What drew you to tell this story?
I am possibly descended from John Stanley. ( Cannot prove it — matriachal descent).
The published genealogies say that John had one wife, Isabel (de) Lathom whom her married relatively late in life (at the age of 47). My great aunt Gertrude, the family matriarch, told me that John’s eldest son was born to different woman, a mysterious “Frenchwoman”, significantly earlier, when John was thirty.
I decided to investigate this possibility and discovered that John was in France with the Black Prince, in 1355-6. If he had indeed had a relationship with a Frenchwoman this would be when he met her.
But why did he not marry her? Why were records changed to imply that his eldest son was born to Isabel?
I decided to go to France. I made an itinerary of every place visited by the Prince during this period and followed in his footsteps.
I made a point of talking to librarians during my tour.
I uncovered stories about;
The Cathar religion, the Routiers, the Bastides, the Albigensian crusade, the “Holy Inquisition” the massacres at Beziers and Monsegur, Gaston de Foix, the Visigothic treasure and the Free Occitan political movement.
These were all things which were new to me.
A change in life experience occurred in a bar in a ski resort in the Pyrenees. I suddenly realised that those around me were speaking Occitan( langue d’Oc) not French (langue d’Oil). When a group of musicians arrived to entertain, their singing was accompanied by drums, bagpipes and the harp. It simply emphasised the differences in culture.
I just could not resist. The stories I had been given by librarians and by others, were independent of each other and yet in many ways were interrelated. I invented the character of Ximene to draw all the threads together.
I also enclose as a sub page a short story “La Communicate” It glamourises the process of learning about different cultures and beliefs. It was published in the magazine of the writing college I attended.
I must stress it is fiction. It is a “pilot” for a book about how Fabienne Royale goes about recruiting her ex husband to join her in a fight against the drug lords who have killed her brother.’
My tutor wanted me to switch my concentration onto the book about Fabienne but in the end I resisted. The whole purpose of my becoming a writer was to tell the story of John and Ximene.