March 07, 2013

Elizabeth Chadwick's Shadows and Strongholds (giveaway)

Please welcome author Elizabeth Chadwick! She is on book tour for the US reissue of Shadows and Strongholds

 Available March 5th 2013 by Sourcebooks Landmark

A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power.

England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin’s development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back.

Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin. Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin’s rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other’s arms.

Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family’s lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....

I’d like to thank you for inviting me onto your blog to talk about an aspect of my research for Shadows and Strongholds.

One of the joys of writing historical fiction is doing the research because it leads me to discover all manner of fun and fascinating facts about my characters and their life and times. I thought today I’d talk a bit about names and hair colour in the novel.

In Shadows and Strongholds, the hero’s official name is Fulke FitzWarin. It was a name that was passed down father to son from the early 12th century through to the early 15th when the line died out in male tail. Being as there were several Fulke FitzWarins in the story, I had to find a different tag for my hero, and luckily one was waiting in the wings. The Fulke of Shadows and Strongholds had the nick-name as an adult of Fulke le Brun or ‘The Brown.’ This is suggestive of him having dark hair and eyes and an olive complexion – which is how I have depicted him in the novel. He starts out as a boy who is having a difficult time at home and is sent away to become a squire in the household of his father’s friend Joscelin de Dinan, lord of Ludlow. Needing a childhood name for Fulke le Brun, I turned to a good friend, who, among other things happens to be a cultural historian of the 12th and 13th centuries and knows about such things. She told me that in childhood Le Brun might have been called Brunet, Bruno, or Brunin. (it’s where we get the word ‘brunette’ from for a dark haired person these days). I didn’t want to call him the first because it so closely reflected our modern word for the hair colour. With the second I kept thinking of a teddy bear which wasn’t quite what I had in my mind’s eye, so Brunin he became!

At the outset of becoming a squire to lord Joscelin, Brunin acquires a new mount - black pony called Morel. I didn’t just pluck the name out of thin air though. In the middle ages, horses were very frequently named according to their colour and a Morel horse or pony would have been either glossy black or a very, very dark brown or bay. We still have a survival in the name of the sweet dark red almost black morello cherries. A golden chestnut horse would have been called ‘Sorel’ and a bay horse ‘Bai.’ When I was writing another novel, The Greatest Knight about William Marshal, I came across the detail that one of the horses he had as a young knight was called Blancart, which meant that it was white, from the French word for white – ‘Blanc.’

Thank you to Elizabeth Chadwick for sharing snippets of her research process for Shadows!

Open to USA and Canada readers
One new paperback of Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
Enter via the Rafflecopter form below:

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Good luck! If Rafflecopter is down, then please pose a question the author in the comments. Don't forget to come back and check the responses from Elizabeth Chadwick!


  1. I really enjoy authors' guest posts where they share how they research and what piques their interest for a specific time frame. I'm new to Elizabeth Chadwick's books but have enjoyed the couple that I've read so far. My question is: What originally drew you to write about William Marshal and other 12th century people in England?

    Thank you so much for the giveaway!

  2. If you could reside in one time frame which would it be?

  3. Who has been your favorite character to write about?

  4. Who's been your favorite medieval historical figure of the period you've written? I love how you wrote Matilda in Lady of the English.

  5. Hi there everyone!
    Lara, what originally drew me to the Middle Ages and the 12th century was a TV programme called Desert Crusader starring a tall, dark, handsome GORGEOUS knight in flowing white robes having adventures in the Holy Land. I was a start struck teenager and began to write a piece of fan fiction. However, it quickly grew into my own story. I wanted it to feel as real as possible, so I began researching - and the research was so cool that I wanted even more to write about the period. Everything sort of grew out of that. William Marshal was the greatest knight of his time, and it was kind of a natural progression that I would move on to talk about him.

  6. Melanie, I would stay firmly in the here and now with flushing toilets, central heating, decent medical care and the internet. But...I would go for lots of visits to the 12th century and study the period on the ground. I'd also take day trips to other centuries too. The Regency, the Victorian, Ancient Greece and Rome, just to get a glimpse. I would even go back for a quick look a the dinosaurs. I'm incurably nosy!

  7. Allison - I am always very wrapped up in the person I am writing about at the time. I had a real rapport with Brunin and Hawise when I was writing about them for Shadows and Strongholds. Of everyone I have EVER written about though, it would be John Marshal from A Place Beyond Courage - perhaps because he's my Richard III character and has a reputation that changes the more you study what actually happened in depth. I always felt there was more to him than met the eye.

  8. Ladyshallott, I think I've answered in the above post. I'm glad you liked Matilda in Lady of the English though. She is often protrayed as being a bit of a tough and difficult lady, but if she was, I feel she sure had some strong reasons for doing so, and I wanted to look at her her in more detail. I should also add that William Marshal is one of my favourite characters to have written about. I could so go back to him and write the books all over again!

  9. This in second in line in my review list and I can't wait. I love Ms. Chadwick's books because once I start one I know that I am in for an EXPERIENCE not just a novel.

  10. Hello Elizabeth, how do you chose what to write and how long does it take you to research a book?

    Thank you!!

  11. Hello Kathleen. When choosing something or someone to write about, I usually look in the original source histories and find a person or incident that really interests me. I then research up more to see if the character is a good fit and if there's a novel(or two!) in it. If it ticks all the boxes then I go ahead. With Shadows and Strongholds, while researching in the 13th century family chronicle, I was struck by a scene (that winds up appearing in the middle of the novel) where Brunin is accused by his betrothed of being an absolute coward. What happens after that, and then after that again, gave me the foundations for the novel and how I was going to portray the characters.

  12. Hello Elizabeth
    saw your invite on twitter - when writing about characters in an historical setting, how do we know what or how they said things? - I worry about dialogue and making it authentic to the time and worry that I am putting 21st century thoughts in to their heads? Obviously I know they cannot run to answer a phone or the bell of a front door - how do we get in to our characters heads to make it seem real?


  13. Hi Lynne,
    We can't know exactly what or how they said things unless those things are reported in the chronicles of the time by reliable eye witnesses which in my period is a bit hit and miss. With dialogue, you're writing for a 21st century audience, so obviously you can't write the language of the period. And putting in lots of 'forsoothery' as it's called, can be just as problematic. My advice (and you don't have to take it on board unless it suits you), is to use good plain English with perhaps a very careful seasoning of words from your chosen period that have a clear meaning in the context. Don't use words that are very modern slang or likely to date quickly. As for how they thought - really there's no shortcut to doing the research and looking via books and (good) historical internet sites at the mindsets, attitudes and culture of the period you are studying. The more you browse, the more you'll get a grip on the mindset and the more comfortable you'll feel in your chosen period - that's my experience of it anyway.

  14. thank you - I will research more on attitudes and culture, and see what I can come up with.
    I'm happy to use good plain English!

  15. Thank you, Elizabeth, for being our guest today! A very interesting guest post. You have given some excellent advice that I will be taking to heart. And that die for!


  16. I know this has nothing to do with this particular book, but have you used Lady Godiva/Godgifu as a character in any of your novels? I've read three of your books, but of later eras.

  17. Hi Arleigh,
    No, I haven't as yet used Lady Godiva/Godgifu in a novel. I think there's a lot of mythology obscuring her story and that it would probably be somewhat different to the story the Victorians loved to promulgate. The earliest I have ever gone is the 1066 story in The Conquest.

  18. Hi Elizabeth!

    I have a lot of your earlier books on my Kindle ready to devour as soon as I have a minute :)! I am curious, if you had to choose another time period/country to write about, which would you choose? Is there any other time/setting/person that has caught your fancy and that you hope to write about in the future?


  19. Hi Colleen. When I first began writing I often imagined myself writing a Native American novel (unlikely I know, but often that's what dreams are made of). But then I grew older and I also read Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebee Hill and put that one to bed! I something thought about writing the Regency period, but that would take a lot of additional research. It would be interesting to write an Arthurian book from the Saxon viewpoint too. If I wrote outside of the middle ages in the future, I'd most likely turn to fantasy or ghost stories. I've always enjoyed those genres and I collect true tales of the latter anyway.

  20. My question is what do you read for pleasure when you are not writing?


  21. We have teddy bear named Bruno! So I think Brunin was a great choice. How do you manage to keep on track with the flow of your writing if you have to sidestep to do research (such as names of horses, etc.)? Do you use a placeholder name until you get to a completion point and then go back or is stopping and starting easy for you?

  22. thank you for the giveaway!!

    as you're researching for your current book, do you find something which sparks future books???

  23. Hi Carol,
    I have very wide-ranging reading tastes. I don't tend to read much medieval fiction because research is a two-edged sword and I find myself nit-picking. Other eras and genres don't snag me the same way. I am currently re-reading George R.R. Martin's Ice and Fire series and loving it. That's where I'm getting my medieval fix as he gets the mindset spot on, even if it's fantasy. I love the Sookie Stackhouse novels of Charlaine Harris. I loved the Hunger Games. Anything by Terry Pratchett, my favourite being Witches Abroad. I enjoy the gritty thrillers of UK crime writer Peter James. Ditto Val McDermid. Stephen King is a big favourite. I love atmospheric ghost stories too. I don't tend to read much fiction about lives in the here and now unless they are part of a different culture. So I'm more likely to pick up a book set in the USA, or India or Africa than I am set in the UK - that's stuff on my doorstep and I'd rather travel through time and culture.

  24. Hi Emi - Ummm... that's one of those things that was built in as part of the software package at birth. I can honestly turn the writing on and off like a tap and at will. I have always been able to do this right from the start, so it's purely instinctive. With a research item that I need to know, I'll go and look it up there and then. If I can't find out and need to go deeper, then I'll just leave a few ..... in the narrative and when I come to rewrite and polish, I'll have found the answer and will then fill it in.
    Re the Bruno thing - yes, I thought some folks might have bears of that name, and Brunin isn't a bearish type of character. He's quick and dark and lean, so I went with a different version!

  25. Hi Cyn,
    Yes to your question, I often do. For example, when I was writing The Marsh King's Daughter, about King John's lost treasure, I had to research a character called Eustace the monk. The book I found about him, also had information about a medieval outlaw called Fulke FitzWarin. Reading about him, I realised what a great novel his story would make. He rebelled against King John, turned outlaw, and won fame and renown throughout the Welsh borders and further afield. That novel went on to become Lords of the White Castle in the UK - but titled The Outlaw Knight in the USA (I understand there's a White Castle burger chain or something Stateside and my publishers weren't too keen on having the title linked!). While writing the novel, I re-read the opening of the FitzWarin chronicle and realised that Fulke FitzWarin's father had had a very interesting life too, and that novel went on to become Shadows and Strongholds!

  26. Congrats to Kathleen as our winner!! And another big round of applause for Elizabeth Chadwick, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to grace us with your presence, it is much appreciated!!


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