Work in Progress

Civil War re-enactment at Weymouth.

Civil War in Weymouth.

The idea for my current book was born many years ago when working in Weymouth. Teaching local history to my classes, I was fascinated by two events that happened in Dorset during the Civil War. One was the seige of Corfe Castle and the other was a daring plan executed by the Royalists in Portland. They plotted to infiltrate and then storm the twin towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis during a cold February night, and oust the Parliamentarians. I dreamed of one day writing about these incredible events.

My work in progress is set on Portland and based on the theme of The Tempest. This is one of my favourite Shakespearean plays, and I’ve often imagined it taking place on Portland. I’m therefore loosely combining the events of the Portlanders’ attempted coup during the Civil War with the plot of the Tempest.

For the past year or so I’ve been engaged in research. My head is boggling with battles, seiges, marches and surrenders – and I’m not even particularly interested in the military side of things! One of the best books I’ve read on the subject of the Civil War is a novel by Lindsey Davis called Rebels and Traitors – I found this extremely helpful. Two non-fiction books which have been excellent for the local history side of my research are Treasure of the Golden Grape by Selwyn Williams, and The Crabchurch Conspiracy by Mark Vine.

The ruins of St Andrews Church

The ruins of St Andrews Church

The island of Portland (technically a peninsular because of Chesil Beach, but an island to all intents and purposes) is unique. It’s beautiful, magical, mysterious – a writer’s dream. It’s also had its guts ripped out by quarrying, which has been and still is vital to the economy, putting food on the table for countless generations. At the time my novel is set, the 1640s, the quarrying industry on Portland was still minor and the landscape therefore was totally different from today’s.

I’ve spent countless days in Weymouth reference library, Portland Museum, and the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester. The more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know. One of the problems is that the Roundheads burned down the largest house on the island – the Old Parsonage – where many of the records were probably kept.

The Old Parsonage

The Old Parsonage

I’m now at the stage of resurrecting the ruins of the buildings and the devastated landscape,  and peopling the island with my characters. Prospero, Miranda, Caliban and Ariel are slowly coming to life and mixing with real-life characters such as Fabian Hodder, Colonel William Sydenham of the Parliamentarians and Sir Lewis Dyve of the Royalists. This is an exciting time, as I stand poised, ready to pick up the marionettes and make them all dance to my tune.

The working title for this book is Of his Bones.

AND ALSO …

I’ve had an amazing idea for a series of books for 8 – 12 year olds – a complete bolt out of the blue as I was driving home recently – based on animals and cars. That doesn’t sound especially exciting, I realise – but it is! However this is strictly under wraps at present. And although it is for children, I’m pretty sure that many readers of my Stonewylde series would enjoy the stories as a light read too.