Stuart Rudge was born and raised in Middlesbrough, where he still lives. His love of history came from his father and uncle, both avid readers of history, and his love of table top war gaming and strategy video games. He studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Newcastle University, and has spent his fair share of time in muddy trenches, digging up treasure at Bamburgh Castle.
He has worked in the retail sector and volunteered in museums, before working in York Minster, which he considered the perfect office. His love of writing blossomed within the historic walls, and he knew there were stories within which had to be told. Despite a move in to the shipping and logistics sector (a far cry to what he hoped to ever do), his love of writing has only grown stronger.
Rise of a Champion is the first piece of work he has dared to share with the world. Before that came a novel about the Roman Republic and a Viking-themed fantasy series (which will likely never see the light of day, but served as good practise). He hopes to establish himself as a household name in the mound of Bernard Cornwell, Giles Kristian, Ben Kane and Matthew Harffy, amongst a host of his favourite writers.
Rise of a Champion is your first published book, can you tell us a bit about it?
Hi Amy, first of all thanks for hosting me! Rise of a Champion is the first in a series titled Legend of the Cid, which will tell the story of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar from his origins as a humble knight to the heroic champion and ruler he came to be known as, up to his death. Rise of a Champion is told through the eyes of a young man named Antonio who, through trials and tribulations in his attempt to avenge his father’s death, comes in to the service of a young knight named Rodrigo. The book takes us on the journey of how Rodrigo came to be the campeador, or champion, of Castile, in a time when the Christians kingdoms of Spain had intensified their push south against the Muslim taifas of al-Andalus. As not much is known about El Cid’s upbringing, except that throughout his adolescence he was present in the household of Sancho, the future king of Castile, it was fun to invent a backstory which ties in nicely with that of Antonio, and help create a bond that will span the entire series.
How did you come about writing about El Cid?
Mainly because at the time when the idea came to me (around 5 years ago), not a lot had been written about him. There have been fictional pieces written in Spanish, but hardly a sniff in English. The story of El Cid is cemented in Spanish history and myth, much like that of King Arthur for the British, though there is debate of whether Arthur existed. El Cid was a real man. Yet there are two conflicting portrayals of El Cid; one from the historical record, and one from the imaginations of his contemporaries who sought to shine a heroic light upon the Cid and revile Alfonso of Leon, the king who sent him in to exile.
He seems to be a historical character that has not attracted much attention from historical fiction writers, and neither has the history of Spain in general. This is strange to me as he is a contemporary of titans of the age, such as William the Conqueror, Harald Hadraada, Robert Guiscard and those lords of Europe who took part in the First Crusade. His story deserves to be known as much as these other men, and I intend to tell my interpretation of it.
I read in an interview that Antonio is entirely fictional is that correct? If so, what made you introduce him as a character?
Yes, Antonio is entirely fictional. I can’t remember where the character of Antonio came from, but I wanted to tell the story through the eyes of someone who comes to serve El Cid, to see him in all his grandeur when he shows off his heroics. Since Rodrigo comes to be this great hero (though he has his moments of being a bad guy in some people’s eyes), I wanted Antonio to act as a counter balance to him, to do bad stuff and be immoral, and for some of his actions to directly affect Rodrigo; indeed some of these actions will mould the man Rodrigo comes to be. Also, because eleventh century Spain is a fascinating and crucial period, by having Antonio as the protagonist, I could tell Rodrigo’s tale but also have Antonio attend other important events in the period that I have been dying to write about (though this will mainly be later in the series, with the arrival of the Almoravids).
One of my favourite characters in the book is Arias. Was he a real person?
No, Arias is fictional as well! As Rodrigo’s father is not in the book (for anyone who wants to know why, you’ll have to read to find out!) and he is still quite young, I wanted Arias to be a mentor and a father figure to our hero, to guide him and keep him in order when he begins to stray a little. And I wanted Antonio and Rodrigo to develop a strong, almost brotherly bond, and for Arias to be the father figure they both wanted but were denied. Arias’s background will be fleshed out a little more in the next book, Blood Feud, and we discover why he came to Vivar and where his anger and bloodlust developed from. He will have an intricate role to play in the next book, for his bold action will not only affect Rodrigo and Antonio’s lives, but also the histories of Leon and Castile.
I also read there are going to be more books in this series which I’m pretty excited about. Can you tell us a bit more? When do you think readers can expect book 2?
Of course! Book two, Blood Feud, is due to come out at the end of August. It is currently with beta readers, and once they come back with their comments and I have done the necessary edits, I will be looking to get it out to reviewers. I’m having a bit of an issue with the cover, but it should be resolved soon. After that, book 3, provisionally title Fall of Kings, has been written and will need a good edit or two before that goes to beta readers; I’m looking at publishing this one at the beginning of next year, all being well. At the moment I am writing book 4, which is almost at the two thirds stage of the first draft, though this one has been the trickiest so far and will need a lot of work. Mid 2021 is a good estimate for this one being published. Overall there will be eight in the series, and I have roughly planned the events of each one, so I am happy to say I have the overall arc of the story!
Other than the El Cid series do you have any plans to work on anything else in the future?
I’ve toyed with the idea of a few standalone novels, but I have decided to crack on with the El Cid books for now. Once they are finished, I want to tackle either the late Roman Republic in the time of Marius and Sulla, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, or Saladin. I’ve toyed with an idea for an Aztec themed fantasy series, but I need more practise with world building before I tackle that one. Like many writers I have so many ideas bouncing in my head, and I wish I had more time to commit them to paper and craft a novel out of them.
As a self published author, do you have any advice for budding authors?
Believe in yourself. It’s a long, arduous and lonely road, and whilst there are people who will help you, comment on your work and give you advice, only you can write the book and get it out there. The prospect of putting my work out in to the world for people to buy terrified me, but at the turn of the year I had a ‘Sod it!’ moment and got to work. I did more edits, built a website and started to interact with other writers on Twitter and Facebook to get my face known. That is perhaps the most important bit; you could write the best novel in the world, but if no one knows who you are, who will buy it? Finally, when everything is ready, just have the courage to press send. It’s the best thing I ever did.
Looking back, one thing I wish I had done was sent the book out for review before it was released. Reviews sell books. Touching on the point earlier about no one knowing who you are, if your book has ten to fifteen good reviews on Amazon or Goodreads upon its release, it is more likely to entice new readers to buy it than a book with only one or two. I have learnt from that mistake, and will look to do this for when Blood Feud comes out!
Name a book everyone should read
I am going to say Lancelot by Giles Kristian, though my advice would be not to read it, but listen to it on audiobook. I am currently listening to Camelot, the sequel, and it is the first audiobook I have listened to, but it has made me appreciate the language and style that Giles uses. Lancelot is still a fantastic read, and one of the quickest books I have read (I am devilishly slow at reading these days). The words flow, the imagery is powerful and sticks in the mind, and the new twist on an old legend is refreshing. And what I like about it is that Giles has taken a figure from history, often seen as a villain, and makes the reader sympathise with him, to the point you almost dislike Arthur, who is meant to be the mythical hero. There are many different interpretations of the Arthurian Legend, and so far this one is my favourite.
For those who haven’t read it yet my review is here it’s definitely a 5 🌟 read for me!
Rise of a Champion is available here: Amazon UK and is available in paperback or ebook
You can find out more about Stuart on his blog https://stuartrudge.wordpress.com/ or Twitter @stu_rudge
I’d like to thank Stuart for taking part in this post, there’s some great answers above and although I’d never previously read much about Spanish history I am very interested in this series and can’t wait to read more!
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