1) Your book has a variety of weapons and armor. What kind of research did you do to keep them true to the time period and location of the story?
My research was mostly empirical. I’m a historical reenactor since I was 14, that gave me plenty of time to swing some steel and wood. I’m mainly focused on one-handed sword, but tried other weapons like polearms and bastard swords. I did some traditional archery as well but it’s not something I like nearly as much sword fighting. I have quite broad experience with armour as well. I fought wearing padded jackets, brigandine, chainmail and full plate. Very often I train with almost no armour on at all (just some basic elements) – this way the fights may last much longer. Outside personal experience I’ve read considerable number of books about arms and armour.
2) Why did you center your story around the Pitchfork Men? What about them drew you to them so much so that you wrote a whole book about them?
I believe it’s good to point out that all three gentlemen of Pitchfork are purely fictional characters. I don’t believe there is a place called Pitchfork anywhere in England. The heraldry of the three characters is also bogus (with one exception – the Neville family was actually a prominent family at the time and their coat of arms consisted of silver (white in heraldry) Saint Andrew’s cross in the red field). But gentlemen of Pitchfork are not completely made up. Sir Ralph is based on certain friend of mine, sir Robert is also mostly after a living person. Baron Arthur is different, I don’t know anyone who would be like him, but that’s probably because he is the closest to being a perfect knight.
3) Your book, Gentlemen of Pitchfork, has several poems contained within the storyline. Are these poems you composed yourself or are they historical poems?
I wouldn’t dare to write poems in my mother tongue, let alone French. The poems and songs are all historical. But they’re not entirely historically accurate. There are a few which are later than the times in which the action takes place. Most of them, however, are accurate and are an actual French and English medieval poetry.
4) Why your fascination with King Henry and the early 1400s?
I consider the beginning of XVth the time when Middle Ages were at their peak. All the ideas were already ripe (some maybe a bit rotten even – like scholasticism). The medieval art of war was also quite mature. The new technology for armour production has changed the battlefield, the armour has almost developed it’s full potential. The campaign of Henry Vth seemed like a great background for a story. With a turning point at Agincourt – one of the most interesting battles of Middle Ages. The battle itself was outstanding in many ways: the huge disproportion of armies, the most triumphant usage of the longbow, the grim massacre of captives. The battle itself could be a mirror of the epoch – full of inconsistencies and intriguing. At first I wanted to write something about much bigger battle of Grunwald which happened in Poland, but I decided that I’m not ready for handling the history of my own nation.
5) Will there be any further stories about the Pitchfork Men?
There is actually. The polish title Baron i Łotr could be translated as The Baron and the Villain. The book is a continuation of Gentlemen of Pitchfork. I would gladly put it in the hands of English speaking audience, but for that to happen the readers would have to show interest in the Gentlemen of Pitchfork.
6) When developing this story, did you travel to the places described? What was most interesting about researching these places?
I didn’t travel to most of the places described in the book. But I lived in Paris for almost a year and the Gentlemen of Pitchfork were written there. Paris has many faces. For me it was a heart of medieval France. My apartment was 5 minutes walk from the Notre Dame cathedral, so I could look at it often and sometimes, just sometimes you could contemplate it without a crowd of tourists all around you. I went to the place where Louis of Orleans has been murdered by his uncle’s assassins. I went to see most of the houses of the great French lords who took part in the events described in my book. Mostly the places differ from what they used to be in XVth century (progress I guess), but the city center has preserved a lot of it’s medieval beauty.
The year is 1415. France is weakened by the recently ended Civil War between the factions of Burgundians and Armagnacs. The young and belligerent King Henry V Lancaster decides to pay the French a neighbourly visit. With him – the flower of the English knighthood.
Among them – Sir Arthur, the Baron of Pitchfork, an ideal of all chivalric virtues – his uncle, Sir Ralph, a veteran soldier with a taste for women and bitter humour – and his cousin, Sir Robert, a young and romantic would-be scholar who will have his first taste of war, sieges, duels, betrayal and intrigue but also love and practical philosophy.
Together they ride as secret envoys of their King to meet Burgundian emissaries. But the Armagnacs’ spies keep their eyes open for any sign of treason on the part of their political opponents and three powerful French armies are gathering to cross King Henry’s way.
More About The Author
Kamil Gruca is a Polish writer born in 1982 in Warsaw. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy at the Warsaw University.
Kamil is also an active knight who confirmed his battle prowess by winning the Polish National Knights League in 2006 under the alias of Sir Robert Neville. He has studied medieval swordsmanship for over 15 years hence his novels are full of dynamic and realistic swordplay.
Being an avid re-enactor and a passionate history geek Kamil moved to France for two years to study documents unavailable in other countries that would add to the feel and realism of the book on multiple levels.
His first novel “Panowie z Pitchfork” was published in 2009 by a major publishing house Rebis. Receiving a warm welcome from Polish critics, readers and fellow writers, the first part of the adventures of the young and keen Sir Robert was soon followed by a sequel “Baron i Łotr”, published by another publishing house Znak, bringing closure to the major plot.
Currently Kamil lives in Warsaw with his family and is working on another series of historical novels focused around one of Poland’s most famous knights – Zawisza Czarny – and his not so famous yet equally interesting brothers.
Gentlemen of Pitchfork Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, December 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, December 12
Review at Bookramblings
Saturday, December 13
Review at Book Nerd
Monday, December 15
Review at Dab of Darkness
Tuesday, December 16
Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book
Friday, December 19
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book