Squire’s Hazard

Welcome to Carolyn Hughes for an interview and focus on her new book Squire’s Hazard, The Fifth Meonbridge Chronicle. Published October 2022 / 360 pages

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How do you overcome the loathing, lust and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?

It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.

At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.

Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance, learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancour against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.

As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation, and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby, so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn…

Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?

Secrets, hatred and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.

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Here’s my interview with Carolyn:

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.

  1. How did you become an author?

I’ve been writing on and off all my adult life – short stories, novels, children’s stories, ideas for non-fiction books. But for a long time it never occurred to me to try and have anything published – I wrote for pleasure, or perhaps because I couldn’t NOT write. Eventually, though, I did begin to think publication might be possible and tried submitting my contemporary women’s fiction to agents, but I got nowhere. Then, quite late in life, I decided to take an MA in Creative Writing – to give a “focus” to my writing, as I told myself. And it worked. The result was Fortune’s Wheel, which I eventually self-published. And I WAS then a “published writer”, a writer of historical fiction, and that is what I now think I am.

2. Tell us about your writing process.

I don’t really have a routine, though I do write most days (unless I’m on holiday or spending time with family and friends). “Writing” usually involves some creative work: drafting the current WIP; editing a completed one; planning the next one; occasionally writing a blog post. But I will also spend some time managing my Facebook ads, writing to my Team Meonbridge followers, engaging in social media (Facebook and Twitter).

In terms of writing process, I’m a plotter/pantster. I always outline a new book at chapter level, usually including a few scenes and even snippets of dialogue when I can. But, when I’m drafting, I use the outline as a guide, not an agenda, and I do “pants” most of the scenes and dialogue. I have no problem diverging from my outline or restructuring it as I go. I also edit as I go, and edit again if later chapters demand a rethink, then edit yet again (probably two or three times) when the first draft is complete. My process is neither speedy nor perhaps “efficient”, but it works for me. Once I’m done with editing, the manuscript goes first to beta readers (more editing…) and finally to my professional editor (and yet again…).

3. How would you persuade readers to buy your book(s)?

The way I try to do it is by sharing them on social media, mostly Twitter, and by advertising them on Facebook, both of which I do more or less constantly throughout the year. My strategy with both is the same: I use a particularly striking quote from a review of my books, plus an image of the book or books (which I produce myself using Canva), as a prompt to encourage potential new readers to click on a link either to buy or to read more on my website. I use a variety of such quotes, but amongst my favourites are these, all of them from bloggers who’ve reviewed all my books:

Once you dip your toe into the Meonbridge Chronicles, you’ll never want to leave…” @BrookCottageBks

Stunning evocative writing … a time-portal into the 14th Century” @thebookmagnet

You don’t so much read about the folk of Meonbridge as dwell amongst them for a few precious hours” @Cathy_A_J

4. What is your all-time favourite book? What makes it special?

Luttrell Psalter. The Luttrell Psalter, a massive 14th century book of prayers that is lavishly illuminated with images of medieval life and of the most extraordinarily bizarre creatures. I have a facsimile of it (the original lives in the British Library) and I love it to bits.

British Library collections. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

5. What are you reading at the moment?

I like reading a variety of genres, including crime, psychological drama and of course historical fiction, and I often have more than one book on the go at once. Currently: Whatever Happened to Betsy Blake by David B Lyons; The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell; Widowland by C J Carey. All very different!

6. Which author(s) (past or present) would you invite to dinner?

Geoffrey Chaucer, to talk about his fabulous fourteenth century characters. Helen Dunmore, to discuss her brilliant and very moving historical novels, especially The Siege, set in Leningrad in World War II. William Trevor, so I can quiz him about his astonishing skill at drawing such deeply insightful pictures of the lives of ordinary people in his short stories.

7. What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or passions?

I can’t say I have any particular “passions”. When I’m trying to relax, I like to read and I do quite a lot of online puzzles, jigsaws, word games and the like. I also enjoy gardening, and I love spending time with my family. Because we are retired from paid employment, we are able to go away quite often on short breaks and longer holidays though, to be honest, I very often spend some of that time away doing some writing!

8. How important is it to have your historical facts right and are there any instances when you would bend history to fit your story?

Authenticity is very important to me. Several years ago, I read for a PhD in Creative Writing, and the thesis was entitled Authenticity and alterity: Evoking the fourteenth century in fiction. I wanted to explore what contributed to a sense of authenticity in historical fiction and how it can be achieved. As for historical facts, well, with the kind of historical fiction that I write – which is entirely fictional in terms of locations and characters – I don’t generally need to worry too much about details of historical events. Having said that, the Meonbridge Chronicles are all set within the context of the real events of the fourteenth century, and for one or two of the books, historical fact does play a part. I am thinking of Fortune’s Wheel, in which the whole premise of the book is based on the aftermath of the Black Death, and Children’s Fate, where plague returns again and has a devastating impact on the characters. I do have an unpublished book, The Nature of Things, which is much more focussed on the real events of the fourteenth century. And for that, the answer is, no, I haven’t bent history to suit the story, but rather adapted the story to fit what we know of the events.

9. Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?

Write! Lots! Practice makes perfect, they say, but more modestly, in my own experience, practice has certainly made “better”. Putting pen to paper – fingers to keyboard – frequently, even if not for very long, gradually hones your writing skills. Reading, too – with a somewhat critical eye – can help hugely in understanding what works and what doesn’t in structure, language, imagery and so on. I would also urge you to share your writing with trusted others… With friends, of course, especially if they’re writers too, or are voracious but critical readers. But also I recommend joining a writers’ group for regular writerly feedback on your work, and (hopefully) empathetic support. And, of course it follows – do take notice of what people say about your writing!

10. What are your future plans as an author?

I’m currently writing book “4.5” of the Meonbridge Chronicles series, which is a companion novel to the main series. I decided to write a spin-off from book 4, Children’s Fate, when readers wanted to know what happened to the heroine at the end of book 4. The book is called The Merchant’s Dilemma. Once that’s done, I will write the sixth Chronicle proper, for which I have a plan but not yet a detailed outline.

Author Bio:

CAROLYN HUGHES has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.

Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow. You can connect with Carolyn through her website http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com and on social media

Social Media Links:

Website: www.carolynhughesauthor.com – Twitter: https://twitter.com/writingcalliope – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolynHughesAuthor/ – Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/carolyn-hughes – Amazon Author Page UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Carolyn-Hughes/e/B01MG5TWH1/ – Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16048212.Carolyn_Hughes

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