atoz letter cCastles 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.

My Castles

talent seekers cover
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.

Real Castles

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.


C is for Castles #AtoZChallenge2018

14 thoughts on “C is for Castles #AtoZChallenge2018

  • 3 April, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    I love castles. I think I might’ve lived in one in a previous life — probably cleaning all the time 😉

    • 5 April, 2018 at 6:26 pm

      lol, yes, the trouble with all that romantic past — some of us had to be the serving wenches!

  • 3 April, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    There really is a fascination about castles, and so much scope for imagination (as Anne Shirley would say 😉 ). I think my most blissful 2 days when I toured France as a young woman was the time spent visiting all the castles along the Loire. (I loved the medieval hilltop villages in the south of France, too–places that have been continuously occupied since 300 AD or whatever). A lot of history in them.

    • 5 April, 2018 at 6:27 pm

      and despite Sundance’s assertion in book 6 that they’re all much the same, they aren’t!

    • 5 April, 2018 at 6:28 pm

      If you’re coming anywhere near me, let me know!

  • 4 April, 2018 at 7:37 am

    Nothing I love more than scrambling about in ruined castles!

    • 5 April, 2018 at 6:29 pm

      They are all so different, and all have different atmospheres. Hope you get to see one or two in time 🙂

  • 5 April, 2018 at 1:29 am

    Hi Jemima – I think your illustrations are delightful – castles are icons in our landscape and in our history … Bob Scotney and I inadvertently inadvertently in 2012 both did our A-Z on castles … we only clashed on two – cheers Hilary

    • 5 April, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      That’s impressive – but I suspect I saw yours at the time, and was impressed (and inspired).

    • 5 April, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks, Rae. I can waffle for hours on subjects I enjoy!

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