Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.
When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.
In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill?
Hi Matthew, thank you so much for agreeing to another interview. The last time we chatted you had just released your second novel in the Bernicia Chronicles, The Cross and the Curse, and now you’re about to release the fourth in the series, Killer of Kings. What an amazing achievement. Congratulations!
Thank you! And thank you for having me on your blog again, it’s great to be back!
It’s great to have you back, Matthew. I love the Bernicia Chronicles, such wonderful stories. And so, I was wondering;
Are you still enjoying the writing process? Do you still get that buzz when you type ‘The End’?
I get a real buzz out of typing “the end”, but I think that’s more due to relief than enjoyment! I do still enjoy writing, but the more readers I have, the more I question whether what I’m writing is any good! That’s not a bad problem to have, but it does mean that the writing process is slightly more stressful than it was before anybody was reading my stuff.
How have you changed your writing routine since publishing your first novel?
When I wrote my first novel, THE SERPENT SWORD, I did most of it in small windows of opportunity whilst my daughters were in clubs, such as dancing or Tae Kwon Do. I still write in small windows of opportunity that come along, but I also have set aside one whole day for writing each week. That makes it easier to make progress more quickly than before.
How many more stories of Beobrand can we expect to enjoy?
Well, I am writing book 5 at the moment, entitled Warrior of Woden. After that, I have at least one more novel contracted with Aria. After book 6, who knows what I’ll write?
Do you have a story outline for the whole series of books, or do you just go where the story leads you?
I do have a general outline for the whole series, but it isn’t broken down to the level of each book. That means I have an idea of where Beobrand will end up at the end of his life, and I know some of the events that he will be involved in, but I don’t have all the details until I get to the next book in the series. It also means I don’t know exactly how many books there will be in the series, but there are definitely more than six, if people keep buying them.
How meticulously is each book planned before you start writing?
I think it would be stretching things to say that I plan each book meticulously! I read around the subjects and events that are going to be touched upon, and come up with a basic timeline and then break that down into a very rough chapter outline. At that point, I usually just start writing and things begin to fall into place. As the book goes on, I add more and more detail to the synopsis and the plan until, by the time I reached the last quarter, I actually know what it is I’m writing about!
As a Bernard Cornwell fan writing about Northumbria, are you not tempted to introduce a character named Uhtred?
I have thought about it! However, as my books are set hundreds of years before Bernard Cornwell’s, I think it is more likely that Beobrand is one of Uhtred’s ancestors!
Thank you, I really enjoyed writing it too. The seed of the idea actually came from a reader who asked me whether Hrunting in the Bernicia Chronicles was the famous sword from the Beowulf story. The question made me think, and in the end the story told itself.
Will we see more stories about Octa, maybe a prequel to the Bernicia Chronicles?
I haven’t got anything else planned with Octa, but you never know. If I can think of any other good ideas, I’m tempted to write some more novellas, as I really enjoyed being able to write a whole story in such a short space of time.
Who is the best character you have created, which are you most proud of?
I really don’t know. That’s like asking a parent who is your favourite child! I think the most memorable of the characters I have created is probably Hengist. He is truly evil and does horrible things, but I imagined him as someone who had suffered terribly and witnessed so many atrocities of war that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. There is some debate as to whether soldiers suffered from PTSD in the time when warfare was waged with swords and shields, but I think it is likely that certain warriors would have been affected by particularly traumatic events.
They’re mostly purely imagination. But where does inspiration and imagination come from, if not from everything we have seen and done in our lives? Therefore I am sure that there are many traits exhibited by my characters which actually come from me or from people I know. I am also sure that some of my characters were inspired by fictional characters in other authors’ books.
What is the most significant thing you have learned that made you a better writer?
To trust myself and to write stories that I would enjoy reading. It is impossible to write novels that everybody will enjoy, but if you as the writer enjoy reading the finished product, you can be sure there will be a lot of people who will agree with you.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to write their first novel?
Don’t overthink it. The only way to write a novel is to actually write it. Behind every published author is an amateur writer who didn’t give up and who finished their novel. Nobody is going to publish an unwritten book.
After Beobrand, do you have other projects in the pipeline?
Is there any historic era or topic that you would dearly love to write about?
I would love to write a western.
Have you ever thought of writing non-fiction, if so what would you write about?
I have written scientific papers and manuals for computer software, so I have written non-fiction. However, I haven’t considered writing any non-fiction for publication beyond that. Perhaps one day, but I’m not sure it would be about history, as I would be too scared of getting things wrong! It’s bad enough when you do it in a novel!
Thank you so much for answering my questions Matthew – it’s always great to welcome you to the blog. Good luck with Killer of Kings – I wish you every success.
Thank you very much, Sharon, and best of luck with your own book that I know is coming out at the end of the year. Thank you.
About the author: Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.
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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.
©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly