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A Guest Post by Jonathan Posner
Inspired by a Church

21 October 2022


Like you, I am sure, I have long been fascinated by the Tudors. That is why my four novels (and those in the pipeline) are all set in the era. We each have our own stories of where our fascination with this amazing period of English History started. Heather has very kindly given me the opportunity to do a guest post - so I thought I would share with you the story of where my own inspiration came from.

Of all places, it was when I was driving across the Hammersmith Flyover in West London.

In the early 1990s I used to commute into London every day from my home in Windsor. It seems incredible to me now, but in those days I thought nothing of a daily 90 minute car journey into work on the M4 and across town to Swiss Cottage. I would listen to the breakfast radio, drumming my hands on the wheel to the music, and singing along if I knew the words (and often even if I didn't).

The buildings on the way fascinated me, and in particular St. Paul's, the magnificent church sitting to the left of the Hammersmith flyover as you head into town.


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What impressed me most was the incongruity of such an ancient building being surrounded by so much concrete, steel and glass. Seeing something so clearly rooted in history being dwarfed by massive office blocks created a strong sense of wonder - how could two such distinct eras co-exist in the same space?

So then I thought, what if a modern-day person wandered into the church to get away from all the traffic noise, and when they came out, time had gone back to the building's original era?

Would they find themselves in some bucolic 17th century setting, with sheep grazing in the fields and an aged farmer in a cloth hat leaning on the gate (no doubt dispensing wise epithets with a piece straw sticking out of the side of his mouth)?


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Only it wouldn't be anything like that, would it? The reality (if such a thing could actually happen) would be that our reluctant time-traveller would be an alien in a foreign land, unable to understand or be understood, at the mercy of customs and norms for which they had no conceptual framework - in other words a fish so far out of water that they would flounder hopelessly... (other metaphoric cliches are available).

How soon would they say or do something that marked them out as a target, and they ended up swinging at the end of a rope as a witch? The early 17th century was noted for its relentless witch hunts, which were inflamed by King James himself in his book called Demonologie; essentially a state-sanctioned invitation to try any poor woman (and it was mostly women) for the perceived crime of causing misfortune, sickness or even death through enchantment or satanic rituals. Our time traveller would be easy pickings.

How would they find the courage and the resourcefulness to survive?


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So there it was - the germ of an idea for a time-travel adventure, where a modern-day traveller ends up being accused of witchcraft in the 17th century.

But then I got to thinking again - would that be the best era for such a tale? I did some research and reading, and discovered that in Tudor times, accusations of witchcraft were treated more pragmatically. There were even those who were sceptical about such things. This was perfect - not only would it give my time-traveller potential allies, but as I got deeper into the period, I could see that the era itself was more colourful, more flamboyant, and hey, a lot more interesting than those dull old Puritans. From then on, I was hooked!

So there I was, breezing across the flyover each morning, building this Tudor time-travel and witchcraft story in my head. And fortunately, I also had a format ready and waiting to receive it.

A few years before I had written the book and lyrics for a musical - which were so unbelievably bad that it was a blessing that it never saw the light of day (despite my best efforts at the time). But the music, which was written by a couple of friends, was actually very good, so I had set myself the task of validating their work by overlaying a whole new book and lyrics. This time-travel idea was just the ticket, and over the next few months I created a Tudor-era time-travel show called Spirit of History, which was ultimately premiered in Old Windsor in 1993.


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Fast forward to the mid-2010s and I felt the urge to write a novel. In the spirit of true originality, I decided to upcycle my musical into the book it might have originally come from. But I soon realised that a book is very different beast from a musical (you can't just paper over a plot-hole with a song, for example), and the resulting novel, while coming from the same origin as the stage show, ended up being completely re-written and taking a very different narrative course.

So there you have it. A church by a flyover leading to a fascination with the Tudors. Then to a stage musical, which in turn led to a novel called The Witchfinder's Well - and from there to a couple of sequel novels and a spin-off as well.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Images:
Modern Church image from londonchurchbuildings.com | Old church image: Gatton, S. A. | Old St Paul's, Hammersmith, London. Richmond upon Thames Borough Art Collection (http://www.artuk.org/artworks/old-st-pauls-hammersmith-london-87314)


© Jonathan Posner 2022


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