A Conspiracy of Wolves
by Candace Robb
Publication Date: August 1, 2019
Severn House/Crème de la Crime
Hardcover & eBook; 256 Pages
Series: Owen Archer, Book 11
Genre: Historical Mystery
When a prominent citizen is murdered, former Captain of the Guard Owen Archer is persuaded out of retirement to investigate in this gripping medieval mystery.
1374. When a member of one of York’s most prominent families is found dead in the woods, his throat torn out, rumours spread like wildfire that wolves are running loose throughout the city. Persuaded to investigate by the victim’s father, Owen Archer is convinced that a human killer is responsible. But before he can gather sufficient evidence to prove his case, a second body is discovered, stabbed to death. Is there a connection? What secrets are contained within the victim’s household? And what does apprentice healer Alisoun know that she’s not telling?
Teaming up with Geoffrey Chaucer, who is in York on a secret mission on behalf of Prince Edward, Owen’s enquiries will draw him headlong into a deadly conspiracy.
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About the Author
I’m Candace Robb, a writer/historian engaged in creating fiction about the late middle ages with a large cast of characters with whom I enjoy spending my days. Two series, the Owen Archer mysteries and the Kate Clifford mysteries, are set in late medieval York. The Margaret Kerr trilogy is set in early 14th century Scotland, at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. Two standalone novels (published under pseudonym Emma Campion) expand on the lives of two women in the court of King Edward III who have fascinated me ever since I first encountered them in history and fiction.
I am a dreamer. Writing, gardening, walking, dancing, reading, being with friends—there’s always a dreaming element.
The Cutting Room Floor
Write, read, rewrite, read, revise, read, edit, read aloud, polish. My process in a nutshell. But I’m oversimplifying. One scene can go through quite a few iterations of any one of those steps. Which means I leave a lot on the cutting room floor. Don’t know the term? It’s a reference to the act of cutting physical film strips in the process of editing films—before digital. All the material that didn’t make the final cut for myriad reasons—the film ran too long, the scene was judged repetitive, unnecessary, jarring, it was reshot. All this film jargon feels quite apropos because each scene is vividly running in my head as I write. On my computer, the folder for each book contains subfolders of old versions, and those subfolders include small files with titles like “begin old chap 3,” “Jasper’s rant,” “garden in snow,” bits and pieces that I took out but saved just in case.
What snippets of A Conspiracy of Wolves would you find on the cutting room floor? This would be a prize winner because I played with the idea for the book for several years while working on three books in my Kate Clifford series (The Service of the Dead, A Twisted Vengeance, A Murdered Peace). There are a number of scenes involving the discovery of decorative buttons from the jacket of a young woman gone missing long ago—after Hoban Swann’s death his friends find them around their homes and become increasingly paranoid, though they deny it to anyone who asks. I discarded that thread long ago, when the working title for the book was Death Has No Remedy (a title I am finally releasing to the universe after trying it out for over a half dozen books). The sequence was meant to propel the plot forward and add tension, but to me it read like a long stall. Snip! A few characters fell with that as well. Fortunately no actors were harmed in this process.
The cutting room floor was also littered with versions of the first crime scene in A Conspiracy of Wolves. Owen rides out into Galtres to examine Hoban’s corpse in situ. In the earliest drafts both Jasper and Alisoun accompany Owen. But they kept arguing and taking the focus away from the tragedy. I absentmindedly rewrote the scene with Brother Michaelo attending Owen as his scribe, an amusing idea, the fastidious, sardonic monk taking notes on a bloody scene. I loved it. But I’d written Michaelo out of the series at the end of A Vigil of Spies—he planned to return to Normandy. I cut that scene and tried again. Just Jasper this time. But it felt flat. What I liked about the Michaelo/Owen combo was similar to what I enjoy about Owen’s scenes with Geoffrey Chaucer—the amusing clash of personalities. A sleuth investigating the crime scene is nothing new—the interest is in the particulars. But that’s not enough, especially if there’s more than one such scene in the book. What really makes it fresh is the personalities involved. I needed that slight comic relief of the clashing personalities. Jasper and Owen rarely clash. I tried Alisoun. She can be as annoying as Brother Michaelo. But it didn’t work. In this situation, she would be serious, engaged, no better than Jasper for my purposes. Brother Michaelo worked. He was exactly what I wanted. But what was he doing there? Why hadn’t he returned to Normandy? Dear reader, I backtracked. And the first chapter of the finished product turned out to be quite different from the original. You know the scene in the tavern, with Owen listening to Tucker’s fiddle music? Yes, it moved much farther into the book. More snips. Now Alisoun had center stage until I shift to Owen returning from Freythorpe Hadden and encountering Brother Michaelo and the bereaved Bartolf Swann. The game’s afoot.
Every book is like this. Several years ago I reread both the Owen Archer and the Margaret Kerr series to ensure that the files I delivered to Diversion Books for the new editions were intact. Much to my surprise, many scenes I vividly remember weren’t in the final cuts. I was particularly startled by the absence of a long sequence toward the end of The Nun’s Tale in which Owen maneuvers along narrow ledges on the cliffs near Scarborough, a harrowing scene in which his partial blindness hampers his depth perception. I checked the published books, looking for the scene—it wasn’t in any of them. That entire sequence is lost to me, the cutting room floor files for that particular book deleted long ago. Then I remembered that it had stalled the action, much as the acorn button. Snip!
The perils of write, read, rewrite, read, revise, read, edit, read aloud, polish. But it’s what I do. And one of these days I’ll find a use for the idea of Owen on the cliffs. Look for it.
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Thursday, August 1
Review at Book Frolic
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Review at A Book Geek
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Feature at The Writing Desk
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Excerpt at A Darn Good Read
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Excerpt at Just One More Chapter
Review & Interview at Gwendalyn’s Books
Tuesday, August 13
Review at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, August 14
Guest Post at Words and Peace
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Thursday, August 15
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Book Reviews from Canada
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I liked the author’s description about how she works. I need to introduce those sub folders into my process. Also like the time period. Of course there were mysteries to be solved in in the late Middle Ages!
Indeed there were!!