A headlong journey through the physical and spiritual dangers of Plantagenet Britain, in all its savage pageantry. Welsh Marches, July 1284 – the uprising in Wales is over, the leader gruesomely executed, the dead are buried. But for Illesa Arrowsmith, the war’s aftermath is just as brutal. When her brother is thrown into the Forester’s prison on false charges, she is left impoverished and alone. All Illesa has left is the secret manuscript entrusted to her – a book so powerful it can save lives, a book so valuable that its discovery could lead to her death. When the bailiff’s daughter finds it, Illesa decides to run, and break her brother out of jail by whatever means. But the powerful Forester tracks them down, and Illesa must put herself and the book at the mercy of an unscrupulous knight who threatens to reveal all their secrets, one by one. Inspired by the seductive art of illuminated manuscripts, The Errant Hours draws from the deep well of medieval legend to weave a story of survival and courage, trickery and love. “Kate Innes’s glorious first novel is a lyrical joy. Up there with the best of Pat Bracewell and Elizabeth Chadwick, it offers utter immersion in an intricate, plausible world. A must read for the autumn.”
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About Kate Innes
Kate Innes was born in London and lived and worked in America and Zimbabwe, but now exists happily amidst the history and natural beauty of Shropshire with her husband and three children.
She trained as an archaeologist and a teacher and then worked as a Museum Education Officer around the Midlands. After several writing courses, she expanded her repertoire (previously short poems only) to write ‘The Errant Hours’, a literary adventure based on real events in the Welsh Marches during the Thirteenth century. A sequel should be available in 2017.
The Historical Novel Society selected ‘The Errant Hours’ as an ‘Editor’s Choice’ and long-listed it for the 2017 Indie Award.
Kate has been writing and performing poetry for many years, usually with a particular focus on animals, art or the natural world. These poems, associated research and thoughts are posted on her blog and through Twitter.
Q&A with Kate
What inspired you to write your first novel?
In addition to the fantastic surviving monuments in the Welsh Marches, and the beautiful natural environment, there was one particular object that I found profoundly inspiring. A manuscript from the late 13th century, describing the martyrdom of St Margaret, (patron saint of childbirth) that was used as a birthing aid. I came across it during my research into medieval childbirth. Women would read the story, pray to the saint and kiss the image of her in the book. You can see where the paint is smeared on the page from repeated kissing. It was this visceral sign of women’s’ desperation and pain, at a time when giving birth was frequently fatal for mother and baby, that was the key to both understanding the period and unlocking the plot for me.
What time of day do you like to write? Whenever the house feels empty. Which in practice means between 9:30 and 2:30 during term-time, or late at night when everyone else is asleep!
What is your favourite book and why? That is an almost impossible question to answer. But if I answered which book I enjoyed reading the most (which is slightly different), it would be Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg. It has a memorable and very fierce female lead, is atmospheric, gripping and tightly plotted, but also has a subtlety of thought. It is intelligent, individual and unpredictable.
How did you pick the title of your book?
The title was almost the hardest thing about writing this book. It took me a very long time to find something that would express the interwoven themes that characterise the story, eventually lighting upon The Errant Hours. I liked the dual meaning of ‘errant’, which can mean someone who is outside of society, deviant in some way, and can also mean actual physical wandering. My heroine has to be both to survive.
The ‘Hours’ part can refer to Books of Hours, which were exquisitely decorated medieval manuscripts, and the canonical hours which set out times of prayer but also can mean a limited period of time during which the heroine has to be errant. The main action of the story takes place over a period of just under a month.
Are the characters in your book based on real people?
Some are, and some aren’t. Most of the nobility that appear in the book are real, Edward I and Queen Eleanor of Castile, Henry de Lacy, Earl Warenne, the Lord Forester. But Illesa, the heroine, her mother and reckless brother are my inventions. The most important real character is the Chancellor Robert Burnell. He was a Bishop as well as the second most powerful man in the country, known for his intelligence in management and lawmaking, and for his ambition. But he had one vice recorded against him. He had several mistresses and illegitimate children. This prevented him from becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, although the King nominated him for the role twice.
If you were a colour what would it be? Green – like the moss you find in deep forests
Do you plan your story beforehand or go with the flow? I’m a planner, but one of the best experiences as a writer is when something happens before your eyes that you didn’t plan. I had several characters pop up and change the story, and then refuse to leave!
Who is your favourite Author? If I had to choose just one it would have to be Shakespeare (but Helen Dunmore is a close second)
If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?
Bertha Rochester in Jane Eyre. She got a really raw deal. Imagine having to live with Grace Poole all those years.
Are you working on a new project?
Yes, I’m working on the sequel to The Errant Hours, which takes place ten years after the first book. I hope it won’t take me that long to write it!!
Do you have any upcoming events our members can attend?
I often give talks about the historical background to The Errant Hours to groups of all kinds. Any public events are posted on my website.
I will be performing alongside the band ‘Whalebone’ at Alveley Country Park on the 17th June in a set including original compositions and poems – entitled ‘Flocks of Words’
Twitter – @kateinnes2
Facebook Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/kateinneswriter/
Kate’s Author Website – http://www.kateinneswriter.com
Giveaway ~ The Errant Hours Book
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Thank you, Kate was lovely having you on my blog today.
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