Today we talk about Deaths Disasters and Destinies, a book by Val Morgan published with our publishing house Europe Books.
Europe Books had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Val Morgan to get to know her better, what prompted her to the writing of her book Deaths Disasters and Destinies, as well as the fascination that lies within the Anglo-Norman period.
Below you can find our interview. Take a seat and enjoy your reading!!!
- What prompted you to the writing of your book?
This book came about when I realised that after researching my four novels set in the Anglo-Norman period, I had amassed a huge amount of historical and archival material. So, I looked for an innovative way of using it. I was struck by how many fascinating and little-known personalities I had encountered in dusty archives of documents, writs and letters. I felt strongly that these figures deserved to be better known by a wider audience of non-specialists because their stories were exciting, astonishing, tragic and very human. In this way I could create a vivid collection of historical true stories and at the same time give an account of Anglo-Norman history through the portrayal of twelve unique but also representative and interlinked lives. I wanted to create a focused but spacious history book, sharp on facts where known, properly researched, written in an accessible and innovative style, one that historians wouldn’t reject and readers of novels would enjoy.
- What is the message you wanted to send out to your readers?
I don’t know that I have a message, unless it’s to say that vivid human stories are to be found in every period of history in any place at any time. One of the wonders and excitements of my research was the element of discovery. Finding out about these characters from a remote past and discovering or revealing or interpreting their personalities from the archival evidence, taught me how characters from one age to the next, in spite of totally different contexts, share the same basic human traits, weaknesses and strengths. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that the period treated here is woefully underexamined (except by specialist scholars) and, in general, it is either ignored or misunderstood. I thought the time was ripe for some inventive and dramatic but also faithful reinterpretation. Often what is missing from the record of these characters, what is left out of the documentation, charters, writs, chronicles, enactments, treaties and so on is character, personality, inner life. This book I hoped would fill this need.
- What is so fascinating about the Anglo-Norman period?
There is a certain fascination about the sheer abundance and variety of documents for this period and the story they tell is essentially one of beginnings. In fact, the origins of some of the most important English institutions, as well as modes and customs of English life, date from this period. The scholar, R. W. Southern, categorised the achievements of this era in these terms: “It is the first, and one of the greatest ages of historical scholarship […] we have the beginnings of the only purely English religious order; the beginnings of the University of Oxford; the earliest English scholastic writers; the rebirth of English science after a long decline. We have our first Charter of Liberties, which became the immediate inspiration of Magna Carta; the first foreign treaty in our history […] the first victory of foot soldiers over mounted knights, foreshadowing the victories of Crécy and Agincourt. We have the first treatise on English law; the first royal financial accounts; the first documents of manorial administration. For the first time it is possible to grasp in some detail the complexity of English government and society.” This is surely fascinating.
- What would you suggest to a young artist who wants to start writing?
Have a go. Join a writing circle, take a Creative Writing course at a university. Read widely. Discover your interests. Pay attention to language and the nuances of expression. Listen. Read more. Write for your satisfaction not money. When you start to write make sure you are really enthused by the subject so that you can sustain long periods of hard work by the passion of your commitment. Finally, do your own thing. Don’t listen to people like me.
- Are you working on a new writing project you can tell us about?
Not really, but I have the idea I would like to bring out my last two novels in a revised single edition because together the story they tell is the remarkable story of an epoch with a gallery of vivid characters dominated by one man. Not a king, but an Archbishop, Anselm of Canterbury. His life is an optic of an age and should, I feel, be treated by larger work. Anselm travelled the real and figurative highways of a Europe undergoing great changes: intellectual, devotional, political and economic and his life reflects all these angles. I believe my last two novels, combined, revised and edited, would bring together in one volume a dramatic reconstruction of Anselm’s life showing how he became a giant of the times, the equal of the great towering figures of William the Conqueror and Pope Gregory VII.
Europe Books thanks the author, Val Morgan, once again for taking the time and answering our questions. We are really pleased to have walked alongside her on the editorial path that led to the publication of her book Deaths Disasters and Destinies. We wish her the best of luck for her future works.
To you, my readers, may you be moved by this story and discover, through the vicissitudes of the characters here told, the fascination of a remote past that is indeed so actual and so very present in our everyday life.
So, my dear reader, all I have to say is to enjoy your reading!