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
You would think that every reader would appreciate Owen’s individuality and uniqueness. That is, after all, why we care what happens to him. Thanks for not making him a shallow stereotype (even if it existed for a 14th Century archer)!