Reconquista was published in Spring 2016 and launched at the Clapham Book Festival ( see Sunshine and Flamenco Guitar ). But the writing of it began many, many years before, when the god-son of the author, a thirteen year-old named Luke, first came to visit Jerez de la Frontera.
Luke liked numbers and mathematics, but also history and his god-mother thought about how to engage him with the places in the ancient town and the events that had happened there long ago. So she began to write a story which was then called ‘On the Frontier‘, beginning with the siege of Jerez by King Alfonso X in 1264.
It’s main character, as readers of Reconquista will know, was Nathan, a fourteen year old ( which was, at the time, what Luke wanted to be ). He had an older cousin named Rebecca who lived with Nathan and his father . Rebecca is the name of Luke’s younger sister.
Just to be fair to the author’s other god-son, she included a character called Thomas of Whelmstone, an English doctor who had come to Jerez with the King so as to learn to be a surgeon. The real Thomas was then studying at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital in London to be a surgeon and he came from a place in Devon named Whelmstone Barton. His brother is named Ben. Of course, there is a character named Ben Isaacs in the book, although he isn’t related to the Thomas of Whelmstone character and, in fact is nothing like the real Thomas’s brother.
So the story began and the author sent the first two chapters to Luke, her god-son. He had soon read them and wanted more, which was when his god-mother realised that she had better work out just what was going to happen in the story, from the beginning right through to the end. She realised that she was actually writing a novel. The rest of the story was eventually sent to Luke, chapter by chapter.
The writer wrote other books, like her short story collection The Village. She set up The Story Bazaar web-site and social media sites. But the manuscript of Luke’s story was always at the back of her mind. Then in 2015 she decided to get it out and look at it again. Luke was now a young man, he was working in the accounts department of a charity in the Midlands and he had long since forgotten Nathan and Rebecca, Atta and Senor Thomas.
‘On the Frontier‘ wasn’t anywhere near ready for the wide world. It had to be thoroughly edited and much of it was re-written, to put much more emphasis upon the three young protagonists. The title was changed ( the author asked readers of her web-site to nominate their favourite, see Vote for your Favourite Title ) and the new book produced. Then Reconquista was published, with a dedication just inside its frontispiece to Luke, Rebecca, Thomas and Ben.
The author will be talking about the story behind the story and reading from Reconquista in the Storytelling tent at Crystal Palace Overgound Festival on 17th June at Crystal Palace Park. Come along and listen! It’s FREE!