Hi there, I’m Scott Telek, author of The Swithen series of King Arthur novels, the only Arthurian book series completely faithful to the actual Medieval legend of King Arthur. We just finished a serialized audiobook of Book 4 of the series, which tells of Arthur’s childhood until he pulls the sword from the stone, and in this video I’m going to talk about where I am with Book 5 and give a little preview of what to expect.
Okay, so you know that the whole deal with my series is that I stay faithful to the Arthurian legend, but in Book 4 there wasn’t a whole lot of material in the legend that dealt with Arthur’s childhood, so that novel is 95% made up by me. Book 5 is also 90% made up by me, because there also isn’t much in the legend about this period. What we do know is that Arthur has to pull the sword a few times, because the kings of that time can’t accept having a teenage boy as king, and they keep putting it off and putting it off to give others a chance to try. And those kings will end up going to war on Arthur is Book 6, and I can tell you already that Book 6 is going to be packed with battles. It’s also when we rejoin the Arthurian legend as it appears in the literature from the years 1136-1485.
Now there was a few lines in Le Morte D’Arthur that really struck me, and it was these lines that made me want to have a novel covering this time. The line is:
“Then the Archbishop of Canterbury by Merlin providence let purvey then of the best knights that they might get, and such knights as Uther Pendragon loved best and most trusted in his days. And such knights were put about Arthur as Sir Baudwin of Britain, Sir Kay, Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias (who is known in my books by another name from the legend, Bretel). All these, with many other, were always about Arthur, day and night, till the feast of Pentecost.”
…and that made me like, Okay, I HAVE to do a whole book in this period because the thought of Arthur in training with the knights we already know, which are the knights who fought alongside his father, Uther Pendragon, was just too delicious to pass up.
Specifically, the knights Ulfius and Bretel become his main trainers, and if you’ve read the series, you know that Ulfius had a very big part in Book 3, and Bretel also got some good coverage there. Book 3 also had some very dark dealings that resulted in Arthur being born. If you’ve seen the movie Excalibur or are familiar with the legend, this is where the king disguised himself as the husband of Igraine, King Arthur’s mother, and tricked her into conceiving Arthur. Ulfius was Uther’s main knight, and played a big part in those proceedings, and Bretel was Igraine’s main knight, who is still broken up over how he failed to protect her. In this book a lot of those events become a problem as Bretel realizes that Ulfius played a much bigger part in the deception of his lady than he realized, and suffice to say he is not happy about that. And Arthur is stuck in the middle of them. So that is the main plot. You don’t have to have read Book 3, as I will explain everything that happened, but if you have read it you will know all the history that they’re talking about.
The other thing that happens is Arthur, who was raised in a modest existence in a small town, has face the fact that he is going to be king, and deal with the reality that his whole life is going to change. And this is where things got weird for me, because the my writing this book coincided with the pandemic and the lockdowns, so I’m writing a character whose whole life changes… just as my whole life had to change. A character who is so overwhelmed by what is happening that he has to just go mindless and let all the changes wash over him… just as I was so overwhelmed by all the changes that I had to just let go and let them all pass by and try to make sense of them later. So that was… really weird, and I will definitely always consider this my pandemic novel.
That said, I really kind of struggled with this novel, and in writing a series, a lot of pressure develops because if you write one bum novel, there’s a real chance that everyone could give up on your series and never come back. And I was just kind of writing, and the scenes were kind of meandering—as opposed to Book 4, where I was leading to a very definite ending—and part of me was like, Okay, this is it, this is the one that’s going to ruin the series, because it all just seemed so meandering. I can say all this now, that I have solidified what all happens in it and now I’m confident it’s pretty solid. But I was really struggling there for quite a while, and what finally helped me is that I realized I had written all the conversations and had left out all the action scenes, and this helped me understand that the novel is about a sea change… a gradual change in Arthur over the course of the novel and his process of maturation from the sweet but naïve boy we left him as and a more mature guy that we can plausibly see taking on the role of king. So while there actually is a lot more action than the last one and some major sword fights, the main thing that happens in this novel is that Arthur matures. And I don’t know for sure, but I am willing to bet that this is the only novel in which we actually see King Arthur go through puberty.
Another thing that struck me in the writing of this, and while the whole series is planned out, there are certain aspects that kind of slip through the cracks, and one was it occurred to me that we left Arthur at the end of Book 4 as a kind of sweet, almost pacifistic boy, and by the time we get to Book 6, which is just about six months of story time, we are going to have to believe that he is going to lead armies in war, and kill several people. This then requires scenes in which our hero is learning to do battle and kill people, which puts one in a very awkward position. Yeah! So you’ll see how all that came out.
To leave Arthur to one side, one character who has been a bit on the sidelines for the whole series but now moves center stage is Viviane, the Lady of the Lake. We’ve seen her a bit here and there, but in this book she has a major, major role to play that is going to have implications for the rest of the series. Arthur is the main thrust of the book, but Viviane and Merlin have a big thread that makes up about a quarter of the book, as they come to terms with one another and work out how they are going to deal with each other, because Merlin has made his plans and he does not take kindly to anyone interfering in them!
Finally, as I said, Book 4 and Book 5 fill in areas of the legend that are not covered in the old material, and in Book 6 we will come fully back to story as it appears in the existing Arthurian legend. That said, in this book the scope of the story explodes, and we see a lot, lot of characters that will have major parts to play in upcoming installments. I don’t want to give them away and spoil any surprises for those familiar with the legend, but a lot of the time in the legend we meet someone and hear about their past. In this series I am able to dramatize their past, so by the time we get to their parts of the story, you will have that history with them and not just hear about their past, but remember it from when it happened in the books. And one of the thing that excites me about the potential of this whole series is that as we go on, we will have this massive accumulated history and resonance from this whole society of interrelated characters… which is kind of mind blowing.
Anyway, I am in the final stages of actual writing and soon will move into revising. I am pretty excited about the book and at this point, I think it’ll be pretty good. If no emergencies come up it should be ready by the end of the year, if not before. Alrighty, thanks for listening and you take care.