Our lucky day
My friend Catherine Hokin lives in Glasgow, so I’m lucky enough to have coffee with her often. As the many fans of her hilarious Heroine Chic blog series can attest, that means regular exposure to the nonstop entertainment and humor that make up her regular thought processes.
But today you’re as lucky as me because Catherine is joining all of us for coffee. So grab a cup and pull up a chair. (Fair warning though…there’s never any telling what we’ll hear from her, so you might want to grab a few napkins too. If you snort and end up spewing coffee, you can’t say I didn’t warn you!)
‘Blood and Roses’ – Characters to Die For?
–Guest post by Catherine Hokin
So, the coffee is hot but what about my characters?
A big thanks to Barb for letting me wander in and discuss some of the cast of my novel Blood and Roses which is set during the Wars of the Roses, the dynastic struggle for the English throne which split the country in the fifteenth century.
I say characters, there’s a lot of them and to save this turning into a history lesson, I’m only going to talk about two – even Barb’s overflowing coffee pot won’t make it through the whole twisted lot of them…
The novel focuses on Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI who was the Lancastrian claimant to the throne and rather a challenging husband (he kept drifting off into comas, sometimes for years – admittedly some of you may find that less of a challenge). I have a simple, if deeply unscientific, method of evaluating whether a character interests me enough to write about them – would I take them out on the lash? For those of you who don’t speak Northern English that roughly translates as: would I spend an evening in their company over a cocktail or two. The criteria I base this on? Would they lead me into (a) fun (b) trouble or (c – and go to the top of the list) both. I think you can guess where Margaret is…
She is, to the use the medieval term, totally kick-ass. When I was thinking about who Margaret equates to in modern media terms, she’s a hybrid of two of my favourite female characters: Claire Underwood from House of Cards and Alicia Florrick from The Good Wife.
Claire Underwood – a terrifying Lady Macbeth in the sharpest stilettos who doesn’t so much pat babies on the head as snack on them for breakfast. There’s parallels – Margaret uses anybody and everybody to keep her power base secure and her son safe and when it comes back to bite her? She re-twists the plot. Oh to have written this scene with the carefully modulated use of the verb ‘wither’ and the delicious reworking of ‘empowerment’…
And Alicia Florrick – a good girl gone very bad. How can we tell? She drinks red wine, the new media trope for women who’ve crossed to the dark side. Mix her with Claire and you get Margaret’s beautiful, unpredictable side plus a capacity for negotiation that would give the UN a run for its money and an ability to ignore character flaws when it suits. Alicia’s transition from the mouse behind the throne to its occupant is a triumph particularly because her ascent doesn’t destroy her husband, it strengthens him – when you think that Margaret achieved that with a husband who was a narcoleptic candidate for the priesthood, you have to admire the girl even more.
There are, of course, men in the novel and some of them aren’t all bad…My personal favourite is Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick who was also known as the ‘Kingmaker’. Do I have similar criteria for the male characters as the females? Not quite and I don’t write romances but you do need a bit of a hottie and I’m as susceptible to a bad boy as anyone brought up reading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Warwick spins faster than a carousel horse when it comes to political allegiances and family is just a reservoir of people to use – he and Margaret start as enemies and end as…read the book, there’s a frisson (she’s French but I promise that’s about as French as the text gets).
Who was he in my head when I was writing it and now when I’m imagining the tv and film rights (what’s in this coffee)? The delectable Richard Armitage – the only man who could make a Middle Earth dwarf look hot.
So I shall leave my coffee now and wander back to the bars of Glasgow to meet my cast. I’m hoping that even the vague idea that I would ever see anyone like Mr Armitage in a Glasgow bar will convince you that my powers of imagination may be strong enough to create a novel worth a look…
Note from Barb: Whew! I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve got a strong urge to dump out the rest of my coffee and switch right over to the red wine. Any takers? For more about Catherine’s upcoming book, Blood and Roses, or for her hilarious recasting of historical women, please see her blog, Heroine Chic.
Blood and Roses by Catherine Hokin (coming January 2016 from Yolk Publishing):
The English Crown – a bloodied, restless prize.
The one contender strong enough to hold it? A woman. Margaret of Anjou: a French Queen in a hostile country, born to rule but refused the right, shackled to a King lost in a shadow-land.
When a craving for power becomes a crusade, when two rival dynasties rip the country apart in their desire to rule it and thrones are the spoils of a battlefield, the stakes can only rise. And if the highest stake you have is your son?
You play it.
About the author
Catherine lives in Glasgow and has had a varied career in marketing, education and politics which has mostly interfered with her writing. She has a History degree with a medieval specialism and wrote a thesis on politics, women and witchcraft in Medieval England – this kick-started her interest in many of the themes which have finally come to fruition in Blood and Roses, the story of Margaret of Anjou and her role as a key protagonist in the Wars of the Roses.
Catherine also writes short stories, again about strong women but with a contemporary theme, and has had a number of competition successes, most recently as a finalist in the 2015 Scottish arts Club Short Story Competition. She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and sometimes hysterical, eye over women in popular culture and life in general. In her spare time she loves films, listens to loud music and tries to remember to talk to her husband and children.
BLOOD AND ROSES: Coming January 2016 from Yolk Publishing