhoda and thanks for inviting me along. I was born in Liverpool in 1949. My father hadn’t long been de-mobbed after 25 years in the Royal Navy and my mother had suffered badly in the blitz – she lost her home and every single possession three times in little more than a single year. So the war had left scars on them both and they seemed to agree on very little. Except that their kids (three of us) should all have the best education they could manage.

My dad was self-educated and he’d developed a passion for pocket-sized versions of Charles Dickens, P.G. Wodehouse and many others during his time at sea – which meant that we had more bookcases than a modest terrace should reasonably be expected to hold.

So I grew up in Liverpool during the ’Sixties, studied Spanish, French and English, and became a huge fan of historical fiction – greatly influenced back then by Rosemary Sutcliff, C.S. Forester and Georgette Heyer.

I’d begun to play with typewriters when I was very young, hammering out stories for my own amusement, then flirting with poetry as a teenager. I thought often about writing more seriously but life always intervened. I spent ten years as a textile factory worker, joined the Transport & General Workers’ Union, and finally ended up working full-time for the union from 1980 until 2008.

In 1980 I also moved to Wrexham, in North wales, and have been there ever since – with my wife, Ann, and some of our four kids and nine grand-children. In fact, we’ve just been blessed with our first great-grandchild, Archie.

Meanwhile, retirement gave me the chance to re-visit the writing ambition so that, over the past few years, I’ve been able to publish four historical novels – The Jacobites’ Apprentice  (2012); The Assassin’s Mark (2013); The Kraals of Ulundi (2014); and, in January this year, The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour.

Which book have  you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?

FiftyGreatDisastersWell, to be honest, there’s a whole batch of them. I already mentioned that my father picked up books whenever he was able, during his time in the Navy. But I think the one which most influenced me – and which I still possess – is called Fifty Great Disasters And Tragedies That Shocked The World. It’s still in remarkably good condition, despite its age. I must have pored over the pages a thousand times, from long before I could properly understand the text, gazing at pen and ink illustrations of the Death of Gordon, the Black Hole of Calcutta and the Loss of the R101.

And, once I could read it properly, I began to develop a keen sense of the way that one person’s military glory is another’s meaningless sacrifice (Charge of the Light Brigade); that the most civilised of states can sometimes be guilty of astonishing acts of brutality (the Dreyfus Affair); that the “facts” of history rest purely in the eye of the beholder and usually look entirely different from the other side (Boxer Rebellion and Opium Wars); and that history’s greatest disasters are usually simple yet cruel twists of fate that defy any logic (the Paisley Cinema Fire).

I’ve never actually written about any of the stories in the book, but I could have done. Because in later life I started looking for novels about these familiar tales. And I very often discovered that many of them have been entirely neglected by historical fiction writers. It made me want to start “filling some of the gaps” – to write stories that I wished somebody else had already written for me but which, in practice, didn’t yet exist. That’s the path upon which I was set, all those years ago, by Fifty Great Disasters And Tragedies That Shook The World.

Which book would you leave to your grandchildren or Archie? Why?

SwordatSunsetFor a legacy of morality, it would be Great Expectations. For imagination, Frank Herbert’s Dune. For scale, quality and grandeur (despite the views of the Nobel Prize Committee), Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. But for the simple joy of reading, I’d leave Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset. I must have read it a dozen times over the past fifty years and it never ceases to reveal something new about Sutcliff’s writing. She evokes Dark Ages Britain in a way that’s never really been bettered, in my view. Archaeological evidence may now have moved us to a whole new assessment of the period, but her poetic descriptions of those lonely and haunted landscapes, her imaginings of the people and their way of life, are all superb. Most days when I write, I think about Sword at Sunset and try in vain to reach the benchmark it sets. But, above all, my battered old copy is cherished and loved. I hope that some of that emotion has rubbed off onto the pages each time I’ve turned them and that, one day, another teenager of the family will open the book and sense my presence there beside them.

Hmm… that’s a lot of books. I think that might be cheating! Tell you what, we’ll say you chose Sword at Sunset and leave it at that. Lovely book it is too!

Thank you for sharing you Inheritance Books with us, David. All the best with your books. Let’s hope you get round to writing about those neglected events in history soon. 

Marianne-cover 1David’s book The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour is available now. You can find out more about David by visiting his website or Facebook page, or by chatting to him on Twitter (@ebsworthdavid).