Saturday 16 January 2016

Blog Tour ~ Blood and Roses by Catherine Hokin

I am delighted to be part of the 

Blood and Roses Blog Tour 2016

And to welcome Catherine Hokin , the author of Blood and Roses

What's it all about ?

The English Crown – a bloodied, restless prize.

The one contender strong enough to hold it? A woman. Margaret of Anjou: a French Queen in a hostile country, born to rule but refused the right, shackled to a King lost in a shadow-land.

When a craving for power becomes a crusade, when two rival dynasties rip the country apart in their desire to rule it and thrones are the spoils of a battlefield, the stakes can only rise. And if the highest stake you have is your son?

You play it.

Hi Catherine and welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for being our guest on the blog today...

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Blood and Roses?

As a child my family – and especially my father who was a member of the Richard III society – lived and breathed History, especially the Wars of the Roses so the people at the heart of the conflict (and the prejudices around them) were very familiar to me. Among all the characters they argued about (and they argued a lot), it was Margaret of Anjou who most captured my interest because they all loathed her! That led me to 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 my thesis on medieval politics, superstition and propaganda with a particular focus on women. I think you could say Margaret has long been an itch I’ve wanted to scratch.

Tell us three interesting things about your novel which will pique the reader’s interest?

  1. Margaret – think Claire from House of Cards mixed with Alicia Florrick from the Good Wife. This is a real woman, making tough decisions in a hostile environment and she’s a lion of a mother.
  2. There’s always been controversy over who was the father of her son given Henry VI was a monastic narcoleptic – I’ve got an answer to that
  3. Say Edward IV and most people think romantic hero, as in The White Queen – I don’t believe that version and my Edward brings something far darker to the tale.

In your research for Blood and Roses did you discover anything which surprised you?

The sheer ferocity of the battles. I knew the period too well to ever romanticise any aspect of what was a bloody civil war but the accounts of the Battle of Towton in particular make grim reading. It was undoubtedly the largest battle ever fought on English soil and the scale of death was horrific – probably upwards of 25,000 dead in a day – but it is the condition of the skeletons found in 1996 that really shocks. Each of the 40 bodies found had in excess of 20 head injuries and the impacts were so severe that many of their teeth had splintered. The reason? A take no prisoners and leave no man standing order from commanders on both sides. This order simply hadn’t been given by Towton so this is a sobering reminder of just how brutal the Wars of the Roses really were.

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be? 

It’s a good question. Like most character-driven writers I had a strong sense of who my protagonists were before I started and, with Margaret, I was definitely trying to re-appraise her, but they evolve. The relationship between Margaret and her son became more layered as the novel progressed and I know that was partly because my son aged from 15-17 while I was writing it. Anne Neville, who I wanted to be stronger than the little mouse she is too often portrayed as, became one of the characters I grew most fond of and the Earl of Warwick developed a far stronger and more human voice than I initially thought he would have (he also turned into Richard Armitage in my head which was no bad thing given I spent over 2 years with him). In my experience of writing this, once the characters have been on the page for a while, you start to listen to them. I’m very proud of Margaret – she’s strong, clever, conflicted and a little bit scary just as I hoped she would be. I’d be on her team!

Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you, sort of writer? 

A plotter and then a plotter again. I like plans and frameworks and reams of research – I have sheets of A3 paper all over my study and notebooks and computer plans. Once I have a sense of direction, then I can let my imagination play.

Do you write the type of books you like to read and which authors influence you?

Definitely what I want to read – I do that with my short stories as well. I want to tell a story that makes you need to read to the end of the chapter and then maybe just a few pages more – the box of chocolates effect so you can’t stop even when you should. That’s the kind of book I like! In terms of my own reading, one of the first historical novels I fell in love with was The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George – I loved the way she used structure – and I’m a huge fan of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the way Hilary Mantel uses narrative voice. My favourite book of all time is The Children’s Book by AS Byatt. I read very widely, I think all authors do, and, whether it’s Will Self or Terry Pratchett or Kate Atkinson (3 authors currently on the bedside table), I’m looking for a story that won’t let me put it down and characters who won’t let me go.

What’s next ?

Another re-telling of a medieval woman who has had a rather 2 dimensional portrayal to date, although as a romantic heroine rather than a villain: Katherine Swynford, mistress and then wife to John of Gaunt and sister-in-law to Geoffrey Chaucer. It’s full of political spin, set against a backdrop of plague and rebellion and hopefully does Katherine justice – I’m descended from her so family honour is involved here! I’m about halfway through the first draft so wish me luck…

My thanks to Catherine for inviting me to be a part of her blog tour

and also for sharing her novel

About the Author

Visit Catherine Hokin on her website
Find her on Facebook
Follow on Twitter @cathokin

Blood and Roses is published by Yolk Publishing and is out now...

Published by Yolk
13th January 2016

Do visit the other blogs on this tour for more exciting blog posts.


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