Your Questions

Q

Dear Bernard, I've noticed that many readers have sought your advice about researching their novels, and I've noted your answers. But where, in your opinion, should the line between historical fact and imagination lie? What can we make up, and what should we ensure is the truth? I think, if a writer struggles to find all the information he/she needs, there is no other option but to make it up. No?

And just another little niggle of mine: Have you ever thought about who fathered Richard Sharpe? Do you think it's something Sharpe himself would ever be concerned about? Thanks! Paul, County Cork.

A

Yes. And even if the historical novelist finds the truth, he or she might need to change it, because your primary job as a novelist is to tell a story, not be an historian. On the other hand I think you have to stay true to history, by which I mean faithful to the broad flow of events and to the outcome of whatever story you're telling. I suppose it's a fine line, but, for instance, in Sharpe's Company I have Sharpe succeeding in fighting through one of the breaches of Badajoz. No one did, and it was the feint attack on the castle walls which surprisingly succeeded, but for me the drama of the night was in the breaches, and so I changed history - but not the result of the siege. And imagination will fill in LOTS of gaps, if it doesn't then you're not writing a novel.

I know exactly who fathered him and I ain't saying. Does it bother him? It hasn't yet, but it might, and if it does then I'll let him find out . . . but so far it hasn't crossed his mind.


Q

I am thoroughly enjoying your Saxon stories! have you ever considered doing anything with the Welsh prince Modoc & his immigration to North America? I look forward to your books more than you can know. I have written an article about you & your works on http://www.gather.com You may find them there under my name, kozzak. Thanks for the great reads & the glimpses of history not usually seen. I started with you in Stonehenge, went on to Sharpe & from "Sharpie" to all of your other works. Regards, Doc

A

I can honestly say I haven't. And, to be honest, it isn't a subject that particularly fires my imagination, probably because I would need much better sources than the ones available.


Q

Dear Bernard What I cannot figure out is if you are in a battle and if you are physically fighting and the battles goes on for hours - You may be able to fight for 10, 15, 20 minutes but somewhere along the line you are going to get exhausted. What usually happened? Say for instance a medievil battle. What did they do pretend to fight each other but not putting any heart in it? Or pretend you're dead. People could not fight for long periods of time. This covers different battle periods. Which makes me think there most have been a lot of people who were not bloodthirsty and did not really want to hurt anybody unless no choice. I just wondered. Bill Edgar

A

Two questions here, really. Yes, there must have been men who didn't want to get stuck in, and I'm sure they did their best to be in the rearmost ranks, and if they had the misfortune to be in the front then they probably ended up dead pretty quickly. And yes, they did get exhausted, which is why the battles tend to have natural 'breaks' while units are reformed. I wrote about Crecy in Harlequin and the battle did have episodes, mostly dictated by the French attacks, but in between those attacks (imagine ten minutes off frenzy) there were quite long periods when the two sides disengage and wait for the next move. Similarly, in The Pale Horseman, the clashes of the shield wall are relatively brief (again, about ten minutes of frenzy) and, if neither side has an advantage, they withdraw and regroup.


Q

hi bernard, just a quick note to say how much i am enjoying reading your books, i started in spain and have ended up in wessex, although i've just started the saxon books i love the humour ... i've laughed out loud a few times. the reason for my note is due to your corrospondent who has just finished her novel and was asking about editors etc. I too am attempting my first book and came across a site called http://publishamerica.com and wondered if you had heard of them? they seem to be actively encouraging the little guy / gal. tony

A

Good for them! But I confess I haven't heard of them or know anything about them. I've just looked at their website, but nothing there would change my usual advice which is, that if you write a book, get an agent. Agents are skilled at finding publishers, authors usually are not.


Q

Hello Mr Cornwell, I love your books and have just finished readng the Lords of the North, I loved your Arthur books and the best read ever was Stonehenge and would love you to please please write another story like it. but your Saxon books were so close to me as I live in East Kennett in Wiltshire and look out on the countryside next to my house which you have written about in these novels and would love to know if you have been here and walked here to get your inspiration, if not you will always be welcome to our village and can sit in my field in East Kennett. which to the left has a view of west kennett long barrow and silbury hill, with the Avebury avenue in front and the santury to the left, while my house backs on to the East Kennett long barrow, you have brought me many hours of great pleasure reading your fabulous books.

I have one last question, have you ever thorght of writing about the ring of brodgar in orkney and how it got their and its viking back ground as I think that would make a great read. yours with loads of thenks Mrs Nicky Boon

A

How very kind - and what an invitation! I've walked the area frequently - I suspect that I've visited the Long Barrow at least twenty times, and Avebury even more often. I think I only made one pilgrimage to Silbury Hill, despite being in the area so often, mainly because I find it impossible to understand the hill's function, so it leaves me somewhat cold. The last time I drove past the hill there was a stark naked man doing sun salutations on the summit. I imagine you get a lot of that!

My suspicion is that the ring predates the Vikings? Uhtred could well get to the Orkneys and meet the Norse who live there. In which case I'm sure he'll find the ring.


Q

Hi Bernard, I'm a great fan, just finished reading "Lords of the North". Brilliant!! When are you going to write the next in the series?? Best Regards - Max

A

Right now.


Q

Hello again Mr Cornwell, I would first like to say a big congrats on your OBE! Well deserved I think! & may you long continue! I read on this site the other week about your relative who stayed at his post although under heavy fire but sadly died, it was quite a moving story, as I had a great, great uncle who died in the first world war, under heavy fire! & my mum has a photo on her wall, of his family , which he was carrying when he died, such brave men. With the anniversary of the battle of the Somme the other week, I was told when the British advanced on the German lines the tommys were told to walk because the Germans had supposedly fled the trenches! But sadly they were told wrong & were cut down in there 1000's but the officers still told them to walk on - why? When they knew the orders they were given were misleading? Surely good officers don't follow orders blindly? I know it was near on a 100 years after Sharpe's day but did pomposity cause many a death back then also? I'm still reading the Sharpe books at mo & they get better & better! Thanks for your time & I caught the mini series Sharpes war on the history channel (at last!) but missed the first installment (bugger!) but found it informative & enjoyable, I'll keep a beedie eye out for the first episode. thanks again! Gary Beadle P.s good luck with the scotish play! I've been in the play myself a couple of times & I think you would make a great Duncan - is there just the one night?

A

I'm no expert on the Somme, but I do know there's a great deeal of revisionist history being written at the moment which would suggest that the pomposity quotient wasn't quite as high as Blackadder would have us believe. There's a fascinating book by Norman Dixon called On the Psychology of Military Incompetence which I'd recommend. It's been an age since I read it, but I seem to remember that his thesis is that the military attracts a certain kind of personality - authoritarian, rigid thinking and fear of failure - which almost guarantees stupidity. It also attracts some splendid folk too, but I suspect military incomeptence has always been with us and always will.


Q

Dear Bernard Cornwell, I have just read A Crowning Mercy and am looking forward to the next Lazender story. Was Kit Aretine inspired by Kit Marlowe or what Kit Marlowe might have been if he had not (probably) been gay and died young? I am also enjoying the Sharpe series very much and thought you might like the following account from my bookseller. Apparently a local history teacher was having trouble getting her class of teenage boys interested in history. She bought the whole Sharpe series which engaged them and when they asked 'But how do we know it's true?' she pointed them in the direction of the various sources and they were hooked. Keep up the good work! Elizabeth Smith PS: congratulations on the OBE! Nice to see one going to a writer!

A

I borrowed the name, but nothing else - at the time I knew almost nothing about Marlowe. I know a bit more now, which makes me glad I did borrow his name!


Q

Hi Bernard. Thank you for signing my books at the Jorvik Centre in York earlier this year. It was a great pleasure to see you there and, had my husband been willing to carry more books than just the paltry six he agreed to, I would have brought them all! Anyway, I have another motive for sending this message, in that I have almost finished my first novel and have a list of agents to whom I will be sending my manuscript, but one thing still puzzles me. I have come across lots of references to Editors etc and people charging monies to copy-edit manuscript before sending them to an agent. I suppose my question is whether this is what I should do or is expected of or necessary? I have obviously been re-reading myself and getting others to also, but wasn't sure whether hiring someone to correct my errors is something that would be done before or after it has been accepted by an editor. I would be most grateful if you could enlighten me on this? Kind regards, Jane

A

NO. NO. NO, NO! Don't do it! What will persuade an editor to buy your book is not the matchless prose, but the story. If that is compelling, then the publishing house will provide all the copy-editing you need for free. And don't use an agent who charges a reading fee! I know that's easy for me to say, but it's a horrible practice . . . but for all I know it might be impossible to find an agent who doesn't charge a fee these days. What the publisher wants from you is promise. They need to see it's a terrific read. They'll cope with some stylistic horrors, but they can never cope with dullness. Write your tale, make it sparkle, and let the publisher put on the final touches of varnish if they're needed.


Q

Dear Mr. Cornwell: Thank you so much! I can't begin to tell you how much enjoyment I've received reading your Sharpe's series. I can honestly say your meticulously researched novels single-handedly dragged my historical interest into the 19th century (my interest in military history springs from archaeology and most often involves ancient Greeks and Romans). I have two questions for you: first, have you ever considered writing about the Roman Legions? Second, is there any chance you need a research assistant?!? Best Regards, Karen Waxman

A

Romans? I've thought of it, but it's not high on the list. Thanks, but I prefer to do my own research.


Page 856 of 1,084« First2008558568571,000Last »