The Meonbridge Chronicles
by Carolyn Hughes
Publication Date: October 10th, 2022
Series: The Meonbridge Chronicles
Publisher: Riverdown Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
How do you overcome the loathing, lust and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?
It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.
At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.
Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance, learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancour against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.
As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation, and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby, so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn…
Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?
Secrets, hatred and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.
This title is available on #KindleUnlimited.
How do you plot a series without losing your threads?
This is an interesting topic and it has made me look at the structure of my series in a way I don’t think I’ve really done before. When I wrote Fortune’s Wheel, I didn’t know it would be a series. So, I didn’t “plot” the series from the beginning. But, having finished Fortune’s Wheel, I realised I wanted to write more about the folk of Meonbridge, so I wrote A Woman’s Lot. Even then I wasn’t thinking of it as a series, but by the time I wrote book 3, De Bohun’s Destiny, I knew there would be more. It’s comparatively recently that I’ve decided there will be SEVEN Meonbridge Chronicles, plus one or two spin-offs. (I’ve also already written three novellas, which are prequels to Book 1, and I am currently writing a “companion novel” that follows on from Book 4. There might be others….) So, my “planning” of the series has been somewhat back-to-front, with no clear strategy in mind. Having said that, I did, right from the start, write detailed descriptions of my main characters, and I maintain a chart with all their ages, which has proved invaluable in keeping track of them all. I have developed an entirely fictional map of Meonbridge, very roughly based on a real village in the Meon Valley, in Hampshire, to help me find my way around the place! I do also have outlines and summaries of each of the previous books. Luckily, I’ve never even thought of throwing them away once the book was published, so I have them all to refer to should I need to.
As for keeping the threads together within the story I’m actually writing. I update the character descriptions as necessary to reflect the development of the characters – aging, life events, change in ambition or outlook. I write an outline of the story, which mostly consists of major plot points (chapters), and may include scenes and sometimes even snippets of dialogue, if they happen to have popped into my head. I maintain a chart in which I record the chapters, a brief outline of their scenes, timeline, POV characters. I colour-code by character name so that I can easily see the balance of chapters, so that the threads weave together and characters carry an appropriate quantity of story given their role.
None of this is set in stone. Once I’ve done as much outlining/plotting as seems necessary, I embark on drafting, and the outline acts as a guide to the story’s development, but not a strict agenda. I rewrite the outline as I go. And I often do need to. Later books inevitably refer to events in earlier books, partly as a way of providing back story, either to remind readers of earlier events, or to help readers new to the series not be entirely lost. But mostly because, as in real life, earlier life events do sometimes have a way of coming back to haunt, or at least to influence, our present lives.
In Squire’s Hazard, it is the manner of the eponymous squire Dickon’s birth that comes back to haunt him. That was part of the story of Book 1, Fortune’s Wheel. What happened in Book 3, De Bohun’s Destiny, is a factor too in his present troubles. A secondary thread in Squire’s Hazard involves Margery, a woman for whom the events of the past are a source of terrible rancour that will eventually add to Dickon’s present problems. As I was writing Squire’s Hazard, I needed to refer often to those earlier books, to ensure I remembered what happened correctly (or, in fact, understood why Margery misremembered events, or put her own spin on things…)
By now, having written the fifth book, I do know a lot about Meonbridge. I know the village, the community, the backstories of all the principal characters, some in more detail than others, depending on how important they are in carrying the story. The storylines are intended to further the lives of the characters and the community. For each new book, I start from determining which characters will tell the story, and then the storyline continues from earlier stories. This hasn’t been planned but emerges as a result of what has happened before. So, for example, in Book 2, A Woman’s Lot, Emma left Meonbridge, apparently to find a better life for herself and her children. In Book 4, Children’s Fate, we catch up with them again, and the storyline was developed partly to reveal whether her hopes were realised.
So, I do have various tools to help me recall the events of earlier books and keep the series coherent and on track. But in truth I do also simply reread those books, or relevant parts of them, to remind me what happened as I write about them again.
In principle, the overall idea of the series is to watch how the people of Meonbridge recovered from the Black Death – that’s the main storyline in Book 1 – and then follow different characters’ lives over the ensuing years. Each book is set two or three years after the previous one. Each has its own set of POV characters but they do overlap between books, and some characters have more of a principal role – for example, Margaret and Alice appear in every book, whilst other characters appear more than once but not necessarily as main characters. The number of POV characters has increased with each book. Book 1 has three, book 2, four. Book 3 has 5, plus two “subsidiary” POV characters. Book 4 and 5 both have four main POV plus three “subsidiaries”. It’s a lot to keep track of!
Does the series have an overall structure and arc? Because I’ve not planned it from the beginning, it certainly didn’t. But more recently I think I have shaped an arc for it.
Any series must have ups and downs, where individual characters and/or the life of the whole community come under threat and do or don’t recover. The Meonbridge Chronicles series doesn’t really have a trajectory, apart from the chronological one. All the books have an arc of their own: the stories are essentially standalone, though they all have earlier threads woven through them, and each book does have a conclusion, a rounding off of that storyline. At the end of Squire’s Hazard, I hint at future events. And, although I didn’t know it when I started, I do now know that Dickon is a main thread throughout the series, for he is introduced as a baby in Book 1, is important to the storyline in Book 3, has a major role in Book 5, Squire’s Hazard, and will be essentially the “hero” by Book 7. Knowing this has come to me relatively recently! I didn’t know how long the series would be or how it would end, but now I do know both. So my “plotting” may have been unconventional but I’m glad that I at last know where I’m going!
Carolyn Hughes has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.
Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow.
You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and social media.
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