It all started with Robert E. Howard. No, that’s not quite right, I think it actually started with a thin little book - title long since forgotten - that I read in school, one that basically was a rather short synopsis of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. I wish I could remember what it was called, but it fired me up with an interest in Anglo-Saxon history that has never really waned, and over time I’ve done bits and pieces of reading on the subject. It was only when I seriously considered becoming a writer that I thought of taking it further.
Which brings me back to Howard. One of my favorite Howard characters is Cormac Mac Art, a rogue of the Dark Ages who lives around the time of Uther Pendragon, though he fights with and alongside Viking raiders; historically a little problematic, but I’ve always enjoyed Tigers of the Sea. This pushed me still further into doing something with this period, and I’ve been wanting to delve into historical fiction for quite a while, and I have a window coming up early next year in which I can write a trilogy, so…
The final step came while I was reading ‘Offa and the Mercian Wars’, one of the better Pen and Sword books; it pointed me towards a time a century earlier than Offa, when King Penda was overwhelmed against impossible odds at the Battle of Winwaed, and there was a three-year struggle against the Northumbrians to free the lands of Mercia from vassalage. The primary source material on the period basically boils down to a couple of sides of A4, but that isn’t a problem - I just have to fill in the blanks, and the bits and pieces we have got make for a very exciting story.
The 7th century is a pretty interesting period, and until very recently not well explored in fiction, though a few bits and pieces are starting to come out of late. This is a time before the Vikings, and after the Saxons have conquered most of Britain, only a few Celt and Pict kingdoms surviving on the fringes of things, the lands in a perpetual state of conflict as warbands roam the lands, still travelling on the fading Roman roads, the ruins of a now-lost civilization crumbling around them as they struggle to build a new one. Lots of opportunities for action and adventure here!
A Song of Ice and Fire is probably one of my primary inspirations here, actually; this strikes me very much as that sort of story. There’s an awful lot going on in this period - two royal families fighting for the overlordship of Britain, the conflict between the Catholic and Celtic branches of Christianity, while the Pagan gods still continue to be worshipped in the land. (Penda was known as the last Pagan English King…) The Anglo-Saxons continuing to conquer the land, cementing their hold while the Britons in Wales and the Celts in Scotland try and hold on. It’s a clash of cultures, and those are always interesting to write about, and there are some rather nice twists in this one already in what passes for the historical record. You can expect quite a few posts on this subject in the near future.
The plan at the moment is to write the next three Alamo-verse books first, before starting work on this series; Spitfire Station: Ghost Ship is next on the list for launch, and I’ll be getting cracking on that early next week. After that, Battlecruiser Alamo: The First Duty, then Battlecruiser Alamo: Book Ten, the name of which I am still desperately trying to work out. That should mean releases in November, December and January, with any luck, with the next Alamo roughly scheduled for the end of March in my current plan. While I work on Alamo for three months, I’ll be digging into the books to prepare for the Mercian Series - right now, in my head, it is three books, but there is a chance that could expand out a little later on, and I’m certainly not ruling out the potential for spin-offs, as well.