Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Robert The Wayward Prince in Paperback At Last

Many of my colleagues, friends and family will have heard me talk about the editing Robert The Wayward Prince. It’s a historical novel written in the first person – an impeccably researched fictional autobiography of William the Conqueror’s fascinating eldest son: Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy.

He never became King of England.

And I was thinking that he’d never be launched in paperback, but guess what? After two years as an ebook only – and I know lots of you out there adore your ereaders and read almost entirely on screen, but I also know I’m in good company in preferring a physical book – Robert is now available in paperback form.

Why am I so excited? Fiction Feedback first began working with the novel’s author, the redoubtable Austin Hernon, about four years ago. I say redoubtable because that man has stuck with us, from original critiques of Robert which found some merit in an early draft from an inexperienced author and nurtured it, to exhaustive (and exhausting) copy-editing. The first draft I saw, Robert was written in a rather remote third person. I suggested this was changed. I thought using first person would allow the author to get under his hero's skin, and help him write with more passion, even if he found it hard to sustain and eventually reverted to third person. Well, Austin stuck with I and the book developed from there; passion hasn’t been a problem. In fact, Robert’s romantic, lusty relationships with various ladies form a significant part of the book. So do political intrigue, betrayals by friends and family, and the sacrifices demanded in the name of nobility. The professional cover shows soldiers and battles, and there is an element of that in the book, but if you’re after lots of blood and gore, sorry, that's not a main dish. But if you want a banquet of a story about a hot-blooded man growing up at odds with his ruthless father and conniving brothers, a man who believes in justice learning to understand himself and his place in the world, and developing the strength to go his own way, then this is one for you. 

It also takes in much of early medieval Europe, giving a thousand-year-old perspective on places from southern Italy to northern France, and of conquered Saxon England from Winchester to the wilds of Wales, and from Leicester to the borderlands of Northumbria.

So I’m thrilled that Robert is out as a paperback, and to my mind, worth every penny. And I’m glad that the sequel, The Warriors of the Cross, about Robert’s controversial leadership (he didn’t want to take land or kill without scruple; he wanted to liberate Jerusalem) in what became known as the First Crusade, is about to be released as an ebook.  And I’m delighted that I expect the third in Austin’s Norman Princes series to cross my editing desk this summer.

Congratulations to an author with sticking power, who has obviously got rather a lot in common with his hero; someone else who believed in himself despite early criticism.