‘It’s a small world!’
I’ve often said that on my travels, even if I don’t really believe it. It is of course a very large world we live on, and crammed full of fantastic places and people, most of which I will never visit or meet.
But, figuratively speaking, it does sometimes seem rather small. Such as when a friend some years ago was travelling deep in rural Kashmir and bumped into someone who had lived in the room next door-but-one to hers in her hall at university. Or an incident that happened to me this weekend.
I’ve just returned (and am recovering) from a fantastic, if rather hectic weekend at Middleham Castle! Being an English bank holiday weekend in a major tourist area, it was pretty busy – even if some people were no doubt distracted to the Leyburn and Masham shows on Saturday and the town charity football match on the Sunday. Thank you to Gill for once again inviting me to set up my stall (alongside fellow author Marla Skidmore) outside the castle gatehouse, and to everyone who came along and bought (or pre-ordered) my books – I hope you enjoy them and also that you will consider posting a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads if you do (thanks in advance!)
As you can see from the photo (many thanks to Sue English for sharing it), I all but sold out of Time out of Time, as well as selling plenty of my White Boar books, and even collecting pre-orders for King in Waiting (watch out for the cover reveal and details for pre-ordering via Amazon very soon… I’m also taking pre-orders of signed (or unsigned) paperback by email or direct message, of course: AlexMarchant84@gmail.com or (https://www.facebook.com/AlexMarchantAuthor/ and https://twitter.com/AlexMarchant84).
But I’d like to send a special shout-out to the dad of Rory and Emilia, who bought both White Boar books for them yesterday because they know the castle very well – then was compelled to buy Time out of Time when he discovered it was set in Surrey.
‘Where in Surrey?’ he asked.
‘It’s a made-up village named Temperley, as “tempus” is Latin for “time”,’ I said. ‘In the story it lies somewhere around Dorking and Leatherhead (“Downham” and “Weybury” in the book), but it’s mostly based on another village on the edge of the London suburbs.’
‘Which one?’ he asked.
‘A little place called Ewell,’ I replied.
‘That’s where I was born and grew up,’ he said.
So we had a chat about where and what places he might know. And I mentioned the pseudonymous river that flows along Allie’s valley. He even knew about one rather shattering historical event that is related late on in the book.
So, if you’re reading this, Rory and Emilia’s dad, I hope you’ll let me know if you recognize any more places/events in the book! It would be great to hear from you.
I’ve always felt my writing is rooted in a real sense of place, hence my need always to visit every location in my books – as I once detailed in a blog post for Mary Anne Yarde (https://maryanneyarde.blogspot.com/2019/10/join-historical-fiction-author-alex.html). Even if those locations are fictionalized, as in Time out of Time. In King in Waiting (publishing 17 September 2021) and its sequel, Sons of York (spring 2022), the same holds true. Though it has to be admitted that for one particular location, the pandemic scuppered a return to a place visited by my characters that I hadn’t visited for more than 30 years. I hope it won’t be obvious in the way the scenes are written… but then again, places can change enormously in 500+ years, so hopefully I’ll get away with it!
How important to you is a sense of place in a book when you’re reading it? And do you have any particular locations you tie in with certain books – and maybe have travelled to specially because of that?
In my case, as a youngster I was especially keen to travel to Snowdonia – Tywyn, Cader Idris, the Dysynni valley, Barmouth – after reading The Grey King, the fourth in Susan Cooper’s marvellous The Dark is Rising sequence. Somehow I knew (before the days of the internet) that they were the only real places that were named in the books (bar some places peripheral to the stories, such as St Austell and Slough), rather than Ms Cooper using fictionalized versions. (I later discovered the villages of Trewissick and Huntercombe were based on Mevagissey in Cornwall and Dorney in Buckinghamshire – thank you, Master Google!)
Now, are there any other ‘Ewellians’ out there reading this?
Alex Marchant is author of two books telling the story of the real King Richard III for children aged 10+, The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man, and editor of Grant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, two anthologies of short fiction inspired by the king, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK).
A third book in the ‘White Boar’ sequence, King in Waiting, will be published on 17 September 2021, with the fourth, Sons of York, due out in 2022. Alex has also published a standalone timeslip novel for readers aged 10+, Time out of Time.
Alex’s books can be found on Amazon at:
My Twitter handle and Matthew Wansford’s