I’m excited for this interview today with D.W. Bradbridge! His book, The Winter Siege, is a well-told 17th Century mystery with the background of local history during a very tumultuous time. You can see my review from yesterday, HERE. He was a pleasure to talk with and he’s given us some very inside knowledge of his research, his book, his writing, and much more. Enjoy!
Hi D.W.! Thanks for coming by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I have been looking forward to talking with you! The Winter Siege has been the perfect read for me right now, as in Ohio we are covered in snow! How are you faring overseas?
D.W.: Thanks for inviting me, Erin. I appreciate it. I think the weather in the UK has been a lot milder than you’ve had it in the US. Nevertheless, we had our annual battle re-enactment celebration in Nantwich on Saturday and we were hit with thunder, lightning and a huge hailstorm. I think I prefer, the snow, to be honest.
Erin: I’d prefer snow to that too!! And I don’t mind a soft snow much, but we’ve been having temps in the -40 degrees with wind chill and my kids are working on the fourth day missed of school! Yes! I’d love to have a sit down in your favorite bookstore, with a cup of steaming tea and discuss some fabulous topics…history, books, writing…and certainly YOUR book!
D.W.: You’re very welcome, my local bookstore in Nantwich is very friendly and makes a great cup of tea!
Erin: Wonderful. I’d love an English Breakfast Tea. Let’s get started!
Q: I know you have a long-standing love of genealogy and local history! How did that inspire you to write your book and are either one of those two things involved in your storyline in The Winter Siege?
A: I was brought up in Bolton, which is about 60 miles from Nantwich, but my mother always used to tell me about her Cheshire ancestors. When I moved to Nantwich 14 years ago, I started to research our local history and it was then that I realized that the English Civil War battle that took place in these parts provided a fascinating story that needed to be told. Genealogy itself does not play a role in the story, although I do have a Cheswis in my family tree.
Q: Why do you think it is important to share and tell the ‘lost stories’ of people in history? As many as have been told, there are still so many to draw upon. What can their stories teach the next generation?
A: I think the character of a town can be moulded by the inhabitants’ collective experience over time. The events that took place in Nantwich during the winter of 1643-44 must have been incredibly traumatic for the people who lived there, and it’s worth pointing out that, had things turned out differently for local populace, Nantwich would probably be a very different place today. What I got most out of discovering this story was tremendous respect for the fortitude of the townsfolk of Nantwich during the siege. I think it’s worthwhile thinking about the contribution previous generations have made from time to time.
Q: How much research went into The Winter Siege? What interesting tidbit did you come across that surprised you?
A: Historical accuracy was important to me, so I read just about every contemporary account of the battle, as well as carrying out other research such as looking into the role of the village constable in the 17th century, the structure of the salt trade in Cheshire and the history of Cheshire cheese. I think the aspect of the English Civil War that will surprise most people is the fact that support for King or Parliament was never black and white. Although Nantwich was largely parliamentarian in its sympathies, there were still plenty of royalists about.
Erin: Did you say Cheshire cheese??! Yum! And yes, that is true and I see your point. It seems many took the side that best ensured their survival. All lines were muddy.
Q: Is your book fairly historically accurate or does it run more as a fictional crime drama set during a point in history?
A: What I’ve tried to do is to create a very accurate and detailed historical framework to the novel and then weave a fictional murder plot around the real events. History offers only a partial snapshot of what happened at any given point in time, and is often seen through eyes that are biased in some way. So what I’ve tried to do is to create a “what-if” scenario. Many of the episodes in the book – even some of the minor ones, actually happened, but it’s for the reader to decide what is real and what is fiction.
Q: In reality, how did the people within Nantwich fare during this ‘lockdown’ period of their life, where they were caught between two intense factions vying for power?
A: The siege itself must have been a pretty miserable experience, especially towards the end of the siege when food began to run out. But at least they had roofs over their heads. The besieging royalists would have largely camped out in the open air in freezing temperatures. I won’t spoil the story by revealing what happens, but I think, in retrospect and given different circumstances, things could have been much worse for the people of Nantwich than they actually were.
Q: How long was your process to complete your novel? What were some of your challenges and some milestones or success you had in working on it?
A: It took about two years from start to finish. For my day job I run a small publishing company producing business magazines for the tire industry, so my biggest challenge was seeing whether I could transpose the skills I had learned as a journalist into a completely different kind of writing. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether I’ve been successful .
Erin: It seems you have! I struggle with that myself quite a bit actually. I have an issue getting into my creative writing due to my structured journalist style. I am also curious to hear how others make the transformation.
Q: How did you create your lead protagonist and his characteristics? Was he based on someone from history, a person you know, did he just appear to you….?
A: It was important to me to create a lead character who the reader would care about and, indeed, who I would care about, but he had to be a real character with flaws – so Daniel is somewhat reserved, wants to please too many people at times and has some obsessive-compulsive traits. He also compromises himself professionally out of misguided loyalty to one of his friends. To be honest, the basis of his character was formed at the start of the creative process, but he developed naturally as the book went on.
Q: What do you feel worked for you well in terms of preparing and completing your historical novel? How did you keep the historical aspect and the plotted mystery all straight in your mind and on paper?
A: All writers are different in how they prepare their work. I spent the weekend with two other writers who told me they don’t prepare a structure to their novels at all – they just let the plot flow. I’m a planner though, so I prepared a template of the plot split into chapters, then filled in the historical details in note form before sitting down and writing the story. This helped me with the convoluted plot line as well as with the pacing of the novel. For me it was like filling in a tapestry.
Q: What other time periods or situations in history do you favor? Have you thought about writing on any of them?
A: I have plans to write a novel set in Mauritius during the Napoleonic Wars but that’s a long way off. My plans for the next few years are to follow the fortunes of Daniel Cheswis and his friend s and family as they negotiate the rest of the English Civil War. The sequel to The Winter Siege will be called A Soldier of Substance and will hopefully be published towards the end of the year.
Erin: I like the sounds of both of those!
Q: You seem like you’ve been having a great time publicizing and promoting your book at bookstores and so forth. Very creative! How does it feel to have completed a goal or fulfilled a dream?
A: Fantastic! It’s a real sense of achievement, especially talking to people who’ve read the book. But the job is only half done. Being a self-published author, I now have to take on the task of marketing the book properly.
Q: Where can readers or fellow writers connect with you?
A: Via my website http://dwbradbridge.com or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to connect with readers or fellow writers.
Q: Where can you books be bought in the US, UK, and internationally?
A: In the US via Amazon and Smashwords. The book is also available through a number of independent bookstores in the UK and those are listed on my website.
Erin: Thank you so much, D.W., for sharing a bit of your world with me and my readers! And I love the cover of your novel too, by the way! Very attention grabbing! I wish you best of luck in future writing endeavors. Stay in touch!
D.W.: Thank you. I certainly will. It’s been great talking to you.
The Winter Siege, Synopsis~
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?
Author D.W. Bradbridge, Biography~
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.”