As we have come to the end of 2021 and are on the eve of 2022, so I thought it might be time to look back on last year and look forward to the next. And what a strange year it has been, with us all trying to carry on amidst the worst pandemic in 100 years. There have been highs and lows and I feel for all those who have been affected or lost loved ones to this dreadful disease. In March 2020, as the realisation was dawning of what Covid-19 could be, I remember sitting in the shadow of Conisbrough Castle, the stronghold of the earls of Warenne in South Yorkshire, my ‘local’. I was writing the foreword for Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey, and wrote the following lines:
“I must also give a nod to living through history. I started writing this foreword while visiting Conisbrough Castle in March 2020. I finished it at home, during ‘lockdown’ as the dreadful Coronavirus runs its course. I had planned to visit the castle again before completing the book, but that has proved impossible. Though the castle itself stands as a reminder that it has stood through 800 years of history. It has stood witness to the dreadful effects of invasion, war, famine and plague and its survival is, in itself, a promise of better days to come.”
I don’t think anyone thought that we would still be tackling Covid almost two years later, but I do hope that there is now a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Still, there have been some highlights for me this year. Defenders of the Norman Crown was released at the end of May with an Online Book Launch, which is now available on YouTube, and it has been getting some great reviews, the latest from authors Caroline Angus and John Paul Davis for Historia, the magazine of the Historical Writers Association. I managed to do a handful of talks, most notably for Lindum Books at The Collection in Lincoln, in June, at the wonderful Newark Book Festival in July, and at the Conisbrough Castle Heritage Day in August. Audiences were limited, but it was nice to be able to introduce them to the wonderful Warenne family. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Jones, about his latest book, Powers and Thrones, for Lindum Books – and it was such fun!
Historical Writers Forum Zoom talks programme
This year, also, as an admin for Historical Writers Forum, we have launched a series of history-related talks featuring both fiction and non-fiction historical authors. So far, there are three talks in the series and we opened with an amazing discussion between myself, Elizabeth Chadwick, Carol McGrath and Samantha Wilcoxson, entitled Writing History in Fiction: Getting the Balance Right. This was followed by A Good Fight: Writing Battles in Historical Fiction, featuring authors SJA Turney, Derek Birks, Lynn Bryant and Paula Lofting. And then we hosted a book launch for Historical Writers’ Forums new anthology of short stories, Hauntings: an Anthology, which includes works from SJA Turney, Samantha Wilcoxson, Paula Lofting, Kate Jewell, KS Barton, Lynn Bryant, Jennifer C. Wilson and introducing Danielle Apple. There’s also a foreword by myself. The Hauntings Book Launch brought all the authors face to face for the first time, if virtually, and gave them the opportunity to discuss the inspirations behind their stories. If you haven’t read the book yet, I recommend you do – it is replete with thoughtful, intelligent historical fiction stories that stretch out the suspense.
Historical Writers Forum is also looking forward to continuing its programme of talks into the New Year, with our next book for 29 January 2022 at 8pm (UK time). Hosted by Samantha Wilcoxson, authors Patricia Bracewell, Sharon Bennett Connolly, Paula Lofting and Carol McGrath will discuss the various candidates for the identity of Aelfgyva: Was she the ravaged nun? The sister of a Norman duke? Daughter of a powerful English earl? Concubine of King Cnut? Or the twice-crowned English queen? It will be up to the audience to decide which panelist has made the best case. To book, click here: Aelfgyva: the Mysterious Woman in the Bayeux Tapestry. If you can’t make it on the evening, don’t worry, the discussion will be uploaded to our YouTube Channel by 31 January.
In 2021 I also made my first forays into podcasts, talking to Khaki Malarkey about the Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England in March and this month I spoke to the Tudors Dynasty podcast about the life of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, the Tudor heiress who was the fourth and last wife of Henry VIII’s best friend, Charles Brandon. And I have more podcasts lined up for the New Year, when I will be talking with Zack White about the Ladies of Magna Carta at History Hack and Matthew Lewis about the Warennes for Gone Medieval. I will post the links when I have them…
I already have a number of talks lined up for 2022, and some more awaiting confirmation and one very exciting one, which I won’t tell you about just yet, because I don’t want to jinx it!
I can tell you about the 2 online talks I will be doing for Heritage Lincolnshire in March, to celebrate Women’s History Month. The first, Lincolnshire’s Medieval Heroines, will include the legendary Lady Godiva, the indomitable Nicholaa de la Haye, heiress Alice de Lacy and Katherine Swynford, the mistress who became a royal duchess. It will be a Zoom talk on 10 March at 7pm. The second talk is, as you may have guessed, on my favourite subject, Nicholaa de la Haye, the Heroine of Lincoln Castle and will by via Zoom on 17 March at 7pm. Tickets for both are available now and are £6 for members and £8 for non-members.
And last but not least, to book news. My next book, Women of the Anarchy, is with my publisher, Amberley Books. Unfortunately, they have a backlog of books to get out, thanks to the pandemic, and so I don’t yet have a publication date for it, nor even a book cover to show you. But I am hopeful that it will be out sometime in 2022. I am working hard on my Nicholaa de la Haye biography, tentatively titled King John’s Right Hand Lady, which is about half way finished. It is due into my editor at Pen & Sword in May and I should hopefully get it to them on time, with a view to publication in May 2023. I am also working on a ‘sequel’ to Heroines of the Medieval World, Heroines of the Tudor World, which should hit the shops late 2023/early 2024. And I have just been commissioned to contribute the entry on Henry III for a new book, entitled Kings & Queens, which will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in late 2023. Iain Dale, the editor, has some amazing historians, broadcasters and politicians, working on the project, including the likes of Michael Wood, Tom Holland (the historian, not the actor) and Dan Jones – and little old me!
I will, as ever, continue to write for History…the Interesting Bits. This blog has always been a place for me to flesh out ideas, share those ‘bits’ of history that I think you will like, and an escape. It is now entering its 8th year and has clocked over a million views in that time – something I never could have dreamed of!
I think that is all my news for now, so it just remains for me to thank you all for your continuing support and encouragement. I really would not be able to do this without you! And to wish you all a
Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.
Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword Books, Amazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.
1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!
Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:
Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword, Amazon, Bookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.
Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.
Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066. Available now from Amazon, Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.
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©2021 Sharon Bennett Connolly