The English West Country with HE Bulstrode- or Someone Like That

As a writer, one of my neurotic drivers is the need to be appreciated for my work, so I confess that the idea of working under a pseudonym has never occurred to me. After all, how can I be slavishly admired if nobody knows who I am?

That said, a number of people I’ve interviewed here write under pen names. Some because of the controversial nature of their work (usually that means hot or transgressive sex), some because they are worried that their professional reputations might suffer if they published as themselves (people with university gigs to keep). Whatever the reason, all of this brings me (in a winding and completely self-absorbed way) to today’s interview with HE Bulstrode. At least that’s what he (and I’m only taking his word that he’s a he) calls himself when writing his tales of superstition, witchcraft and violence in the English West Country. Tales like his novella, The Cleft Owl.

So if hordes of slavish fans actually knowing who you are isn’t your deal, what’s the HE Bulstrode story?

The mysterious H E Bulstrode

My background is in academia, but I now find myself with time to indulge something that has long been denied me: writing creatively without the need to cite interminable references larded with copious footnotes. I have been fascinated by history since an early age, as well as the oddities of folklore and beliefs of times gone by, although the more I see and hear of the world these days, the more disabused I am of the illusion that certain irrational beliefs dwell in the past alone. (and all the choir said, AMEN!) I have written five other novellas and novelettes with an uncanny edge – all set in the English West Country, which is where I grew up – but ‘The Cleft Owl’ is my first piece that could properly be termed historical fiction, if the 1920s is discounted (in England, that’s just yesterday). I am currently working on a full-length novel – ‘Pendrummel: Gwen Gwinnel’s Return’ – which opens in 1670s Cornwall, and will be available in paperback as well as Kindle format.

For the record, the Historical Novel Society says HF is anything more than 30 years ago…. so my high school years qualify as history. Let that sink in. At any rate, what’s your novella about?

Superstition, credulity and deception in a seventeenth-century Devon village. It draws upon a peculiar and little known sequence of events that unfolded in the rural community of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, subsequent to the self-murder of one of their number. The figure of Robert Tooley, the local cunning man, looms large in the tale, for it is he that a family call upon to deal with the fallout arising from their neighbour’s suicide. This, however, proves to generate more problems than it solves.

Cunning man is a real job title? How do you get that gig?  At any rate, what is it about that time period that fascinates you so much?

I stumbled upon the person of Robert Tooley and his associated case whilst re-reading Keith Thomas’s ‘Religion and the Decline of Magic’ as background for my forthcoming novel ‘Pendrummel: Gwen Gwinnel’s Return.’ The sheer oddity of the events outlined – of the singular nature of the charms and rites employed by Tooley – was striking, as was the ease with which a number of the villagers willingly acquiesced with his instructions, at least for a time. This, moreover, all took place in an area of Devon – Dartmoor – which is steeped in dark folklore and legends, with the village having been associated with a visitation of Old Nick himself during the ‘Great Storm’ of October 1638. On this particular Sunday, the parishioners were gathered in the church, which proved to afford them but ill shelter, for a bolt of lightning sent a pinnacle toppling through its roof, and was shortly followed by a sphere of dancing light – ball lightning – which bounced and scorched its path about the interior, leaving four dead and more than sixty injured.

Other than the raw facts of the case itself, and a handful of names, few details remain relating to the historical episode that occurred some years after this traumatic event. These thus provided a kernel of truth around which a tale of the bizarre and the uncanny could be woven, with there being a distinct whiff of brimstone about the character of the village’s self-declared doctor. Coupled with the attraction of real historical personages named the Worshipful Sir William Bastard and the Reverend Tickle, how could I resist putting pen to paper (and finger to keyboard, come to that)? The events sketched by Thomas proved ideal for working up into a novella.

Magic and witchcraft are not uncommon themes in works of fiction, particularly in those set in the 17th century, but they normally focus upon female witches, so the opportunity to write about the misdeeds of a cunning man, rather than a female equivalent, appealed to me. As the novella is set in the 1680s, when a supernatural interpretation of the world was gradually ceding its place to a naturalistic one – at least amongst the educated classes – it also afforded the opportunity to inject a little ambiguity into the attitudes of some of the characters with respect to such matters: can Tooley truly work magic, or is he nothing more than an unscrupulous trickster?

For me, there is no more fascinating period of English history than the 17th century, owing to it having been a time of great social, political and intellectual ferment, and it is something of a puzzle to me, as to why it should be less popular with writers than the Tudor era, or the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Perhaps it has something to do with an aversion to massive periwigs. Whatever the case, I shall be revisiting this century later this year.

And we shall look forward to it. Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

That’s a tough one, especially when considering that this is a novella, and I don’t wish to give too much away, but the closing scene would be the logical one to cite. If, on the other hand, you should be looking for a moment that will make you flinch, you’ll appreciate a particular segment of ‘A prison of bended withies,’ in which Tooley makes preparations for the rite that he is shortly to perform. I’ll say no more than that. I hope that you enjoy it.

Where can people find you, your book, or your “bended withies?” 

The Cleft Owl: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WD2G219/ Also on Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06WD2G219/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/H.E.-Bulstrode/e/B01HT9OJ8I/

Blog: http://www.hebulstrode.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/H.E.Bulstrode/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15451543.H_E_Bulstrode

 

 

 

King Tut Had a Wife? J Lynn Else Tells the Tale

Other than mummies, (and that the toughest job there had to be a court reporter. Can you imagine trying to take notes in hieroglyphs?) what can you tell me about Ancient Egypt? The period is mysterious and odd to us, yet it is fascinating and dramatic. Midwest writer J Lynn Else takes a look at that era–and its most famous resident, King Tutankhamun in two books.

The latest, The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic is out now.

So what’s a nice girl from Minnesota doing writing about Egypt and the wives of Pharaohs? What’s your story?

As all great things should begin, my love of history started with a book.  My

J Lynn Else getting up close to her research.

uncle, who is an expert in maritime history, gifted me the book ““The Discovery of the Titanic: Exploring the Greatest of All Lost Ships” (which I still own).  The Titanic was all over the news at that time (late 1980s), and I began to take an interest in the time period.  Eventually, my love of history went further and further back in time.  Conversely, I was also a budding Star Trek: TNG nerd, so I wrote a lot of stories in which I could explore space, meet aliens, be a part of epic adventures.  It was so much more fun than being a tween with acne and braces.  I continued to write through high school and college (I even completed a script for X-File).  I’ve always been a huge lover of books.  Currently, I actively review for the Historical Novel Society and NetGalley.  I’m working on a third book now, which involves the legend of Avalon.  Besides reading and writing (and reading some more), I also keep busy with my husband, 2 kids (an 8th and a 5th grader), and 1 guinea pig.

This is your second book about that time period. What’s it about?

It is a time of change for ancient Egypt.  Pharaoh Akhenaten (who in modern times is probably best remembered as King Tut’s father) has declared that there is only one god to be worshipped throughout Egypt. He has also made a promise to his oldest daughter, Merytaten, that one day she will be his heir and the future pharaoh.  However, as pressures build up against this new religion, it falls upon Akhenaten’s wife, Nefertiti, and Merytaten to help their citizens and prevent insurrection.

In my novel, THE FORGOTTEN: HEIR OF THE HERETIC, Merytaten’s voice is used to vividly recount her dynamic life during some of ancient Egypt’s most turbulent years.  My book will appeal to fans of Michelle Moran, Jo Graham, and Pauline Gedge who also bring to the forefront women from antiquity who defied the constraints placed upon them for a greater good.  This is the second novel I have written.  Besides this, I have self-published THE FORGOTTEN: ATEN’S LAST QUEEN (ISBN-13: 9781483505343), which was awarded an Indie Editor’s Choice in 2016 by the Historical Novel Society

Why Egypt? What’s the fascination for you?

I really like reading about historical women who carved out new trails and touched their dreams despite the naysayers; those are stories I like to read and want to offer to my daughter when she gets older.  Ancient history has always been particularly fascinating to me, especially ancient Egypt. They are a society lasted for over 3000 years.  They never developed technology like phones or cars or computers, yet they thrived.  Modern society hasn’t even scratched that type of longevity.

After going to an exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum entitled “King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” I discovered that while much is known about King Tut, very little is left to us about his wife.  I wanted to know more about her.  The pictures left to us show that Tut and Ankhesenamun loved and supported each other.  There is very little art in ancient Egypt that shows this type of relationship publicly.  So my interest was piqued to research this woman who seemed “forgotten” by time (get it, my title? Ha, ha!).  Thus came book 1, THE FORGOTTEN: ATEN’S LAST QUEEN.  My latest book, THE FORGOTTEN: HEIR OF THE HERETIC is about Ankhesenamun’s oldest sister, Merytaten, who was definitely in the thick of things as Akhenaten established a whole new religion in a country founded in polytheism.

Without giving everything away, what’s your favorite scene?

First off, I think it’s well known that King Tut dies early in life.  No spoiler there.  As his funeral procession assembles itself for the walk to the tomb, Ankhesenamun is about to see Tutankhamun’s golden sarcophagus for the first time.  She’s feeling guilty about many things in their lives.  She’s scared and confused and is nervous as the sarcophagus is brought out from the royal barge.  But then she looks down at his gold-clad face.  Peace overcomes her.  She refocuses herself and realizes none of the mistakes of the past matter at that moment.  She promises to be there for her late husband in the last few moments she has to walk beside him.  It’s a moment when Ankhesenamun forgives herself and hopes that Tutankhamun will find peace of his own in the heavenly paradise.  There are things she has to let go of, but she can still be there for him as his soul takes its final journey.  It’s definitely a turning point for her character development.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

2 Upcoming History Talks and Book Signings

Now that Acre’s Bastard is out in the world, we have two events coming up. Please join us for some fun, conversation and a chance to get your hands on a signed copy of my latest novel.

Saturday, February 11, at 1 PM at the Museums at Lisle Station Park, I’ll be part of the Chicago Authors Series. Join us as we talk about “Putting the STORY in History- How writers turn history into great historical fiction.” I’ll also be selling and signing both my books, The Count of the Sahara and Acre’s Bastard.

Sunday, February 26th 12-4 PM at Barnes and Noble in Downtown Naperville, IL I’ll be talking writing and reading historical fiction, then signing copies of Acre’s Bastard. B and N is anxious to support local writers, so if you’re a fan of historical fiction, or are thinking about writing it yourself, come on down. Bring your questions and book recommendations for the others. There’ll be lots of Q and A, as well as a chance to help convince Barnes and Noble that supporting local authors is good business.

Irish American History and the Civil War

A lot has been written about the Irish in the US. Even more’s been written about the American Civil War (or Civil War 1.0 as we call it around here.) Writer Ellen Alden has a documented family history that includes both topics, and it drives her work, especially her novel, “Yours Faithfully, Florence Burke.”

So what’s the Ellen Alden story?

My name is Ellen Alden and four years ago I was living a “normal” life. I was teaching fourth grade, playing on a tennis team and raising my three children, two dogs and a hedgehog. Then one fateful day my daughter asked if I had a photo of myself when I was a little girl and it prompted me to sift through old cardboard boxes that my parents had left in my attic years ago. It is then that I made the fortunate discovery of 19 Civil War letters from my great great grandfather, Irish Immigrant, Florence Burke. He was writing to his wife and children back home in West Springfield, MA.

After reading these letters I became inspired  to tell their extraordinary story and to stop everything and research, travel and discover my geneaology. I worked tirelessly to trace their past and to bring their story to life. I discovered that to be a writer, all I really needed is passion and creativity. I am now working on two new novels.

An understandable, if a tad robust, reaction. So what’s the book about?

My book is about my the life of my first generation Irish immigrant ancestors. It is based on the original 19 Civil War letters I found in my attic. It begins with my great, great grandfather signing a legal contract to join the Civil War as a “substitute” for a wealthy man who was drafted in exchange for a small parcel of land for his family.  Florence Burke is 35 years old, happily married and a father of three. It then replays back to his past in Ireland during the Potato Famine, and gives the horrific account of the suffering from both the perspectives of Florence and his love interest Ellen.

At 19 Florence decided to flee Ireland, chasing both his true love and his chance at a better life. But, his family believes he is a traitor. Once in America Florence and Ellen reunite and settle on a farm (as tenant farmers) in West Springfield, Ma. They are very poor and can’t seem to get ahead—and the town councilmen are less than sympathetic to the new Irish Immigrants. In 1864 Florence makes the decision to join the war (without the knowledge or consent of his wife). He knows it is a great gamble, but he feels it could be the last chance to attain land and raise his family out of poverty.

From this point on the perspective of the story is only told by Ellen who is at home with the children. Ellen struggles to prep the new farm, to keep her children warm and safe through the cruel winter and to support her embattled husband, all while secretly holding a grudge that he made this deal without her knowledge. The reader hears from Florence only through his letters—and I used my great, great grandfather’s words 85-90% verbatim. Yours Faithfully, Florence Burke is a book about the sacrifices that the first generation Irish immigrants made in order to survive in America. It is also about the extraordinary love that a father has for his family. I hope you like it!

Obviously there’s the genetic connection, but why is this period so fascinating to you?

I believe the Potato Famine is an understudied time in history. The Irish don’t like talking about it, the English choose to deny it, and most other nations over look it. As For the Civil War, it is monumental. To have our nation so torn apart that we fight our own countrymen and enlist immigrants form other countries to fight for one side (even though they have no great loyalty to either side) exemplifies the desperation and makes this an extraordinary time period in history.

I was lucky enough to find the letters, a window into the past, a first hand account of the battles from an Irish immigrant placed on the front lines. His letters describe unbelievable battles, his feeling of guilt at having made the deal without telling his family, and his longing to come home and reunite with his beloved family. I didn’t choose these time periods; they were already chosen. I just brought them to life.

Writers and pre-destination is probably an argument for another time and a different beverage. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene is set on the farm in March,1864. Florence has gone to war and Ellen’s sister Mary arrives to help her with the children. One evening the oldest son Jerry notices a stranger lurking around the barn, potentially trying to steal the hay or farm animals. He runs to warn his family in the farmhouse and it is the old Aunt Mary who saves the day with her archery skills (which no-one knew she possessed). It’s a great moment in the story when the two women realize they are fighting their own battle on the home front—and they are winning.

Where can people learn more and get the book?

My website and blog www.ellenalden.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ellenaldenauthor/

Twitter @ellen_alden

You can get the book on Amazon  or Barnes and Noble

Or you can find it on Goodreads:

The Murder of Becket Spawns a Series- EM Powell

I came across today’s author when I was searching for an agent. I found a very good story teller named EM Powell, and really enjoyed her first book. (As for the agent, I’m still looking, and yes that’s an obvious cry for help.) Her novel, The Fifth Knight, began life as a serial but then became one of three novels. This is her story, about her story…. you know what I mean.

E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers THE FIFTH KNIGHT and THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT have been #1 Amazon bestsellers and a Bild bestseller in Germany. Book #3 in the series, THE LORD OF IRELAND, was released in 2016. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is also a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society. Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com.

What’s “The Fifth Knight” and the series about?

THE FIFTH KNIGHT is the first of my Fifth Knight series of medieval thrillers. It’s my take on the infamous brutal murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket on the altar of Canterbury Cathedral on December 29 1170. The history with which many people is familiar is that long-standing disputes between Becket and his king and one-time friend, Henry II, had reached a critical point. Henry is said to have exploded in one of his typical rages, ending with the words: “He has…shamed my realm; the grief goes to my heart, and no-one has avenged me!” Unfortunately, a group of knights who were listening took him at his word. They set off for Canterbury to avenge their king with fatal results. In my book, I add a fictional fifth knight, Sir Benedict Palmer, to the group. And the reason they go to Canterbury is not to avenge Henry, but because they know that Becket has hidden a young nun in the walls of Canterbury Cathedral. They need to find her and the secret she holds.

Tell me about writing the book as a serial story first, then turning it into a novel. How did that impact how you put it all together?

My fictional story must have appealed to some people as it has sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide. Yet it had an unusual route to publication. My publishers are Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint. THE FIFTH KNIGHT was first released in the US only as a Kindle Serial back in 2012. It was published in six episodes, with each episode being delivered to readers’ Kindles every two weeks. So I had to break the story up, making sure that each episode ended on a cliff-hanger and making sure that each one balanced out. Then would come the wait to see if readers liked the new instalment. As I say, it was unusual, to say the least!

Fortunately for me, readers loved it and it was released as a complete novel in 2013. I also followed it up with the next two Palmer books in the series. In THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT, Palmer is called back to find out who’s trying to kill Henry’s mistress, the Fair Rosamund. In the third, THE LORD OF IRELAND,  Palmer is sent by Henry to a warring Ireland with John, Henry’s youngest son and future Bad King John. No spoilers, but John being John, all does not go well. Neither of these two books were released as Kindle Serials. The Kindle Serial program has been discontinued but all the books that were released through it are still available as complete works.

What is it about that time period that intrigues you? I mean, I share your fascination but we’re not exactly  the majority…

I think that the medieval period is one of the most interesting, exciting and downright bizarre historical periods of all. It isn’t the most popular for readers of historical fiction, but I think people are missing out. What other period gives you banquets that serve peacocks, breath-taking illuminated manuscripts, gatherings with the Devil, leech collectors and chainmail?

Right? I mean frickin’ leech collectors!  But I digress. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

It’s no spoiler to say Becket’s murder. ‘Favorite’ isn’t maybe the right word but it was certainly the most challenging to write. We have eye-witness accounts from the time and it was truly horrible. Becket was utterly defenseless against the armed knights. Even though I had to write it in the context of a fictional story, I had to stay true to what we know to make it credible. I actually caught myself at one point wanting to rewrite it so he got away! But this book is speculative historical fiction, rather than true alternate history, so I had to do it. I can only hope that I gave Becket the proper respect to his memory and the terrible end he suffered.

How can people learn more about you and your exciting series?

Amazon Author Page: http://author.to/EMPowell-Author

Website: www.empowell.com

Blog: http://www.empowell.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/empowellauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/empowellauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583496.E_M_Powell

Acre’s Bastard is officially published….

And so it begins…

It’s January 17, 2016 so my newest historical fiction novel, Acre’s Bastard, is now available worldwide in paperback and ebook, wherever you buy such things.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Chapters

I’m very grateful for the help I’ve received in advance of the launch from Naperville Writers Group, my trusted beta readers, and those who have read advance copies and actually liked the darned thing.

This book isn’t an easy sell, so any help I can get is appreciated. If you’d like to help, I can think of a couple of things:

    • Tell your friends. Tweetfacelinkblog to your heart’s content.
    • Leave a review, even a luke-warm one, on your favorite book site. The number of reviews counts almost as much as the rating in this crazy online world run by our robot overlords. Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook pages… you know the drill
    • Give me feedback. This is the first of at least 2 “Lucca Le Pou” stories to come. I had a boss once who told me, “we always reserve the right to get smarter.”
    • Come on out to an event. So far, I’ve got two events scheduled. The official book launch is February 11th, 1 PM at the Museums at Lisle Station. I will also be doing a presentation in early march at Barnes and Noble in Naperville, exact date TBD. Come on out, bring some friends and have some fun.

I am very excited about the launch of this story, and hope it receives the same warm reception that Count of the Sahara got. Oh, and sells a few copies.

Thank you all. Here goes…..

Anglo Saxon Adventure with Annie Whitehead

When we think of the English, most of us-especially we colonials-have an image in mind. But the history of Britain goes back a long way, and it’s far from a straight road with an unbroken line of homogeneous residents (Brexit not withstanding.) Today’s author specializes in telling stories of the Angles and Saxons…. I introduce Annie Whitehead.

Annie came into my orbit when we took part in a round-table blog discussion with members of the Historical Novel Society. You can read it here. As you’ll see, she’s a total smartass, which mean we had to “meet,” at least virtually.

Okay, Lady. What’s your story?

I’m an historian (and a bit of a pedant – note that I didn’t say ‘a’ historian!) and a writer, mainly of Anglo-Saxon stories. I’m a nomad who genuinely can’t say where I’m ‘from’. I have two birth certificates, which I believe is quite rare. I’m vibrant, witty and smiley – when I’m tucked away behind the safety of my keyboard. In real life there’s less elegance and sophistication, which is perhaps no bad thing as I live in the English Lake District where I walk, a lot, and where it rains, a lot. History, writing and music are my passions, and I’m lucky to be able to indulge all three – the last of which involves my regularly making a fool of myself as I teach small children the art of music, singing, and what I like to call ‘leaping about’ – and yes, ‘leaping about’ is a technical term…

What are your books about?

Can I be greedy and tell you about both my books? (Editor’s note. I suspect it would be a fool’s mission to try and stop her, but carry on) I’ll be super-brief (unlike my books which are good and chunky):

To Be A Queen is the story of Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, daughter of Alfred the Great. She came to be ruler of a country in all but name, fighting for that country against the Vikings, and, ultimately, her own brother.

Alvar the Kingmaker is the right-hand-man of King Edgar at a time when politics and intrigue at court make life difficult, and dangerous. His job brings power and wealth, but also heartbreak and sacrifice, especially when the king dies and the country is plunged into civil war. Then there’s the small matter of the queen, who loves him, and is accused of murder…

The Anglo-Saxon period is rather “niche-y”. Why that era?

I assume I’m amongst friends – i.e. history lovers. I won’t use the words nerd or geek, although I do apply both terms to myself – so I suppose I can dispense with explaining my love of history. But this particular period? It was brought alive for me by a very learned tutor of mine, with whom I’m still friends. Everyone has that one teacher, yes? The one who inspires? Well, Ann Williams was that teacher for me; she gave me the bug, and I’ve never shaken it off.

Specifically though, in the case of Alvar, it was a footnote in one of Ann’s published papers about Alvar (real name Aelfhere) concerning a widow who was deprived of her lands after his death. It’s the only mention of her, and no-one knows if she was his wife, his lover… and why did they leave no children? I was intrigued, so I set out to answer my own questions. With To Be A Queen it was simple: no-one had told the story of this remarkable woman, yes, woman, who had led an army and ruled a country. I had to put that right!

Any favorite (or favourite, since you’re so pedantic and British-y and all) scenes you can share?

Hmm, no spoilers huh? That rules out a couple of my favourite scenes… Okay, in that case: In ’Queen’ I had a lot of fun researching the flammable properties of flour (yes, really!) and enjoyed writing the scene in the mill when my characters also learn about those properties…

In ‘Alvar’, most of my favourites are spoilers; you know, those pivotal moments when lives are ended or changed, hearts are broken or mended, but there is one: it’s where Alvar finally gives vent to the rage that has been boiling for years. He fires off a load of expletives (I was keen to keep them pure Old English so no, not that four-letter word). I had a lot of fun, and he felt a whole lot better!

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

Besides my website, I have two blogs, Casting Light Upon the Shadow  and Time Traveler

My Amazon Author page is here

You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Windy City Reviews likes Acre’s Bastard

It’s hard for an indie book to get reviews aside from the folks who take the time to write on Amazon or Goodreads (and a thousand blessings on your homes and camels.) So when someone you don’t know, share DNA with, or owe money to likes your book, it’s a cause to celebrate.

Windy City Reviews has done a pre-publication review of Acre’s Bastard, and it’s a good one! You can read the whole thing here.

Any review that starts with

The subtitle to Wayne Turmel’s Acre’s Bastard is “Part 1 of the Lucca le Pou stories,” and I am already looking forward to further stories from this author about his engaging main character.

and ends with

… even these supporting characters have none of the cardboard cut-out feel of many adventures. They have the feel of people we might have chanced to meet if we were transported to those hectic times.

Now, I could pick nits… the biggest thing is this is NOT a YA novel that adults can read, it’s an adult novel teen readers can sink their teeth into. Still who am I to complain when people are telling strangers to buy your book?

Richard Adams and Why I Don’t Believe in “YA”

Richard Adams

Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, died this week. Although talking bunnies in the English countryside are a long way from the Crusades, he and I have (had?) at least one philosophy in common–“there are no such things as children’s books.”

I know it’s tacky and self-serving turning the loss of a writer into a discussion about my new book, Acre’s Bastard, but there’s a point to be made, so indulge me.

Watership Down, because it involves talking rabbits, is sometimes (very mistakenly) thought of as a children’s book. Adams’ point was that a book is a book. If you can read, then the book is for you. Now, to make this about me again, that’s one reason I intentionally avoided making the tale of Lucca and his adventures, “YA.” Yes, the hero is a young boy. Yes it’s an adventure story that anyone over the age of 14 or 15 can enjoy. That doesn’t mean it’s meant for a younger audience or that adults can’t enjoy it guilt-free.

In fact, one reason my former publishers at The Book Folks (blessings be upon them) turned this book down, is the fear that adults won’t read about a young boy, and younger readers will be appalled or offended by the violence and terror Lucca goes through. I don’t believe that. So far, my readers and reviewers haven’t either.

The fact is, a good story is a good story. Jim Hawkins, Luke Skywalker and Kim were young boys thrust into violent situations and thrilling adventures. Treasure Island and the lot were written for a general audience, before marketing people segregated the audience and school libraries were the final arbiters of what was appropriate reading material.

The recent violence in Aleppo only goes to show that children are often caught in wartime, and combatants don’t care what’s “appropriate for children.” That’s what Acre’s Bastard is about. Yes, it might not be for all young readers (although I’d have read it at 15.) That’s why I rejected the original title of “Acre’s Brat,” lest it entice those not ready to tackle the subject matter. You have to play fair with the audience, after all.

Richard Adam’s allegorical rabbits weren’t intended solely for a young audience, although it didn’t talk down to, or exclude them either. I hope the same is true of my book. I hope teen readers will thrill to Lucca’s adventures and identify with his spirit, and older audiences won’t be put off by the idea that it’s about a child so must be for younger audiences.

Acre’s Bastard is available for pre-order now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Chapters online. The Ebook will be available January 17, and the paperback February 8.