I live in the west of Wales, a country with a long history of conquest and occupation by Viking raiders, Roman invaders - and of course a succession of English kings. Not far from where I was born is Pembroke Castle, birthplace of King Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. I’ve always been interested in the stories of what life was like in early Wales, particularly in the so-called ‘dark ages’ when we had to rely on the oral tradition and writings of a few educated men.
The idea for Queen Sacrifice and my fascination with chess in fiction probably has its roots in reading Through the Looking Glass as a child. I was looking into this early Welsh history when I realised we had kings and queens, bishops and castles, with the ordinary people ‘pawns’ in deadly battles for power. I started writing, with the whole of 10th century Wales as my chessboard and the people of the north (Du, Welsh for ‘black’) lining up against the Saxon influenced southern Welsh (the Gwyn, Welsh for ‘white’)
Thirty-two characters are a lot to establish, so I spent the first six chapters ‘setting the scene’. I realised I only had two roles for women, so came up with a sister for the Du Queen, a maid for the queen of the Gwyn and a ‘housekeeper’ for one of the bishops. I enjoyed finding authentic Welsh names for them all and learning more about how they would have lived.
From chapter seven the narrative faithfully follows EVERY move in the legendary queen sacrifice game, known as "The Game of the Century" between Donald Byrne and 13-year-old Bobby Fischer in New York City on October 17th, 1956.
It was a special challenge to make a promo video for Queen Sacrifice that explains all this in less than a minute and a half. It also needed a cast of thousands to recreate the battle scenes. I am therefore very grateful to the Epic Medieval Re-enactment specialists and film maker and editor Justin Osborne.