Today we are excited to welcome Martin Lake to The Contents Page. ‘Born and raised in England, Martin Lake discovered his love of history and writing at an early age. After graduating, he worked as a teacher before deciding to combine his two passions and write a historical novel. Since then, he has written twelve novels and several collections of short stories. When not writing, he can be found travelling, cooking, and exploring fascinating places. He currently resides on the French Riviera with his wife.’ Today, Martin is going to be telling us all about his writing process and Book One (The Flame of Resistance) in his The Lost King Series, a series set in the years after the Norman Invasion of England.
About The Flame of Resistance (Book One of The Lost King Series; http://amzn.to/2GZdnLN):
The book is set in the year 1066 in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Hastings. King Harold, his brothers and most of the lords of the kingdom are now dead. In desperation the council of the kingdom turn to the one person they believe may have a chance of uniting England and resisting the Norman invaders. He is the last remaining heir of the ancient Kings of Wessex and England and the blood of Alfred the Great runs in his veins. The only problem is that he is thirteen years old. Edgar was proclaimed king but he was deserted by his followers and William of Normandy seized the throne. The Flame of Resistance shows how Edgar fled captivity and led an English resistance which came close to defeating the Normans but has now been forgotten.
Welcome, Martin. Thank you for joining us today. Please tell us about your writing process and how you develop your ideas.
I get my process from a long stage of percolation when various ideas bubble through my conscious mind, gurgling, popping, letting off steam, many just draining away. Then, as often as not, I wake up early in the morning with an idea which I think will work. There’s only the bare outline at first, a character or two, where and when they lived, what situation they’re in, what problems they face and what do they most want or need.
I’ll usually jot down the questions and the first, fleeting answers. Then, because I have the luxury of writing historical fiction, I’ll delve into the years when my characters lived. What happened in their lifetime in terms of social changes, politics, wars, disease, famine, technology. I then settle on a chronology and create a table with the important issues of the time and how my characters interact with them.
I take a look at various plotting frameworks such as The Hero with a Thousand Faces [by Joseph Campbell; http://amzn.to/2EpRFSu] or James Scott Bell’s Writing from the Middle [http://amzn.to/2nTQDUC] because it helps me think about the overall structure of my story. I then write an outline of the novel and start.
I find that having a basic structure keeps me on the right tracks but I invariably find that the most significant things that happen are not planned in any great detail or at all. New characters and new incidents seem to spring up from the world I’m spinning and I follow them without hesitation. They surprise and entertain me and I hope that they will do the same for my readers.
I aim to write 1,000 words a day and keep a record of progress as I find this a very useful way to keep up momentum. Each morning I read what I wrote the day before and tidy it up; it’s remarkable how many times I write ‘of’ instead of ‘or’, for example. I also change any clumsy phrases or sentences and occasionally delete, add or improve some parts. I often use this pass to select more accurate and vibrant words. And then I start on my day’s writing.
What is the best money you’ve ever spent as an author?
I spend a lot of money on books. I read a lot of fiction, mostly in my genre although I’ll read outside it if anything takes my fancy. I also read a lot of history books, not necessarily about the times I write about. I also like to read books on how to write. It’s never too late to learn and most books I read give me two or three ideas or insights I’m able to use in my writing.
What are you working on now?
Many of my books focus on Anglo-Saxon England, a subject which has fascinated me since childhood. I’ve tended to write from the perspective of the English but I’m now writing from the point of view of the Viking invaders. It’s refreshing and challenging.
What brought you to write The Flame of Resistance?
I’ve always been fascinated by times of great dislocation and for my country the Norman Conquest is arguably the most important. It changed everything, the social structure, the politics, the class system, the language and the way in which the country interacted with the world. It’s said that history is written by the victors and that’s very much the case with the Norman Conquest.
I can’t now recall when I first read much about Edgar Atheling. Although he had the best claim to the throne, he was considered too young to be king on the death of Edward the Confessor and the crown went to Harold. But he was proclaimed king shortly after the Battle of Hastings. There is very little written about him and most of it very negative.
But the more I read and thought the more intrigued I grew about him. He spent much of his life in opposition to William the Conqueror and his successors, but he never attracted great retribution for this. He was the consummate survivor. Yet he was not the wastrel idiot that history has led us to believe. He was a man befriended by kings and emperors, a key player in English and Scottish politics and a successful warrior and leader.
What surprised you about The Flame of Resistance?
I think the appearance of Edgar’s friend Godwin. He did exist and was Edgar’s tenant and champion. There is very little known about him but as I wrote the book I found that he was the best of friends, the most loyal of supporters and a man of great integrity and heart. Just the man for a forsaken king to have as a companion.
What is your favourite paragraph from The Flame of Resistance?
William was on his knees, staring up at his attacker. Godwin stood between Oswald and me. He pulled out his sword and coiled himself ready to leap to his father’s aid.
‘Kingsman,’ cried Oswald, pointing a bloodied hand at his son.
Godwin turned to me, then back to his father. Transfixed he stood there, poised on the edge.
‘Your oath, Housecarl,’ cried Oswald again. Godwin wailed and turned towards me, tears blinding his eyes.
Oswald staggered forward, bellowing a war-cry, his hand reaching out for William’s neck. But the king drew out a dagger and slowly forced it into Oswald’s heart. Oswald stared at him for a moment and then toppled into the dust.
I like this piece because it shows the bonds of love and loyalty between Edgar, Godwin and Oswald. It is the engine for the whole saga.
What is the book you most wish you had written?
On balance, it would have to be Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff [http://amzn.to/2nRd4ts]. It’s an amazing book which recreates the Arthur legend in the times when Arthur might have lived, in the period when the Romano-British were fighting the Angles and the Saxons for supremacy. As well as being more historically appropriate, it also makes the legend resonate for our time. There are stirring events, terrible deeds, crushing decisions, but also a deeply felt love story which destroys marriage, friendship and kingdom. It is an epic for all ages.
What is your favourite quote from a book?
‘These are indeed strange days,’ he muttered. ‘Dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass.’
From The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2), by J. R. R. Tolkien [http://amzn.to/2nTFW4h]. I’ve yet to find a better quote for the writing of tales.
Thanks so much for allowing me to appear on your page.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Martin. It has been amazing to learn about your passion for writing and books. We hope all goes well with your upcoming books and look forward to seeing you here again soon.
You can contact/connect with Martin here:
To subscribe to Martin’s mailing list: http://eepurl.com/DTnhb
You can find Martin’s books here:
The Lost King Series
Book 1 – The Flame of Resistance: http://amzn.to/2GZdnLN
Book 2 – Triumph and Catastrophe: http://amzn.to/2Eaq3l4
Book 3 – Blood of Ironside: http://amzn.to/2nQZq9K
Book 4 – In Search of Glory: http://amzn.to/2BLJf76
The Long War for England Series
Book 1 – Land of Blood and Water: http://amzn.to/2nRCI1p
Book 2 – Blood Enemy: http://amzn.to/2nTewvx
Book 1 – Outcasts: http://amzn.to/2nVuc14
The Artful Dodger: http://amzn.to/2FXtU18
A Love Most Dangerous: http://amzn.to/2nRXLRj
Very Like a Queen: http://amzn.to/2EbT9jQ
A Dance of Pride and Peril: http://amzn.to/2EqnRFf
The books that Martin enjoys reading and uses for his writing:
The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell), by Joseph Campbell: http://amzn.to/2EpRFSu
Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between, by James Scott Bell: http://amzn.to/2nTQDUC
Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff: http://amzn.to/2nRd4ts
The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2), by J. R. R. Tolkien: http://amzn.to/2nTFW4h
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