Mark Turnbull is a young English author who lives in the seventeenth century.
Well, he would if he could. He’s a passionate enthusiast of seventeenth century history. When he’s not writing or researching, Mark enjoys battle re-enactments and visits historic sites.
Mark’s here today to tell me about his fixation on all things English Civil War, a period of great interest to me. Many decades ago I read Margaret Irwin’s novel The Stranger Prince. It’s the story of the romantic Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and that led me down all sorts of paths back to the 1600s.
I even once visited Linz on the strength of it. The Linzer Torte made it well worth our while!
Great to speak with you, Mark. I owe my interest to Margaret Irwin. How did you become interested in the War of the English Civil War?
When I was ten years old, my parents took me to Helmsley Castle, in North Yorkshire. I’d had a love of history from an early age. Like any child, I was eager to see what the gift shop had in store, eventually landing upon a pack of cards. But this was no ordinary pack. Each card featured an image of a monarch of England, along a short biography of their reign.
After flicking through many tombstone effigies, my eye was caught by Van Dyck’s portrait of King Charles I at the hunt. The colours, clothes, the beautiful artistry, as well as the King’s pose – imperiously looking at me as if I’d interrupted him – all drew my interest.
I was shocked to find out that he was publicly executed in the name of his people. Like a murder mystery, I now wanted to know who did it, when and why. Back then, of course, there was no internet to help with such questions.
How much research is involved in your writing?
My research is almost daily. Noting down observations, descriptions, or facts that I can use. I list historical characters’ movements as I come across them, jot down plot lines, or simply read about the period. It is constant research, although it’s all a pleasure. I feed my interest in the period, and that, in turn, feeds my writing.
Why are you the perfect person to write your books?
My friends tell me that I was born in the wrong century!
I really love the period I write about, and find the historical characters and events fascinating. They inspire my imagination.
For me, it’s the small details or snippets of personal facts that bring a person, event or an era to life. After reading and writing about the civil war and re-enacting it in The Sealed Knot as a pikeman, I feel as if I live and breathe the era when I write. Thirty years of passionate interest has helped me get to grips with the 17th century world and I stay true to the history.
What was the first book you bought for yourself?
Not long after my interest was sparked, I watched the film Cromwell, starring Richard Harris and Alec Guinness (not historically accurate, but is wonderfully visual!). This led me to purchase Cavaliers and Roundheads by Christopher Hibbert to expand my knowledge of the period. It’s timeless, and I have re-read it numerous times. It takes you through the war and skilfully brings it to life. I was hooked by every detail.
The book survives to this day, sitting on my bookshelf like a proud grandfather amongst the array of civil war books that followed it!
Do you plan your books, or do you listen to your muse?
A bit of both. I map out a chronology of factual events and then weave my story around that. I find that this brings my characters to life and grounds them in the history, motives and risks of the day. Consequently, the national events direct the life of my fictional characters – as they would have directed those who lived through this pivotal part of our history.
I also find that the storyline takes on a direction of its own as my writing progresses, and I really enjoy that; it’s great to see the plot come alive and to feel transported back in time to become part of it as I write. When writing Allegiance of Blood, one fictional character ended up meeting their maker, even though I had not planned for this to occur at the outset.
What would be a dream come true for you?
Ultimately, to be able to become a full-time writer, fully indulge my passion for the civil war period and entertain readers with books that transport them back to an overshadowed 17th century world.
Perhaps even to have a book adapted into a drama series, like the ones we see that are set in the Tudor age!
Now that would indeed be the pinnacle! Why is writing important to you?
Writing started as a hobby but is now part of my life. I believe we all have our own passions that can help us focus, get through tough times, give us both pleasure and challenge us, but also help us learn. This is mine.
I enjoy creating and crafting; whether it is a novel, non-fiction, short story, or a post for my blog and hope that my writing, along with that of other authors, helps play a small part in keeping the era and the people who lived through it alive.
What words of advice would you give an aspiring author?
Keep writing. In my own experience, writing – whether it is a novel, short story, or an article – has not only helped me find the style I enjoy, but it helps me improve and develop.
I recently read Andrea Zuvich’s inspirational story. In 2010, she bought a novel set in the 17th century on her way home from work, and at the time she, too, dreamed of writing one set in the period. Ten years on, she is an established author of fiction and non-fiction and has just published her sixth book, which has been reviewed by none other than the well-known author of the book she bought all that time ago.
She is truly amazing, and now advises on television and film set in the period! What is your writing goal for the next twelve months, Mark?
I am currently finishing off a non-fiction which looks at the early stages of the English Civil War and am working on a sequel to Allegiance of Blood.
I’d also like to start compiling a book of short stories about minor events that occurred during the civil war, which would entertain in the way of fiction but put meat on the bones of these small, often overlooked occurrences.
A sequel, that would be wonderful. Thank you for speaking with me today, Mark. All the best with your work. Keep writing!
Mark’s website: http://www.allegianceofblood.com
Mark tweets at @1642author
Mark’s blog is at https://www.allegianceofblood.com/#Blog
Allegiance of Blood is available from all online sellers or you can purchase a signed copy from Mark at this link: https://www.allegianceofblood.com/#Purchase