As the moment came when my novel, The Pendant Cross, was ready to be printed, the UK went into lock-down. My son was being educated at home and most of my work stopped. In other countries, people were not allowed to leave their homes without ID, and we saw horrifying scenes on television of life in Italy and Spain. People were panic buying and the shelves in supermarkets were stripped of essential foods and cleaning products. The future of my book hardly mattered compared to the lack of protective equipment in hospitals, or the risk of serious illness and death to millions of people. Yet I still wondered what impact the virus would have on my new novel.
With the rules being changed by the week, I didn’t know if I could have the books printed or whether they could be delivered to me and, finally, would I be able to deliver them. . . and would my customers want them? The books came and even before they had arrived most of my regular customers had committed to having one. I bought plenty of strong envelopes and put every book in one.
There could be no book launch or signings in shops or at a craft fair, so I decided to do a Facebook live signing. This isn’t something I hadn’t tried before but it went well. The laptop refused to be a part of it, so I used my phone to record me signing books for regular customers. It was fun because I could see who was watching me and their comments popped up on the screen.
Usually I hand the books to customers at the door if I am delivering. This time I went out over a couple of days and put books through letter boxes or left them in safe places, while feeling unsure if a book delivery was ‘essential’. It was a shame to miss out on chatting to people as I delivered, as this is something I enjoy, but I’m grateful to my customers who have shown such loyalty at this time.
And so, the Pendant Cross was launched to the people of Romney Marsh and beyond.
“What sort of place is Romney Marsh?” asks a monk in the opening line. The year is 680 AD and four monks are moving the body of Abbott Botolph from Middle England to Romney Marsh.
They first see the area from the top of Lympne Hill: one of the best viewpoints. There is a tidal lagoon beyond the shingle spit where the Hythe ranges now join the Dymchurch Seawall, and the water flows in from the direction of Hythe. Further inland, there are tidal marshes and areas of land which are gradually drying out. Man has not yet settled in any of the villages we know today but is using the land for salt production and as an area to fish from. In the place now called West Hythe, there is an area of dry land where people can come and camp during the summer months. The Sandtun, as the area is called, is a beach area alongside the sheltered lagoon. It is reached by the Shipway Track, today known as Lympne Hill. The Saxons travel from local villages – perhaps Lyminge, Aldington and Sellindge – and trade their wares with people who have travelled across the sea from France.
The two stories – that of the monks and the traders – run side-by-side, linked by the pendant cross.
Would my readers mind being taken back to Saxon times? I worried a lot about this as the writing came to an end. Perhaps it was too far back in time. The feedback has been amazing though and, in these uncertain times, sales have been great. With there being no objections to the Saxon era, I’m planning a sequel which will include the ruined Roman Fort on the nearby hillside. More about that another time. . .