Andrew Knighton is making writing stories for Alt Hist a bit of a habit! With a piece of medieval historical fiction in both issue 1 and issue 2, I’m hoping that we’ll be seeing much more of his work in the future. Find out a bit more about him in our interview.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in Norwich, and following a couple of detours now live in Stockport, part of the growing sprawl that is Greater Manchester. I spend most of my time doing the sorts of things people do to avoid reality – playing games, writing fiction, and working in an office.
How did you get the idea for ‘Long Nights in Languedoc’?
The two I’ve had in Alt Hist came from different places mentally. ‘Holy Water’ came from reading about local Cheshire myths, and then cramming together the ones that seemed to have a thematic connection. The story that a lord had a statue executed particularly appealed to me because it showed an idea taken to its logical yet absurd conclusion.
‘Long Nights in Languedoc’ was inspired by my undergraduate dissertation from over a decade ago, which was about the role of chivalry during the Hundred Years War. I love the idea of chivalry, and again it’s the absurdities and contradictions that appeal to me. No-one really lived by its rules, so I wanted to explore the behaviour of someone who tried. The monsters became a vehicle for that – an impossible challenge for an impossible person.
Both your stories for Alt Hist have been set in the Middle Ages. What’s the appeal of this period in history for you?
It’s in my upbringing. My parents used to take me to castles during my summer holidays, and my dad read me Ivanhoe and Lord of the Rings at a susceptible age. I loved the glamour and excitement that is the fantasy of the middle ages, an age of heroism completely different from our own. As I grew older and more jaded I became fascinated by the reality of that period, the inequalities and stupidities that made the Middle Ages so much like the modern world. But it’s mostly still a love of castles.
Who are your favourite authors/books and why?
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, because of its wonderful depiction of a person as a product of their setting, and never gets bogged down in its prose. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – a story that’s funny, sad and insightful, full of great characters and with a smart, playful structure. Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles – an epic story with an unusual setting and some fascinating, deeply damaged characters.
Now that I look at those choices together, it seems that I like contradictory characters facing impossible situations and defying the accepted order. And I don’t like straightforward happy endings. There needs to be some bite.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been playing with ideas about smugglers. There’s a period sometimes referred to as the scientific age of smuggling, when people along England’s south coast went to ingenious ends to turn a tax-free profit. Fake hulls, hidden chambers, secret coves, chases across sea and shore. But just as fascinating is the context, the way that a certain type of crime became acceptable to whole communities, and a way for them to retain some independence from oppressive power structures. It’s not just a struggle for rum, it’s a struggle for
identity and for control. But turning that into a successful story is proving tricky.
Andrew has a website at https://andrewknighton.wordpress.com.
His stories for Alt Hist are:
‘Long Nights in Languedoc’ from Issue 2
‘Holy Water’ from Issue 1