De Bohun’s Destiny
How can you uphold a lie when you know it might destroy your family?
It is 1356, seven years since the Black Death ravaged Meonbridge, turning society upside down. Margaret, Lady de Bohun, is horrified when her husband lies about their grandson Dickon’s entitlement to inherit Meonbridge. She knows that Richard lied for the very best of reasons – to safeguard his family and its future – but lying is a sin. Yet she has no option but to maintain her husband’s falsehood…
Margaret’s companion, Matilda Fletcher, decides that the truth about young Dickon’s birth really must be told, if only to Thorkell Boune, the man she’s set her heart on winning. But Matilda’s “honesty” serves only her own interests, and she’s oblivious to the potential for disaster.
For Thorkell won’t scruple to pursue exactly what he wants, by whatever means are necessary, no matter who or what gets in his way…
If you enjoy well-researched, immersive historical fiction, with strong female characterisation and a real sense of authenticity, you’ll love De Bohun’s Destiny, the third Meonbridge Chronicle, set in the mid-14th century, in the turbulent and challenging years that followed the social devastation wrought by the Black Death. Discover for yourself if, in Meonbridge, it is Margaret or Matilda, right or might, truth or falsehood, that wins the day…
I was excitied to see the blog tour for another historical fiction novel and wanted to learn more about Carolyn
Q1: What inspired you to write De Bohun’s Destiny?
Because De Bohun’s Destiny is the third book Meonbridge Chronicle, I feel I really need to tell you what inspired the series. When I had to choose what to write as the creative piece for my Masters in Creative Writing, I looked for inspiration among my old scribblings, and rediscovered the fading draft of the beginnings of a novel I’d written in my twenties. Set in 14th century rural England, it was about the lives of peasant families. The novel’s plot wasn’t terribly good, yet I was quite drawn to its period and setting and, a few days later, I drafted an outline for the novel that eventually became Fortune’s Wheel. That was my first “inspiration”. The second – the storyline – came from reading about the 14th century. Catastrophic events affected every part of its life, including terrible famines, the start of the Hundred Years War, the plague that we call the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt. So, plenty of background there for interesting storylines…
Such events as these would have meant (as they do in every century) huge changes to people’s lives, at all levels of society. But I’m mostly interested in how events affected the lives of ordinary people, and I wanted to write – and still do – about ordinary lives within the context of these big social changes. So, for Fortune’s Wheel, I chose to write a story about the aftermath of one of the greatest catastrophes of all time, in terms of the havoc it wrought to populations, the Black Death, and I chose to set it in an area I know well, the Meon Valley, in southern Hampshire.
So that was what inspired the first Meonbridge Chronicle. But what happened next was that, having written that first story, I found that I’d grown to love the characters of Meonbridge so much that I simply had to go on writing about them! The second and third books continue the story of Meonbridge’s people through the eyes of a different set of characters (though still familiar to those who’ve already read Fortune’s Wheel). A Woman’s Lot was inspired by my wish to explore further the particular problems, such as widespread misogyny, that women faced at the time, and De Bohun’s Destiny sees all the folk of Meonbridge having to face the terror of a different sort of outside threat – not plague this time, but the ill deeds of dangerous and ruthless men.
Q2: Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?
Mmmm, I’m not too sure about this, mostly because, to be honest, I don’t know very much at all about actors. If I cast about online for suitable images, I have to reject most because they somehow don’t have quite the “right” look, by which I mean they’re too “modern-looking”, though I’m hard-pressed to define exactly what that is!! Anyway, I’ll have a go…
In my first two novels (Fortune’s Wheel and A Woman’s Lot), Eleanor Titherige has a major role, and is certainly one of my favourite characters. I think for her I might choose Rose Leslie. Red hair is important and Eleanor is not conventionally “pretty”, so while Rosie Leslie has a lovely face, I do feel that she somehow has the right natural sort of look that I think of for Eleanor.
For the current book, De Bohun’s Destiny, the central (though not the only principal) character is Matilda. She has very dark hair and is said to be handsome rather than pretty. She’s also a bit of a minx. A quick look online brings up Rachel Weisz, who has a good look for Matilda – again not “pretty” exactly, but a lovely face, the right colouring and suitably sensual-looking for the character of Matilda. Sadly, though, I do have to say that Rachel might now be a little too old to play Matilda, who is only 25, so a Rachel Weisz lookalike might have to be found…
Finally, a character who appears to a greater or lesser degree in all the novels to date is Agnes and she is supposed to be conventionally pretty – “the loveliest maiden in Meonbridge” she’s called. I don’t know this young actress, Gabrielle Wilde, at all, but she does look just right for Agnes, so I’ll suggest her!
Q3: How many rejections did you get before you got a publishing deal?
Before I wrote the first Meonbridge Chronicle, I had written one and a half contemporary women’s novels. I sent the completed one out to a few agents – I can’t remember how many, but let’s say half a dozen, but none of them were interested. Perhaps it simply wasn’t good enough! When the first Meonbridge Chronicle, Fortune’s Wheel, was completed, I did submit it to a number of agents (again, say, half a dozen) and also to a small publisher. The publisher was very complimentary but didn’t in the end take the book, and neither did the agents…
Q4: How did you deal with them when you started out?
Naturally I was very disappointed! With the contemporary women’s novel, I accepted that it probably simply wasn’t good enough! A writer friend had read it and came back with lots of feedback that reinforced my view. But I was much more confident about Fortune’s Wheel, despite the lack of interest from the agents! I’d written it for my Masters in Creative Writing and my tutors had said the book was good, and I believed in it myself. Which is when I decided not to bother any more about trying to get a traditional publishing deal but simply go down the self-publishing route, albeit with help from a publishing company, SilverWood Books.
Q5: Which authors inspired you to write?
I can’t honestly say that any writers have particularly influenced me. I’ve admired many authors over the years, though by no means all of them have been historical novelists. I usually cite the late William Trevor as my “favourite” author, because he was such a master storyteller, writing both novels and short stories. His brilliance for me lies in the deeply insightful pictures he drew of the lives of ordinary people. I would love to be able to emulate him. Of historical novelists, those whose style I have perhaps mostly closely followed include Susanna Gregory and Bernard Cornwell. Gregory’s mediaeval mystery novels achieve a wonderfully naturalistic portrayal of 14th-century life, and Cornwell (in his mediaeval fiction) portrays so well the lives of ordinary people caught up in the sweep of major events.
Q6: What are your writing routines?
I don’t have any! I’m not a terribly disciplined writer, so when I feel the “writing itch” coming on, I either go into my office (I worked from home for most of working life, so I’ve always had an office…) and switch on my computer, or else just get out my laptop and write whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself. That applies whether I’m writing novel chapters or a blog post, or editing a draft, or engaging in social media. What I do do is drink tea almost all the time, mostly decaf, and sometimes I’ll listen to music – though it’s more likely to be Chopin rather than anything “mediaeval” – I don’t know why… But really I don’t have any particular routine…
Q7: If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself
Perhaps just to be more bullish about my creative writing, to believe in myself as a writer, and certainly to share my writing with others, instead of keeping it more or less a secret. To be honest, it never occurred to me until I was middle-aged that I might make novel writing a career. I got on with making a more conventional career, first in the computer industry, then later as a technical writer. I loved my work, and found it very satisfying. I wrote creatively in my spare time, and enjoyed that too. But it was only after my children left home that I wondered if I could ever have my stories published. I don’t really regret the career I had but in some ways I do wish I’d thought about the possibilities of publishing when I was younger. Of course it’s easier to publish now, with the option of self-publishing, but you still need to believe in yourself, and you need to gain validation from others, by sharing your work and getting feedback on it. That’s my advice to myself!
Q8: What would you say to someone who wants to write?
Just write! You have to practise, practise, practise, to learn how to plot, how to draw engaging characters, how to write convincing dialogue. To hone your writing skill. Writing makes you a better writer, though not of course if you are not self-critical or unwilling to accept criticism from other people. So write, and somehow get your work in front of other people, by which I don’t mean agents and publishers but other writers and readers, who will give you an honest opinion. And, talking of readers, you must also read yourself. Lots! So you can learn what works and what doesn’t, and then emulate the best techniques yourself.
Q9: What made you chose this genre?
I’ve already mentioned how I came to write historical fiction in ‘What inspired you to write the book?’. It was an easy choice to make. I’d long been intrigued by the mediaeval period, for its relative remoteness in time and understanding, and, I think, for the very dichotomy between the present-day perception of the Middle Ages as “nasty, brutish and short” and the wonders of the period’s art and literature. I wanted to know more about the period, and, through writing an historical novel, I’d have the opportunity both to discover the mediaeval past and to interpret it, to bring both learning and imagination to my writing, which is I suppose what all historical novelists do. It seemed an exciting thing to do! So that was it – historical fiction it would be…
Q10: Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know?
When I was at university in Leicester (sometime back in the “Middle Ages”…), I was Director of the Arts Festival, then a “gown & town” affair. It was fabulous because I got to choose which musicians and artists to invite! I’d learned to play the cello as a teenager, and I was much in love with cello music, although I truly wasn’t a good cellist. So imagine how thrilled I was when the wonderful French cellist Paul Tortelier agreed to come with his daughter, Maria de la Pau, to give a recital and to have lunch with me on the day of his performance.
Thank you Carolynn
CAROLYN HUGHES was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After completing a degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the government.
She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage in her life. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
De Bohun’s Destiny is the third novel in the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series. A fourth novel is under way.
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