June 10, 2019 at 5:33 pm #5341
I’m just sidling onto the podium here to say that the first book in my Medieval historical fiction trilogy of novellas came out at the end of last week.
I think I probably completely forgot to mention that I signed a three book contract in January – so er oops! and sorry about that!
As background, I like to occassionally leave the fertile fields of sci-fi/fantasy/horror and grub around in the mud of historical fiction. There’s nothing like trying to get in the mindset of people who lived 600 yrs ago (whilst still making them accessible to a modern audience) to give yourself a change of lanes. I’d been craving a bit more historical fiction writing since finishing The Oath and Crown Duology (co-written with @daedalus) so this seemed the perfect chance to play ‘who dunnit’ or rather ‘why dunnit’ in Medieval England.
I learned a lot from this experience and you may benefit too so here a list of dos and don’ts for Medieval histfic (which I deliver with my tongue firmly in my cheek.)
Do bear in mind the political and socioeconomic climate of the place and time you’re writing in – it’s crucial in creating character mindset.
Don’t do what I did and lose an entire day of research/ writing to working out what a loaf of bread would cost in the 1400s based on those same socio-economic factors. (Four 600gm long loafs for a hapenny in case anyone is interested!)
Do remember that transport was usually a choice between shank’s pony and a four footed steed. If you could afford to ride the ‘ambler’ – a breed of horse very like the icelandic pony – was your best choice as it had high endurance and a smooth gait. The humble mule or donkey was more like the three wheeled Robin Reliant. The rouncey was a comfortable horse with some battle potential – bit like a Toyota Yaris in that it wasn’t high maintenance and rarely broke down. Above this was the courser – horse of choice if you intend to enter a joust – think lower price bar Mercedes. And at the top is the Destrier, which is the sports car of horses. Like a sports car, it was very expensive, owned by few, high maintenance, liable to break down often, not very comfortable and really only suitable for a single task. In this case, battle. As a sidenote, if you looked like a villein or peasant it was assumed you had stolen your vehicle which would result in a local constable pulling you over and putting you in the stocks.
Don’t waste a further morning working out a ‘Which Horse’ catalogue for your MCs.
Do remember that things we take for granted now, did not exist or occur in the same way in the 14th C. Likewise, things they took for granted would stymie us. Marriage, for instance, wasn’t anything to do with the Church back then and rarely did a priest officiate. Usually a couple just declared each other husband and wife and as long as everyone was in agreement, that was that. For more formal weddings – ie nobility or gentry – weddings took place in the doorway of the residence where they were most likely to live so anyone who worked the local land could bear witness that they were married. The biggest problem was often that a couple would end up in bed together and one person would think that getting it on meant they were married and the other would disgree. Since there were generally no witnesses on those occasions, an arbitrator was called in. Still it wasn’t inescapable if a couple wanted to part ways (if they were low born enough). They simply ‘discovered’ that they were related. Consaguinity went in some interesting directions in 1300s often including those who were related dsitantly by marriage and had no genetic tie. (This is of course how the reading of the banns came about – the Church thought it really ought to stop people accidentally marrying their uncles, aunts and mother-in-law.) In addition, there was a form of gay marriage in 14th C. Affrerement was a Church sanctioned way of an unmarried man making another man – sometimes related, often not – his next of kin and common law partner with all the rights, including inheritance, of an actual spouse. These unions were officiated over by a priest (the Vatican still has the records) and while they might be platonic, various documents have also shown them to be the accepted sexual union and marriage of two gay men. (Women had fewer rights and therefore were not recognised in the same way.) While homosexuals were persecuted in 14th C, as every other time, it was very much a case of the law and practices varying by county. Often villages and towns accepted men who lived like this and everyone minded their own business.
Don’t miss your writing target for the day because you found a hilariously funny sex manual (designed to set newly weds off on the right foot and written by a helpful 14th C monk) and you now need to spend the afternoon sniggering about it with your writing buddies.
Honestly, I could go on but I’ve hit a tangent so I’m going to come back to my book. It features disllusioned, 14th C knight, Gregory Maudesley as he tries to claim his father’s lands, avoid his terrifying wife and get out of dodge before the Peasant’s Revolt burns London. It’s not all gore and grit. It’s a pretty funny book. I had fun writing it. If you like histfic and it sounds like your sort of thing, I’d love it if you read it.
You can get it here.
And if you’ve read this far, thanks 🙂June 10, 2019 at 6:01 pm #5342John S AltyParticipant
Well, congratulations and I hope the book does wonderfully well.June 10, 2019 at 8:03 pm #5343DaedalusParticipant
This is a fantastic book. A perfect weekend read. You’ll learn a heck of a lot about the Peasant’s Revolt but won’t realise until the end because you’ll have been so absorbed in the storyJune 10, 2019 at 8:06 pm #5344ElleParticipant
That’s fantastic news, congratulations!June 10, 2019 at 8:16 pm #5345JaneShuffParticipant
Congratulations! My to be read list is dominated bu books from Denizens this month!June 11, 2019 at 11:30 am #5355KateParticipant
Congratulations, Jules. Sounds like a brilliant book – I’m off to buy it now. And thanks for all the tongue in cheek info. Made me laugh as well as being interesting.June 11, 2019 at 2:38 pm #5363BellaParticipant
I do wonder how anyone can marry their mother-in-law accidentally or otherwise – rather puts the lie to all those joke, though.June 12, 2019 at 2:23 am #5375KazGParticipant
Congratulations, Jules! sounds like a brilliant read. 3-book contract that slipped your mind, eh? 🙂 congratulations for that, too.
Out of interest, who was that with and did you negotiate it yourself?
xJune 12, 2019 at 7:31 am #5377SquidgeParticipant
Brilliant! Loved the idea of ‘what horse’…and the 14th C sex manual. 😉
Looking forward to reading. Well done, Jules xJune 12, 2019 at 11:45 am #5384RaineParticipant
WOnderful, JB! THis sounds fab and you’ve been dead sneaky with the deals etc! Well done there, lovely. I do now think every book needs a What Horse list.June 12, 2019 at 3:28 pm #5385
Thanks, everyone 🙂
I am just about halfway through writing the second book now so the encouragement is much appreciated.
@JaneShuff – that has to be one of the best TBRs 😀
@Bella – I thought I was being flippant when I spoke about lads marrying their mother-in-laws, but having checked, there were cases where families got split up and the daughter thought she was motherless, got married, died young, and then the widower would marry the stranger woman who had come to town looking for her lost daughter! (Truth really is stranger than fiction.)
@Kaz – this was obviously the book I was struggling with during CampNaNo! Contract wise I negotiated it myself but SoA did look it over for me. Definitely the least sharky contract I’ve ever had in terms of rights grabbing and fairly generous terms too. Sharpe Books. (Who publish Daed’s Malta Convoy novellas too.)
@Squidge – thanks, hope you enjoy it.
@Raine – Honestly a ‘what horse’ catalogue could have spawned a completely different set of novellas lol. I had to pare back the horse character since he was in danger of becoming a speaking part (and it’s not historical fantasy. Why is it the horses I write always end up with too much personality?)June 12, 2019 at 6:21 pm #5387Philippa EastParticipant
Wonderful news, Jules!! Congratulations. The book sounds fab!June 13, 2019 at 11:03 am #5389RaineParticipant
Horses becoming fully fledged (ha) characters is only right and proper. They make more interesting friends/sidekicks/warriors/vindictive bastards than most actual people. 🙂June 14, 2019 at 5:35 am #5391SandraParticipant
Well done, Jules and thanks for the horse breed check list, correcting my belief that a destrier was a sort of fast carthorse. I’m a big fan of Dorothy Dunnett so this will be added to my list.June 15, 2019 at 9:27 am #5392
Thanks, Sandra 🙂 re destriers – apparently the modern shire/ cart/ draught horses are descended from them. Basically they bred some warhorses too big to have enough speed for battle and that’s where the latter great horses come from. I too was surprised to learn that a Medieval warhorse was usually only 15 – 16 hands high. (Apparently I also learned way more about warhorses than I meant too while I was in the research phase!)June 16, 2019 at 6:43 pm #5396DaedalusParticipant
I wonder if there was a bit of modern extrapolation going on with the notion of destriers being really huge, based on the misconception of the weight of armour? I admit I thought they were vast until I looked into it. If it was thought that armoured knights needed to be winched onto their horses, it would need to be a seriously hefty horseJune 16, 2019 at 7:09 pm #5397
I think you’re probably right there, Daed. I doubted my own findings so I consulted a few horsey people (breeders, riders etc) A horse can comfortably carry a third of it’s own weight. You’re average destrier of 15 hands weighed 1200 lbs. So they could comfortably carry 360lbs.
Assuming the average height and weight of a knight was 5’7″ and 150lbs (tended to be noble so ate meat often growing up and were therefore taller than peasants) and the average weight of a set of custom made full plate jousting armour (which was thicker and heavier than regular armour) was 55-60lbs. So the destrier was only carrying around 200lbs plus whatever weight the weapons used came to. Not even a third of its weight. Plus many knights in 1300-1400s inherited armour which was ruinously expensive. Most could not afford custom kit so they mixed and matched mail with pieces of plate for ares like the chest, elbows, knees, feet, shoulders and hands. This mix and match kit was significantly lighter. So you’re right, I think people assumed that armour was way heavier than it was and consequently you needed a 17 hand draught horse to bear the knight!
I have given this way too much thought 😂June 16, 2019 at 7:52 pm #5398RichardBParticipant
I believe I once read that Henry VIII, in his youth, could reputedly vault into the saddle over the horse’s hindquarters while wearing full armour…June 16, 2019 at 10:05 pm #5399
Most probably true, Richard. There’s a great youtube video showing people wearing full plate armour doing somersaults. Squires were required to master all the courtly and manly arts – combat, riding, tumbling, swimming, dancing etc – and often practised all of them in full armour. (Well probably not swimming because then there would have been far fewer swuires living to become knights, but dancing and tumbling certainly.)June 17, 2019 at 8:34 am #5400RichardBParticipant
And the armour would have gone rusty.June 17, 2019 at 12:55 pm #5402Jim BishParticipant
Congratulations on the book deal and for the new book coming out! I read A Black Matter for the King on the ferry back from Caen last week and enjoyed it very much!June 17, 2019 at 9:44 pm #5403
Thanks, Jim. And I’m so glad you enjoyed the Oath and Crown duology 😊June 18, 2019 at 9:55 pm #5425TheaParticipant
Congratulations, Jules your book looks fab – I’m looking forward to starting the series! Also, really enjoyed reading about your research, especially re the horses. It made me wonder whether you’d written a short story for the winter challenge that featured a talking horse, but maybe my imagination is running away with me…
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