Thursday, 4 February 2016

Jennifer C Wilson guest post @inkjunkie1984

On the 4th February, 2013, I was glued to my computer screen, getting annoyed by phone calls, emails and frankly anything at all which threatened to distract me from what I was trying desperately to focus on. Happily, it was a quiet day. Because this was it. Months after a certain skeleton was discovered in a certain car park, we were finally going to hear (for certain) whether it was or was not King Richard III. I actually found myself holding my breath.

Despite trying very hard, I still cannot put my finger on when my obsession with Richard III started. He’d appeared as a footnote in a couple of Tudor history books I’d read, and I knew vaguely about the Wars of the Roses, but gradually, I began working backwards, and became increasingly interested in this (to my mind) misunderstood monarch. As a fan of Macbeth, I suppose I sympathised with another king Shakespeare had plagued with a twisted reputation. By the time the dig in Leicester had started, I was, you could say, ‘keen’ on the notion of finally finding his body. After all, how could we have lost one of our most famous kings?

The dig itself started on the morning of the 25th August 2012, and according to Mathew Morris, Site Director for the University of Leicester, it took six hours and 34 minutes to find the king. Of course it wasn’t that simple. Having found part of a human skeleton (a leg bone), work had to halt whilst appropriate licences were obtained, but finally, on the 4th and 5th September, the skeleton was revealed. Male. Curved spine. Battle injuries. It really couldn’t be that easy, could it?

As newsreaders reported the findings, I couldn’t quite believe it. They explained the various tests which would now be undertaken, the dating of the bones, the DNA analysis – all very twenty-first century techniques, deployed to prove or disprove whether this was indeed the man himself.

I tried to write, but nothing worked. I was desperate to capture something, anything, of the history, the science, the thrill of the hunt, but not one thing seemed to flow properly.

And so we arrived at the 4th February.

Armed with headphones, I onto the news website, listening to each announcement as it was made. I was very tempted to ignore my phone, but wasn’t convinced my colleagues would understand…

With the final conclusion that they were certain it was, indeed, Richard III, I was almost crying. Ridiculous, surely? I mean, nobody was expecting to find him alive, and yet, seeing the images of his skeleton somehow felt sad. Happily, things soon turned themselves around; there were more documentaries, articles, and books than you could possibly keep up with. Richard III was firmly back on the scene.

I visited the grave-site, beautifully-presented, but even there the words wouldn’t flow. Then, thanks to a competition for ghost poems, I spent more time on it. If Richard’s ghost was hanging about, then surely, with all this publicity, he’d be a bit more active? I got thinking that if they Richard and Anne Boleyn were to meet as ghosts, they could have a lot in common; both lost their lives to a Henry Tudor, after all. And so it began.

The poem was awful, but that November, through NaNoWriMo, I managed 50,000 words. I loved the writing process, finding snippets here and there which could be expanded, developed and eventually turned into some kind of plot. The editing process was long, but in January 2015, I had an amazing stroke of luck, which gave me the final shove I clearly needed.
Sat in Leicester Cathedral, in my ballot-allocated seat at the Service of Compline for Richard III (on the front row, of all places – it pays to arrive earlier than requested…), I knew I had to buck up and finish it. So I did.

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015. This week, I’m happy to say it is reduced to 99p/c as part of Crooked Cat’s special paranormal themed week. If you take a look, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III, clearly!). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was released by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London Blurb:

A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave? But foremost – will the young Plantagenet Princes join them?

Key links

International Amazon link:

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

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