Writing Eugenica was something of an interruption to completing the Sorrow Song Trilogy in that it was both unplanned and unexpected. I think that at the time I finished For Rapture of Ravens, the second in the series, I needed a break from all things 1066. Eugenica gave me that break. Now, however, it is time to complete what I started.
I have just spent a day or two getting reacquainted with the world of the Sorrow Song. I keep a considerable amount of reference material in the form of notes, style-sheets, website addresses, and back stories, so immersing myself back into 1066 did not prove that difficult .I am somewhat relieved that I have that kind of discipline now, the thought of having to do all that research again is enough to put me off the idea of going back to this pivotal period in English history, well, almost.
The fact is that Coenred and Mildryth, my two main protagonists, still remain in my
imagination. They never faded and I have always been conscious of the fact that their story remains, essentially, untold. I have about 23,000 words written of the third novel, The Blade’s Fell Blow. This is a good start. I have to admit that a lot of this came from editing For Rapture of Ravens, it is just that I got ahead of myself, or rather I had to stand back and apply the literary knife to give that book a natural ending.
Things have moved on now, Coenred and Mildryth are, I think, firmly established in the sorrow Song world. Their love for one another remains ill-advised in terms of the timing, they survived two horrendous battles and the third and final encounter is only days away. Of course the Battle of Hastings is one of the most famous military conflicts in British history and everyone thinks that they know the story already. That presumption is one of the things that attracted me to writing this story because actually the truth is very different from what most people do presume.
The Norman’s victory at Hastings was nowhere near as inevitable as they wrote it into the history books. King Harold had won a tremendous victory over the Vikings at Stamford Bridge, is so doing proving his ability as a military commander and strategist. He was a very dangerous foe. Duke William actually had no idea where Harold was when he landed at Pevensey Bay and moved to quickly to Hastings. He was himself in a very precarious position. His plans had been stalled by bad weather and his invasion occurred much later than he had hoped. He appeared to have two plans, first, to provoke the Saxons into a premature battle by committing outrages against the local people, and second to fortify Hastings and sit out the winter hoping that his navy could survive the Saxon fleet resupply the army.
Eugenica is an alternate history novel and that genre allows for the manipulation of the historic timeline to achieve a particular outcome, like the Germans winning World War Two for example. The Sorrow Song Trilogy is historical fiction, however, and I feel a need to remain true to the facts as far as they are known, which means that I cannot change the ending of the conflict. William will win and Harold will die, but that is perhaps why it is Coenred and Mildryth who are at the centre of the story, with them I can do so much more.
It is through the fictional characters that I believe the story can be told at a more human level. Harold and William are somewhat fixed in the tale, woven into the tapestry of historical events, but Coenred and his fellow huscarls are figments of my imagination. I cannot change history with them but I can portray how the people who were not kings or dukes might have reacted in such circumstances. For me as a writer this is what makes spinning such tales enjoyable. I can take the history and apply a little imagination to breathe life into it, well hopefully. There is always a danger of turning out a Frankenstein’s monster I suppose. Both The War Wolf and For Rapture of Ravens were well received, however, so I seem to have the recipe right. The Blade’s Fell Blow should continue very much in the same vein as I have not made any changes as to how I am going to write the story. The plot is already established, which characters are involved in particular major incidents decided, who lives and who dies, even how the whole series ends. There is still a long way to go, 23,000 words is roughly about one quarter of the way towards the end but this is a project that I want to finish for all the right reasons. I feel an obligation to complete what I started, not a moral one but an artistic obligation. I created this world of the Sorrow Song and I cannot leave it unfinished. I have learnt so much during the process, not just about writing, which has been wonderful, but about so many other things including my own attitudes towards issues like the accuracy, integrity, and the finer attributes of people as shown by an inspection of some of the worst sides of the human condition.
Time to write!