David Haworth from Bare, Morecambe, has published his debut novel, The Hidden Crown. Here’s what he had to say when I spoke to him about his life and writing career
Where and when were you born and educated?
I was born in Blackpool in 1978 but grew up in the Lake District. My family subsequently returned to the Fylde coast, where I went to Millfield High School in Thornton and Blackpool Sixth Form. I studied Archaeology at Durham University – many hours standing in fields with beeping machines, interspersed with reading about Saxons and Normans.
What’s your working history/career?
After university, I lived in Italy for five years teaching English. I returned to the UK in 2004, before meeting my wife and moving to the Lancaster area. I currently work part-time for Lancashire County Council as a statistician and spend the rest of my week as a ‘stay-at-home-dad’.
Do you have family/children?
I am married to Lindsay and have two daughters, Adelise, three and Isabelle, one. Adelise is the name of one of the main characters of my book – I was writing The Hidden Crown when my wife was pregnant and we couldn’t decide whether to use it for the book or for our daughter. In the end, I went for both.
Describe your book/books
The Hidden Crown is a historical adventure story, set in an alternate 12th century where the William of Normandy lost the Battle of Hastings. The north of England is an independent Norse kingdom called Northland and the south remains Saxon Ængland. The book follows Thurstan, a young Northlandic soldier, who saves the Ænglish child-queen from assassination and their subsequent flight across the two nations.
Although it does feature vikings, (despite never using the ‘v-word’ itself), I have tried to stay away from the testosterone only zone of hack-and-slash warriors, and instead write about a soldier who is self-doubting and unsure of himself, almost introverted.
Real places, many of them local, feature in the book, but appear under different names, or have different histories – e.g. Lancaster becomes Lonborg, and is the most important western port for Northland, without the Mersey or the Severn. It’s a world which is recognisable as our own, but in which anything can happen, as its history has yet to be written.
When did you start writing and why?
I started writing short stories and scripts in my teens, but didn’t decide to write a novel until I had turned thirty. Ten years after graduating in archaeology, I was working in an office in Preston compiling graphs and managing databases. I wanted to return to that medieval world I so loved, but instead of reading about it, I thought I’d find more satisfaction writing about it. I think everyone needs an outlet for their imaginations, be it in some form or other; mine is writing about Northland.
What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
The very beginning, starting with a blank page; at that point, everything is possible. I love plotting and creating the characters.
...and your worst?
Simply finding the time to write down everything in my head.
Where do you usually write?
I have a writing desk that sits in my window bay, looking out onto the garden, that is just out of range of our home’s wireless internet – a crucial factor! Otherwise, on the train with a laptop.
What time of the day or night do you write?
With two young children, whenever I can! Either on the train to work, where I can cut myself off from the rest of the world for thirty minutes, or late at night at my desk, after everyone has gone to bed, but before I fall off to sleep.
Tea or coffee?
Tea. Or Italian coffee. Can I have both?
Who or what inspires your writing?
Bernard Cornwell obviously has a big influence on me, and I have always liked the prose of Ellis Peters, author of the Cadfael series. Like many of my generation I am a big fan of Terry Pratchett and Tolkien too – possibly not the most original of choices, but they are the authors I grew up with. Keith Roberts, author of Pavane, is probably my biggest alternative-history influence.
I suppose I am partly inspired to write about what I do as a self-medicated remedy to historically inaccurate depictions of the English in books and films; I thought it was about time to be nice to the Saxons.
Do you have a favourite author?
Not any in particular, but I would say I read Bernard Cornwell the most.
What’s your favourite book and why?
It tends to always be the last book I read, but if pushed, I would say possibly The Winter King, Cornwell’s take on King Arthur – it takes something fantastical and mythological, such as the Arthurian legends, and sets it in a very real and believable world. Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are also standout novels.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Oddly enough, it was The Living Planet by David Attenborough. I got the hardback book that accompanied the series for my sixth birthday, at my request. Not quite sure what that says about the juvenile me…
How do you unwind?
Cycling, walking, reading. And, I admit it, playing far too many video games.
Do you have any ambitions, literary or otherwise?
They keep changing! My ambition had always been to try writing a novel. Once I started writing, the ambition became to finish it. Once I’d finished, I thought I’d quite like to get it printed. Now it’s been published, I really hope people enjoy it. I suppose my current ambition is to have a second book printed – I’ve already written another two, but we’ll have to see how The Hidden Crown does. I’ve got the dilemma now that I’ve used my first daughter’s name in the first novel, I’m going to have get another book published with my second daughter’s name in!