Tuesday Talk Guest: The Iron Masters & Graham Watkins

My Guest this week, Graham Watkins, reveals his muse for his new novel The Iron Masters.

The gravestone was leaning against the wall of the church. 
I walked over and read the inscription: 

Watkin Watkins,
Farmer, Departed this life 
8th June 1730.
 'Who was he?'
'He's your nine times grandfather,' replied my wife. I touched the letters. The slate crumbled in my hand. After three hundred years of mountain wind and rain, nature was reclaiming the rock and the words would soon be lost. My wife's research into our family history had brought us to the little graveyard in Vaynor, her enquiries drawn back a veil revealing our ancestors; farmers, stonemasons, engineers and family skeletons adding colour to our family's past. I turned to look at a nearby grave, bigger and more imposing; an eight ton slab of pink granite surrounded by iron railings. The words were simple:

Robert Thompson Crawshay, 
Died May 10th 1789, 
aged 62 years, 
God Forgive Me.

My curiosity took command. Who was the man buried beneath the enormous rock and what terrible wrong did he do that needed God's forgiveness? Robert Thompson Crawshay's monument would be my muse. From it would come the idea for a book, an historical novel, The Iron Masters.

The outing to Vaynor churchyard was two years ago. It was the beginning of a journey, one where I would need to research history and learn new writing skills. The story of the Crawshays is well known in South Wales. They were wealthy iron masters who built Cyfarthfa Castle, a mock gothic castle in Merthyr, from where they watched the foundry that made them richer than Croesus.

Robert Crawshay's nickname was 'The King of Iron.' Later, when the Crawshays had gone, Glamorganshire County Council purchased Cyfarthfa Castle and my grandmother went to school there. The Crawshays fought with other iron masters to supply cannons to the Navy. The iron masters built canals and the first railway in the world to transport their cannons to the docks at Cardiff. Merthyr cannons were aboard the Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and mortars, cast in the ironworks of Merthyr, bombarded Fort McHenry, Baltimore as Francis Scott Key composed a song that would become the American national anthem and set his words to a popular British tune of the day.

As the adventure began to form in my mind, other interesting facts emerged; a corrupt Lord of the Admiralty impeached for misappropriation of public money, a nabob from India returns to Carmarthenshire with a fortune to invest and an evil emperor who wants to rule the world. My plot, a fifty year quest for fortune and wealth, was developing and taking on a life of its own. More than forty character profiles pinned to a huge timeline, made their entrances and exits as the chapters emerged.

Nye Vaughn, a farm boy from the mountains of the west, would be my iron master and Isaac Thomas, a bully who inherits his wealth, his nemesis. Their battle would be epic as their weapons crossed the globe defending the empire and defeating the French. But there was more: the women behind the iron masters. Their schemes would add new twists that I didn't expect. They say, 'Truth is stranger than fiction.' It's a lie. All fiction has an element of truth. Without truth, the story would be nonsense but with it a story will fly and imagination can run wild.

Take poor Bethan, for example, killed in my book, by accident, by her lover. The story of Bethan is based on a real tragedy. In 1816, nineteen year old Elizabeth Jones who was unmarried and pregnant took a potion, purchased by her lover, to abort the unwanted child. He didn't know it but the potion contained arsenic. Her lover fled to Liverpool then surrendered himself in a fit of remorse. He was convicted of murder and died on the gallows at Carmarthen watched by 10,000 spectators. Elizabeth's body lies in the graveyard of my home village on the Brecon Beacons. Such was the life of 18th Century Wales where a few brave men grew rich while others lived and died in misery.

This was a world of extremes where the iron masters towered above all others, masters of men and metal. They ruled without mercy and their word was law. War made them rich but, after decades of bloodshed, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated at Waterloo and the wars were over. The demand for cannons collapsed and the iron masters faced a new, deadly threat. How would Nye Vaughn, now an old man, protect his family and ensure the survival of his empire?

Two years after starting the novel, I still find it strange to think that my family were minor players in such a fantastic real life adventure. Being modest, I thought it better not to include them in the novel. Besides, I think, there are already enough exciting and interesting characters strutting confidently across the pages and it's time for me to move on.

All I need now is my next muse. 

Helen: The Iron Masters is currently being reviewed by HNS Indie Reviews

If you have read a book and enjoyed it 
please leave a comment on Amazon
(UK, US & Canada)
Four or five star comments can help an author 
by boosting the Amazon Ranking List

I especially need more comments for my books please!
Thank you

A Versatile Blogger

I have been gifted with this:

... courtesy of a fab lady  Elaine Cougler (do visit her blog when you've finished reading mine!) So without much more ado I shall accept, make my thank you speech and comply by the rules.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
The Versatile Blogger Award Rules:
  1. Display the Award Certificate (cut and paste it from my post) - DONE
  2. Write a post and link back to the blogger who nominated you - DONE (see above
  3. Post seven  interesting things about yourself -- DONE (read on
  4. Nominate up to fifteen other bloggers (and why you've nominated them) - DONE (read on)
  5. Inform them of their nomination  (probably via comment on their blog unless you have their email!)  -  DONE
Task One

Task Two 

Write a post

Often these Bloggy type awards can be a tad daunting, that's because one of the rules is to pass on the baton (or should that be wireless keyboard?) You want to be nice to nice bloggers by saying "Hey I think you deserve this!" but you also know they are probably incredibly busy and do not have time for faffing about finding the next bloggers to follow on.

Well yes, because I accepted the honour of becoming A Versatile Blogger I've spent most of the day, therefore, faffing about. And I've thoroughly enjoyed it! I've had a wonderful day browsing some of my favourite blogs, immersing myself in some fascinating - and diverse - articles.  From Rome to a switch to short-story writing via Sweden and A Wonderful Life - please click the links below and have an enjoyable read and find new blogs and new friends into the bargain! (but don't forget to vote for Sea Witch first!) 

Task Three:

Seven things about myself:
  1. I have just discovered Game of Thrones. OK I know, I'm late to the party, but it was on Sky here in the UK and I don't watch Sky. So I rented the first four episodes from Amazon's Lovefilm and was hooked from the start. Possibly too violent and sexual for some though. Rated 18 for a reason.
  2. I like Tia Maria Coffee with Devon cream on top. Oh gosh its gorgeous! Even when the cream doesn't float.
  3. I traipse into the Orchard of a morning in my wellies, nightdress and dressing gown to let the hens, ducks and goose out. Aw c'mon you don't expect me to be dressed before 8.30 a.m. do you?
  4. I have a companion in my study. Mab the cat has taken to sleeping on the chair. Only problem the blanket on it is black and white. She's black and white. I've accidentally sat on her a couple of times.
  5. We are not alone. We have at least one spirit in the house and one in the dairy. Nice 'people' who love this eighteenth century farmhouse I live in as much as I do.
  6. Devon cheese. Devon Blue and Taw Valley Cheddar. Oh boy. Delicious. We have a fantastic cheese shop in South Molton. Mmm. Mm!
  7. I'm getting over being frightened of spiders. Well, living in the country I haven't much choice have I? One ambled across my desk the other day. I just said 'hello' and let it amble. Ok OK it was about as big as my little finger thumbnail. I probably wouldn't have been as calm had it been as big as a coffee-mug coster (as they are here in Devon.)

Task Four:
I nominate

  1. Alison Morton Because this is a place to go for everything Roman. Alison knows her stuff! (Her Roma Nova series is also pretty good! :-) "Superficially, Lupercalia looks like a mob of  scantily clad young men of rank, running around the posh part of the city, full of sauce and whipping people, especially young women – sounds very student-like… But this was a quintessential Roman rite and significant on many levels to Romans for a thousand years."
  2. Richard Abbott  Because he reviews for HNS Indie and he supports indie writers (and his blog isn't bad either!) "For the Mad Reviewer 2014 Reading Challenge I signed up for the Slightly Sane category – 26 books during the course of the year."
  3. Anna Belfrage Because she writes about so many versatile things and I enjoy reading them.  "Every now and then, I sit down to have a serious one-to-one chat with yours truly. Okay, so the conversation is generally one-sided, as I haven’t progressed to doing different voices for different sides of my personality, but the purpose of these little tete-a-tetes is to remind myself why I write.
  4. Joanna  Barnden I met Joanna while doing my 'author bit' at Battle Abbey for the annual Battle of Hastings Bash (re-enactment). She was a delight to talk to and I'm always happy to support interesting writers. "Why write historical fiction? All my life I’ve been fascinated by the past. I remember as a child visiting Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh and standing over the (presumably re-touched) bloodstain where David Rizzio was murdered by Lord Darnley and being forcibly struck by the reality of standing on the same spot."
  5. Janis Pegrum Smith because I agree with her - It's A Wonderful Life :  "I have made it a ritual to watch the movie 'It's A Wonderful Life' at some point in the run up to Christmas".  
  6. Jessica Talbot  because I enjoyed her book Picaflor and her blog reminds me that being far from home is nice, but being home is even nicer! "This site is for writers, storytellers and people who have a story to tell. I think there is a need for a place to share stories and to feel connected through the experiences we share living in countries far from our birth places."
  7. Caz Greenham because her books about Eric the Seagull are fun and she lives in Devon. 'Nuff said! "If I’m not writing about Eric Seagull ‘Storyteller’ then you can find me paddling along the seashore or dipping my toes in rock pools."
  8. Carol McGrath because she is an admirer and fan of Harold II who died in 1066 killed in Battle seven miles from Hastings. Any fan of Harold's is worth following!  "It’s 1075. Eighteen-year-old Gunnhild, King Harold’s daughter, is living in a nunnery. She has no wish to be a nun: she is a princess and would rather wed a knight and have the life a princess should. So when Count Alan offers to elope with her, she accepts. But does he love her, or does he just want the lands that she will inherit?"
  9. Katherine Bone because she likes pirates and writes about pirates. Couldn't be a better reason! "Shoutin’ from the top of the mizzen, me hearties! Sails on the horizon!"
  10. Loretta Livingstone because she's a lovely lady. "Some of you may have noticed that my writing has taken an unexpected turn. I went for a wander in Writing Woods, took a different turning than usual and ended up down Short Story Lane."

Task Five
Will carry out as soon as this is posted.

Thanks for dropping by
and thanks for being versatile readers and friends!

I was