Susanna M. Newstead News Taking Stock

Taking Stock

A part of my life has now gone forever. With the funeral of my mother today a new chapter, (see what I did there?) has come to an end and another has begun.

It’s time to take stock. Not of mum’s life but of mine.

I began writing seriously when I was in my twenties and mum was in her forties. She always encouraged me and did so to the very end of her long life. It’s a long time to have a mother, 68 years, (she was 92) and I probably won’t have another forty years in which to write. I very much doubt I’ll reach the grand old age of 92.

I thought it might be nice to recap. To take stock, to set out what I feel I’ve achieved. And I thought I’d do it by chronologically listing my novels to date.

It all began with Belvoir’s Promise. The book which I thought would probably be my only novel. I wanted to write about the reign of John, (a rather neglected time in English history. Scroll through books and you’ll find very few novels set in this fascinating era.) And I wanted to set down something which puzzled and interested me, nay beguiled me. The nature of a Holy oath.

I have written before about how I came to be so fascinated with this. How I read about Harold (One in the Eye) Godwinson’s oath to William of Normandy (The Bastard) before 1066 and wondered what it would be like if one made an oath – a promise to God – a promise which bound your very soul and which could not be rescinded without a great deal of fuss (and money) and went back on it… or wanted to. Woe betide the man who went back on a Holy oath for you would burn in Hell forever. Belvoir’s Promise was born.

Then, not wanting to stop, I took my hero and set him down in the middle of a murder mystery and in book 2, She Moved Through the Fair, I presented him with the classic locked door scenario. The clever man worked it out…of course he did…and not content with just a few murders, I began to kill people right left and centre in book 3, Down By the Salley Gardens.

By then I was living in a different world. I’ve never really been happy in the 20/21st century and am happy to retreat into the 13th whenever I can. That world then threw up book 4, (and my favourite) I Will Give my Love an Apple. I loved writing about the winter of 1204/5 – the worst and longest winter we have ever experienced in this country. I do love writing wintry scenes. I did it again later in book 13..

Now well into my stride, I took the title (all titles as you know, bar no.1 are of Old British folk songs) Black is the Colour of my True Love’s Hair, no.5 and twisted the strands to contain references to my special subject- dementia.

Suddenly seeing the possibility of writing a novel with a ‘supernatural theme’, set in Avebury (a creepy place at night I can attest), I then wrote Long Lankyn, probably my saddest book, no.6. In this book I managed to insert the first real folklore references which have now become such a part of my series.

With book 7, One Misty Moisty Morning, I used my new found knowledge and research about Mediaeval Marlborough and set several murders in the town. I didn’t know at that point that the most reviled word in the English Language is MOIST…ah well!

Back to the supernatural, I had a dalliance with ghosts in book 8, The Unquiet Grave. Was a ghost really haunting Savernake? I’ll let you read it and make up your own mind.

The Lark in the Morning drew on my interest in Roman archeology. It was great in book 9 to delve into another era and it was also my first foray into fighting. Having spent a long time talking to re-enecators and those who made weapons, I was now prepared for a fully fledged fight in book 10 – A Parcel of Rogues. You must decide for yourselves if I got it even a little right.

In Bushes and Briars, book 11 – my most complicated plot so far, I drew on the knowledge of my husband Stephen, who is a Master gardener. Drawing all the threads together was a challenge and making it sad enough too, was something which was not easy.

In book 12, Though I Live Not Where I Love, I chose to introduce a character we’d met before and ‘groom’ him for greater things. You’ll have to wait for a later book to find out who and why. Whilst one was waiting in the wings so to speak, one departed and I know that his death saddened a lot of you.

Now we come to the latest book…13 – and a departure for me. All my book titles up to this one have been in modern English. I thought it was time to fully bring in the 13th century and Wynter Wakeneth (Winter Awakes), another snowy landscaped story was born. I’m very fond of this one too and I am quite proud (am I allowed to say that?) of my nasty villain in this book. They are truly horrible.

And so we come to 14. More Early Middle English. It will be called Worldes Blis. (Worldy happiness). Pronounced wurldiz bliss. I’m unsure when it’ll come out but I like to keep you all guessing.

Those which I have written but which are as yet unpublished are 15 to 21.

15, Alysoun, 16, Mayden in the Mor, 17, Haste to the Wedding ( and I’ll give you just a little taster…Lydia almost loses her life in this one). Book 18, The Parting Glass – Oh how horrible are the villains here. Book 19, Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, a dip into the way in which rape and subsequent pregnancy was viewed in the 13th century. Book 20 – My Gallant hero translated from the Irish, Mo Ghille Mear where we see my hero setting his toe (and his lance) into the world of the tournament.

Finally, written and not yet quite done, is Dinogad’s Smock, the oldest song in the British Isles – an ancient Welsh Lullaby and a book, no 21, all about relics, a fascinating Mediaeval subject still relevant today.

There we have it.

How many more books there are in me in this series, I don’t know. You all know that I have two other series running and it might be that I concentrate on those for a while. Who knows?

I’ll keep writing until I can write no more – as they say in the Hebrides, ‘if she spares me.’

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