17 August 2014

HNS Indie Award 2014 - Finalist, David Ebsworth

This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced for the first time, an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.

Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing 
was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog

So please welcome
David Ebsworth and his novel
The Jacobites' Apprentice

I can’t recall now whether I found them on the streets of Manchester or whether they found me. But the truth is that I came across the germ of The Jacobites’ Apprentice one day in 2008 when I had time to kill between meetings in that UK city.

18th Century Coffee House
I was wandering the district that’s bounded by the Irwell, the Hanging Bridge, the Cathedral, Hunt’s Bank, Market Street, and St Ann’s Square – the heart of the 17th Century town that was then still dwarfed by its neighbour, Salford – and each of the blue plaques I came across drew me steadily into the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Lancashire supporters. Many of these were disenfranchised Catholic merchants, or unemployed fustian workers, or Catholic gentry resenting the loss of their power since the Hanoverian Germans – George I and, now, in 1745, George II – had ruled Britain. But, in the early part of that year, they had high hopes that things might change. Prince Charles Edward, heir to the Stuart dynasty had promised to lead an invasion to restore their lost Crown. A Jacobite, of course, was ‘a follower of Jacobus’ – this being the Latin version of James, and James the Second being the last Stuart King, deposed in 1688. So Charles Edward vowed to put his father on the throne (supporters already referred to his father as James the Third) and to chase German George back to Hanover.

Manchester Jacobites
There was only one problem. Most people in England were either now settled under Hanoverian rule or, simply, had no stomach for yet another civil war. And, in Scotland, where the Stuarts’ support was supposed to be strongest, less than half the Highland clans would come out for the Jacobites while, in the Lowlands, that support was even weaker.

Many northern English towns also had Jacobite supporters but none quite so strong as in Manchester. There the town was split right down the middle with the two factions vying for power. And, when Charles Edward eventually landed in Scotland, raised his standard and finally marched south towards London, it was Manchester that drew him like a magnet. He even managed to raise a specific regiment of 300 men there.

So, as I came across those blue plaques that marked the location of those events, there too were the fictional characters who eventually filled the pages of The Jacobites’ Apprentice. The rebel Tory merchant and part-time tea smuggler, Titus Redmond. His licentious wife, Maria-Louise. Their wayward daughter, Rosina. And the Redmonds’ eponymous and naïve apprentice, Aran Owen. Then the Hanoverian Whig loyalists: James Bradley the vengeful builder; coffee-house proprietor, tax collector and tribade, Elizabeth Cooper; Sir Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby and somewhat inept High Sheriff of Lancashire; and murderous Government spy, Dudley Striker. And these all surrounded by many of the real-life figures who took part in this strange story.

I wrote it during 2010-11 and self-published, through SilverWood Books, in March 2012. The book had been rejected by various traditional publishers and agents by then, and I don’t blame them. It’s a big blockbuster of a story, with over 300,000 words, even after careful editing. And this is something of a drawback, since it requires a huge leap of faith for readers to take a chance on buying such a huge first-time novel.

In addition, it deals with some difficult themes and even the political thrust of the plot upset lots of people. We’re supposed (apparently) to write Jacobite stories with some romantic notion of a dashing but ill-fated Bonnie Prince Charlie and his colourful kilted Highlanders. But the truth was somewhat different, of course, with neither group of leaders caring very much about the impact of further civil unrest upon the ordinary folk of Britain – who, of course, were left to pay the ultimate price following the disasters at Carlisle and  Culloden. And, yes, there are echoes of today’s nationalism in the story. There are roughly the same number of Scots beguiled and misled by Alex Salmond today as were steered into disaster by that other ‘Bonnie Prince’ in 1745.

And then there’s the big problem! I tried writing the story in several different styles – the first version in the First Person, from Aran Owen’s viewpoint; the second in a more traditional Third Person past tense. But neither of them worked. It was only when I tried the present tense that the tale really came to life. So I stuck with that, and adopted an almost ‘contemporary’ Jane Austen-esque voice for the telling. Personally, I like it – though I understand that this won’t be to everybody’s taste. As it happens, if I was ever going to produce a second edition, that’s the one thing I wouldn’t change. This view was reinforced when, at the end of last year, I began to ‘adapt’ Jacobites for a potential television series in ten episodes – two of which are already fully scripted and the rest in draft format. No takers yet, but it was a useful exercise that made me realize how visual and, therefore, “present tense” it is. There are some moments in the plot that I really enjoy, like the machinations which develop during a Manchester performance of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera - though these really come to life in the adaptation. Like Deadwood meets Amadeus.

But, back in 2012, I had a huge amount of positive support for the original project too, and hence my decision to self-publish, almost against my own judgement, to be honest. Yet, as the finished product was taking shape – including the excellent cover design put together by the inimitable Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics – I began to understand that this was a story that at least deserved to be read. And it was one of the proudest and most emotional moments of my life when The Jacobites’ Apprentice was favourably reviewed by the Historical Novel Society, who deemed it “worthy of a place on every historical fiction bookshelf.”

David's website

Read the HNS review 

David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for Britain’s Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool (UK) in 1949, growing up there in the ‘Sixties, but has lived for the past thirty-four years in Wrexham (North Wales) with his wife, Ann.
Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. They have also been keen travellers to other parts of the world, including various other countries of Europe, China, Nicaragua, Colombia, the United States, Canada and KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009, and maintains a strict daily writing and marketing routine - though he still manages to find time for a regular morning swim, as well as for sailing.
Apart from that, he still does some voluntary work for the TUC (Britain’s union confederation), representing them in the organisations... Migrant Workers North West, Justice for Colombia and the Manufacturing Institute.
Dave is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the International Brigades Memorial Trust, the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

HNS Indie Award 2014

HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross

1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

full details and rules can be found here

Elizabeth Chadwick: website
Indie B.R.A.G. website

HNS Conference 2014

Details of how to submit an Indie / self-published historical novel for review can be found here 

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