This year on the blog, I'll be featuring a number of other authors who also write books set in the 'Dark Ages'.
This month I'm delighted to welcome to the blog Mary Anne Yarde, whose award-winning Du Lac Chronicles imagine a world a generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, when Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.
AW: Welcome! Can you tell us a little about the Du Lac Chronicles? Do the same characters feature in each book, and can the books be read as stand-alones?
MAY: For well over a thousand years we have been enchanted with the tales of King Arthur and his Knights. Arthur’s story has everything – loyalty, betrayal, love, hate, war and peace, and like all good stories, there isn’t a happy ending for our hero. Arthur is betrayed by his best friend, Lancelot, and then he is betrayed once again by his nephew, Mordred. Arthur’s reign comes to a dramatic and tragic end on the battlefield at Camlann.
When Arthur died, the Knights died with him. Without their leader they were nothing, and they disappeared from history. No more is said of them, and I always wondered why not. Just because Arthur is dead, that doesn’t mean that his Knights didn’t carry on living. Their story must continue — if only someone would tell it!
The Du Lac Chronicles is a sweeping saga that follows the fortunes and misfortunes of Lancelot du Lac’s sons as they try to forge a life for themselves in an ever-changing Saxon world. In each book, you will meet the same characters, whom hopefully readers have come to love. I made sure that each book stands alone, but as with all series, it is best to start at the beginning.
AW: Indeed it is. And thinking about 'beginnings', where did the idea for the novels come from?
MAY: I grew up surrounded by the rolling Mendip Hills in Somerset — the famous town of Glastonbury was a mere 15 minutes from my childhood home. Glastonbury is a little bit unique in the sense that it screams Arthurian Legend. Even the road sign that welcomes you into Glastonbury says...
"Welcome to Glastonbury. The Ancient Isle of Avalon."
How could I grow up in such a place and not be influenced by King Arthur?
I loved the stories of King Arthur and his Knights as a child, but I always felt let down by the ending. For those not familiar, there is a big battle at a place called Camlann. Arthur is fatally wounded. He is taken to Avalon. His famous sword is thrown back into the lake. Arthur dies. His Knights, if they are not already dead, become hermits. The end.
What an abrupt and unsatisfactory ending to such a wonderful story. I did not buy that ending. So my series came about not only because of my love for everything Arthurian, but also because I wanted to write an alternative ending. I wanted to explore what happened after Arthur's death.
MAY: Researching the life and times of King Arthur is incredibly challenging. Trying to find the historical Arthur is like looking for a needle in a haystack. An impossible task. But one thing where Arthur is prevalent, and you are sure to find him, is in folklore.
Folklore isn’t an exact science. It evolves. It is constantly changing. It is added to. Digging up folklore, I found, is not the same as excavating relics! However, I think that is why I find it so appealing.
The Du Lac Chronicles is set in Dark Age, Britain, Brittany and France, so I really needed to understand as much as I could about the era that my books are set in. Researching such a time brings about its own set of challenges. There is a lack of reliable primary written sources. Of course, there are the works of Gildas, Nennuis and Bede as well as The Annals of Wales, which we can turn to, but again, they are not what I would consider reliable sources. Even the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, which was compiled in the late 9th Century, has to be treated with caution. So it is down to archaeologists to fill in the missing blanks, but they can only do so much. Which means in some instances, particularly with regards to the history of Brittany during this time, I have no choice but to take an educated guess as to what it was like.
AW: I agree. Primary sources must be treated with care. How conscious were you of the existing Arthurian tales and legends - did they have any bearing on your stories and which, if any, are you most drawn to?
MAY: I grew up with the stories of Monmouth and Tennyson, and they have influenced me to an extent. However, my books are based after the fall of Arthur, which makes them a little different.
AW: It certainly does. Thank you so much for chatting to me about your books. I have to ask - What next?
MAY: I am currently working on Book 4 of The Du Lac Chronicles.
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