I’m back from the UK and working on a post about my adventures in York, Leeds, Pontefract, and London. But first I want to alert you to the news that the English language ebook of A Conspiracy of Wolves is now available worldwide!
And I want to share with you a wonderful review from Kirkus Reviews for A Conspiracy of Wolves that will appear in their mid June issue:
“A man with a deep sense of justice and a passion for crime-solving must make a series of life-changing decisions.
“The year 1374 finds Owen Archer, former captain of the guard (A Vigil of Spies, 2015, etc.), still mourning the death of Archbishop Thoresby as he returns to York with his apothecary wife, Lucie Wilton; their family; and Geoffrey Chaucer, a spy for Prince Edward. Upon the road they meet Bartolf Swann, coroner of Galtres Forest, and Brother Michaelo, who was Thoresby’s secretary. Swann begs them to find the killer of Hoban, the son he claims was savaged by dogs or wolves. Hoban’s own dogs and horse are missing, and when Owen examines his body, he finds that although Hoban was indeed bitten, someone had cut his throat as well. Back in York, Owen is torn between the mayor, the aldermen, and merchants who want him to become captain of the city bailiffs and a more generous offer from Prince Edward, who’s invited him to become a member of his household so that he can keep an eye on the powerful northern families who are enemies of the throne. While Owen ponders his choices, he seeks information from several people and comes to suspect that Alisoun Ffulford, apprentice to Magda Digby, midwife, healer, and wise woman, is holding something back. Soon after a mysterious man with a large dog is spotted in the city, Bartolf Swann is found murdered. Owen becomes convinced that the Swann, Tirwhit, and Braithwaite families are all connected not only by marriage, but by a dangerous secret from the past that may provide the motive for the murders in the present. Real-life historical figures mix with fictional characters in a portrait of a deeply dangerous time that Owen must navigate with care if he’s to solve the murders and settle his own future.
“History and mystery combine in a fine, complex tale of love and hate.”
I’ll take that!
And just an FYI, at the time of writing this (Monday, 3 June), the US publisher of the first 10 Owen Archers, Diversion Books, has a sale on 5 of the earlier Owen Archer ebooks: The Apothecary Rose, The Lady Chapel, The King’s Bishop, The Riddle of St. Leonard’s, and A Gift of Sanctuary are $1.99 on all platforms!
(Why they skipped The Nun’s Tale is a mystery to me. But some of the Margaret Kerrs are on sale as well!)
On UK publication day of A Conspiracy of Wolves, the 11th Owen Archer, I find myself thinking back to the story that started it all. I’d slipped away from my graduate studies to think about what I really wanted, and moved across country. While job hunting, I spent my days exploring the wonders of the Olympic Peninsula across Puget Sound from Seattle and wrote short stories. In one of those stories—the only one that was neither fantasy nor science fiction!—lurked the kernel of The Apothecary Rose.
Two women of the rising merchant class in medieval York, a taverner and the wife of an apothecary, sharing a secret, one supporting the other in a warm, motherly way. Lucie Wilton is running the apothecary while her husband lies ill, frantic to keep it all going smoothly so that no one notices her husband’s absence. For she is not officially his apprentice, though she has learned everything from him in such detail and depth that she may just pull this off. But for how long? Her neighbor, Bess Merchet, watches over Lucie, coaxing her with food, ale, and watching out for hours at a time so that Lucie can rest. Though she suspects Lucie spends the time pouring over her husband’s records for garden and shop. In the York Tavern Bess talks loudly to her husband Tom about Ambrose Wilton (the ailing apothecary) as if he were up and about, just using Lucie as his public face in the shop. A shadowy figure begins to snoop around, and both women become more desperate. I used it as a backdrop to talk about women’s roles and the power of guilds. The story was “Managing,” and the magazine editors to whom I sent it all said it wasn’t really a short story, but the first chapter of a book they would like to read. Encouraging rejection.
So I wrote a book with Lucie as the central character; the snoop who most threatens her is a man come north on behalf of his lord to find out more about the long-ago death of her mother. This unsavory spy becomes too curious about the invisible Ambrose. Tall, handsome despite a scarred face, he was the predecessor of Owen Archer. A villain in this version, and not blind in one eye. The manuscript was rejected by several agents on the grounds that it fit no particular genre. “A period piece is difficult to sell.” They suggested I rewrite it as historical romance or a crime novel.
I put it in a drawer and stewed about it as I wrote something completely different. A post holocaust story. Long before they were everywhere. And while I fiddled with that, I picked up some crime series and began studying how they worked. Hm… If I could come up with a sleuth… I realized I might already have one—that scarred creature of darkness, if I could find a tormented soul within. I happened to also be reading Robert Hardy’s book on the longbow. Taking the stance of an archer, I realized the left eye was of vital importance. And so the villain morphed into my one-eyed archer.
At any step in the way I might have given up or taken a different direction. But something about the story compelled me to keep trying. Once I met Owen, I realized I’d met his shadow before I’d met the man as he wished to be in the world.
It irked me that my publisher insisted on calling it the Owen Archer series rather than the Owen and Lucie series, but I was too excited about being published to fight hard. And by now you all know how important Lucie, Bess, Magda, and Alisoun are in these stories.
Hard to believe how many years I’ve lived with these characters. I am so grateful to Lucie and Bess for appearing in my imagination and compelling me to explore their stories. And to Owen for showing me that he deserved to be brought out of the shadows and find redemption.
I am so excited that my new publisher, Severn House, has chosen A Conspiracy of Wolves, the 11th Owen Archer, as their Editor’s Pick for April in the UK! They have some wonderful things to say about it, too.
“With A CONSPIRACY OF WOLVES, Severn House is delighted to welcome to the list the highly-acclaimed historical mystery writer Candace Robb who, after a 10-year gap, has chosen to return to the bestselling medieval mystery series that made her name….
“Wonderfully atmospheric and impeccably researched, A CONSPIRACY OF WOLVES reintroduces readers to Robb’s eclectic cast of much-loved characters, including the enigmatic healer Magda, the fastidious Brother Michaelo, and not least the upright, fairminded Owen Archer himself, as he doggedly pursues the truth behind the shocking deaths of Bartolf and Hoban Swann. Real historical figures mingle seamlessly with fictitious: I particularly liked Robb’s portrayal of the garrulous, gossipy Geoffrey Chaucer, who makes for a brilliantly contrasting sidekick to the more sober, taciturn Owen.”
You can read the entire blog post here!
And just in case you haven’t check out my appearances/events page, here’s where you can find me in the UK in May!
UK events in May–I look forward to seeing you!
16 May, Thursday, 6:30-8:00 pm, I’ll be at the Leeds Library, Commercial St., Leeds, in conversation with Chris Nickson and Sara Porter (editor, Severn House)
21 May, Tuesday, 6:00-8:00 pm, I’ll be in York! De Grey Lecture Theatre, York St. John University, in conversation with Chris Nickson and Kate Lyall Grant (publisher, Severn House)
Of course I’ll also rush around York signing all copies of my books everywhere. So stock up!
First signing date for the US is:
17 August 2019, Saturday, noon-1:00pm Come chat with me while I sign copies of A Conspiracy of Wolves (and many other books!) at the wonderful Edmonds Bookshop
(111 Fifth Ave South Edmonds, WA 98020) Make a day of it and explore this beautiful town on the Sound!
A week ago Danièle Cybulskie and I chatted about creating the worlds of my medieval novels. Here’s a link! She’s an Owen Archer fan, so we talk about how it all began with The Apothecary Rose and go on from there, eventually bringing in Kate Clifford and how those books differ from the Owen Archers.
Sorry about how my voice cuts out–my mistake. Never, ever forget the earbuds and mike, folks. Nuff said. But Danièle (aka 5 Minute Medievalist) is a pro and we covered a lot of ground.
If the Medievalist podcast is new to you, be sure to listen to all the other installments. You will learn so much! It’s one of my favorite podcasts. And explore their website.
Now I’m diving back into Owen Archer #12, a scene with Lucie and Magda. Two of my favorite companions.
PS. Early in the podcast I make a subtle mistake in a name. Did you catch it?