… Ghosts – And the Beating Heart of Things.
Happy New Year! – and a warm welcome to Crooked Cat author, Jennifer Wilson, who has an original take on our Tower of London as the setting for her debut novel, Kindred Spirits. I can’t wait to read it.
Hello, and thank you, Jane, for hosting me today.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve become a bit obsessed with some characters in my debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, largely thanks to the situation re Richard III’s funeral, but in the middle of it, there’s one major ‘character’ I’ve barely mentioned – the Tower itself. Having read your blog, a lot of pieces give a real sense of travel and place, and so I thought I should give the Tower its moment!
The Tower of London is a key location in English and British history, and the fact that we still use the phrase of being “sent to the Tower” says a lot about its place in our collective psyche. Despite this, I’d never been overly interested in the Tower, other than knowing how it crossed the paths of the historical characters I enjoyed reading about.
In February 2013, the chance of a week in London came up, and having now read so much, I felt it was a great opportunity to explore some of our great historical buildings. In that week, I got through Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, parts of Westminster Abbey, the Jewel Tower and Horse Guards’ Parade. But it was my day in the Tower which really stood out.
As soon as you step through the gates, the history lessons start flooding back. Tales of missing princes, daring escapes and, of course, those infamous executions. I’d had ideas fizzing around my head for a while, and finally, they started to formulate into something more solid. With so many of our great and good (and not so good) having passed through these walls, it was seductive to think of the friendships which could be struck up, the conversations in darkened alcoves, and the odd alliances, should they all be present at the same time. All those ghosts together: it was far too good to resist! And at the heart of it: the Tower itself.
People automatically think of the White Tower, the beating heart of things, but the Tower complex is just that – complex. You get a real sense of the community which grew up around the central buildings. This has been a fortress, a safe haven, a royal palace and, as we all know, a prison.
Once given free rein, and a good atmosphere to play in, the vague idea of a collective of ghosts (a haunting?) really got going. What would they actually talk about, these ghosts? And which ones would I even want to focus on? Given its long history, the choices are almost endless, and even now, I’m torn between diving into any new history book featuring the Tower, or shying away, worried I’ll ‘meet’ another ghost I missed out on, and wish I’d discovered more about them before finishing the manuscript.
I’m currently working on moving the same concept north of the border, into Edinburgh, and am having the same trouble – so many buildings with so much history. There’s one thing about historical fiction – you will never, ever run out of research to keep you out of trouble…
Thanks for the chance to join you on the blog today, Jane – it’s always good to talk about writing!
A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…
In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews. Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.