Char Newcomb is one of my many author friends. The first time I actually contacted her was in relation to her series Battle Scars, which has us riding with Richard the Lionheart to the Holy Land and back again. What really made those books stick out – beyond the excellent research – was the fact that her two main characters were men. And lovers. Char did a magnificent job in conveying not only a beautiful but very difficult relationship but also a world of political intrigue centred round Richard and his brother, John.
I have been waiting for Rogue for some years – Char takes her time writing, plus she just had to detour and write some SciFi before diving back into medieval times. (Did I mention Char is a Star Wars fan? Like major, major fan? I am hoping that at some point she’ll consider a crossover, you know, arming her medieval protagonists with a light sabre). So it is therefore my greatest pleasure to welcome Char to my blog today as part of her launch tour for this her latest book baby!
So, Char, tell us about Rogue
Rogue (Tales of Robin Hood) is a different approach to the origins of Robin Hood and his gang of ‘merry men.’ It’s a standalone, but related to my Battle Scars trilogy because many of the characters were conceived in those earlier books. Rogue takes place in 1216 at the end of King John’s reign – 16+ years after Battle Scars III. The earlier books are not required reading to enjoy Rogue.
Robin is in his 50s. He’s married to Marian, has three children, and is not in Sherwood. The leader of the gang I call The Hood is Allan a Dale, Robin’s friend and former squire. Both men made an enemy of King John during Richard I’s reign.
Allan is captured and thrown in Nottingham Castle’s dungeons to await execution upon King John’s arrival. Robin isn’t about to let that happen, but discovers his estranged son Robert works for the Sheriff of Nottingham. We’ll have a bit of a sticky family reunion and some romance as Robert falls in love with Much the Miller’s daughter. Robert is a king’s man. Helping Allan, being involved in any way with The Hood – that’s treason. Where will his loyalties lie?
Were there any surprises for you while writing Rogue?
I wanted the story to take place during the last few months of King John’s reign because I had a great ending in mind. I started writing before I had details of John’s whereabouts in 1216. From earlier research, I knew John had a civil war on his hands. He was fighting his rebel barons after he reneged on Magna Carta in 1215, fleeing from the French who had invaded and ravaged southern England, and pursuing the Scots who, along with the rebels, had pledged fealty to the French king.
When I discovered Hardy’s A Description of the Patent Rolls in the Tower of London; to which is added an Itinerary of King John, I was ecstatic. It gave me John’s daily travel schedule. But it also presented a potential issue: John did not pay a visit to Nottingham in the last few months of his reign.
Occasionally, we historical fiction writers will fudge a bit on dates and actual historical events – duly noted in a historical note at the end of the book – but to place John in Nottingham to seed the conflict seemed egregious to me. Luckily, John did come within 25-30 miles of Nottingham, which would be a hard day’s ride in the 13th century.
With communication being a bit dicey back then – spies waylaid, messengers falling victim to any number of issues, the speed of travel – is the threat of John’s potential arrival enough to maintain tension while Robin, Robert, and the gang risk discovery of the plot? I think it does! I guess readers will let me know…
FYI… the ending I originally envisioned got cut. It took the novel in a different direction, and sounded like a separate plot arc all on its own. (Yes, this is a hint that I’ll be working on a sequel.) Anna says: YAY!
You live in Louisiana now, and before that in Kansas. How do you research the locations so far from where you live?
My first trip to the UK was in 2008 on a business trip. I wasn’t even thinking of writing a novel back then! I’ve been back as both tourist and researcher several times. I’ve visited Nottingham and York, traveled between Lincoln and Nottingham by car on what was part of the old Roman road, Ermine Street, toured the tunnels beneath Nottingham Castle, and went to Sherwood Forest. The bus I took from Nottingham to Newark-on-Trent on my trip last year follows what would have been parts of the Old North Road through Sherwood. And Anna, you remember the fab time we had meeting up in Lincoln with writer friend Sharon Bennett Connolly. We knew more about the castle history than the tour guide! (Anna says: a common issue for most historical fiction writers – especially if Sharon is part of the party!)
I wouldn’t trade visiting those places for anything in the world, but there have been significant changes to them all since the 13th century. Sadly, you can no longer see Sherwood Forest from Nottingham. It’s 20 miles north of the city now, and only encompasses about 1000 acres, rather than the 100,000 it used to cover. More surprising, the existing medieval-looking stone gatehouse at Nottingham Castle was not built until the middle of the 13th century, about 50 years after the events of Rogue. I spent many hours digging through digital resources, physical books, and articles, which could be a chore, but I found it fascinating.
Nottingham Castle looks nothing like this today:
Have you ever thought about who you would like to play Robin (or any other character) in a movie or TV version of your books?
Sean Bean would make an excellent Robin, Taron Egerton could be his son Robert, and I can picture Ewan McGregor as my Allan a Dale. Lights… camera… action!
What writer or book has had the biggest influence on your work?
Oh my, so many. For my historicals: Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick, Bernard Cornwell, Diana Gabaldon. But it was science fiction where I first got the serious writing bug, and that was thanks to Timothy Zahn who brought the Star Wars universe back to life for me with his novel Heir to the Empire. His work inspired me to write 10 short stories that were published in the Lucasfilm-licensed Star Wars Adventure Journal and my own space opera, Echoes of the Storm.
What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
Best: seeing a story come to life on paper (or computer screen), hearing from readers who loved it, and getting support from writer friends
Worst: marketing my work, putting myself out there (I’m an introvert)
What book have you enjoyed in the last twelve months?
Ben Kane’s Lionheart. I’m trying to reading book 2 in his series now, but have been super distracted by writing, editing, marketing, and family time.
What is the most exciting experience you’ve had as a result of writing?
I had lunch with Sharon Kay Penman and Priscilla Royal during the Historical Novel Society conference in Denver in 2015. Sharon, rest her soul, was such a giving person. I’d exchanged a number of emails with her, but to meet and talk with her about the 12th century and King Richard’s reign was superb.
What are you working on now? Will there be a sequel to Rogue?
I am working on a short story for a new historical fictional anthology, and yes, it’s medieval. It ties in closely with my other historicals, and will feature Robin – a sequel (but stand-alone) to Swords of the King (Battle Scars III). As for a Rogue sequel – I have a beginning and an ending for one, but fleshing out the middle will be a slow process.
BUY LINK https://mybook.to/RogueTales
sworn to keep a family secret.
A king who seeks revenge.
A daring plan to save one life…or condemn many.
England 1216AD. Sir Robert Fitzwilliam faithfully serves the English crown, but when the outlaw Allan a Dale, a childhood friend, is captured and thrown in the sheriff’s dungeons beneath Nottingham Castle, trouble is certain to follow.
Allan’s days are numbered. Nothing would please King John more than to see an old nemesis hanged. Nothing except watching Robert’s estranged father, Robin, dangling dead from a rope beside him.
When his father joins forces with the Hood gang to rescue Allan, enlisting the aid of friends and even the girl he loves, Robert must decide where his loyalties lie.
TALES OF ROBIN HOOD
Before there was Robin Hood, there was Allan of the Hood. You know their story – in Sherwood Forest, they rob from the rich and give to the poor. Rogue is a retelling of the origins of the Robin Hood legends set during a time of a rebellion and invasion near the end of King John’s reign. It’s a thrilling adventure of loyalty, love, sacrifice, spies, and intrigue.
Charlene Newcomb, aka Char, writes historical fiction and science fiction. Her award-winning Battle Scars trilogy is set in the 12th century during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. Her writing roots are in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (aka Legends) where she published 10 short stories in the Star Wars Adventure Journal. She published the scifi/space opera Echoes of the Storm in 2020, and returns to medieval times with her upcoming novel Rogue in 2023.
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