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Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
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About the Book and Author

[ Edited ]
About Bernard Cornwell

Author Photo: Bernard Cornwell Born in Essex in 1944 Bernard Cornwell was adopted at the age of six weeks by two members of a strict fundamentalist sect called the Peculiar People. He grew up in a household that forbade alcohol, cigarettes, dances, television, conventional medicine and toy guns. Not surprisingly, he developed a fascination for military adventure. As a teenager he devoured CS Forester's Hornblower novels and tried to enlist three times, but due to poor eyesight, he went to university to read theology. On graduating, he became a teacher, and then joined BBC's Nationwide, working his way up the ladder to become head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland, then editor of Thames News. In 1979, his life changed when he fell in love with an American. "Judy couldn't live here, so I gave up my job and moved to the US. I couldn't get a green card, and for 18 months the only thing I could do was write novels." The result was his first book about 19th century hero, Richard Sharpe, Sharpe's Eagle. Today he has 20 Sharpe adventures behind him, plus a series about the American Civil War, the Starbuck novels; an enormously successful trilogy about King Arthur, The Warlord Chronicles; the Hundred Years War set Grail Quest series; and his current series about King Alfred.

About the Book

Book Cover Image: Title: Lords of the North, Author: Bernard Cornwell Buy It The year is 878, and as Lords of the North begins, the Saxons of Wessex, under King Alfred, have defeated the Danes to keep their kingdom free. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, helped Alfred win that victory, but now he is disgusted by Alfred's lack of generosity. Uhtred flees Wessex, going north to search for his stepsister, who was taken prisoner by Kjartan the Cruel, a Danish lord who lurks in the formidable stronghold of Dunholm. Uhtred arrives in the north to discover rebellion, chaos, and fear. His only ally is Hild, a West Saxon nun fleeing her calling, and his best hope is his sword, Serpent-Breath, with which he has made a notable reputation as a warrior. He needs other partners if he is to attack Dunholm, and chooses Guthred, a seemingly deluded slave who believes he is a king. Together they cross the Pennines, where fanatical Christians and beleaguered Danes have formed a desperate alliance to confront the terrible Viking lords who rule Northumbria. Instead of victory Uhtred finds betrayal. But he also discovers love and redemption as he is forced to turn once again to his reluctant ally, Alfred the Great. It is Alfred who sees opportunity in Northumbria's chaos, and Alfred who looses Uhtred and his stepbrother, Ragnar, onto Dunholm, the invincible fortress on its great spur of rock. A breathtaking adventure, Lords of the North is also the story of the creation of England, as the English and Danes fight against each other, but also find common cause and create a common language. In the end they will become one people, but as Uhtred will discover, their union is forged through the white heat of battle.

More from the Saxon Chronicles

Book Cover Image: Title: The Last Kingdom, Author: Bernard Cornwell Buy It Based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell's ancestors, The Last Kingdom tells the exciting story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England's four kingdoms. Told through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred's kingdom and the last territory in English hands), Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. This thrilling adventure depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England altogether.

Book Cover Image: Title: The Pale Horseman, Author: Bernard Cornwell Buy It At the end of The Last Kingdom, The Danes had been defeated at Cynuit, but the triumph of the English is not fated to last long. The Pale Horseman continues the exhilarating adventures of Uhtred and King Alfred the Great. The Danish Vikings quickly invade and occupy three of England's four kingdoms -- and all that remains of the once proud country is a small piece of marshland, where Alfred and his family live with a few soldiers and retainers, including Uhtred, the dispossessed English nobleman who was raised by the Danes. Uhtred has always been a Dane at heart, and has always believed that given the chance, he would fight for the men who raised him and taught him the Viking ways. But when Iseult, a powerful sorceress, enters Uhtred's life, he is forced to consider feelings he's never confronted before -- and Uhtred discovers, in his moment of greatest peril, a new-found loyalty and love for his native country and ruler.

Message Edited by LitEditor on 02-27-2007 08:08 PM

Message Edited by Barbara on 03-13-2007 03:27 PM

Message Edited by Barbara on 03-13-2007 03:29 PM

Stephanie
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Aristodemus
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Re: About the Book and Author

Mr. Cornwell,

As a professional writer and aspiring author I'd love to learn more about the process of how you create your books. I seem to recall reading a comment you posted here somewhere that you start early and work long hours.

I'm guessing you do a ton of research first. At what point does the research stop (if ever) and the writing begin? Do you start with an outline of the plot? Or do you simply set your fingers to the keyboard and off you go? Do you jot down character studies, or merely let the characters unfold as the story evolves?

Anything you are willing to share would be greatly appreciated!

Sincerely,
Steve
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: About the Book and Author

Steve,

Excellent questions- I was wondering many of the same things.
Stephanie
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BernardC
Posts: 28
Registered: ‎02-22-2007
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Re: About the Book and Author

[ Edited ]

Message Edited by BernardC on 03-29-200701:23 PM




see below, hit wrong key and can't get rid of this entry

Message Edited by BernardC on 03-29-200701:24 PM

Author
BernardC
Posts: 28
Registered: ‎02-22-2007
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Re: About the Book and Author

Hi Steve. I am so sorry this reply is so late, but I've been looking for questions on the 'questions for the author' page, and yours was hidden away somewhere else and I didn't know about it until a helpful reader sent me an e-mail. So apologies!
There are no rules, that's the easy answer, and just because I do something one way does not mean it's the best way. Other authors do it differently. But for what it's worth, yes, I do a ton of research, and that's hard to describe because really research is a lifetime's reading. Obviously I do specific research for a book, but there is a danger of doing too much. At some point you have to stop reading and start writing, and it's when the book is being written that you discover the gaps in the research so do more as you go along. I'm presently writing the fourth of the Saxon stories and there are nineteen broken-backed books on the desk, three maps, and about a million scraps of paper with unreadable notes scrawled on them. So research is not really a discrete activity, but never-ending. And some of the best ideas come from books that have nothing to do with the subject matter of the novel. It's a disorganised process, and one I keep trying to reform, but after twenty something years of doing it I think I'm incapable of changing my methods. So when to stop the research? I guess when you feel comfortable with the period, so comfortable that your imagination can produce a full pictue of any scene. And when you really feel the urge to start the story. As for the writing? I do not plan a book. I never have and I never will. I usually start by throwing the hero into a situation and see how he reacts. This is not what they teach in writing classes, where you're supposed to plan everything, but I can't do that. I'm writing Chapter 8 at the moment and have no idea how it will end, or what will happen in Chapter 9. The joy of reading a good book is the discovery of what happens, and that's the same joy of writing one! Every day I discover a little more. I often think the process is like climbing a fog-shrouded mountain - you cannot see the top, but the fog clears behind you, and when you get a third of the way up you look back and see a much better route. So you go back to the foot of the mountain and take that new route, and that gives you the impetus to get halfway up, when you look back again, and again see a better route. So back to the beginning again. I write and rewrite like that. But remember, the first draft is just that! a draft. Dn't even try to get all the grammar right, just get the story right! The gloss can go on in the later drafts . . . or it does for me. And yes, I work long hours, but that's becaue it suits me, and I do get time off to go sailing in summer, so I choose to work long hours on fewer days rather than fewer hours on more days. Each to his own. I hope this all helps! And my suncere apologies for not having found your question earlier!
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Aristodemus
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Registered: ‎03-06-2007
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Re: About the Book and Author

Bernard,

Sincerest thanks for the reply!

You've given me much food for thought. I like your adage that there are "no rules." I'd always thought someone such as yourself probably neatly outlined the entire plot ahead of time, so they knew exactly where the story was going. Truthfully, I've always written more like yourself. Writing for me has always been an act of discovery - which is what makes it fun! It's like creating your own movie, and just like the rest of the audience, I'm wondering how it will turn out. However, that said, I find that approach can lead you down a lot of blind alleyways, where you end up stymied and at a loss where to go next. Which is why I've always thought a bit more planning in the early stages might yield a better story - or at least a better ending.

I like your analogy of climbing a foggy mountain and looking back. I am guessing you mean, that the farther along you go into the story - the better you understand your characters and the plot. Which means doubling back (out of those blind canyons) and trying another route, by re-writing the sections that don't work. All of which is great advice. I tend to get into those blind canyons, get discouraged, and put the story aside.

I also appreciate your advice of just throwing your character into a situation to get the story off and running.

You've given me, and a lot of others I suspect, some great ideas to consider. I especially like your adage "there are no rules"! It gives me great hope!

Sincerest thanks, and 'Godspeed' on the next Saxon book. We are all awaiting it eagerly!
Steve
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