Sunday, December 7, 2014

M.E. Hubbs and his new novel "THE ARCHER'S SON"

Christal Cooper 2,966 Words (including excerpt)

M.E. Hubbs
The Archer’s Son

       This past August of 2014 Bluewater Publications published M.E. Hubbs’ second novel The Archer’s Son. 

       The Archer’s Son is about 12 year old Hedyn who is thrilled to be chosen to join King Henry’s army as it advances on Normandy.  His excitement quickly gives way to exhaustion in body and spirit as well as worry for the safety of his newfound friends and comrades.  He meets a mysterious stranger by the name of William, who is also fighting in King Henry’s army, but is holding a deep secret, but still manages to help Hedyn in more ways than he’ll ever come to understand.

       This is the second novel M.E. Hubbs has written about historical time periods in our world.  His first novel The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou takes place in 1863 Arkansas and is told through the eyes of 13-year old slave Ephraim.

       The same process that Hubbs wrote The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou is the same process he wrote The Archer’s Son.  Hubbs does not write an outline, but rather lets the ideas for his stories percolate in his brain; and then, when he has a beginning, middle, and an end, he is ready to set at the laptop and write. His one philosophy in writing is to let the characters lead the story, even if it means changing the beginning, middle, and the end he originally had written in his brain.

       The story and characters will usually carry ME through the process instead of the other way around.  Characters seem to have a life of their own sometimes and even I am surprised at what they might do!  If a change in direction occurs, I immediately go back to what I have done previously and make adjustments to ensure that I leave no holes in the plot or create historical inaccuracies.”

       During those six months of writing the first draft Hubbs would go back over what he had written the previous day to make sure he didn’t repeat scenes and to edit.  For the next 12 months he revised his rough draft with the help of two different writer’s critique groups he belonged to.

       Below is the scripted interview of M.E. Hubbs conducted this past September.

In your book you acknowledge Days of Knights and thank them for their contribution in making your novel a realistic one.  What are the Days of Knights?
Days of Knights is a group of medieval living historians who gather once each year.  The goal is to education the public on this era of history that is often overlooked here in North America.  These are the best of the best when it comes to interpreting the weapons, armor and life ways of people of the Middle Ages.  Participation as a costumed historian is by invitation only.

I have been involved in living history programs and reenactments for over forty year in various eras.  I have always had a deep interested in the medieval era, but did not develop a costumed impression until I discovered Days of Knights back in 2012.

The Days of Knights living history presentations range from the Viking era up to the early 1500s.  Days of Knights 2014 was held at Frankfort Kentucky and included over 250 historians from all over the United States.  For more information:

What specific types of research did you participate in order to write The Archer’s Son effectively and factually?
To write a convincing historical novel, the author must fully understand not only written history of an era, but the nuts and bolts of everyday life.  Only then can he or she described the sights, sounds, smells and feelings effectively.  Wearing the clothing, preparing/eating the food and performing the everyday mundane tasks of a chosen era will help the author convey those senses to the reader.

I made most of the clothing and equipment that I wear as an English archer based on surviving garments of the era.  I learned to shoot a long bow (quite well, I might add) and how to fletch arrows as they were done 600 years ago.  I baked horsebread, cooked pottage and taught myself the basics of making ale. All these things helped me immerse myself into the story. 

I think this is why The Archer’s Son does not tell a glamorized version of medieval life as some novels do.  Instead, it is gritty and dark. Death and suffering are presented realistically.  I wanted the reader to feel that grit; the heavy mud on his feet; the hunger; the smells in the air and be touched by Hedyn’s despair.  But mostly I wanted the reader to see how our ancestors still prevailed and lived life despite the hardships of the time.

What was something surprising you learned about history when researching for this book?
I was relatively well versed on the Battle of Agincourt, but did not know much about the siege of Harfleur, which preceded it.   I was surprised at how long it took to take the city, the savageness of the battle and the horrible losses that the English endured due to sickness during those six weeks. 

I felt the father was a secondary character compared to that of William – so why the title “The Archer’s Son” instead of “The Archer’s Guide, a title that encompasses Heydn and William?
“The Archer’s Son” was what Hedyn would be called as he gained his freedom from serfdom.  Early in the story, people call him “villien’s son” as his father was a villien (a type of serf) and he has no last name.  As he matures in the story and eventually gains his freedom, he transforms from a nameless serf to a free man named “Hedyn Archerson.”

I felt that William’s story was just as individual if not more individual and compelling than Heydn’s.  Why not more detail on William?  And do you have a novel planned jut for William?
William Whitwell of Devon, sort of got away from me!  Some characters have a mind of their own.  Some, who the writer expects to be a major player, ends up in a supporting role.  Others who the writer expects to be minor player, steals the show and develops into one of the most important characters.  This was the case with William. I needed a person who would help Hedyn grow as a man, and as a Christian.  William ended up doing that and much more to propel the story line.  I have considered a “prequel” with William in the lead as a youngster in the priory.  That may happen in the future.

What character did you connect with the most and why?
Although he was a minor character, I felt closest to Hedyn’s father, Jago.  Like me, he was an old soldier who was left behind due to age and old injuries.  His disappointment in staying behind and his pride in Hedyn, reflected my emotions as I sent my son off to war in 2007.

What was the greatest challenge in writing this novel?
Time!  Finding the time and motivation as I concurrently worked a full time job with lots of travel, and taking care of normal home and family duties.

Did you ever visit the actual places that you write about in the novel?
Yes, Indeed!  I had visited the United Kingdom several times in the past, but made a special trip in 2012 to areas in Cornwall and Devonshire that I portray in the novel.  Saint Nonna’s Church, which plays a part in the story, still stands in Altarnon (now spelled Altarnun) although it was remodeled in the 16th century using stone and timbers from the abandoned Trelawny manor house. The stone packhorse bridge over Penpont Water that is mentioned in the story is as sturdy now as when it was built seven hundred years ago. I drove the route that my fictional company of archers would have traversed from Altarnon to Plymouth during their march to the sea to take shipping. Seeing the village of Altarnon and traveling the green countryside and ancient narrow lanes provided an insight I could never have gained from maps or photographs.  Although it will be after the fact, I plan on visiting Normandy and Agincourt in 2015 during the 600th anniversary of the battle.

In your own expertise, why were France (Charles) and England (Henry) at war and was there such as things as the good guys versus the bad guys?
There are whole books on this subject!  The relation between England and France goes back much further to 1066 when the William, Duke of Normandy invaded England to claim the throne.  The politics of the two countries were entwined from then until the mid 1400s.  There were many disputes over the rightful heir to the French or English thrones during those years.  It finally came to open warfare with the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the House of Valois for control of the Kingdom of France that became known as the Hundred Years War.  Of course, the Agincourt Campaign was only one episode from a war that lasted 116 years.  Personally, in the particular case of Henry V, I feel that his claim to the French throne was rather weak!  I allude to that in the novel.

Hedyn is only 12 – was this the norm age for boys to go to war?

       Medieval armies were almost always accompanied by large groups of women and children.  Most were family members of men in the ranks.  They performed non-combatant roles (cooking, cleaning, laboring ect) to free up the men for their roles as soldiers. Hedyn went along as a non-combatant, but eventually that role became blurred as the campaign went on. 

When it comes to the fictional characters – did you model them after someone – real or fiction?
The main characters such as Hedyn and William are products of my imagination and I did not try to pattern them off of real people. 

Some of the characters are based on real people, such as Sir John Trelawny.  Altarnon Parish in Cornwall was the original seat of the Trelawny family.  Sir John (born 1386) was the coroner for Cornwall and also represented the county in Parliament.  Sir John is my 15th Great Grandfather.

I have tried to present historical figures such as King Henry and Sir Thomas Erpingham as true to history as possible.  Although I have created a few scenes involving Sir Thomas, I have written those scenes in a way that does not contradict historical records about his role in the Agincourt Campaign.  

In your experiences, what are misconceptions people may have about this aspect to of history?
There is much glamour and romanticism applied to the medieval era and the “Age of Chivalry.”  Fair maidens and knights in shining armor are products of literature and Hollywood.  For the common person, there was little glamour.  The class system allowed little or no upward mobility.  Life was very hard and short, one had few rights or privileges. 

Can you go into detail about the cover?  It is of Hedyn and his father?
As you know, the main job of a cover it to grab a reader’s attention!  At first glance, one might expect the taller figure to be the younger’s father.  Actually that is Hedyn and William Whitwell at the dawning of a new day during the arduous march from Harfleur to Agincourt.  However, the models actually ARE father and son and are participants in the Days of Knights living history group.  The youngster, Patrick, was also the model for some of the drawings in the book.

"Keep your heads, lads, and nock a bodkin," William called out.  "There is Lord Erpingham.  Now we will provoke the French into moving."  The old knight strode quickly out in the field in front of the line where all could see him.  He tossed a baton high in the air to draw the attention of all the archers. 
"Now strike!"  The old knight bellowed at the top of his lungs.
In unison, five thousand archers muscled bow cords to their ears and launched arrows high in the air toward the French lines.  It was a long shot, so the high-arching arrows took several seconds to ascend before they started their deadly fall to earth.  Hedyn could see a faint shadow that drifted across the wheat field created by the mass of five thousand feathered missiles.  Like a great flock of starlings, he thought. 
Before the first arrows began to thud into men and horses and to clang against armor, the archers were sending more arrows on their way, each man shooting at his own pace.  Within a minute, 60,000 arrows were in the air or scattered across the battlefield.  Some in dirt, some in men.
       The arrow storm had its intended effect.  Trumpets sounded, drums thumped, and the French line finally came to life. 
"We are in for it now, lads," William said to no one in particular. 
Mounted knights appeared on each side of the French formation, as the main line of armored men on foot began to move forward.  The heavy armor and thick mud made them seem slow and clumsy. 
"Put your arrows on the cavalry, lads.  They will try to break our archers on the flanks," the ventenar instructed. 
"Help our mates on the flanks.  Broadheads into horse flesh.  If a horse goes down, the knight will go too."  Hedyn hated to see the horses killed, but he knew that the highly trained animals were as much a weapon as the lances and swords that each of the knights pointed at his comrades.
       From where he stood near the center of the line, Hedyn watched in awe as the French cavalry thundered toward the English flanks on either side of him.  The air behind each of the big coursers filled with clods as pounding hoofs splattered the black mud. 
The archers did not falter behind their wooden stakes but poured the bodkins and broadhead arrows into the mass of horses and men.  Some began to fall as arrows found chinks in armor or were embedded in screaming horses.  Some slowed and galloped back as it became too perilous near the archers and their stakes.  A few stalwarts made it to the line of bowmen and discovered that the horses slowed or stopped, refusing to gallop into the protective barricade of stakes.   These men were pulled from their mounts and killed by swarms of angry archers.   
One man, a great nobleman in the finest armor, tumbled from his horse headlong as the animal impaled itself on a stake.  Even from where Hedyn stood, the splash of red blood stood out on the bleak, muddy field.  The man never had a chance to rise from his fall, killed where he lay.
"I knew these stakes were a good scheme the minute King Henry had us cut 'em back in Corbie!" Denzel said, almost as confidently as if he had devised the idea himself.  The men rolled their eyes and laughed at him.  He smiled sheepishly.
Panicked war-horses, some rider-less, crashed back through the oncoming French line, sending men-at-arms tumbling and scattering to make way.  The line slowed, but regrouped and slogged on through the mud.
The French line began to change.  It became bunched and irregular.  The French knights instinctively crowded to the center to avoid the deadly arrows streaming from the English flanks.  The archers stood behind their stakes and shot as fast as arrows could be nocked.  The visibility of King Henry's banners at the center of the line reinforced this movement toward the center.  The French knights were not disciplined enough to remain where the battle plan required.  The line slowly transformed into a blunt wedge, which only presented more targets to the busy archers.  The crowding made it much more difficult to wield lances and swords.
"Shoot, shoot! Pour it on, lads!  Pour it on!" William screamed in a voice that Hedyn had never heard before.  It seemed a mixture of terror, excitement, and merriment, almost like the voice of a boy involved in some risky prank.  The arrows at the men's feet were long gone, and now each man shot the arrows in the extra bundles that Hedyn delivered before the fight.  One hundred and twenty thousand arrows were gone, and still the French came.       

Excerpt from The Archer’s Son
              Pages 145 - 146                                                             Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photograph Description and Copyright Information

Photo 1
Mark Hubbs
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 2
Jacket cover of The Archer’s Son

Photo 3
Web logo for Bluewater Publications.      

Photo 4
Hedyn and William
Illustrated by Tracy S. Lyndon
Cover Designed by Ian LaSpina
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 5
King Henry V
Attributor unknown
Created in 1923
Located at the National Portrait Gallery in London
Public Domain

Photo 6
Jacket cover of The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou

Photo 7
Jacket cover of The Archer's Son 

Photo 8
M.E. Hubbs as an Agincourt Archer at a living history event, 599th anniversary of the battle.

Photo 9
M.E. Hubbs signing the contract with Bluewater Publications
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 10
Days of Knights web photo 

Photo 11
Miniature of Richard of Wallingford, Abbot of St. Albans, mathematician and inventor of a mechanical astronomical clock. He is shown seated at his desk measuring with a pair of compasses.
   Title of the book: History of the abbots of St Albans.
   Author: Thomas of Walsingham
   Date: 14th century
   Language: Latin
The first version is a lossless adaptation from: [1]
The current version was digitally changed for better visualization.
From The British Library; Record Number - c3919-08; Shelfmark - Cotton Claudius E. IV; Page Folio Number - f.201.

Photo 12
M.E. Hubbs dressed as an English archer taken at Days of Knights 2013
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 13
Days of Knights Web Photo

Photo 14
Ambrotype photo of M.E. Hubbs
Attributed to Claude Levet.
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 15
Phyllis and M.E. Hubbs
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 16
Hedyn’s and the boiling water
Attributed top Tracey S Lyndon
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 17
Battle of Agincourt 25th October 1415
Sir John Gilbert. 1817 -1897
Public Domain

Photo 18
Object theatre design
Attributed to Thomas Grieve
Pen, ink, and watercolor
Public Domain

Photo 19
The Smithy and Hedyn
Attributed to Tracey S Lyndon

Photo 20
William releasing four arrows
Attributed to Tracey S Lyndon
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 21
M.E. Hubbs with son in the military
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 22
M.E. Hubbs with his grandchildren at a book singing last year at Goat Hill Book Shop in the Capitol Building, Montgomery, Alabama.
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 23
Alternun with the Saint Nonna’s Church in the background.
Attributed to M.E. Hubbs
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 24
Penpont Horsebridge.
Attributed to M.E. Hubbs
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 25
Parrish Church of St. Nonna
Alternun Cornwall England

Photo 26
Charles VI of France by Master of Boucicaut
Pubic Domain

Photo 27
Henry V of England
Painting done in 1902
Public Domain

Photo 28
Panel from the Bayeux Tapestry - this one depicts Duke William lifting his helmet at the Battle of Hastings to show that he still lives. Scanned from Lucien Musset's The Bayeux Tapestry ISBN 9781843831631 pp 250-251.
12th century

Photo 29
Agincout Campaign
15th Century
from Chronique d”enguerrand de Monstrelet
Public Domain

Photo 30
Hedyn and William
Illustrated by Tracy S. Lyndon
Cover Designed by Ian LaSpina
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 31
M.E. Hubbs
Copyright granted by M.E. Hubbs

Photo 32
Sir Thomas Erpingham
Pubic Domain

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