Novel Number Three: Running Wolves (about the Shotley Bridge Swordmakers)

Last weekend, I finished writing Sunwise, the sequel to Widdershins and sent it off to my publisher, Impress Books. There’s sure to be a lot more rewriting and editing to do before it’s published later this year or early next, but in the meantime, I need to get started on novel number three.

This novel will be inspired by the Shotley Bridge swordmakers, who originated in Solingen, Germany. For now, I’m calling it Running Wolves (a reference to the Solingen blade mark), but as I often change my mind about names, it may well end up being called something else.

As with Widdershins and Sunwise, this novel is set in the seventeenth century, and it needs a huge amount of research to underpin it. I wrote Widdershins for my MA in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School and I’m writing Running Wolves for my PhD in English at the University of Aberdeen. The name of the research project is ‘Elsewhere to be’.

So far, I’ve carried out a literature review and read lots of books about swords, swordmakers, swordmaking, early metal working, metallurgy, and local history in both Derwentside and Solingen. Next, I buried myself in the archives to study the swordmakers’ correspondence. It was a deeply humbling experience to read letters to and from the swordmakers, which were written over three hundred years ago.

Other research will include practising blacksmithing techniques and later this year, I’ll be making my own sword! This can be a helpful way to carry out research; for Widdershins, I did some herbal medicine training at Dilston Physic Garden, and went on to grow my own herbs and make herbal remedies at home. It was a great way to get inside characters’ heads, and it helped me to create the characters of Meg Wetherby, and Annie and Jane Chandler.

Later this year and early next year, I will go to Solingen to visit the blade museum there and to soak up the place where the swordmakers originally lived. And I plan to visit the Koln museum to see the original Solingen indictment that threatened the swordmakers with death if they failed to return home.

In the meantime, though, I plan to talk to the swordmakers’ descendants to find out more about them, and hopefully to see any family heirlooms. I hope that local people with swordmaker ancestors will be interested in letting me interview them, so I’ll be putting out a call on Facebookto seek volunteers.

So, if you know of anyone descended from the Solingen swordmakers, please point them in my direction! I’ve set up a Swordmakers page on my website dedicated to this novel where you can find out more.

All being well, the novel should be ready for publication in late 2019…

Best wishes, Helen

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