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The birth of the Kingdom of Bremmand

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Writing is about realising dreams – my dream of being a writer, my dream world, and also the dreams of other people reflected through characters.

My dream world – the world I created for the Bremmand Chronicles – all started with Robin Hood. In my mid-teens, a new version of that very British folk tale was produced on British TV – retelling the story of a fight against injustice and the struggle of the “righteous” Saxons against the “wicked” Norman occupiers. Of course, as any historian will point out, the situation was nothing like as clear-cut as this but let’s not ruin a good story with the facts! In the 1984 production, Robin of Sherwood was played by a tall dark and handsome young actor who was just the kind of chap that was likely to appeal to a teenager. And he certainly appealed to me! Of course, it was highly implausible that Robin Hood had a mullet hairstyle, and, being a Saxon, probably wouldn’t have been dark, but it had me glued to the TV each week.

Even then, I had the creative mind of a writer so, as well as swooning over Michael Praed, the series germinated the seeds of an idea in my mind. I began to play with those ideas, to adapt the legends and think about what might realistically happen in case of an invasion and a righteous rebellion against occupation. So, the Kingdom of Bremmand emerged.

I knew that, in any story I wrote, I didn’t want to write a truly historical tale. This was partly because I’m not a diligent person and the type of research required to write historical fiction is beyond me but it was mainly because I wanted to write my own stories. I wanted the freedom to create characters, to bend them to my will and to put them in situations that were of my own creation.

To begin with, Bremmand was modelled very tightly on Norman Britain and a lot of those elements remain – a feudal society, governed by a King and managed by a network of Regional Lords (the British Barons of the 13th century). For most people in 11th century Britain, the day-to-day changed relatively little under the Norman rule, so it soon became clear that, just as any Saxon rebellion against the Norman’s fizzled out very swiftly, my Kingdom would need a lot incentive to want to fight back.

That realisation drifted me in the direction of another invasion of Britain, one which took place some 1000 years earlier, when the Roman’s arrived in Kent. This invading force was one ruled by extreme efficiency and (sometimes) extreme brutality and some of the tribes of England took great exception (Boadicea – remember her? She is still an icon of British defiance even now). The Roman Empire was a military and administrative machine of great sophistication and their domination of a territory led to complete subjugation of a nation into its own ways of doing things. They are a perfect enemy and a have become a significant model for the Kostinian Empire of my books, with a dash of the Mongol hordes and the odd influence of the Chinese dynastic model, plus borrowed technology from a range of other ancient civilisations.

For my Bremmandish resistance I used the sophisticated and well supported resistance of another occupied territory, this time of the 20th Century – the French maquis during the German occupation of the early 1940’s. In this case, there were a small number of active fighters but vast numbers of the civilian population also supported them. It was the French resistance which gave me the approach – different groups centrally coordinated and externally supported – but also the concept of a proud nation with a heritage held so dear that the people were prepared to defy their rulers to defend it. For my Bremmandish people this was the heritage of a holy bloodline, epitomised in a royal family which could be traced directly back to their founder of some 1100 years before.

When I first created Bremmand, it was a land of fantasy with my royal family linked through some form of ESP and some direct connection with their god. The more I worked at it, however, the less this worked for me, so I discarded the idea and reworked everything to be rooted in the real world. I feel this has led to better stories but it has ended up making my books extremely hard to categorise.

They aren’t historical – the setting is as invented as the characters and plots – but they aren’t fantasy – no dragons, goblins or magic in sight. That still has me scratching my head. If anyone reading this has a view on where my books fit in the fiction world, I’d be very glad to hear it.

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