I am delighted to welcome you to another #damppebblestakeover post. Following a short break over the Summer we are back with a bang…for a short while anyway! My guest post series is drawing to a close but I am thrilled with the fabulous authors that have wanted to take part, their inspirational posts and of course, the excellent feedback I have received from readers. Thank you one and all, the bookish community totally rocks! #damppebblestakeover may well be back in the future, maybe sooner rather than later as my wrist surgery has been rescheduled for early November. Keep your fingers crossed that it goes ahead this time around – saying that, if it doesn’t, November and December will become #damppebblestakeover months (otherwise I will have a very empty blog)!
One of my favourite things about this series of posts is that I have featured authors of genres outside of my crime and thriller comfort zone. Today I am thrilled to welcome historical fiction author, Catherine Hokin to the blog. Catherine’s debut novel, Blood and Roses, centres around Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI and oh my, it sounds too good to not put on the wishlist! Here’s the blurb:
“Blood and Roses tells the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-82), wife of Henry VI and a key protagonist in the Wars of the Roses.
This is a feminist revision of a woman frequently imagined only as the shadowy figure demonised by Shakespeare – Blood and Roses examines Margaret as a Queen unable to wield the power and authority she is capable of, as a wife trapped in marriage to a man born to be a saint and as a mother whose son meets a terrible fate she has set in motion. It is the story of a woman caught up in the pursuit of power, playing a game ultimately no one can control…”
Today Catherine shares with us a post about her favourite character, the dangerous woman. I can understand Catherine’s fascination with the dangerous woman. Some of my favourite crime reads are about a determined, ruthless female lead who does what she has to do, no matter what that is, in order to get what she wants. Over to you, Catherine…
I like dark characters. Some people excel at funny, frothy, shopaholic types; some people write moody and magnificent souls who constantly wrestle with the meaning of life and don’t tangle all that well with it. My characters are dangerous women. They are driven (usually by the pursuit of power or some form of love, never the romantic kind), act against expectation when the need arises (or when they create it) and have a core of steel which can be pushed against but never broken.
Although I knew I wanted to write historical fiction, I started down the writing road cutting my teeth and learning my craft with short stories. The one I am most fond of, Stolen Moments is about an amoral woman who steals from the moment she can walk, simply because she can. Her actions reach their peak in the abduction of a baby and, unsurprisingly, things do not go well. Because it was a competition finalist, I got feedback and that was fascinating: some of the judges were convinced it couldn’t have been written by a woman as it was too ‘wicked’ (they’re not meeting the right women), a couple of others genuinely said to me that they presumed (I think hoped) I didn’t have children. I have – they’re fine. What was most interesting about the reaction was how uncomfortable many people were around the concept of a ‘dangerous’ woman who broke social norms.
When I started my novel Blood and Roses about Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI and a key player in the Wars of the Roses, it was her demonization that first fascinated me. Most people, if they meet Margaret at all, meet her through Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare was, of course, in the pay of the Tudors so his treatment of her is pure propaganda and, to be honest, almost cartoonish. He refers to her as “a foul wrinkled witch’ and has her wandering round court clutching the severed head of her supposed lover the Duke of Suffolk, dripping blood everywhere like a deranged baddy from Gotham’s Arkham Asylum. Complete nonsense: contemporary sources describe her as “more wyttyer then the kynge” and as a “grete and strong labourid woman” who was capable of formulating military strategy and was a far safer pair of hands than her husband who had a habit of falling into prolonged comas when he wasn’t imagining himself as a saint. Was Margaret dangerous? Yes, to her enemies. But, when judged by the standards of the incredibly vicious conflict that is sweetened by the title the Wars of the Roses, she was no more dangerous than any of the men around her. Margaret was multi-faceted, difficult and fascinating. She believed the English throne belonged to her family, to her and to her son, and she fought tooth and nail to keep it despite fierce and brutal opposition. My Margaret takes a very dangerous risk for power’s sake and she pays for it but she never gives up, even when she probably should. That’s what dark characters do.
Dangerous women are having a moment in popular culture: Claire Underwood in House of Cards making Lady Macbeth look like mother of the year; Marvel’s troubled, hard-drinking Jessica Jones; the power-flip in Game of Thrones which has brought all the female characters into terrifying relief. These women break the rules, they are complex and compelling and cannot be second guessed – writers like to write them and audiences want to meet them, in literature as much as film and television. In my second novel (just completed and with my agent so keeping everything crossed), the lead character (Katherine Swynford) is a woman perfectly happy to unleash hell when her family is threatened and she fights back hard when social mores threaten to overwhelm her. She is a lioness and she bites.
Deliciously ruthless, dangerous women who don’t do what convention expects – that’s who I will always write about but, trust me, their dreadful deeds are purely from my imagination so don’t run away if you meet me. I’m really quite a happy soul…
Thank you for this brilliant post, Catherine. When book two is ready for launch, please think of damppebbles. You and your dangerous, convention defying female leads are always welcome.
Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This sparked an interest in hidden female voices resulting in her debut novel, Blood and Roses which brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses. Catherine also writes short stories – she was a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition and has been published by iScot magazine – and regularly blogs as Heroine Chic.