Monday, January 13, 2014

Interview with D.W. Bradbridge, author of The Winter Siege

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author D.W. Bradbridge to Flashlight Commentary to discuss his debut release, The Winter Siege. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary. To start things off, please tell us a bit about The Winter Siege.
The Winter Siege is a murder mystery novel set in the parliamentary garrison town of Nantwich during the English Civil War. In late 1643 Nantwich is about to be besieged by royalist forces. However, whilst the townsfolk are awaiting the inevitable attack, the town is forced to face a new threat. People within the town are being murdered, the bodies being left with red sashes around them, the sign of royalist supporters. The main character, Daniel Cheswis, is the town constable, and it falls to him to solve the murders against the ever-increasing threat of attack from enemy forces.

What inspired you to write this story?
I have an interest in genealogy, and when I found out that many of my ancestors are from Nantwich, I decided to research the history of the town. Nantwich hosts the biggest Civil War re-enactment in England, so it’s not very difficult to become immersed in the history of that particular period.

It was then that I realized what a good story-telling opportunity the events surrounding the Battle of Nantwich offered. At the time, there was a dearth of novels covering the English Civil War, so I decided that the opportunity was one not to be missed.

What research went into The Winter Siege and did you discover anything particularly surprising while investigating the background material for you book?
We are quite lucky in Nantwich in that there are several contemporary sources who diarized the events that took place in the town during the winter of 1643-44, so it was easy enough to research the historical framework of the novel. 

This was quite important to me because I wanted to portray the actual history as accurately as possible. The nature of history fascinates me, in that it only consists of what is actually recorded, often by eye-witnesses whose view is not always totally impartial. I wanted the reader to read the novel and question what was historical fact and what was fiction – and, indeed, whether some of the fiction could also have been fact. 

I think one aspect, which many people are surprised about, is the fact that allegiances at the time of the Civil War were not black and white. Although the townsfolk of Nantwich had largely parliamentarian sympathies, there were also plenty of people who were for the King, although they had to hold their tongues, if they knew what was good for them.

You probably have many, but is there one scene that you particularly enjoyed writing?
I particularly enjoyed writing the scene where Daniel and his friends are undergoing musketry practice on the field behind the church, mainly because this was an opportunity to introduce a slightly humorous element into the story. I thought the prospect of a group of untrained tradesmen and apprentices being asked to shoot muskets at hay bales on a freezing cold winter’s morning offered a good opportunity to display the kind of black humor that must have been common in the town at that time.

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author?
Probably the Beeston Castle Scene. The successful attack on this clifftop castle in the dead of night by nine men actually happened, although the actual details of how this feat was achieved is unknown. The challenge of this scene was to create a scenario that was not only believable, but fitted into the plot of the novel.

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the overall story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on? 
I think Simon, Daniel’s politically motivated brother, is the character with the most potential for development. He is a complicated character with many contradictions, but to develop this to the full potential would have drawn the reader away from the plot. I hope to be able to develop Simon’s character more in future novels.

I enjoyed writing Mrs Padgett too. She is just a bit-part player but, as a writer, the henpecking, mothering way she treats Daniel offers an enjoyable interlude to the main action.

What drew you to this particular period and why use it as the backdrop of your story?  
I’ve always had an interest in the English Civil War, as I studied the period in some depth at High School. It’s a period, which, until recently, has been largely ignored by novelists, but it’s a vital part of English history. Even today, nearly four hundred years on, every Englishman instinctively knows whether he would have been for King or for Parliament – and, okay, since you’re asking, I would probably have been like Daniel, a reluctant parliamentarian, although I would have much preferred it if everyone could have just got on with each other!

On a more practical note, it occurred to me at the time of planning the story, that a military siege offered the perfect kind of enclosed environment for a murder mystery.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
That depends on what kind of conversation I was looking for. If I was looking for political debate, then Simon is obviously the best partner. However, if I was just looking for someone as a sounding board to discuss my problems over a couple of beers, then Alexander Clowes would be the ideal partner. Alexander is a true friend to Daniel – the Doctor Watson to Daniel’s Sherlock Holmes. He would also have been rather useful in a bar brawl, a most useful quality considering what taverns must have been like in a 17th century garrison town.

What do you hope readers come away with after reading your work?
Well, first and foremost, I hope they are entertained. That is, after all, the main role of an author. But I hope also that they get a feeling for the fact that there were no wrongs and rights in the English Civil War. It was a terrible conflict that pitted friend against friend and brother against brother, upturning the lives of the majority of the population that wanted no part in the conflict.

Finally, what is next for you? Any new projects waiting in the wings?
It is my intention to follow the fortunes of Daniel Cheswis and his friends throughout the Civil War with a series of novels. A sequel to The Winter Siege is already in preparation and will be ready for launch towards the end of 2014.

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About the Author: D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

About the Book: 1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe. While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause. When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him. He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder. With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love. When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

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check out all the stops on D.W. Bradbridge's The Winter Siege virtual book tour

Monday, January 13
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, January 14
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, January 15
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, January 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, January 17
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Monday, January 20
Review at Closed the Cover
Tuesday, January 21
Giveaway at The Novel Life
Wednesday, January 22
Interview at Closed the Cover
Friday, January 24
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Monday, January 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, January 28
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, January 29
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, January 30
Guest Post & Giveaway at To Read or Not to Read
Monday, February 3
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Tuesday, February 4
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, February 5
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Friday, February 7
Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Monday, February 10
Review at Reading the Ages
Tuesday, February 11
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Thursday, February 13
Review at Just One More Chapter
Friday, February 14
Guest Post at HF Connection

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