Monday, 16 July 2018

#Monday Matters- with Kate Braithwaite

#Monday Matters... is back again where authors are invited to interpret my "How Did That Happen?" title in any way they choose.

Today, I'm welcoming a Crooked Cat Books author friend - Kate Braithwaite. She's sharing some fabulous information about her latest book launch that's happening today, her title subject sounding like the one place that very many people wanted to avoid at all costs! 

Hello, Kate. Please bring us up-to-date with your brand new historical novel.  

Digging up a story… The road to The Road to Newgate

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, compares novel writing to excavation. The story is already there, he says, and the writer must chip carefully away, as if teasing out a fossil from a stone, to find it.

Titus Oates - Wikimedia Commons
In the case of The Road to Newgate, I’ll admit to a lot of chipping. I’ve taken to describing it as a story of love, lies and a search for justice in 17th century England but in all honesty, in its first outing, it was only about the lies. There is a reason for that. My starting point for the story was Titus Oates, named in 2006 by the BBC as one of Britain’s top 10 liars. When I dived into the history of the Oates and the Popish Plot I was amazed. There were trials, executions, resignations from the Privy Council, persecution of Catholics, the murder of a Protestant magistrate: all based on a false list of accusations produced by Titus Oates, a 29 year-old preacher.

It’s an exciting story but complicated, and I chose to tackle it from the point of view of Roger L’Estrange, the Licenser of Charles II’s Presses and for a long time the lone voice questioning Titus Oates. L’Estrange was a clever man, but old and not personally very interesting. I wanted to write a story about a younger man, someone equally determined and intelligent, but who needed to be more considerate of others, more emotionally open, and to learn to ask for help. My first draft, then, was this fictional character’s story, a man called Nathaniel Thompson, modelled on L’Estrange, investigating a murder and the truth of Oates’s claims. I had my first attempt in the bag - but it lacked heart.

From my research I knew that L’Estrange had a wife called Anne about whom little was known except that perhaps she enjoyed gambling. She was there in the first draft but did not have enough input or agency in the story. I started digging again. The draft that came out of this next burst of activity went in a new direction. I experimented with the gambling idea, seeing if that might bring Anne into Titus Oates’ orbit somehow and give her a role in the drama of Nat’s pursuit of Oates: but that just didn’t ring true. And so I tried again, digging into the lives of seventeenth century women and giving Anne more realistic concerns to battle with. Nat is ten years older than she is. What does she know about her husband’s past? Can she trust him? Can she fulfil her traditional role by becoming a mother? How can she establish herself as an equal partner in their marriage?

At that point the novel had two narrators, telling a much more compelling, linear story, in alternate chapters. An interesting fossil was emerging. But there was one more character who needed further attention to really give the emotional pull that I love to feel when reading, and always want to produce as a writer. William Smith was a real historical person, caught up in Titus Oates accusations and someone who had known Oates as a boy. 

Reading all about the Popish Plot and Oates, I found multiple suggestions that his ability to make connections with prominent Catholics, and therefore claim knowledge of their plots against Charles II, may have been through a homosexual connection. If William Smith, a school teacher, was also secretly gay, then he would be vulnerable to blackmail and likely to lie to his friends about his personal life. By introducing William as a third narrator, I was able to write some of my favourite scenes in The Road to Newgate where William and Titus Oates interact. It’s the personal connection that really puts Oates’s viciousness is on full display. And while William’s homosexuality is key to the plot, it was his close friendship with Nathaniel and Anne and their reaction to his secret life, that finally brought the completed story to life.

Nancy says: That's a fascinating 'How Did that Happen' answer, Kate. It was a turbulent time to write about and read about. I see another addition coming up for my kindle queue! 

What price justice? London 1678. Titus Oates, an unknown preacher, creates panic with wild stories of a Catholic uprising against Charles II. The murder of a prominent Protestant magistrate appears to confirm that the Popish Plot is real. Only Nathaniel Thompson, writer and Licenser of the Presses, instinctively doubts Oates’s revelations. Even his young wife, Anne, is not so sure. And neither know that their friend William Smith has personal history with Titus Oates.

When Nathaniel takes a public stand, questioning the plot and Oates’s integrity, the consequences threaten them all.


"Moved me greatly and brought tears to my eyes. Gripping, moving and brilliantly captures this tense and sometimes brutal episode in late seventeenth-century English history." Andrea Zuvich, author & historian.
"A real pleasure to read," Denis Bock, author of The Ash Garden & The Communist's Daughter.
"Meticulously researched, vividly imagined, and deftly plotted. Rich, resonating and relevant"  
Catherine Hokin, author of Blood & Roses, the story of Margaret of Anjou.

Kate Braithwaite
Kate Braithwaite was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her first novel, Charlatan, was longlisted for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Society Award. Kate lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.

Thank you for visiting today, Kate. Very best wishes to you for a brilliant launch of The Road To Newgate and with all of your writing. 

There's a Facebook launch today 16th July for The Road To Newgate- you can join in by clicking HERE


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