Castles are common in the UK. Stockades built by the Celts against the Anglo Saxons, or Saxon fortifications to ward of the Vikings, now crumbled away, or great stone towers by the Normans in the 11th Century, most are ruined but many still in use (the Tower of London, for example). Then there was the golden age of castle building, during the Wars of the Roses. Most lords had castles to retreat to – just read some of the historical fiction by Philippa Gregory: the Red Queen spent her life in some man’s castle (mostly being mistreated).
When I started writing the Princelings of the East, I envisaged a world without people. I had vague ideas that a catastrophe had wiped people out and left a great plain where London and the Home Counties would be. But that isn’t part of the story. Castles were connected by tunnels, and thriving communities led by their kings and lords ran more or less in harmony under well-established rules.
I started drawing the castles. Mostly they were simple keeps surrounded by more walls. Occasionally they turned into wedding-cake types of structures. Sometimes my mental image of them don’t really translate to the pictures I drew. That’s the case with Castle White Horse, which evolved on the book cover of the Talent Seekers to something that couldn’t ever host a wall-running competition. Castle Buckmore I described as ‘more like an enormous country house, surrounded by high walls’. My first attempts didn’t do it justice.
I found more inspiration in real castles when I went looking for them. Castle Buckmore is now modelled on the grand villas of Lake Garda, then surrounded by walls to leave the outward appearance of the first book. Castle Palatine is firmly based on my memory of Durham castle, whereas my Castle Edin is actually based on a photograph of Edinburgh castle. I wanted the complexity of Edin to shine through. By contrast, Castle Marsh, the first to be imagined, is a simple keep with round towers, on a rock. It has expanded a little over the years.
The first keep I ever saw was Rochester castle, which we went past on the train when we visited our grandmother as kids. What with that and Enid Blyton’s Castle of Adventure, well, castles were excellent for a fertile imagination!
There was an excellent BBC tv series on about castles a few years ago, which I had to watch for research, didn’t I? Some of the great castles of the UK featured strongly; Caernarvon, Alnwick, Hever, Bolsover. More recently I saw a Mary Berry programme that went inside Scottish castles – that was fascinating too. I visited many of the Scottish castles on holidays. Unfortunately I don’t have photos of them. I’ll just have to satisfy you with some of some of the East Anglian castles that are easier for me to get to – Castle Rising, Castle Acre (ruins), Caister, Framlingham, Orford. Or you could look at some great English castles on the English Heritage website.