Sussex is at the centre of Richard Masefield’s novels because ‘the history is interesting and also because it is beautiful.’
The farmer turned writer has just seen his fourth historical novel published, this time it is centred around Lewes in the 12th century.
Richard, who studied at Eastbourne College and now lives at his Laughton farm, said this is his biggest novel yet.
Although writing runs in his blood – his cousin John Masefield was the poet laureate – it was his introduction of Zoe Oldenbourg’s medieval novels at Eastbourne College which inspired him to write historical fiction.
His latest offering, The White Cross, is in his own words, a medieval love story and an anti-war novel, based around two Sussex characters - one who leaves to fight in the crusades.
The novel is relevant now, he said, with the commemoration of world war one and war’s which are going on today, although the link was unintentional.
The book, he said, tries to show war as it really is – ‘awful’. And it’s not just war which gets a bashing.
Another theme in the book, is to change the perception of King Richard Lionheart as a hero, and to ‘knock him off his horse’.
He was also keen to really bring the reader into Sussex in the 12th century - saying many reconstructions of the period depict it as ‘dark’.
He wanted to bring colour into the novel, and he did so – literally.
The point of view of the heroine, which is written in the present tense, is printed in colour.
“The idea was to give her some sort of vibrancy and life,” he said. “You’re experiencing the things she is experiencing.”
He also writes in the past tense from the hero’s point of view, and there is the voice of an omniscient narrator – his own voice, which brings in historical facts from his painstaking research of the period.
His next novel, which he hopes will come out next year, is set to centre around Eastbourne in the 1960s, and it will link his previous four novels together.
His first three novels were set in rural Sussex between 1793 and 1925.
“The fifth one is set in Eastbourne,” he said.
“It is a theatrical one and it is funny.
“I think people should laugh, cry, be shocked, be informed, all those things. It also ties up the whole quintet of novels.
“There are reference in it to all the other characters. You can see 800 years of Sussex history.”
The White Cross is available through all good bookshops or via Amazon.