The Importance of Religion in Historical Fiction

My Tuesday Talk Guest  Nicole Evelina


After the Historical Novel Society Conference in Oxford, England, Helen was kind enough to ask me to be a guest on her blog, so I thought it would only be fair to talk about something related to the conference.

My favorite panel was Beyond the Temporal, in which four authors (Essie Fox, Karen Maitland, Antoinette May, and Mary Sharratt) shared their experiences of incorporating religion and spirituality into their historical fiction, as well as highlights from their period research. I liked this lecture because I’ve always been fascinated by religion and it played such an important part in nearly every aspect of people’s lives until recent history.

For those unable to attend, here are a few of my favorite tidbits:

Middle Ages
  • The demons and fantastic animals portrayed in the architecture of medieval churches and buildings were very real to the average person.
  • At one point the Church declare it heresy to not believe in vampires and werewolves.
  • Witchcraft and sorcery were not illegal, though you could be charged with heresy if you practiced without Church permission.
  • As late as the 15th century, pagan Celtic and Norse beliefs/practices were still mixed in with Catholic ones.
  • It was believed that corpses could climb out of their graves, so criminals were buried at a crossroads, their bodies spun around and placed face down so they couldn’t find their way back to their village.
Renaissance
  • Because the Reformation did away with superstition and created a “pure” religion based on the Gospels, many people felt unprotected and turned to folk magic.
  • This also led to a conflation of Catholicism with pagan practices, and some Catholics were unfairly accused of witchcraft.
  • Witch finders were very real. Some believed family members could be the Devil in disguise. Others believed there were vast groups of witches trying to undermine male authority and government.
Victorian Period
  • This time period was torn between new inventions of science and old beliefs of their ancestors.
  • There was a firm belief in ghosts.
  • The cult of mourning and death came partially out of the fact that there was a high mortality rate and death was all around.
  • Mail order companies existed to fill all your mourning needs from clothing to memorial jewelry.
  • Seemingly miraculous (and invisible) advances like x-rays, electricity and the telegraph enhanced the idea that one could see or communicate with the spirit world.

In my own books, you’ll find ample reference to the religion(s) of the time and place. The pagan/Druidic religion of the Celts plays a strong part in my Guinevere’s tale stories (Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen – a BRAG Medallion winner – are currently available. Mistress of Legend should be out in 2017) which are set in late 5th and early 6th century Britain. One of the things I wanted to explore in this series was the tension between the old religion of Britain (which I’ve chosen to define as the Druid faith) and the ascending power of Christianity. We really don’t know for certain when Christianity came to Britain or when it became dominant. Some scholars say it was already the main religion of the people by the time my book opens in 491 AD, especially given that Constantine legalized it in the early 300s. However, as the Celtic Church’s later squabbles with Rome show, change took a long time to travel from Rome to Britain, and when it did, it was often slow to be adopted. Therefore, it’s my personal belief that the period of my novel was still a time of transition when the old ways were dying out and slowly being replaced by Christianity.

Establishing Guinevere as an Avalonian priestess and showing the old beliefs during her time on Avalon gives the reader a baseline to contrast with the predominance of Christianity that she experiences once she leaves Avalon, and later on into later books. I spend quite a bit of time in Daughter of Destiny on Guinevere’s time in Avalon because I wanted to show an approximation of what Druidic training may have been like. Due to the nature of a novel and the rest of the story I had to tell in the first book, I had to speed up the historical 20-year process to four years, but I have my students study subjects that Druids likely did. In addition, in keeping with Celtic belief, my magic is more subtle than in a lot of fantasy. I show rituals based on neo-paganism because we don’t have sources from that time period to draw from.

Moving ahead 1,300 years in time…You wouldn’t think that a book about the first female presidential candidate of the United States would have a religious aspect, but Madame Presidentess does. Victoria Woodhull, whom the book is about, was a Spiritualist and a practicing medium who believed she had clairvoyant and healing powers. Victoria’s mother encouraged her and her sister Tennie in this belief and her father used these gifts to make money even off of them when the girls were very young. Victoria maintained her whole life that she was guided by the spirits, especially that of the Greek orator Demosthenes, whom she identified as her spirit guide. She claims he predicted her success in New York as well as her candidacy. Victoria said she consulted the spirits regularly, supposedly even for stock tips (though there’s a secular explanation for that as well). She was even president of the National Spiritualist’s Association.

Regardless of the time or place, religion was interwoven with daily life of people for most of the last 3,000 years or so. From the ancient Egyptians to the strict Christian/Catholic upbringing of many people into the 1950s/1960s, religion directed gender roles, life choices and social morals, so I feel it is an important way to give historical fiction novels authenticity, as well as explore cultural aspects that impact the characters.


Twitter @nicoleevelina


Daughter of Destiny
Reviews; Grand Prize, Chatelaine Awards, Women's Fiction/Romance; Gold Medal Winner, Fantasy, Next Generation Indie Book Awards; Gold Medal Winner, Fantasy, Readers Choice Awards; Winner Colorado Independent Publisher's Association (CIPA) EVVY Awards, Fairytale/Folklore
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Camelot's Queen
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Madame Presidentess
a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America's first female Presidential candidate (Chaucer Award Winner, First Place US History Category, Historical Fiction) 
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DID YOU MISS LAST WEEK'S
SUPPORTING ROLE  CHARACTER?
NEVER MIND! CATCH UP HERE

... And the Final Best Supporting Character is: Claude de la Rue

Join a selection of fabulous authors and their
Supporting Role Characters
Twitter #SupportingRole


We all know the protagonist is the hero (or anti-hero!) of a novel. He or she usually has a companion main character, often the ‘love interest’ or maybe the stalwart side-kick, but what about that next rank down: the supporting role guy or gal? You know, the one who doesn’t get Best Actor, but Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I thought it time that some of these supporting cast characters had a chance to step from the shadows of novels and have a turn in the limelight. 

So, a rousing round of applause please for…Claude de la Rue
a Supporting Role Character from the Sea Witch Voyages
by Helen Hollick

Rue
Canstockphoto3695931 ©jgroup
Helen: Hello, may I come aboard? You appear in my Sea Witch Voyages don’t you? Would you like to introduce yourself?
Bonjour Madame. Oui, I am with that charmer of a rascal, Jesamiah Acorne. We ‘ave shared many an adventure together. I am from Brittany, my Mama and Papa grew apples in their orchards for cider, the best in all France, but they were taken by the plague, along with my four brothers and three sisters. I only survived because I was with my uncle ‘elping on 'is fishing boat. It was the saddest day of my life when I returned ‘ome to discover them all dead. I went back to my uncle and sailed with ‘im for a while, but then I ‘opped aboard a merchant ship ‘eadin for Africa. We ran into some privateers, and I figured I would earn more money by sailin’ with them, so I joined their crew. The Captain was William Kidd. He was ‘opeless at buccaneering. Claimed, when ‘e was arrested and ‘anged at Wapping in London that ‘e ‘ad not been a pirate. [Laughs] Don’t you believe it – ‘e was as much a pirate as the rest of ‘em who ‘hung around the Red Sea ‘oping to make a fortune from the ‘eavily treasure-laden Moghul ships. 

Helen: what role do you play in the novel/s? I’m Jesamiah’s Quartermaster – in pirate terms, that’s First Mate. ‘E would never admit it, of course, but I keep 'im in check quite often, an eye on ‘im sort of. ‘E’s like a son to me. And like all young sons 'e occasionally does the stupid things.

Helen: No spoilers. But are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!) [Rue Laughs] Well ma’am there be very few ‘good’ pirates – many of ‘em were nasty pieces o’work. Murderers, torturers, rapists - the list is long. Kill you as soon as look at vous. Not Jesamiah or the crew on our ship. We ‘ad a sense of ‘onour – for all that we stole what we wanted when we wanted it. Oui, I 'ave killed men, but most of them were trying as 'ard to kill me first. I 'ave never, ever, laid a finger on a woman, nor will I.

Helen: So you support the lead character? Who is he or she and tell us a little bit about him or her? Jesamiah Acorne is quick to laugh, formidable when angry - and I 'ave seen both, ‘E ‘as a misfortune to get ‘imself into trouble – usually when I’m not around. ‘E is like me, ‘e values ‘is freedom and loves the life at sea where the only rules are those of the wind, the weather and the tide. ‘E also adores ‘is special Lady, Miss Tiola. Ah… if only I were a few years younger I would 'ave fought ‘im for ‘er! [laughs again] except ‘e is the better man when it comes to ‘andlin’ a cutlass and I would 'ave lost, especially since 'e would die for 'er if 'e 'ad to. You do not cross Captain Acorne, unless you ‘ave the wish to die. 'E took a flogging for 'er once, stood in 'er place rather than see 'er 'urt. [growls] 'Tis a barbaric law to publicly flog a young woman for bedding with a man who is not her 'usband. The man, 'e is not punished and as far as I am aware it takes two to commit adultery. The 'usband, 'e can bed 'is mistress as much as 'e pleases but the wife? Pah! She must remain silent. Bah! The law stinks! Do you not think it odd, too, that it is only the young nubile ladies who are stripped in public and punished with the men shouting and leering and rubbing at themselves? You do not see the old ones with the sagging teats tied to the whipping post! And as for the men who love men... to be 'anged for loving someone? [he spits over the side of the ship] merde...

Helen: Now be honest – what do you really think of this lead character, of Jesamiah? [Rue laughs again] ‘Onest as in ‘onest pirate? Well ‘e tends to think with the bit of ‘im that should stay buttoned in ‘is breeches. ‘E is easily distracted by a pretty face and a ripe pair of apple-dumplings [he mimes a buxom pair of bosoms). Got us into a lot of trouble ‘e ‘as by thinking down below, not up top. [He taps the side of his head.] 'E can be an idiot at times, but 'e values 'is friends. Looks after us. 'E is a good Captain. A good man, for all 'e can be a dolt over the ladies.

Helen: Do you like being the ‘supporting role’ or do you wish you could have a lead part in a book of your own? Non, I am ‘appy where I am. Jesamiah is a good seaman, a good sailor. Did you know that not long ago 'sailor' referred only to the Topmen? These were the men who climbed the rigging to tend the sails. On some of the larger vessels there could be anything up to an acre of canvas, and believe me it takes guts to climb up those masts in bad weather. The men on deck were seamen or foremast jacks - or Tars because anyone aboard a ship can be recognised by the tar grimed into 'is 'ands.
Jesamiah, ‘e ‘andles our ship, Sea Witch as if she is a delicate flower, knows just how to take 'er into the wind, ‘ow to get the fastest speed out of ‘er. ‘E ‘as a nose for the wind and the tide – an’ where there be treasure for the taking. I’d follow ‘im into ‘ell if I ‘ad to. Come t’think of it – I ‘ave done so on more than one occasion!

Helen: What is one of your least favourite scenes? I cannot say, Ma’am as it is in the Fifth Voyage, On The Account and it is, ‘ow you say? A ‘spoiler’? A sad scene for me. Very sad.
[Thinks] Ah! There is another though; I was not too ‘appy in our second voyage, Pirate Code, when I thought Jesamiah was dead. The silly mule ‘ad deliberately blown up a Spanish ship, and ‘ad planned to take ‘imself with it. ‘E can be such a clodpoll at times! Fortunately I see ‘im in the water an’ fish ‘im out again. If I ‘ad not been there though…. [shakes his head ruefully – excuse the pun!]

Helen: and your most favourite? [Rue laughs heartily] Oh for certain when I played the trick on Jesamiah when ‘e was more than three sheets to the wind drunk! We were ashore on Madagascar, kicking our 'eals. Jesamiah, 'e were in a bad way, 'eartbroken 'e couldn't face the world.

(Excerpt from Sea Witch)
Waking several hours into the fore noon to a thundering headache, Jesamiah staggered to his feet. He tottered to the door, peered out, squinting at the brightness of the morning sun. He dipped a wooden cup into the bucket beside the door, the water warm and brackish, but sufficient to slake his thirst. Not bothering to go into the bushes, directed his urine against the outside wall.
“You would ‘ave threatened us with a flogging if we ‘ad been so lazy as to do that aboard ship,” Rue observed wryly from where he stood some yards away.
“Well we ain’t aboard,” Jesamiah grunted adjusting his breeches. Wished the fellow would not shout so loud.
Rue stepped forward offering a pewter tankard. “Drink this.”
Hesitant, Jesamiah took and it wrinkled his nose at the foul looking liquid. “What is it?”
“Old French recipe. Brandy, ground garlic with ‘alf a pint of ale. Deux œufs – fresh-laid is that cackle fruit – a pinch of gunpowder and melted pork lard.”
Jesamiah sniffed again at the concoction, gagged at the stench. He poked a finger into it and picked out a piece of floating eggshell. “I don’t care for raw eggs.”
“Just drink it.”
Doubtful, Jesamiah raised it to his mouth. Changing his mind, offered it back. “Later perhaps.”
Folding his arms, Rue ignored the tankard. “Isiah and me we are getting the Sea Witch ready to sail. You ‘ad ‘er refitted when first we came 'ere, she ‘as cannon and swivel guns, all of it wasted with ‘er sitting there in the ‘arbour. Isiah ‘as beached ‘er this morning and is already scraping ‘er keel. We ’ave got a crew volunteered as well. Très bien, good men.”
He encouraged the tankard upwards. Jesamiah was staring at him, his expression blank. Sea Witch? To set sail?
Ecoute, mon gars,” Rue said finally losing patience. “Look, my friend, you ‘ave a choice. You lead us like the brilliant capitaine you are or we leave you ‘ere in this cursed-forgotten emptiness, with as many bottles of rum as you please. You can drink yourself into oblivion, with only this wind for company.”
Jesamiah looked from Rue to the tankard. He hated the wind. Hesitant, he raised the tankard to his lips. “It smells foul.”
“‘The fouler the medicine, the quicker the cure', or so ma mère used to say.”
“What was she? The village poisoner?”
“One gulp. Straight down,” Rue advised.
Taking a deep breath Jesamiah drank, much of it trickling down his chin into his scruffy, untrimmed beard. Rue held a finger against the bottom forcing him to finish it.
Swearing as he pulled away, Jesamiah wiped his hand over his mouth, grimacing, gave Rue the empty tankard then swallowed hard. One hand went to his belly the other to his mouth. “You sodding…” He doubled over sinking to his hands and knees, retching and vomiting up the contents of his stomach. When nothing more was heaving from him, rolled on to his back, eyes closed, his hands covering his face. Managed to croak, “That was bloody disgusting.”
“Cured your ‘eadache though, non?”
Opening one eye Jesamiah glowered. “And how d’you figure that mate? It’s still thumping away as if three ‘undred crew of buccaneers are bouncing about in there, hankering after a Chase.”
Rue offered his hand to pull him to his feet. Jesamiah accepted and stood, unsteady, the world wheeling past.
“You will be so busy puking your guts up this next ‘alf ‘our, you will forget about your sore ‘ead.” Rue guffawed heartily at Jesamiah’s murderous expression.

Helen: Thank you, monsieur, that was really interesting! 


LINKS
Website: www.helenhollick.net
Blog: www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HelenHollick
Facebook Sea Witch Page: https://www.facebook.com/HelenHollick.SeaWitchVoyages/
Twitter: @HelenHollick
My Author Page on an Amazon near you and where you can buy the books to read more of Rue (and Jesamiah)  : http://viewAuthor.at/HelenHollick 

Helen: Now, I have been told that I can invite six fictional characters (not my own!) to Christmas Dinner – who will they be? 



Lady Dona St Columb from Frenchman’s Creek. I found her fascinating, so stressed at the start of her story, but a different woman after she had spent a while at Navron in Cornwall… and met the French pirate.

Marcus Flavius Aquila from Eagle of the Ninth, he was one of my first heroes, and I’d like to hear the bits of the story where he found the Lost Eagle that Ms Sutcliff left out because it is a book for young adults not us grown-ups.

Jill Crewe from Ruby Ferguson’s ‘Jill’ series of pony stories, the first one being Jill’s Gymkhana. I was given the book as a tenth birthday present (‘Oh’ I thought, ‘how boring, a book.’ ) Then I discovered what the book was – and haven’t stopped reading, or writing, since. I think I’d like to meet Jill, although back then she was only twelve. I reckon she is as old as me now.

I was wondering about Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist, but if he turned out to be nothing like Oliver Reed I’d be disappointed, so instead I’ll invite Will Stanton from The Dark Is Rising Series. I loved those books, I remember reading The Grey King all night… Will was an enigmatic character. A real boy … yet one of the ‘Old Ones’. Fascinating to talk to over Christmas dinner.

Titty from Swallows and Amazons and Lucy from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think they would have great fun chatting together and I would so like to know what Titty did with her life after childhood.

Finally, the Highwayman from the poem A Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. I’d like to warn him not to leave Bess the Landlord's daughter… but it will be difficult setting a place name for him at the table because the poem does not give him a name.

As a treat, here is Loreena McKennitt singing his story…



I hope you have all enjoyed this Hop through Supporting Role Characters, met some nice fictional men and women - and their authors - and discovered a book or two to read?

Farewell and Adieu and Merry Christmas to One and All!


did you make the acquaintance of yesterday's guest or miss anyone who called by? 
Here's the full list of authors and their characters :

6th     Inge H Borg and Vergil 
7th    Matthew Harffy and Coenred
8th     Alison Morton and Lurio
9th     Regina Jeffers and Viscount Stafford 
10th   Anna Belfrage and Luke Graham
13th   Antoine Vanner and Fred Kung 
15th   Derek Birks and Hal
17th   Helen Hollick and Claude de la Rue

LISTEN AGAIN! I was on Bristol's SilverSound Radio on 2nd December talking about Pirates with author Lucienne Boyce

Click Here http://bcfmradio.com/silversound  for the link then go to 2nd December and 10 a.m. Move the bar to about the 07.40 minutes point for the show to start, though I'm on from about 09.20 minutes

... And the Best Supporting Role is: Matilda Tyler

Join a selection of fabulous authors and their
Supporting Role Characters
Twitter #SupportingRole

We all know the protagonist is the hero (or anti-hero!) of a novel. He or she usually has a companion main character, often the ‘love interest’ or maybe the stalwart side-kick, but what about that next rank down: the supporting role guy or gal? You know, the one who doesn’t get Best Actor, but Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I thought it time that some of these supporting cast characters had a chance to step from the shadows of novels and have a turn in the limelight.

So, a rousing round of applause please for…Matilda Tyler.
a Supporting Role Character from Fortune's Wheel
by Carolyn Hughes



Helen: Hello, I believe you appear in Carolyn Hughes’s novel Fortune’s Wheel? Would you like to introduce yourself?
Matilda: Yes, Mistress Hollick, I do. My name is Matilda. I am eighteen, and the younger daughter of Robert Tyler, an important man here in Meonbridge, for he is Sir Richard’s bailiff. I loved my Pa when I was little, but in truth I hate him now. He has changed so much from how he used to be. Maybe it is just because we lost my Ma and little brothers in the mortality? It hit him very hard, but he left me and my sister Marjory to grieve alone, which was cruel. But crueller still was when, soon afterwards, he insisted that I marry Gilbert Fletcher.

Helen: What role do you play in the novel/s?
Matilda: As I say, I am the bailiff’s daughter and so, like many daughters of powerful men, I am just a pawn in my father’s game of social and financial advancement. I am beautiful and spirited, but he is strong-willed and determined - indeed, a hard man. So, spirited or not, I have no choice but to do as I am bid, to be used to seal an alliance between my father and an odious man who cares nothing for me and will probably not be kind. I pleaded with my father to find me another husband, but he refused. It had to be Gilbert Fletcher. I hate them both… 

Helen: No spoilers. But are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
Matilda: I am not a very sinful person, but neither am I very good. I suppose I do flout the laws of sumptuary by wearing the sort of fashionable clothes meant only for the gentry. [giggles.] And it irks my father greatly that my only interests are my clothes and how I look. My older sister Marjory is very plain, and pays no attention to her appearance. She spends all her time managing Father’s household, and I doubt she will ever find a husband. Of course, I had rather hoped that my stylishness and beauty might attract a gentle, handsome and high born suitor, but Father decided differently. Can you blame me if I hate him for it?

Helen: So you support the lead character? Who is he or she and tell us a little bit about him or her?
Matilda: There are three lead characters. Mistress Alice atte Wode is a villein and quite prosperous, the widow of the reeve, who died in the mortality. She acts as a sort of village mother, and is rather interfering, but I think she is kind enough. Eleanor Titherige was my best friend when we were girls but, for some reason, recently my father has tried to keep me from my friends, so I do not see her often. Elly’s a freewoman, and she lost all her family in the mortality, so now has to manage all her property by herself. And then there’s Lady Margaret de Bohun, Sir Richard’s wife. She seems a bit haughty but, since Father has been taking me and Marjory up to the manor for dinner, she has been quite kind to me. I think that she can see how very miserable I am.

Helen: Now be honest – what do you really think of this lead character!
Matilda: Well, of course I love Elly, because she refused to accept my father’s ban. She insisted on us remaining friends, and occasionally finds a way for us to meet. She is the only person in whom I can truly confide my misery and pain.      

Helen: Do you like being the ‘supporting role’ or do you wish you could have a lead part in a book of your own?
Matilda: To be honest, I do think I deserve a bigger part. I do love Elly, truly, but she really is no beauty, whereas I… Anyway, I am sure that Mistress Hughes is going to make me the leading character, or one of them anyway, in a later Meonbridge chronicle. That will be when you find out more about me and what I am really like! 

Helen: What is one of your least favourite scenes?
Matilda: Mmm, let me think - there are so many I could choose from! But when I married Gilbert was truly horrible. For, as we stood in the church porch, before the priest, Gilbert held me fast by my elbow, and my father stood close behind me, so I could not escape even if I had had a mind to. Which I did… When Master Hugo asked me to announce my dowry to Gilbert, I kept quiet, but Father said it for me despite the priest’s attempt to stop him. Then, when we had to say our marriage vows, at first I did not speak, hoping that, if I did not say them, then I could not be married. But, in the end, I had no choice. Then Gilbert shoved his ring onto my finger, and I had to take his vile bony hand in mine and put my ring onto his finger. It was so disagreeable, even the memory of it still makes me feel ill. [Tears well] I did not want to marry Gilbert, but what choice did I have?

Helen: and your most favourite?
Matilda: In truth, Mistress Hollick, I cannot tell you without spoiling Mistress Hughes’s story. But I will tell you that one of the men in my life plays a very central part.


Helen: Thank you – that was really interesting – I look forward to meeting you again in ‘your’ novel!

Helen: Now something for the intrepid author to answer. You can invite six fictional characters (not your own!) to Christmas Dinner – who will they be?

Carolyn: Firstly, I’d invite Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak, from Far From the Madding Crowd. For, without really meaning to, I’ve had them in my mind when writing my characters Eleanor Titherige and her shepherd Walter Nash. I’d love to meet the “real” Eleanor and Walter, and talk to them about rearing sheep.

Then, I’d like the chance to talk to Matthew Bartholomew and his older sister Edith, from Susanna Gregory’s series of 14th century crime novels. Matthew is a physician and university teacher in Cambridge. I like him so much for his matter-of-factness in the face of so much medieval superstition and, at times, sheer potty thinking. Edith too is no fool: she brought her brother up and they remain close, despite her being married. I think they’d be so interesting to talk to.

Another physician, but a more controversial one, is 12th century pathologist Adelia Aguilar, from Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death. Some people think a female pathologist impossible in 12th century England, but there was certainly a medical school in Sicily at the time, which did admit women, so the idea is not impossible, just a bit unusual. Anyway, how wonderful it would be to hear from Adelia’s own lips what medieval physicians really knew. And, with two centuries between them, perhaps she and Matthew would also enjoy some professional debate on methods and diagnoses? Adelia went everywhere with “Doctor” Mansur, her Moorish minder and her cover when female doctors were, indeed, unusual and possibly witches, so he’s obviously invited too. 

Twitter: @writingcalliope
Fortune’s Wheel is available on Amazon

Come back tomorrow to meet the next Supporting Role Character 

Here's the full list of authors and their characters  - links will be added as each character makes his or her entrance

6th     Inge H Borg and Vergil
7th    Matthew Harffy and Coenred
8th     Alison Morton and Lurio
10th   Anna Belfrage and Luke Graham
12th   Pauline Barclay  and Zilda Gilespie 
13th   Antoine Vanner and Fred Kung
15th   Derek Birks and Hal
16th   Carolyn Hughes and Matilda Tyler 

... And the Best Supporting Role is: Hal

Join a selection of fabulous authors and their
Supporting Role Characters
Twitter #SupportingRole



We all know the protagonist is the hero (or anti-hero!) of a novel. He or she usually has a companion main character, often the ‘love interest’ or maybe the stalwart side-kick, but what about that next rank down: the supporting role guy or gal? You know, the one who doesn’t get Best Actor, but Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I thought it time that some of these supporting cast characters had a chance to step from the shadows of novels and have a turn in the limelight.

So, a rousing round of applause please for…Hal
a Supporting Role Character from Feud
by Derek Birks




Helen: Hello, I believe you appear in Derek Birks’ novel Feud? Would you like to introduce yourself?
My name’s Hal and I’m in all his books – I’m very popular, I am. I must have been about, I don’t know, fourteen when I first met Ned Elder. He didn’t notice me much at first but I suppose he had more to think about than me. It was his lady, Amelie, who first took me under her wing. Through serving her, I got close to him. 



Helen: what role do you play in the novels?
Me? Oh. I’m always about, never far from Ned Elder. He made me his squire, you see - though I was a low born orphan. He encouraged me with my bow, taught me how to use a sword, taught me to be a man really… So I’m his man: I sleep by him, I stand guard, I watch his back and I fight alongside him. Where he is, I am.

Helen: No spoilers. But are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
I like to think I do what’s right but words like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ mean little. In the end, I’m loyal to my lord and whatever he says is what I do. Without him, I’ve nothing, I am nothing. 

Helen: So you support the lead character? Who is he or she and tell us a little bit about him or her?
Ned Elder? He’s a good lord. He’s been good to me anyway. When he was just a young knight he lost everything you know: his father, brother, lands and home. His two sisters were taken, but he held firm. Even though he took some parlous wounds, he fought on. By God’s teeth, he’s a fierce warrior - fierce with his enemies. But there’s no better man you’d rather follow into battle, and we’ve fought a lot of battles, I can tell you. 

Helen: Now be honest – what do you really think of this lead character!
Well, all I’ve said is true enough, but I suppose sometimes – just sometimes, mind you - he tries a bit too hard, takes too much upon himself if you like. In his younger days - well in truth he was not much older than me - Ned could be a dangerous man to be close to. I think he thought that no man could kill him, you see; his body took its share of wounds and many men died around him. 
But you have to take the man all in all, don’t you? Many have been glad to call him lord, for he never took a backward step if any man of his was in trouble. And, no matter what befalls us, no matter how many fall around him, you know that he’ll never give up.  Never. 

Helen: Do you like being the ‘supporting role’ or do you wish you could have a lead part in a book of your own?
Me? Take the lead? You jest, I hope! I’d never want that. After all, what do I know? My parents were poor tenants! Ned might ask my advice once or twice but I wouldn’t want to take charge, by God no. That’s not for me – I’m damned lucky to be a squire and my lord’s trusted man.

Helen: What is one of your least favourite scenes?
Least favourite? Now, that’s not easy for we’ve had some hard times, some terrible times. Where would I begin? I’ve seen the worst happen, too many times, things I just can’t bring myself to speak of, for I’d surely weep if I did.
One of the worst was the time that young John Elder – Ned’s son – and me were whipped at Yoredale castle. That was the blackest of days: the little lad took a score of lashes without a word or cry of pain though he was near thrashed to death. Many a grown man wept to see it. But, don’t worry, it was avenged… in time.

Helen: and your most favourite?
I suppose that would be when I found the woman I really care for. She’s funny, but she’s strong, you know, and she keeps my feet on the ground, I can tell you. Being with her is always a joy and my best memory was when the pair of us set out on the road together looking for Lady Eleanor’s boy, Will. 
That young rascal, Will, had run away to London, but he got himself into trouble. We found him – and my girl was so brave that day. We could’ve died on that journey but instead we fell in love. I can’t imagine life without her really.


Helen: Thank you – that was really interesting – I look forward to meeting you again in ‘your’ novel!

Helen: Now something for the intrepid author to answer. You can invite six fictional characters (not your own!) to Christmas Dinner – who will they be? 
Well, my books are quite action-orientated so it won’t surprise you that some of those at my Christmas Dinner table might be described as action heroes!

Richard Sharpe has to be the first. Bernard Cornwell’s hero of the French wars is my sort of character. I think he might find a formal occasion rather difficult though, so I’ll sit him next to another no-nonsense action hero, D’Artagnan from Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers. Hopefully they’ll tell each other stories and not argue over the turkey!

On Sharpe’s other side, I think he needs a strong woman – and who better than Carina Bruna from Alison Morton’s Inceptio? I think she’ll keep even Sharpe in order!

Now where to seat the other woman is a little problematic. David Ebsworth’s Marianne Tambour can be a bit awkward, a bit fierce even. She comes from a troubled – to say the least – background. I think Carina will be able to cope with her, but who else?
Ah, I have it! C J Sansom’s clever lawyer, Matthew Shardlake – he can talk to anyone!

And who will be the sixth and last guest? I thought about Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, or Cornwell’s Uhtred – but I’ve already invited Sharpe – and one miserable sod at the table is enough! So we could do with a bit of light relief really. Who should I choose to lighten the mood? It’s obvious of course: Samwise Gamgee from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings! He’ll surely keep our spirits up if the conversation turns a little dark.


Links for Derek Birks:
Feud on Amazon UK  and on Amazon US


Derek’s latest book, Scars From the Past, can be found here:


Come back tomorrow to meet the next Supporting Role Character 

Here's the full list of authors and their characters  - links will be added as each character makes his or her entrance

6th     Inge H Borg and Vergil 
7th    Matthew Harffy and Coenred
8th     Alison Morton and Lurio
10th   Anna Belfrage and Luke Graham
13th   Antoine Vanner and Fred Kung 
15th   Derek Birks and Hal 
16th   Carolyn Hughes and Matilda Tyler 

...And the Best Supporting Role is: Queen Alfreda

Join a selection of fabulous authors and their
Supporting Role Characters
Twitter #SupportingRole



We all know the protagonist is the hero (or anti-hero!) of a novel. He or she usually has a companion main character, often the ‘love interest’ or maybe the stalwart side-kick, but what about that next rank down: the supporting role guy or gal? You know, the one who doesn’t get Best Actor, but Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I thought it time that some of these supporting cast characters had a chance to step from the shadows of novels and have a turn in the limelight.

So, a rousing round of applause please for…Queen Alfreda
a Supporting Role Character from 
Alvar the Kingmaker
by Annie Whitehead



Helen: Hello, I believe you appear in Annie Whitehead’s novel Alvar the Kingmaker? Would you like to introduce yourself?
Do I need to? Surely you know that I am an anointed queen, wife to a king and mother of a king? No? In that case, I will tell you. I am the daughter of a nobleman, I was married off at a young age to a cruel man, and when that marriage ended I placed myself in the protective embrace of King Edgar, who made me his queen.


Helen: what role do you play in the novel?
I am there, I think, to show the world that men, especially Churchmen, live by double standards. And to show how women must find their own way through a difficult and, at times, exceedingly unkind world. We conduct our battles well away from the battlefield. I also present the main character with a dilemma, and unintentionally stop him from pursuing his intended path. 

Helen: No spoilers. But are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
To those who don’t know me, I am haughty and unapproachable. There is some, erm, shall we say, ambiguity, surrounding the circumstances of my second marriage, but I am more sinned against than sinning. They took my children, so God knows I have paid for anything I might have done.

Helen: So you support the lead character? Who is he or she and tell us a little bit about him or her?
He is Alvar, an ealdorman who serves King Edgar, a successful 10th century king who avoided having to fight the Vikings. It’s doubtful that Edgar could have ever become king without Alvar’s help. Alvar knows Edgar will be a good, strong king, but he finds himself at odds with others around the king who resort to murder to get what they want. Alvar tries to protect the monarchy and his loved ones, and, as I discover too late, he is secretly in love with the wife of his deputy. Another struggle for the throne leaves the country in civil war, a king is murdered, and only Alvar can bring about peace and reconciliation. Loyalty once again drives him as he fights for the right of my son to become king.

Helen: Now be honest – what do you really think of this lead character!
This is strictly between you and me, yes? Then I must tell you that I find the man exasperating. When I arrived at court I desperately needed a friend. Alvar and I became allies, and, I like to think, something more than merely friends. He is loyal; not only to those whom he loves but to those whom he feels need his help. This makes him loveable, admirable, and infuriating. I know he sacrifices an awful lot by insisting on doing what he perceives as his duty. Unfortunately for us both, I don’t realise until much later the magnitude and the nature of that sacrifice.

I am, as I have been told many times, a beautiful woman. Why does he play so, so, oh, what is the modern expression? Hard to get, yes, that’s it. And he is so busy. He disappears, for long periods. I understand that he is spending time with the other lead character, but really, why can the man just not admit how he feels about me? There is one point in the story when he should be here and is not. He blames himself, I know he does, because of the catastrophic consequences. Well, since we are being brutally honest here, I blame him, too.

Helen: Do you like being the ‘supporting role’ or do you wish you could have a lead part in a book of your own?
Ha! What a question. Of course I should have had the lead role. Not only was I an anointed queen, who came to have a great deal of influence in the reign of my son, but I also have a tragic back story. Should I have had a book of my own, all about me? I must be fair to my author, who has tried her best to include as much of my story as time allowed, so no, I should be content. I know she tried to show both my public, proud persona and my private, vulnerable one, too.

Helen: What is one of your least favourite scenes?
Those earlier days, before I met Alvar. Before Edgar was in a position to help me. I was hurt, both physically and emotionally. I suffered, and it was cruel. My author describes one particular moment, but I do not wish to speak of it in detail here.

Helen: and your most favourite?
The day I walked free, leaving everything, and everyone, behind me. All I had was the dress I was wearing. It was enough to give me a new life.

Helen: Thank you – that was really interesting – I look forward to meeting you again in ‘your’ novel!

Helen: Now something for the intrepid author to answer. You can invite six fictional characters (not your own!) to Christmas Dinner – who will they be? 

Annie: Not my own characters? Well, I suppose that mine are not actually completely fictional anyway, being based on real people. So…

1. Aragorn, from Lord of the Rings: shares quite a lot of both the loyalty and reticence of Alvar.  
2. Sergeant Harper from the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell: I’d love to ask him what it’s like playing ‘second fiddle’ to a character like Sharpe.
3. Charles Ryder from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited: everything in the novel is seen through his eyes; I’d like to get to ‘see’ him. 
4. Christina from KM Peyton’s Flambards: She grew up in a world where aeroplanes had only just been invented, suffered the loss of loved ones during the Great War, and had to battle to keep her family’s estate from going under. I think she would have a lot of valuable advice.
5. Elizabeth-Jane Newson, from Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge: another ‘minor’ player, she bears the emotional journey she is forced to take with such fortitude. 
6. Maggie Tulliver from George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss: I’m not sure she would provide much in the way of scintillating conversation; I just want to give her a hug!

Some of these guests need alcohol to loosen their tongues, some will have plenty to say anyway, and some are just in need of a decent meal. Probably all have reason to drown their sorrows, but before we get too maudlin, let’s eat, drink and be merry. Happy Christmas! 

Twitter - @ALWhitehead63


Come back tomorrow to meet the next Supporting Role Character 

Here's the full list of authors and their characters  - links will be added as each character makes his or her entrance

6th     Inge H Borg and Vergil
7th    Matthew Harffy and Coenred
8th     Alison Morton and Lurio
9th     Regina Jeffers and Viscount Stafford
10th   Anna Belfrage and Luke Graham
11th   Christoph Fischer and the Countess
12th   Pauline Barclay and Zilda Gilespie 
13th   Antoine Vanner and Fred Kung
14th   Annie Whitehead and Queen Alfreda
15th   Derek Birks and Hal 
16th   Carolyn Hughes and Matilda Tyler 
17th   Helen Hollick and Claude de la Rue