by Toni Mount
Toni Mount and The Colour of Poison
I began my writing career, secretly, over thirty years ago, writing a novel about Richard III, just for fun. It became a trilogy and has sat in the drawer ever since. It will never be published now because the ‘King in the Car Park’ discoveries made since 2012 have rendered my version of events obsolete. However, in researching the background for those novels, I dug ever deeper into the social history of medieval England, to discover what life was really like in the fifteenth century. As a result of this research, a publisher asked me to write a factual book about everyday life in medieval London – which I did.
In writing this factual book, I felt I was getting know a few of the people and the streets of the old city of London. Wills and marriage documents, lawsuits and medical ideas of the time built up a picture of some fascinating individuals. But there is one disadvantage with factual history: you cannot say anything of the thoughts and feelings of these people, unless they wrote them down at the time and the record has survived. Diaries and journals haven’t survived – if they were ever written – and just a few letters, such as those of the Norfolk Paston family, now exist to reveal the more private and personal aspects of medieval life.
So a novel was the answer. In fiction, the writer is allowed to see inside the characters’ heads, to know the whys and wherefores of their actions, to share their good moments and their times of distress and report the dialogue exactly. As well as my love of history, I’m a bit of a crime-fiction addict, from Lindsey Davis’s Falco novels, set in ancient Rome, through Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, to the latest Stuart MacBride’s gritty police procedurals of Logan McRae – I love them all, so it was almost inevitable that I would write a murder-thriller-mystery set in medieval London.
My ‘detective’ hero needed to be exceptionally observant and know a bit of basic biology and alchemy since this was as close as I could get to medieval forensic science. An artist, used to working with pigments and making close observations of his subjects, fitted the part and Sebastian Foxley was born. History supplied the background, with King Edward IV’s expensive plans for an invasion of France requiring money urgently, raised by whatever means – fair or foul – and bringing my other factual characters, in Richard of Gloucester’s household, into the city. Francis, Lord Lovell, and his smart town house of Lovell’s Inn were very real but his wicked ways are my invention entirely – he became Richard’s Lord Chamberlain, so I expect he was a nice guy really – my apologies to his good name. Robert Percy was real too and died at Richard’s side at the battle of Bosworth in 1485.
A will, drawn up in 1480 by a London tailor’s widow, Ellen Langwith [Ellen Langton in the novel] provided a landlady with her apprentice, John Brown [John Appleyard] and his sister, Dame Ellen’s maidservant. The servant isn’t named in the will but I promoted her to an apprentice to Dame Ellen’s silk-working business and called her Emily – she supplied the love interest. For my MA degree, I’d studied a fifteenth-century surgeon’s handbook that contained alchemical treatises, as well as medical information. With ideas taken from this, Gilbert Eastleigh’s character was a joy to create and write about, inhabiting his creepy world, half chemistry-half magic. The stage was set.
By chapter two, the characters were taking charge of the story. I just had to write it down. At the time, I was studying with the Open University, doing a diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. The project for the final year required the writing of the first chapters and a full synopsis of a novel but, when the course ended, a few of us continued working together, online, critiquing each other’s work until our stories were finished. I haven’t heard that any of my fellow students have published their work yet, but many of them certainly deserve to have their wonderful novels out there for all to read. I doubt I would have finished mine, if not for their encouragement and positive criticism.
Criminal law of the fifteenth century was a complete unknown to me, so I researched what I could, concerning ‘oath-helpers’, the ‘hue and cry’ and punishments appropriate to each crime. An employee killing his master, or a wife killing her husband, were both cases of ‘petty treason’ and carried similar penalties to treason itself but I admit to taking liberties with both the processes of the law and sentencing. I didn’t want to swamp the story with procedural details when arson, kidnap and unrequited love are so much more exciting.
When ‘The Colour of Poison’ was about to go ‘live’ on Kindle, my publisher at MadeGlobal had to complete a questionnaire for Amazon. One question was ‘Is this book one of a series?’ He emailed me: ‘Will there be a sequel, only I have to tick a box?’ Oh dear. A snap decision was required. I leafed through my three lever-arch folders full of notes and ideas and decided. Yes, there will be a sequel; Sebastian Foxley will be in action again. It’s just a matter of finding time and letting him and his fellow characters take charge of a new tale.
The Colour of Poison is published by MadeGlobal.com and written by Toni Mount. Toni is a writer, speaker and an active member of the research committee of The Richard III Society contributor to The Logge Register of PCC Wills1479-1486
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Toni Mount earned her research Masters degree from the University of Kent in 2009 through study of a medieval medical manuscript held at the Wellcome Library in London. Recently she also completed a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing with the Open University.
Toni has published many non-fiction books, but always wanted to write a medieval thriller, and her first novel The Colour of Poison is the result.
Toni regularly speaks at venues throughout the UK and is the author of several online courses available at www.medievalcourses.com.
The first Sebastian Foxley Medieval Mystery by Toni Mount.
The narrow, stinking streets of medieval London can sometimes be a dark place. Burglary, arson, kidnapping and murder are every-day events. The streets even echo with rumours of the mysterious art of alchemy being
used to make gold for the King.
Join Seb, a talented but crippled artist, as he is drawn into a web of lies to save his handsome brother from the hangman’s rope. Will he find an inner strength in these, the darkest of times, or will events outside
his control overwhelm him?
Only one thing is certain – if Seb can’t save his brother, nobody can.
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Toni Mount and MadeGlobal Publishing are graciously offering a complimentary copy of The Colour of Poison to one lucky QAB member or browser. If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on April 30, 2016. Good Luck!!!