A historical story, like any other needs a prompt, something to get it up and running. Dark Roads had several. The first I suppose was a gift one Christmas from my wonderful wife, of a book entitled Mapping the Roads, by Mike Parker, a fascinating history of map making in Britain.
Having read Mapping the Roads and put it to one side the idea of historical maps was quietly forgotten. Then came a read of William Marshall, The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge, a truly fascinating tale of one of the most important non-royals in the history of England. There is, as always some controversy about the precise details and significance of a historical figure, but there can be no doubt that the tales of his life are truly epic. Handed by his father at the age of seven as a hostage in a truce; a truce which his father promptly broke. William the Marshall went on to become the Earl of Pembroke, to serve five kings, to become effective regent of the realm and be involved in the issue of Magna Carta, before being accepted as a Templar on his death bed. There’s a lot there to be used in any story-line.
Still, William’s story has been told several times, so he dropped into the general morass of memoried and ideas that float around just below the surface. Until I heard Steel Eye Span perform at our local theatre. The most effective number they performed was a song called Elf-Knight. A dark and brooding tale of a mythical demon, a serial murderer of princesses and a thoroughly nasty piece of work (spoiler alert – in the song he is outsmarted by the last princess and gets his come-uppance). A little research showed that the Elf-Knight myth is wide-spread across most of Europe. I wrote a few hundred words on the subject of the Elf-Knight and puth them and him away, at the end of March 2019.
Eventually all three elements merged into one and the idea for Dark Roads was born. All I have to do now is write it out.