“I would never have got round to writing a novel if my mother hadn’t died. I wanted to, but only in the way a lot of people want to write – in a rather dreamy, rare as hen’s teeth way: a sudden flash of inspiration one day leading to a perfect plot and 90,000 immaculately ordered words divinely processed through the fingertips by the next. It was never going to happen. Like most people, I had neither the rigour nor the discipline to do it and, when it came down to it, probably didn’t want to enough.
My mother, however – Ariana Franklin, the much-admired historical thriller writer and author of the Mistress of the Art of Death series – loved writing and was as good at it as you can get. She was also a great mum, and, as all great mothers tend to be, a terrific nag. Ever since I can remember she had nursed a conviction that I should write novels. So when she died, suddenly and unexpectedly, halfway through a book it felt not only like the most dreadful thing that had ever happened to me but a rather weird challenge as well.
I took it up hoping to do her justice, to make her proud (even from beyond the grave) and because it was the very last thing I could do for her. The result is Winter Siege, her last novel and my first, published this week.”
For Samantha Norman the unfinished Winter Siege was a gift from her late mother, launching her on the road of a new career in writing. Published today, it’s a standalone novel set in a freezing cold 1141. Gwil, a battle-hardened mercenary, watches in horror as a little girl with red hair is dragged away by his own men. Caught in the middle of the fight for England she is just one more victim in a winter of atrocities. But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Gwil finds the girl close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment – and he knows what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And together, they will hunt down the man who did this to her. But danger looms wherever they turn. As castle after castle falls victim to siege, the icy Fens ring with rumours of a madman, of murder – and of a small piece of parchment the cost of which none of them could have imagined …
A review of the novel will follow next week.