Mastodon The Writing Desk: Guest Post by Ruadh Butler, Author of Lord of the Sea Castle (The Invader Series, Book 2)

30 June 2017

Guest Post by Ruadh Butler, Author of Lord of the Sea Castle (The Invader Series, Book 2)

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1170 is a tumultuous time for the people of Wales, England and Ireland. Raymond de Carew is in love, but the woman he desires is an earl's daughter and so far above his station that he has no hope of ever winning her. However, Raymond s lord has a mission for him: one that if it succeeds will put an Irish king back on his throne and prove Raymond worthy for in Norman society, a man can rise as high as his skill with a sword can take him. With only a hundred men at his side, Raymond must cross the ocean to Ireland ahead of his mercenary lord's invasion. There he will face the full might of the Viking city of Waterford... and either his deeds will become legend or he will be trampled into dust.

It was a wet March morning when the terrible truth was discovered. As a tiny spectacled and freckled red-head with a mouthful of braces and only one full year of secondary school under my belt, few could have realised the monster that lay within that diminutive frame.

Our first class of the day was history, always my favourite of mine, and as usual it was noisy as the children filed into their seats to begin the lesson. News that our teacher, Miss Somerville, was off sick soon began to circulate, causing the braver lads to begin a small cheer and ever more rambunctious play.

That ended abruptly as Dr Marsh strode into the room, halting just inside the door to cast an imperious stare over everyone in the class.

“Good morning, 2H1.”

Three paces took him to the blackboard and he carves the words, big and brash, up there in chalk: THE NORMANS.

Without elaborating, he swept up the class roll from the desk and runs his finger down the names.
“Wilson, Thornton, Black, Suitor, Smyth, Jeffers, Purvis, Cuddy, Simpson,” he murmured as he searched through the list, disappointed it seemed with what was contained therein. Then suddenly his eyes lit up. “Ah-ha!” he cackled. The folder snapped shut in his hand.

“Butler! Where is Mr Butler?”

Blood poured to my ears, away from my chest, as my hand gingerly rose in the air. Dr Marsh beckoned that I should join him at the front of the class. His face gave away nothing to indicate what might follow.

I was turned by my shoulders to face my classmates. They seemed as shocked as I that one of their number – particularly the smallest and most bookish amongst them – had been pulled from the safety of the flock to be exhibited before them. Each wondered what was to befall me.

“This,” Dr Marsh announced, his hand landing onto my head, “is one of the most dangerous people ever to arrive in Ireland. This is one of the Normans. Beware.”

I like to think that there was a sharp intake of breath, a strained silence, and, as I wandered back to my desk, that my classmates inclined away from my path. What did happen was, as everyone else listened in to Dr Marsh continue talk about crop rotation, the manorial system, and the Doomsday Book, my mind drifted elsewhere.

I was thirteen. I had just learned that I bore the name of conquerors. I couldn’t have been more delighted.

Fast-forward fourteen years and I came across a number of journals about the Butler family while I was staying with my father’s cousin in London. Remembering back to that moment in school, I began reading. I was hooked. I had to know more and began investigating the deeds of their great rivals, the FitzGeralds. I had stumbled across an untapped treasure trove of stories; of battles beyond the frontier, of adventure and grand romance, of political scheming at a time of great change. They were my ancestors’ deeds. I was fascinated. I knew had had to write about them.

My first attempt was Spearpoint. Told from the perspective of an exiled Irish king, I didn’t think it quite worked. So I began again, this time from the angle of one of the real-life mercenaries from Pembrokeshire who he had employed to help him reclaim his kingdom. With a bit of patience a book called Spearpoint was transformed into one called The Outpost with the Welsh-Norman knight Robert FitzStephen as the main character for the first time. 

Further work and fine-tuning – for one hour during lunch break at work as well as a good few weekends and late nights – saw The Outpost become Vanguard. It was only when I was confident that the book was ready that I sent it to my father’s old sailing pal, Wallace Clark, a respected (and much missed) travel writer, for his thoughts. He loved it, but suggested a name change. Thus, Swordland was sent out for the consideration of literary agents. It found a home with Accent Press and was published in paperback in April 2016. The second in the series, Lord of the Sea Castle, was released in June 2017 and I am writing the third right now.

Am I doing homage or attempting to keep these people alive beyond their lifespan is through storytelling? I’m not a religious person, but I suspect my writing is a form of ancestor worship. My characters are all based on real people and real events, and by telling their story with as much authenticity and passion as I can muster, I hope that they will be in a sense resurrected and that I can help my readers have a glimpse of a different world. And, of course, I too am a Norman. Beware!

Ruadh Butler
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About the Author

Born in Derry and brought up in Tyrone, Ruadh Butler studied Biomedical Sciences and has worked in newsrooms, bars, and laboratories, as a security guard, musician, and a lifeguard. A keen reader of historical fiction from his youth, he decided to try and emulate his heroes - Conn Iggulden, Bernard Cornwell, and Robert Louis Stevenson - and write an adventure during lunch time at work. A year later he had completed the first draft of his debut novel, Swordland, which charts the remarkable career of Robert FitzStephen, a Norman-Welsh warrior who became the first invader of Ireland in 1169. His second novel, Lord of the Sea Castle, was published by Accent Press in June 2017. It tells the story of Raymond the Fat and the Siege of Baginbun, Ireland’s version of Hastings, in the summer of 1170 when a hundred Normans faced a Viking horde twenty times their number on the south Wexford coast. Find him nattering about all things Ireland, Norman, historical, and rugby on his author page on Facebook, on Twitter at @ruadhbutler, or at his website,

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