21 June 2020

Guest Interview with Anna Chant, Author of the Quest for New England Trilogy

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

After the defeat at Hastings,
The failure of rebellions,
And the devastation of the North,
England desperately needs a new hero.

1066 is probably the most famous date in English history and we all know what happened. Duke William of Normandy invaded, defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and brought an end to the Anglo-Saxon era. But was it really the end? Not all Anglo-Saxons were quietly amalgamated into the new Norman regime.

There were rebellions and when those proved futile, some opted for a voluntary exile. Based on what is probably a true story the Quest for New England trilogy follows a large group of exiles in their search for a new home. I say it is probably a true story as the records are scarce and riddled with inconsistencies. As an example, the leader of this group is named as the Earl of Gloucester, although as far as we know there were no earls of Gloucester pre-Conquest! But for me, this is my favourite kind of history to fictionalise, with plenty of gaps for my imagination to take over.

The story is told over three books and at the beginning in 1073 there are no plans to leave England with the characters still hoping to overthrow the Conqueror and place Edgar, the last of the Wessex line on the throne. Although the action takes place some years after 1066, that year overshadows the trilogy as the characters struggle to come to terms with the grief and bitterness of defeat. 

Siward, the leader, remains traumatised by what he witnessed on the battlefield of Hastings aged just 17, while his wife, Oswyth was orphaned that day and still grieves for the father she idolised. Other characters include a bishop driven from office, a nobleman injured at Stamford Bridge struggling with the guilt at not fighting at Hastings and a man whose entire family were wiped out in the Harrying of the North. Can they overcome the ghosts of the past to succeed in their search for a New England?

Many thanks to Tony Riches for inviting me onto his blog today. Now for a few questions!

What is your preferred writing routine?

I don’t have a particular routine, but in 2016 I made it my new year’s resolution to write or edit at least one sentence a day, which with very few exceptions I have maintained ever since. It may not sound like much, but it’s easy to get out of the habit of writing. However no matter how busy life gets it’s always possible to manage one sentence. Of course, usually once I start writing I don’t want to stop.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Just write. Don’t worry too much about whether what you’re writing is any good. Once you’ve written something you can always improve it. Also try not to worry about whether other people will like it. Write the book you want to read. I would also strongly recommend connecting with other writers, both in real life and social media. The writing community is such a supportive one, always ready to offer advice and encouragement.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I find promoting my books very difficult, mostly using social media, particularly Twitter to get the word out. Awareness of my books has increased with each new release with more sales of my first novel, Kenneth’s Queen in an average week now than I did in the first three months after its release in 2016.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The best discoveries are always on those links I nearly don’t click, thinking it won’t be interesting/something I knew already, but something makes me check it out anyway. The Quest for New England series is an example of this. It started with an article about medieval New England. Assuming it was going to be about Vikings in America, I nearly ignored it. By the time I finished reading it, I knew there was going to be a book. There ended up being three.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I struggled writing the death of Liudolph, Duke of Swabia in God’s Maidservant. Usually I quite enjoy wallowing in a good death scene, but writing it for Liudolph was hard. I think it’s because Liudolph was a character who had been born in my previous book, The Saxon Marriage. After ‘watching’ him grow up, I hated to ‘see’ him die and, as a parent myself, portraying the grief of his father was particularly daunting. Writing about the medieval period, he is not the first character I’ve written to die young but to me he is the most tragic.

What are you planning to write next?

We are currently in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision I made last autumn, before the current crisis struck, was that my next book was going to be set in a pandemic – the 6th century Plague of Justinian. Writing about a pandemic while being in one has been challenging, with the fears and experiences of the characters feeling a bit too real. As a result progress has been sporadic and it’s still at the first draft stage, so that’s all I can reveal about the story for now!

Anna Chant

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About the Author

Anna Chant is a historical fiction author of nine books set in the early medieval period. Her debut novel, Kenneth’s Queen was published in 2016 and was the first of six books in the Women of the Dark Ages series, telling of the lives of the often forgotten and uncelebrated women who lived in that era. Taking inspiration from both history and legend, Anna particularly enjoys bringing to life the lesser known events and characters. When not writing, Anna enjoys walks on the moors and coastline of Devon where she lives with her husband, three sons and a rather cheeky bearded dragon. Find out more at Anna's website darkagevoices.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @anna_chant

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