This was an insanely difficult book to write, but only because I knew exactly what Lancelot and Grail would be about, I just had to get there! It is also sad, dark and made me cry more than once.
I wanted Lancelot to know love and I wanted him to be happy with Arthur, I really did, but Arthur had other ideas. The trouble with loving a king is two fold, one – he needed an heir and he needed to protect his crown. Two – despite what he’d like to be as a man, he is a king which means he’s used to getting exactly what he wants, especially from those close to him. Arthur then is flawed and those flaws cut Lancelot deeply because he also wants to protect Camelot, Guinevere and the Pendragon family line. A difficult juggling act. This emotional journey is deeply conflicted. Arthur opened Lancelot’s heart, then begins to pull away leaving our hero lost and confused. Lancelot flops around looking for someone else to care for because he is desperate for another life. Desperate to stop living for death. He meets Merla, but something about her prevents their consummation, and he sees Tancred at last.
This young man, strong, vital, intelligent but also vulnerable, touches Lancelot in his soul. I didn’t intend for it to happen, I didn’t want Lancelot to fall in love with another man. He was meant to love Merla, but I lost all control. He became obsessed with Tancred and that was that. When Arthur sacrifices Tancred, I thought my heart would break, Lancelot has to ride into the sunset because if he stays he will kill Arthur.
Lancelot and the Sword is an exploration of how a person gradually fragments under long term pressure. How a man, even a Knight of Camelot, cannot go on forever in a world of darkness without having something of light to warm his soul. Lancelot just needed someone to love (other than Ash), and Arthur denied him this privilege. His acceptance of loving a man is something I find deeply couragous in my character. It isn’t easy for him, but he recognises the truth of it (eventually) and refuses to live in denial. It is just a small part of him trying to become the man he wants to be.
The mythological aspect to The Sword is something I wanted to deal with quickly. Excalibur is as familiar to us as Arthur himself and I have them travel to Salisbury Plain because that is one of the sites thought to have contained the Lake in which Excalibur was thrown after the final battle with Mordred. I don’t live to far from Stonehenge and have walked around it as a child, before they put up the barbed wire and I can safely say it is a very strange place. I couldn’t leave it out. I connect Arthur to his sword because anyone who has fought with such a personal weapon will know that a bond develops between you and the instrument of your intent. Fighting with swords is a deeply personal experience, I can only imagine how it feels to kill someone with one (honest). It is so close, so intimate that it must change you in a way no other weapon but a blade can accomplish…
There are many, many versions of the Sword legend. One of my personal favourites is the story of the stone floating down the River Thames to be pulled by Galahad. That is Excalibur, not the sword in the stone, which is different. The sword myth grows as the stories go on, but just as it is new to Arthur, it is new to us, so we have to have patience. Lancelot is not privy to the feelings Excalibur gives Arthur and again we must wait to find out how it ‘speaks’ to the King.
I also meant the title to reflect the harshness of Lancelot’s life. He was once known as Arthur’s sword, not his Wolf, the sword is a harsh discipline and the blade sharp, cold but can be broken with just a single strike to the right place. A blade will shatter if not used and cared for carefully. That is the real meaning behind the title of the book. Excalibur is just something which had to join the party, though she comes in handy.
Lancelot, in some of the stories, is The Lady of the Lake’s son – sometimes adopted, sometimes Galahad – so his past is mysterious and magical. By making him a bastard son of Aeddan, he is once more separated from the men around him and we have a firmer link to the mysteries of Albion. A version of England lost to time, which I had to highjack for my own purposes.
On to Lancelot and the Grail…
Lancelot And The Sword excerpt is here: Lancelot And The Sword First Three Chapters