I’ve always been a writer and I had my first publication at eleven years old when I sent an article I’d written about the Spanish Riding School in Vienna to the girls’ magazine Diana. It’s been a long journey from there to the publication of my first novel The de Lacy Inheritance. Along the way I’ve had lots of articles and short stories published in magazines and written three local interest books, but there’s something about being a novelist that makes you a ‘real’ author.
The de Lacy Inheritance came about because of a legend I discovered when I was writing my local interest book Tales of Old Lancashire. This old story, about a Holy Hermit who lived in a cave under the castle at Clitheroe captured my imagination. I did some research to discover how much of it was true and found that the man was Richard FitzEustace who had contracted leprosy whilst on Crusade with Richard the Lionheart and who lost everything because of it – home, family, fortune, his standing in society as a nobleman and any chance of a normal life.
I felt compelled to tell his story, although I knew that writing a novel with a leper for a hero was going to be a challenge. I also wanted to explore the attitudes of people towards disease. In medieval times illness was often viewed as a punishment for sin and I began to wonder what sins Richard had committed, or thought that he had committed, to deserve such a fate, and what he believed he could do to redeem himself. Then I added the story of Richard’s younger sister Johanna, who is also based on a real person, and her role in deciding just who should inherit the lands across Lancashire and Yorkshire after the death of Robert de Lacy.
I was aware that the novel would not be easy to sell to a publisher. My first plan was to self-publish it and try to sell it in the local area but the book was accepted by a small independent publisher, Myrmidon Books, and went on to be not only stocked in Waterstone’s but on their 3 for 2 tables during July.
Reactions to the book have been very positive and despite the leprosy most readers have found Richard FitzEustace to be an appealing person. And there is some romance as well. It’s not all gloomy.
You can read the first chapter on my website: www.elizabethashworth.com and there’s a growing archive about the de Lacy family and a slide show of some of the settings for the novel on my blog: www.elizabethashworth.wordpress.com
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