Matthew Harffy - Author Spotlight

Matthew Harffy talks revenge, research and rock music...

Purple Fish featuring Matthew Harffy (on vocals) have written the perfect soundtrack for reading this article, Sail On, inspired by The Serpent Sword. Check out more Purple Fish here.

- Tell us about the hero of the Bernicia Chronicles.

The main character of the Bernicia Chronicles is Beobrand. He is fictional, but his life is intertwined with figures from history, as he leaves his native Kent and travels to the Northumbrian kingdom of Bernicia. Northumbria in the seventh century is a melting pot of races and religions. The shifts in power between the different kings of the period provide a perfect backdrop for Beobrand's story.

On his journeys, Beobrand fights in many battles and is embroiled in more than his fair share of political intrigues. He is also witness to atrocities that haunt him for the rest of his life. It is his desire to right the wrongs he has seen, and to mete out vengeance, that drives him forward.

Just as a great sword is forged by beating together rods of iron, so Beobrand’s adversities transform him from a farm boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall.

- What are the key themes of your books?

Recurring themes are vengeance and violence and whether either provide relief or solace. Friendship and love in the face of adversity. Honour. Another theme that occurs frequently is whether it is possible to escape one’s past, or is the future predestined? This idea of wyrd, destiny or fate, was key to the Anglo-Saxons’ perception of the world.

- Did you get inspiration from any real places, events and individuals for your book? Are there any interesting stories or unusual experiences connected with your writing?

The stories are firmly based on real events in real locations. The places that most inspired me are those I have visited in Northumberland or the south of Scotland. Bamburgh, Yeavering, Dunstanburgh Castle, the Cheviots, the Tweed River valley, St Abb’s Head are all real places I have been to and to some degree feature in my writing.

- What kind of research did you do? Is there any extra material that pertains eg, research documents, maps, images, playlist, recipes, family tree etc.

Most of my research has consisted of a lot of reading. I have a whole bookcase filled with books about Anglo-Saxon Britain. If people want to learn more about the period, there are a plethora of books out there. I’ve also attended some living history events. Reenactors are a great source of information, especially about gear and weapons used by the people who lived in the period I’m writing about.

- Who would you say is your audience?

You could describe the stories as typical “books for boys”. They have adventure, battles, violence and intrigue, with lots of atmosphere and details of life in the Dark Ages. Adult men are probably the target audience. However, many of my most enthusiastic readers are women. Each book has strong female characters and many of the plots are driven by women and their actions.

The Serpent Sword is out in hardback now.

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