Two weeks until release! While we wait, I thought I’d share what inspired this novel, a retelling of the tale of King Arthur, set in post-Brexit, post-Covid Britain, and how it came to be an Arthurian-Tudor mash-up. This is an extract from the author note at the back of the book …

When I was eight years old and called Susan (not yet a Sue, and many years before becoming an Olivia), I read an enchanting book called Green Smoke, by Rosemary Manning. It was about an eight-year-old girl called Susan, who went on holiday to Constantine Bay in Cornwall. There she met a dragon who had lived at the court of King Arthur (he was a very old dragon), and over the course of Susan’s holiday, sometimes in his cave on the beach, sometimes flying her on his back to Tintagel, the dragon told her magical tales of that king, of Merlin the magician, the Knights of the Round Table, and Camelot.

My belief in this book was so absolute that when my family visited Cornwall, I spent an afternoon standing outside a cave at Constantine Bay calling to the dragon. While the underdeveloped logical side of my brain told me there was no dragon, the part that believed in magic knew he was real, and I vividly remember the crushing disappointment when no puff of green smoke appeared out of the mouth of that cave.

Those tales of King Arthur hold a special place in my heart and in the British psyche. They speak to us of something lost – of magic, enchantresses, chivalry, noble deeds and quests. Of dark forests, turreted castles and misty lakes.

Legend says that when Britain needs him again, Arthur, not dead, but asleep on the Isle of Avalon, will awake and reunite the country; that he’ll recreate Camelot with its knightly virtues. (As Eliza says, now would be good.)

Since I began writing my historical retellings (this is the fourth) I’ve wanted to reincarnate King Arthur in the modern day. Post-Brexit, post-Covid Britain felt like it needed an intervention; it was time to wake him up.

Along with Green Smoke, my other inspiration for this book was T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. It’s a beautifully written fantasy loosely based on Sir Thomas Malory’s 1485 work Le Morte d’Arthur. (Malory’s version of the tale is the one with which we are probably most familiar, although let’s give a nod here to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)

Why did I make Arthur a tennis champ? I think we’re all suspicious of politicians, so I decided not to make him an MP. Many of today’s heroes are sporting greats, but I know sweet FA (pun!) about football, so that was a non-starter. A day watching Wimbledon, however, with champagne and strawberries, is my idea of heaven, so I thought I’d reincarnate Arthur as a tennis god. Incidentally, to date, nobody has yet achieved the Golden Slam in the men’s singles.

If you haven’t read my earlier retellings, you may be wondering why the other major characters are based on the Tudors. Ace needed a Queen, and when I was considering how to reincarnate Guinevere, Eliza from Sister to Sister whispered, Choose me! Again and again. When you create a world and grow to love its characters, it’s hard to let them go, so I gave in to her demands. I’d always felt she deserved a Part Two, plus the prospect of pitching her father, my modern-day Henry VIII, against King Arthur was irresistible …

Queen, King, Ace releases on 15 March 2024. You can pre-order the ebook from Amazon, or in NZ the paperback will be available in bookshops. Overseas readers who prefer paperbacks, this will be available on Amazon from 15 March. I hope you love it!

 

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