I’m delighted to welcome historical fiction author, Catherine Hokin, to my site today. Why not pop the kettle on, fetch a cuppa, – maybe a slice of cake- and sit down for five minutes to read about Catherine’s latest novel? I have to say, it sounds fantastic.
What inspired you to write your book?
Blood and Roses tells the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482), wife of King Henry VI, and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses. As a child, my father ran a war gaming society (in the days when this actually involved a sand table and little soldiers) and the members were obsessed with the Wars of the Roses and the people involved – to the point where I started to think some of the characters were actually still alive. Among all the people they argued about (and they argued a lot), it was Margaret of Anjou who captured my imagination because they loathed her! Then I met her in the Shakespeare version which depicts her almost as a devil – as a contrary teenager, anyone who could engender this much fury (especially among men) was definitely worth my attention. Then at university, as part of my History degree, I wrote a thesis on medieval politics, witchcraft and propaganda and there she was again. She’s an itch I’ve long wanted to scratch!
Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?
Not people I specifically know although I did draw on character traits from Claire Underwood in House of Cards and Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife who I would say are very modern Margarets. I don’t tend to use people in my life but I do draw on relationships. The dynamic between Margaret and her son Edward is key to the book – particularly from the viewpoint of how to raise a strong boy and then let him go, even if the path he chooses is dangerous. I have a son who was 18 when I was writing this and I really drew on our relationship. He thought that was great till he read the death scene…
What type of research did you have to do for your book?
Detailed research is essential to give novels like this credibility – there are a lot of expert readers out there! So the research was extensive and took nearly 2 years – I read everything I could about the time period and the characters, including non-fiction books by other authors and contemporary chronicles written during/shortly after Margaret’s life. You have to read widely to get the different perspectives and find the gaps in the facts where the story starts to grow. I loved researching the really gory battles (the exploding teeth as a result of head injuries at Towton was fascinating) as much as the food and clothing! But you have to be careful not to overwhelm the reader – a lot of what I read came down to 2 or 3 words in the actual novel. And I can now pretty much calculate any distance in terms of how long it takes a horse to get there!
What excites you the most about your book?
Hopefully what has certainly gripped some of the reviewer’s imaginations! There has always been speculation about who was the father of Margaret’s son. Her husband Henry was essentially a monk and Prince Edward was born 8 years into the marriage. There have been candidates out forward but none of them are believable when you consider Margaret’s character – rather like Elizabeth I, I don’t believe she would have been foolish enough to have an affair that would have threatened her power. So, I looked for the gaps in the facts and found something: at a crucial point in the conflict, Margaret’s army was refused entry to London by her supposed friend, Jacquetta Woodville. The betrayal is stated everywhere but not explained – I had my story…
If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?
My first instinct was to say Richard Armitage, Tom Hiddleston and Bruce Springsteen but that’s not what I think you mean so…
I would have said Margaret so I could find out if my take on her life is as realistic as I wanted it to be but I think she would be terrifying so I’ll leave her behind. First of all, I need a good cook (I like to eat) so I’m going to choose the fabulous Julia Childs as long as she was played by Meryl Streep (I know that’s a 2 in 1 but it’s my fantasy). I imagine I might be there a long time so I need someone with a wealth of fascinating stories so I’m going to choose my favourite author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez – this hopefully means that I will also finally learn Spanish which I’ve been meaning to do for ages. And finally, I need someone who would add a bit of spice to the whole thing so I’m choosing Adam from my favourite film ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’. He’s a vampire which is a bit of an issue but maybe fish blood will be ok and at least he won’t eat the food stocks, he’s a great musician so there’s the entertainment sorted and he’s played by Tom Hiddleston…
Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose debut novel, Blood and Roses was published in January 2016 by Yolk Publishing. The novel brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses, exploring the relationship between Margaret and her son and her part in shaping the course of the bloody political rivalry of the fifteenth century. Catherine also writes short stories – she was 3rd prize winner in the 2015 West Sussex Writers Short Story Competition and a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition. She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and often hysterical, eye over women in history, popular culture and life in general. She is profiled in the March 2016 edition of Writing Magazine. For 2016 she has been awarded a place on the Scottish Book Trust Author Mentoring Programme to develop her second novel. In her spare time she listens to loud music, watches far too many movies and tries to remember to talk to her husband and children.
Thank you such a wonderful interview Catherine.
Happy reading everyone,