Categories
Blog

Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift

Shadow_on_the_Highwa_Cover_for_Kindle
‘The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas…’

So opens the Alfred Noyes poem, The Highwayman. I loved that poem at school, and have remembered the opening lines ever since I was nine years old. So when I read about Lady Katherine Fanshawe –  the noblewoman who was also a highwaywoman, I could hardly resist researching her fascinating life!  Whilst uncovering Katherine’s story I found that the real history and the legend did not always agree. For one thing, there are discrepancies about Katherine’s date of death and place of burial, and little survives of hard-core evidence as to her activities during the English Civil War.

 

Despite the legend, there is actually nothing of substance to link Lady Katherine with any sort of highway robbery, although it is likely that there was robbery and plunder on the roads at this period because of civil unrest; crimes that could have been attributed to her.

 

The legend however is irresistible. Two films have been based on the idea, both called ‘The Wicked Lady’, in 1945 and 1983. There was also another novel; The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton, loosely based on Katherine’s life. The fact that the legend has survived so long is a testament to its appeal.

But could I re-imagine it, paying attention to the facts whilst keeping true to the interest of the legend? Could I keep her exploits as a highwaywoman?

For my story I have drawn on both her real life, and aspects of the legend. Nowhere in the real history is Katherine’s lover, Ralph Chaplin, traceable, although he always features in the retelling of the legend as the person who persuaded her to robbery in the first place. For a novelist, these gifts of mysterious characters with no background fuel the imagination, and Ralph features in my novel and the second part of my Highway Trilogy will be his story, told from his point of view. Of course I have tried to make him as real as possible, and, as many young men were at that time, excited to try new idealistic ways of living, following the break-down of the established order.

I was concerned however to pay attention to the real evidence, and – without giving too much away, to supply likely scenarios which could have led to the interpretation we have today. John Barber, on his excellent website on Lady Katherine, poses the idea that her life may have accrued some of the story of  ‘Maude of Allinghame’ (1833), a Victorian ballad that tells the story of a noblewoman who robs a young suitor and later the Mayor of Redbourne. This seems to be a likely possibility, although parts of Katherine’s legend are undoubtedly true. She was forced to marry tragically early; her stepfather did squander her fortune; the real Markyate Manor does have a secret passage.

Suffice it to say, there is plenty of highway action in Shadow on the Highway – muskets, moonlight and madness.

SHADOW ON THE HIGHWAY is published by Endeavour Press and is aimed at teens and adults from aged 14+

Paperback and ebook

More on Lady Katherine Fanshawe

Deborah’s website 

Categories
Blog

My main character – Lady Katherine Fanshawe

This post is part of a game begun by Debra Brown and passed to me by Sue Millard who lives relatively near me in Cumbria in the North of England. The posts are designed for readers to gain an insight into what writers are working on at the moment. Because my book is part of a series and all the books aren’t finished there are some details I don’t want to reveal yet, but here is an inkling of what has been taking up my time since I finished ‘A Divided Inheritance.’

What is the name of your character?Katherine Ferrers

My main character is seventeen-year-old Lady Katherine Fanshawe. She is a real historical person but also she features in a legend about her double life as noble lady and as a notorious highwaywoman. Find out more about the real person and the legend of The Wicked Lady here

When and where is the story set?

I’ll be taking you back in time to the English Civil Wars, in the mid seventeenth century, a time so turbulent it was known as ‘the world turn’d upside down.’

What should we know about Lady Katherine Fanshawe?

She comes from an illustrious and noble family but when she loses her parents she is forced by her stepfather to marry his lacklustre nephew. This enables her stepfather, Sir Stephen Fanshawe to take control over her land and wealth. She is rebellious, and takes to a secret life of highway robbery to replace her lost fortune.

What is the main conflict she must face?

Whilst disguised as a maid she falls in love with local boy, Ralph Chaplin. Ralph is determined to build a new world in which everyone is equal, where there is no aristocracy, following the ideals of the Digger movement. Ralph hates the nobility and would be horrified to find the girl he thinks of as ‘Kate’ is really Lady Katherine Fanshawe. He would be even more horrified if he knew what she got up to at night!

What is the personal goal of this character?

Kate is courageous and craves adventure and danger, but often does not look before she leaps. She is determined to escape her controlling stepfather, to be free of society’s demands, and to love who she pleases. At the same time she is reluctant to give up the life in which her status gives her privileges and she does not want to give up ordering people about!

When will this book be published?

Actually, this is three books – a series of three novellas, which make up The Highway Trilogy. This is a set of books suitable for adults and young adults of 14+. Each book is about 200 pages. The first book is told from the point of view of Lady Katherine’s feisty maid, Abigail, the second from Ralph Chaplin’s point of view, and the third from Lady Katherine’s (Kate’s) point of view. I thought it would be fun to write some shorter books for young adults in between my bigger books.

Publication date yet to be confirmed. The working title of the first book in the series is ‘Shadow on the Highway’, the next one will be ‘Ghost on the Highway,’ and the third ‘Revenge on the Highway.’

Pictures relating to the books are on my Pinterest Site

Now I need to pass the baton on to these lovely historical fiction writers:

Charlotte Betts

Anita Seymour

Carol Cram