Violence – How far do you go?

My books are set in the Anglo-Saxon period. The tenth century was perhaps not quite as “dark” as earlier times – after all Byrhtnoth lived through the reign of Edgar the Peaceful, King of England from 959 to 975. I like to think that he was responsible in some part for that.

In a book about this period readers expert a certain amount of violence, it might be why they read that type of book. Big men with swords, fighting other men with swords, or axes, probably in the shield wall of some major battle. It might even be a battle that is mentioned in history!

I’m afraid I don’t write about that. I knew when I started that I couldn’t write about that. With that confession my potential readership has dropped by 90% but better that, than people are disappointed.

There is violence in my books. Yes, my hero is a big man with a sword – or rather searching for a sword. Yes, he kills people, when necessary. But he has not experienced any big battle. I was expecting that in book two, then I looked in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – no battle in 947 – perhaps next year.

What I want to talk about is violence against women. There have been a lot of complaints about depictions of violence to women, especially on television. Every police drama, thriller etc involves the murder, or attack on, a young, attractive woman. It would seem that the safest person to be nowadays is an elderly person! I don’t tend to read that type of book, but I assume they are the same.

In historical fiction most women appear as the feisty heroine in a romance or as the “love interest” of the hero who fades away when not needed by the plot. And yes, before anyone complains – I know some books aren’t like that.

So, what have I been writing this week? Violence, against a woman.

It took me a long time to work out how to tackle it. Without going into the details. A woman is abducted by nasty men, abused, and then rescued. I wanted to concentrate on the effect this has on all involved, especially my protagonist. It is at the mid-point; it will influence the rest of the book.

I started with the abduction, from the point of view of the woman. I stopped at the point when she realises what is likely to happen to her. I moved to the rescue and describe her appearance to the rescuers. I then carry on, my protagonist doesn’t know if she will live or die (neither does the reader until close to the end – no plot spoilers here!)

I hope I have struck the right compromise. The worst part about it was that I had to live through what she suffered. I had to work out exactly what was done to her, when, and by whom. It was not very nice. I didn’t have much of an appetite for dinner that night.

It is done now. I can carry on with the book.

All this is my excuse for not reaching my target this week (only 5503 words), together with a trip to the hospital with my mother, writing a review, a birthday (not mine) and Valentines Day.

Funnily enough it was on Valentines Day that I wrote that violent scene – and no it has nothing whatsoever to do with the state of my marriage.

Book Review – The Mercian Brexit

I have discovered a way to keep up with my writing and have time to read as well – read shorter books!

mercian-brexitI recently noticed this short story, subtitled An Anglo-Saxon Short Story of 957, by prolific author M J Porter. How could I resist? It was only £1.19 on Amazon and took only an hour or so to read.

The year is 957. After generations of fighting, England is one country, but King Eadred is dead. The only heirs are his nephews, brothers Eadwig and Edgar.

Eadwig is the eldest and becomes king. He has been brought up in Wessex and he and his advisers favour the south; the former kingdom of Mercia and the rest of the north are useful only to pay taxes and their needs are ignored.

Edgar was brought up by the Ealdorman of East Anglia, he is known in the north and Mercia would prefer him to be their king.

Will England be split once more? Can two kings rule?

This story brings to prominence a single event that will affect the whole future of the country, with more than half an eye on current events.
Eadred tries to make his currency the only one used, Mercia uses its own version.
Haakon, King of Norway visits to talk about trade deals.

I am glad to say that Byrhtnoth gets a mention – his decision will be a major factor in what happens.

The book appears to have been written in a hurry. At one point Edgar’s age is given as sixteen, later he is fourteen. Otherwise, it is an informative glimpse into a little known incident in history and proof that nothing, however important it seems at the time, is ever new.

Finally, to anyone who is interested, my writing last week was on target – 7,167 words over the week. I’m past 35k now, although some will have to be re-written – I brought in a major character who I discovered was in Ireland at the time!