What is your book all about?
THE ACCURSED KING, This book is Historical Fiction, or, as I like to call it, Historical Faction about the second half of Henry IV’s reign (after the decisive Battle of Shrewsbury). I’m up to book four in my series about the Plantagenets which I call “The Plantagenet Legacy”. In my first three books I write about the disastrous reign of Richard II and his usurpation by Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king. Henry IV rode to the throne on a wave of popularity which soon faded once everyone came to understand that he wasn’t going to be able to deliver on his promises. His government was crippled by lack of money, only aggravated by his inability to curb his own excesses. He confronted three major rebellions in the first five years of his reign, culminating in the Battle of Shrewsbury against the fiery Harry Hotspur. Henry almost lost that one, but Hotspur was slain, putting an end to that uprising.
Hotspur was the son of Henry Percy, the disgruntled Earl of Northumberland. It wasn’t long before Percy cooked up another rebellion, this time involving Archbishop Scrope of York. Things didn’t go well and Percy bolted, leaving poor Scrope holding the proverbial bag. By then, King Henry had had enough, and the Archbishop paid the penalty, much to everyone’s chagrin. You just don’t go around executing an Archbishop! And divine retribution was quick to follow. That very night, Henry was stricken with a terribly malady which everyone suspected was leprosy.
This was the beginning of the end for King Henry.
His health failed catastrophically over the next eight years. Luckily—or was it unluckily—his son Hal, the future Henry V, was ready and willing to take over the reins of government. Too ready, as far as King Henry was concerned.
What inspired you to write the book?
Originally, I was only going to write a book about Richard II. Well, that certainly got away from me! All along, my first and greatest inspiration was Shakespeare, who actually wrote a historical play about Richard and two about Henry IV. Of course, Falstaff pretty much stole the show, so to speak, and young prince Hal took the focus away from his father. Poor Henry IV spent a lot of time complaining about his errant son, and we really didn’t get much of a perspective about his reign. And there was a lot to talk about! Although Henry IV was one of the Plantagenet kings mostly glossed over by historians, I thought his story needed to be told. Although his reign was tempestuous and unhappy for him, he certainly left his heir a stable regime which allowed him to leave the country behind while seeking glory in France.
What is your target audience for the book?
There are a few sub-genres of Historical Fiction, with the romantic story about made-up characters in a historical setting leading the pack. Also, stories focusing on fictional characters who are secondary to a historical person are very common—like someone who serves the king, for instance. My sub-genre is the historical person himself. I am writing for the audience who wants to learn some history but prefers to take that lesson in a more entertaining fashion. After all, many good historians are not very good writers. In this case, I believe that historical accuracy—as much as is possible—is a must.
What do you hope readers could get out from your book?
I am always thrilled when someone tells me they learned something new. Sometimes, I want to set the record straight. Richard II, for instance, has really gotten a “bad rap”. People sometimes say he was the worst king ever—that sort of thing—without really knowing anything about his troubles. If I can get the reader to see the other side of the story, I feel that I accomplished my mission.
What are your future goals/plans for the book?
My series does not end here. I have decided to cover the Lancastrians all the way through the end of Henry VI’s reign—the end of their dynasty, culminating with the Wars of the Roses. The Lancastrians actually only lasted three generations, and they never really shook the taint of usurpers. I am currently working on Henry V, a book I’m entitling “The Agincourt King”. Once again, Shakespeare made him a hero, but the real story is much more complicated.
And something more about yourself.
Although today I am preoccupied with history, I wasn’t really bitten by the “history” bug until way after I graduated college and accidently joined the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). To put it in simple terms, the group reenacts the Middle Ages like it should have been (without the plague, famine—that sort of thing). I suddenly discovered that history was about people, not just dates and names. That was forty years ago, but lessons I learned held me in good stead when I decided to start writing.