As Emma is absorbed in writing The Hero’s Wife and reading Jonathan Sumption’s 3 vol The Hundred Years War (I admit, I’m gulping it down as well–marvelous!), I thought I’d take the opportunity to post a little something.
Funny how little things trigger memories. Seeing a photo of the decorations down the high street of Windsor for Catherine and William’s wedding, I remembered an encounter at a bookstore event in Windsor years ago. A member of the audience rose in the Q&A period to comment on Owen Archer’s personality. I can’t recall precisely what he said, but the essence was–“archers don’t think like Owen Archer does.” Several people in the audience protested or laughed, but I used his comment to talk about one of my missions being to dispel myths about the middle ages including such things as “all archers were [fill in the blanks],” and how I therefore never write about Everyman per se. With Owen Archer (and all my characters) I enjoyed creating an individual, with a unique history, but solidly grounded in the 14th century. The commenter shrugged and sat down. Later, when he handed me a book to sign, he asked me to write, “I’m sorry I published a mystery about an archer first.” I shook my head. “I’m not sorry.” I don’t recall exactly what I wrote, but I believe it was, “Good luck with your archer.”
But he wasn’t the only one who lumped all archers into a generalization. Not long afterward at a signing in Seattle a woman approached saying she hadn’t read any of my books so, “Tell me what your archer is like.” I described Owen. She shook her head. “No no no. Archers are all nasty, antisocial jerks.” I asked her if she based that on experience. “You bet. I’ve traveled all over the country to SCA* events and all the archers are jerks.” Well, there you go. Needless to say, she didn’t buy a book.
By the way, I’ve since met someone who is an archer in SCA and she’s anything but nasty and antisocial.
* SCA = Society for Creative Anachronism