Good morning everyone! I am excited today to introduce you to author G.K. Holloway. One of my favorite time periods to read about is the Norman Conquest of England and the years surrounding that event. Holloway’s new book, 1066, is a new novel about this time period that I am excited to read. There is a tour wide giveaway at the end of this post too.
The events of the year 1066 and the Norman Conquest of England are a fascinating time period that I love to read about, however not a lot of fiction is set here. What was it about the time period that encouraged you to write about it?
Early to mid-eleventh century England is bursting with drama and full of promise. It’s a wealthy, cultured and civilized country where the seeds of democracy are beginning to grow. The only real threat appears to be from the Vikings. We see a young England, full of characters and vitality that is cut down in the first bloom of youth. The story of 1066 is English history, and not just the history of a French aristocracy grafted onto English society. I don’t deny the Normans and Plantagenets are interesting; it’s just that for me, they are one or two steps removed from the rest of us. Then there is the question, what could have been if Harold had won? With the exception of, ‘what if Hitler had won the Second World War?’ this is the biggest ‘What if?’ in English history. And, naturally, as England in the past had such an influence in the world, how might other countries be different today? I find the whole period fascinating.
The Norman Conquest is one of those iconic events in history that everyone seems to choose a side and have quite passionate opinions. What stance does your novel take and what is your perception of these events? Why write from the Saxon perspective as opposed to the Norman perspective.
I imagined myself a fly on the wall observing all the actors in the great drama. I did this to show every participants point of view and as an attempt at impartiality. As a completely unbiased Englishman, I believe that William had absolutely no claim to the English throne but he saw an irresistible opportunity to acquire wealth and power and made his move at the only time it had ever been feasible for Normandy to succeed; with the most amazing luck, he was victorious. I think at first William deluded himself into believing his own propaganda, but later had doubts until eventually he reflected back on his life when he was in his deathbed and the truth reared itself before him.
I wrote from the Saxon perspective because as an Englishman that seemed to be the natural thing to do. Writing from the Norman perspective would have been difficult for me because I would have had to find a way of drawing sympathy from the reader for a gang of villains. I suppose I could have done this through the use of an unreliable narrator who could tell the story and then I could reveal his story as a pack of lies on the final page. But really, I was happy just to stick to the Saxon perspective
During the research for this novel, what sources of information did you find to be the most helpful? How do you dig through all of the propaganda put out by the Normans following their victory?
I used mainly secondary sources by some very able academics and drew on their arguments. The problem was they didn’t always agree. Some of the books were very dry, others not so. David Bates, David Douglas Frank Barlow and Ian Walker produced the main books I studied and the core of my novel was drawn from their studies. A lot of time was spent on the Bayeux Tapestry and the Domesday Book both unique sources of material.
Apart from books, my research involved visiting battlefields and locations covered in the novel. Visiting the Holy Trinity church in Bosham, where King Harold worshipped and, I believe, is buried there next to King Knut’s daughter; seeing the Bayeux Tapestry and Falaise Castle, where William spent so much of his early years, gave me a real connection to the past. The family, who I dragged along with me, enjoyed it too. So they tell me.
What was the writing experience like for you with this novel? Has this been a livelong goal or something that developed more recently?
Writing 1066 was a really thrilling experience, in fact it was a labour of love. I tried to be as unbiased as I could so I spent a lot of time looking into legalities. It was like preparing a court case or a police investigation:-
Was someone really robbed and murdered for the money they were carrying or did he die because he was he the only witness to an assassination?
Was the crown really promised to William and if so by whom?
What was King Edward’s relationship with Earl Tostig?
Did Earl Godwin really murder Edward’s brother, Alfred?
Answering these questions was all very well, but I needed to fix events in their time and place, so more investigations were required. What was the eleventh century cure for an infected bite from a bird of prey? How did they make swords in the 1040’s? How were wedding ceremonies performed? How did Harold accomplish the march north in such a short time?
Finally, I mixed small details with the important events plus I added inventions of my own to take the reader back to Anglo Saxon England. I was extremely flattered when an Anglo Saxon re-enactor told me, that after reading my book, he had a greater insight into what the Battle of Hastings was all about and that he really couldn’t tell the history from the parts I’d made up.
Do you have any future writing plans? Anything that you can share?
At the moment I’m 55,000 words into the sequel of 1066. Some of the characters in the first novel appear once more and the reader has the opportunity to discover what became of Harold’s family, the surviving English aristocracy, the clergy and the ordinary people caught up in these events.
About the author: I have been interested in history since I was a boy, which I suppose explains why, when I came across a degree course in History and Politics at Coventry University that looked tailor made for me, I applied right away.
In my first year at Coventry I lived in the halls of residence within a stone’s throw of the Leofric Hotel. In the opposite direction, just a short walk from my halls, is the bell tower that houses a clock, which when its bell chimes the hour, produces a half size model of naked Lady Godiva riding a horse for the titillation of tourists. Above her, Peeping Tom leans out of a window for a better view. In all of the three years I was there, it never once occurred to me that I would one day write a book featuring Earl Leofric and his famous wife, as key players.
After graduating I spent a year in Canada before I returned to England to train as a Careers Officer in Bristol. Later, I lived and worked in Gloucestershire as a Careers Officer and then in Adult Education as an Education Guidance worker.
After I met my wife, I moved back to Bristol to live and I worked at Bath Spa University as a Student Welfare Officer for a number of years. It was about this time I read a biography about King Harold II which fascinated me so much I read more and more about the man and the times. I found the whole pre-conquest period of England so interesting I couldn’t understand why no one had written a novel about it. So, I decided to write one myself. Now, after many years of study and time spent over a hot keyboard, I have finally produced thatnovel.
1066: What Fates Impose is the result of all that study and hard work and is the first book I’ve written. I am now working on a sequel.
I also have a tour wide giveaway to offer to you. To win a copy of 1066: What Fates Impose please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only.
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on May 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on May 3rd and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
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