Robin Hood, the famous “outlaw” of the middle ages, has always fascinated me.
I read the early stories, saw the movies (yes, even the one with Kevin Kostner), and studied the history of the era to try and find the real, true, robber of the rich, giver to the poor.
What I found had nothing to do with Richard the Lion-Heart and the battle against the wicked Prince John, who was running the country while his noble brother was out “getting the bad guys”. It seems that John was not even running the kingdom while his brother was away, their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was keeping the place running smoothly.
But there was evidence of an early outlaw named Hereward the Wake and many of the elements of his tale entered into the corpus of Robin Hood, even though Hereward was active against William the Conqueror in 1066, the century prior to Richard the Lion-Heart.
Oddly enough, there is documentary evidence of a Robin Hood who had apparently been outlawed early in the reign of Edward II, around 1312, another century later. And the records show that when Edward was marching toward Scotland, he parked his army to the east of Nottingham and journeyed westward, into Sherwood Forest. He returned with a young man he had pardoned. The man was Robin Hood, and he became a member of the king’s household.
Now, how would the king know this guy well enough to stop his march northward long enough to invite the lad into his own household staff?
And that was the starting point to my novel, Longshanks. Of course it does not start with Edward’s meeting with Robin Hood in the forest, it starts with Edward’s father, while still heir to the throne, meeting his own Robin Hood, the grandfather of the famous outlaw. The story of the outlaw’s legend required some foundations and that is what I started with.
And since I had to create the history of my characters in parallel with the authentic history, I had to study the people, places, and times well enough to give my Robin Hood ample opportunity at adventure.
And, yes, the entire series of tales was outlined before I started the first volume. Otherwise, the character could not look back across his long life and recall his adventures on crusade, his dalliances with various noble women of the highest class, his wayward adventures with Marco Polo and family to Cathay, and even a sailing trip across the western ocean to visit the place the vikings called Vinland.
All these other adventures are not written, just the first volume. I figured if I could not get it published, what would be the point of writing the rest?
Yes, yes, I know, I know! It’s what writers do but I… well, I didn’t want to “waste” my time. Although now that the first volume is published, I wish the remainder were ready to go out as well.
But, that still leaves me with more fun to be had.
And if the history is tweaked just a little along the way (although less than you might imagine) I guess we’ll just have to live with that.
This is for art’s sake, after all.