London Defender

The Daily Mirror of the Great Britain

Why I Went To England For Almost Six Months To Study Castles

By Kameron Williams

The situation was very familiar to me—scouring the pages of my books about castles to make sure I rendered an accurate description. I had created so many castles in my fiction writing that, surely, I should have it down by now. But, no, I still needed an image—or a description from a book written by folks who were no doubt experts on castles. But I couldn’t figure out why.

I had done well enough in the past with my descriptions. The first fantasy novel I published went on to reach the bestseller lists on Amazon, after all. Still, after so many years, I couldn’t conjure a vivid image of a castle in my mind. And as I thought about why that was, it wasn’t long before the answer came to me—I hadn’t seen enough of them in person. Well, I thought, I’m going to go see some. As many as I can, in fact.

I remember once talking to a European friend who told me with a shrug, “Yeah, castles are pretty much everywhere.” I was so jealous and surprised at the nonchalance in which she had said this, and it occurred to me that such a large part of the world grew up seeing castles nearly every day. As an American, I had only seen one in my life, and that was during a one-week visit to Prague, Czech Republic. Being a fantasy writer, specializing in a genre that, in many cases, heavily emulates the Middle Ages, I needed to see more medieval architecture. And so I hopped on the next plane to Newcastle Upon Tyne in northeast England.

And I found the castles—almost too many to visit! I thought about how amazing it would be to stay in England a few years and soak up these sights and let it bleed into my writing. The little winding cobblestone streets of Durham; the beauty of Tynemouth Priory and Castle; the austerity of Newcastle’s Black Gate. Sure enough, the next castle description I wrote was as if it was written by someone who had been there.

And that’s because I had.