Saturday, 5 September 2009

UK - USA: Who loves castles more? Introducing Terry Kate

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex (picture from Wikimedia)Let's face it, here in America we suffer from a lack of castles. Not so for residents of the UK. So, here is my question. Do Americans love historicals set in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales because of the magic of imagining castles in our backyards? The idea that we could walk up and touch them. They are romantic settings portrayed by Hollywood and literature in glowing idealism. Is that diluted a bit when castles are something you have seen and touched and experienced all your life? Or does that tactile experiential upbringing connect you to these tales of knights and ladies in a way we castle-less country folk can never match?

I am honestly not sure. I have yet to have the pleasure of visiting the UK and yet that would still be a "visit". Two days here and there with a castle tour, would likely be the extent of my experience. I grew up around New York City, yes it is great, but do I feel closer to stories set there? I don't think so. I know what it is to have the nasty, stale, subway breeze blow by you on the platform and still it is a relief from the humid sweat-filled air that surrounded you before. To have water of mysterious origins drip down on your head from air-contitioners set several stories above. The dirt and smell of the Port Authority Bus Station at night. The unrelentingly black wardrobes of the busy people who never stop moving and heaven help you if you get in their way. Then they go home to appartments where their beds lower from the walls or they share the space with one to two people in a room with one living in the living room, or they can not afford to live in Manhattan at all. Romantic isn't it? Do readers abroad visualize a different experience of the City?

Castles surounded by fields of heather and sheep sounds pastoral and serene compared to getting around Los Angeles by bus, complete with crazies and the lady packed into the bus, standing next to you with her arm raised to grip the bar, and a devistating lack of deoderant in 105 degree weather. I think I love castles. I love stories with castles, and swords, and sexy accents. I love the idea that even today we can touch history from before we over here were even dreamed of. There is hardly a fan of historical who would not jump at the offer to hop over and spend some time with the setting of their favorite books. Is it just the appeal of history universally, or does geographic location play into our fascination with the genre?

For my website Romance in the Backseat I have interviewed a number of authors who write historicals set in the UK and Ireland, whose characters live in castles complete with drawbridges and great halls. There is this enthusiasm and awe in their voices when they discuss the topic on video. I have yet to interview a British author and see if their reaction is the same.

Am I totally off the mark, making ignorant assumptions? Or just curious? I think it is the last, but you decide and please tell me what you think.

I can not thank Lindsay enough for having me here and you for taking the time to read and share with me.

Terry Kate
http://romanceinthebackseat.ning.com/

16 comments:

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, Terry, for blogging here and for introducing this fascinating topic.

Living in the UK I do love castles. They are a part of my history and when I visit them I always feel the past come alive. It helps, too, that many castles are built in amazing locations.

I'm really looking forward to reading what others have to say on this.

Thanks again, Terry! And many thanks for the info re your highly useful ning group! I wish you much success with it.

Sarah Simas said...

Lovely pic and post, Terry!

I'd love to visit a castle someday. I just have convince my giant of a husband he will survive being in an airplane seat for the long flight!! LOL I'm drawn to England and Scotland for a lot more than the topography- my grandmother was a war bride. She grew up in Yorkshire. I'd love to go and see the little coffee shop/deli where she and my gramps used to meet.

Thanks for the feeling good feelings on a chilly Sat. morning. What a way to start the day! ;o)

Rebecca J Vickery said...

HI Terry Kate and Lindsay,
I would love to visit a haunted castle. Probably the nearest we have to that here in the States are Biltmore House and some of the oldest Lighthouses. I think in the States we do love castles and tend to romanticize them while those living with them see the costs of the upkeep and maintenance. But I'm sure they are proud of the heritage and history they prove existed. So that would be a very interesting poll to take. Love your work Terry Kate.

Terry Kate said...

Wow,
Thank you so much for sharing.
I am currently staying in a hostel in California to get away from the LA forest fire. I have met a ton of international travelers and they all say mixed things. One grew up playing tag on the walls of Maxstoke Castle Now that is a castle experience.
Thanks everyone!
Terry Kate
Romance in the Backseat

Tara S Nichols said...

I love castles too, have all my life, and I must say the picture you included is just like one I used to sketch over and over.
Great blog post about a fastinating subject.

-Tara

Tierney O'Malley said...

Morning everyone!

I thought walking around St James Park, Hyde Park, seeing Big Ben, being in Grosvenor Square we often read in books, and famous cathedrals, was great. But standing inside King Henry VIIIs room was awe-inspiring. Maybe to some it wasn't, but for a fan like me, it was.
Hampton court was very impressive. Ladies of the court (tour guides wearing clothes like Queen Catherine, Boleyn etc)were neat to listen to and watch, musicians, jesters...ah, I miss being there. To be able to walk on the same path the past queens once walked, blew my mind away.
I am addicted to historical romance. I had goosebumps just to be there. When reading, I often imagine what the author is describing. The gloomy halls, armoury, bedrooms, tapestry. Seeing all of it in person, was like meeting a stranger I heard so much about. It was fantastic.Of course, my family thought me crazy because I touched the stone walls,doors, took thousands of pictures. LOL
Surprisingly, Hampton Court weren't as busy as Buckingham Palace. Is it because changing of the guards is more popular than King Henry VIII? :D
Marie Antoinnettes palace in Versailles was immense. But tourists flocked inside the Hall of Mirrors.
Yes, reading historical books could take us all to places we've never been to, but seeing and hearing your own voice echo in the hallways of old castles--I don't even know how to express it.

Sarah S.--you'll love Scotland. The rolling hills dotted with sheeps, the moors, castles, food, people...I told my husband to take me back for our 25th anniversary. LOL

Lindsay--lucky you. You could visit castles anytime! :)

Great topic, Terry.

Patsy said...

I would love to visit a castle in Scotland. Being a Californian, the closest I have ever been to one is Hearst Castle and that was a tour of only the bottom floor.

Terry Kate said...

Patsy I was thinking about going to Hearst Castle today or tomorrow!
How funny.
Thanks for coming everyone.
Terry Kate

Jimmy said...

Castles, Bahh, give me the Rio Grand, give me parries and old rock walls, rivers, and grand canyons. Do not show me what man has been inspired to create, show me the creation that has inspired man.

Kathleen Heady said...

I have just returned from the UK, where I have visited several times. I wholeheartedly agree with the person who visited Henry VIII's palace (not really a castle but close enough), Hampton Court. I have also visited in Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, and some castles in Wales. They all have different feelings to me. And I think it depends on who built them, why, and what happened there.
I love to place my hand on the stones and feel the energy of the people who lived, laughed and cried in these places over the centuries. Castles are more than stones; they are they built who lived there.

Savanna Kougar said...

I'd love to take a tour of castles. There's something extremely romantic about them in one way. In another way, from a practical point of view, my goodness the upkeep and dank is not one of my favorite things.
They are awesome, magnificent structures, though, and I'd love to experience them up close and personal.
On the other hand, as Jimmy expressed, I felt just as awed by what I saw of the Grand Canyon and I adore scenery of every type, prairies, mountains, the desert. Nothing better.

SuzyQ1955 said...

Terry I too traveled as a teen to Europe and the British Isles forty years ago. I was in awe of the exteriors and landscapes that surrounded them but was disappointed by the interiors. I shared a banquet at Bunraty Castle
and it was close to romances I had read but the balance were nothing like what ny imagined. They were instead of a solo great house they were stone walls similar to Am. old west fort that protected hundreds of peasants in its center, with stables and huts. The Royal castles within London, ect are closer to what was portrayed to Americans. These castles were adorned with tapistries paintings and statuary and left me flabbergasted with their optulence.
My greatest disappointment was the Blarney Castle where I was held by my ankles so I could kiss it's famous stone at the top of it's wall. This was more a ruin than a castle to me. I prefer the great homes of American citizens on the east coast these are America's palaces.

JaneB said...

I love castles too, but i'm sure they're a tad drafty. I think i prefer central heating, but then sitting with the one you love, or heavens - even making love in front of a warm toasty fire, sounds kinda tempting. Recently was in Boulder Co, and we went to a wedding which was 'advertised' as being in a castle - a place called Castle Rock which had this honest to goodness castle rebuilt stone by stone by some rich heiress years ago.
Anywhere that is not home is usually exotic.

Jane

Elissa Wilds said...

I would love to visit a castle. Especially if it was haunted! LOL Great post, Terry!

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Hi Terry!
I'm in the UK too, and rather spoiled for castles, lol! Nasty, dark, draughty places, yes, but incredibly atmospheric, and decidedly romantic! I lived in Edinburgh for many years and never tied of the sight of the Castle on its high cliff. Wonderful! I've done many theatre productions in castle grounds too, and that's quite something. They make fabulous scenery! I had a couple of American visitors a few years back, and the one thing they wanted to do was visit a castle. To see the utter delight on their faces when they did was really something. Reminded me never to take our history for granted. :)

Jane x

LK Hunsaker said...

Terry, I'm quite late but I'm an American who has visited Scotland, Ireland, and England and I adore the castles! I adore the scenery, also -- what incredible landscape on the west coast of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland.

I think the infatuation is partly the romance of it. But it's also wonder. That was some kind of construction feat.

I'm also a midwesterner who has visited NYC and had to grin at your description being not what I saw. I wasn't there long. I also adore Washington D.C. and I have been there a lot. I have to wonder if big city dwellers venture out into the heartland and feel the same kind of wonder.