When I start writing a book, I do a thousand words across the first hour of my working day every day, leaving me the rest of the session free to work on scripts and pitches.
I slowly ramp that rate up as I get to know the characters and themes.
I’m currently averaging about 5k a day as this book heads towards the end, which shows it’s going well. It’s The Bear King, the conclusion of my reimagining of the Arthurian myth and how it might have arisen out of history.
On course for the delivery date, which will make my editor happy.
Had a private tour after hours behind the scenes at Westminster Abbey. As a fascinating insight into more than one thousand years of British history, it couldn’t be beaten. And for me it was particularly intriguing to be allowed into areas where the public normally isn’t admitted, like the shrine of Edward the Confessor (after his appearance in Hereward), in the oldest part of the current abbey.
The tomb of Elizabeth I and her sister Mary, the tombs of a long list of English monarchs, the oldest garden in Britain, the ‘secret chapel’ of Saint Faith, and the Pyx Chamber where the Royals used to store their treasure – so much to see. And there’s going to be even more in a year’s time when the Abbey opens the upper levels looking down on the nave for the first time. They’ll be displaying the rarely-seen death masks of English monarchs and the body replicas that were paraded in front of the people when one of the monarchs died in Scotland and was brought south for burial.
The trip came as a pleasant break from finishing the final details of Pendragon before publication in July. The cover is now signed off and yesterday I approved the new typeface and sent details for the map designer. Your local bookshop will now be taking pre-orders or you can go here for a look and a ponder.
There’s a link between the trip and the forthcoming book. Pendragon is very much about how legend arises out of history and while it tackles the potential roots of Arthurian mythos, it’s also about our need for legends, heroes, and an ideal of the country we inhabit.
The Tower of London has a real pull for anyone who loves history. It spans the life of England in all its forms, from pre-history, through Roman Britain to the modern age, a great story – or ten – for every era.
I spent a day there recently, ambling around under an Autumn sun. It was the first time I’d been since I was a boy, but the memories of that early visit came rushing back, I think because those stories had sent roots deep into my unconscious. This is how stories work, and why, in ancient times, they were used to teach important knowledge, the truths coded into every line.
That’s something I’m very interested in at the moment: the parallel history of the world, one based on abstracts and intangibles, where stories, myths, legend, folklore, are created by people and then ripple out and affect everything around us as if they were real.
Sometimes facts are the least important thing when it comes to understanding the world at large, and history. It’s what people believe that shapes their actions, and as we can see in the headlines nearly every day, people believe a lot of strange things.
The Tower of London is a great venue for considering this alternative approach to history.
Legend has it – and also the first description of the Tower by Fitz-Stephen who died in 1191 – that the “mortar is tempered with the blood of beasts.” The stories that rolled out suggested this was a magical defence, blood as a spell of protection, and a fitting way of telling the people that their land would be kept safe by this castle which became the symbol of England’s strong defence.
And, of course, there’s the famous legend that the kingdom and the tower will fall if the six ravens ever leave the fortress. Charles II was the monarch who insisted they be protected, for that very reason. That’s another legend that reaffirms a belief in the indomitable nature of the English.
The myth of England is a powerful force that provides a foundation for patriotism and ties people together in the need for common struggle. We’ve been building on it for years, and that isn’t going to stop just because we are, allegedly, wiser and less superstitious.
The sixth and final book in the Hereward story is published today.
Get it from your favourite bookshop, or order it here.
Here’s the blurb:
1081. And so the bloody battle for the crown of the Holy Roman Empire begins.
Within the city of Constantinople itself, three venal factions will go to any lengths – will, it seems, kill any who might stand in their way – to seize the throne.
And outside the city’s walls, twin powers threaten a siege that will crush the once-mighty empire forever.
To the west, the voracious forces of the most feared Norman warlord are gathering. While in the east, the Turkish hordes are massing – theirs is a lust for slaughter.
And in the midst of this maelstrom of brutality and betrayal, Hereward and his English spear-brothers prepare to make what could be their final stand . . .
1073 – under the merciless sun of the east, a dark force has risen – a Norman adventurer who could rival the feared King William for bloody ambition. He has conquered his land, he has built his fortress and he has amassed his army. And now he has taken Constantinople’s ruler as his prisoner…
It falls to Hereward to rescue this precious captive. For this great English warrior-in-exile and his spear-brothers, it will mean mounting a raid that could prove the most dangerous and deadliest of their lives. Assisting them in their task will be an elite and legendary band of fighters, the Immortals – so-called because they believe they cannot die in battle. But it will not be enough – for enemies hide within the jewelled heart of Byzantium: vipers who spread their poison, who want to see the English dead at any cost and who are to transform a mission that was at best dangerous into an adventure that is now suicidal. . .
With this rousing adventure full of brutal sword play, treachery, camaraderie and honour, James Wilde continues his bestselling account of the action-packed life and times of England’s great and now, thanks to his his fiction, perhaps not-so-forgotten hero – Hereward the Wake.
Get it here, or at your favourite bookshop.