I’m delighted to announce that the crowdfunding drive for my historical fiction novel, VERONA IN AUTUMN, is now live!
You can find the page here if you want to earn my deepest gratitude and pledge something towards getting it published: https://unbound.com/books/verona-in-autumn/
This is a side project I started a few years back when my lovely wife got us tickets for Kenneth Branagh’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Nothing says “happy anniversary” like a double suicide right?
The idea for the book is a simple one – What if Romeo and Juliet didn’t die? Over a few whiskies that evening we had been talking about the play, how the failings of those around them led these children to their deaths. The play is about love and enmity, life and death – it shows the follies of a feud and the spiralling monstrosity of hatred. The city is saved by the loss of Romeo and Juliet so the author in me wondered “what if?” One small act could change that, either a responsible one or deceitful, and what then for those people who aren’t the titular characters? What about everyone else?
That stuck in my mind, tangled in the thicket from which ideas sometimes emerge. There’s a Terry Pratchett dedication (the great man himself not averse to playing with Shakespeare) that has long stuck with me because I’m a fantasy author normally and a lot of people die in such books, particularly epic fantasy. In Guards Guards, Pratchett writes this at the start:
“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to. This book is dedicated to those fine men.”
In my mind it seemed a nice thing to save Romeo and Juliet, at least over the course of an hour’s musing as we travelled to pick up our own children from their grandparents. The young lovers given life and the chance to fulfil their potential. But in this life the famous names get all the headlines and even in fiction there are other imaginary lives at stake! So I started to think about what might be the result for everyone else, where the city goes as much as what future Romeo and Juliet might have.
The following afternoon I had an hour or two spare and this idea was still rattling around in my head so I sat down to write. If I tweaked the death scene, neither Romeo nor Juliet died. They would have to flee – the watch had been summoned and I didn’t want Romeo to leap up and cut a bloody path through them (as much as anything else the ghost of Pratchett might over-salt my porridge in revenge). Instead they would travel into exile, leaving behind the dead body of Count Paris and an empty tomb. Juliet was dead, everyone knew that, but now her body had been stolen by Romeo. That probably wouldn’t help matters.
I had the starting point. I had no idea where I would go with it, but the fun bit of being a novelist is finding out. Building a world, building a story and following someone’s actions to see the ramifications. It took a lot of time and a lot of research rabbit-holes before I knew whether there was a story I wanted to tell, but here it is at last. I hope you enjoy it.