Kate Johnson – Blog Tour

It’s wonderful to be here blogging with Lucie, one of the most enthusiastic ‘taster’ readers of The Untied Kingdom! This was a book I really enjoyed researching and writing, since it’s set in an alternate reality where Britain is a third-world country. Some of the locations might be familiar–the Tower of London, for instance–but the rest of the cities of London and Leeds would be pretty unrecognisable.

Reconstruction of the narrow street running through Medieval London Bridge, with the six and seven storey buildings on either side leaning so close at the top that many interconnected, leaving very little light filtering through to the ground

Two of the key locations in the book are bridges: the modern Tower Bridge, and the medieval London Bridge. Now, anyone who’s visited London will know that London Bridge is pretty unremarkable, but its history is anything but. The nursery rhyme about it falling down is based in reality: the bridge used to be a street of tall buildings, shops and houses, many of which projected out over the river and were in quite a state of disrepair. There was even a chapel on the bridge.

St Thomas’s Chapel on London Bridge. It was dedicated to St Thomas a Beckett, but deconsecrated by Henry VIII and turned into shops and accommodation.

London Bridge was built on 19 narrow arches, and when the tide rushed through them the force of the water was so strong that few boats ever came out the other side in one piece. It was a pretty perilous place to be…which is of course why I sent my heroine, Eve, into the river at that very point!

From The Untied Kingdom:

Only her head above the surface now, Eve caught glints of gold on the surface and raised her eyes to see what her last sight would be of.

Horrified, she realised it was going to be the giant buttresses of a bridge with arches so narrow the water was churning through them. It should be London Bridge and yet it …

… wasn’t. Mad frothy waves thrashed the wooden pier at the base of each arch with a force that would reduce a boat to splinters. Eve didn’t want to think about what they’d do to her. Above them, huge buildings loomed, six and seven storeys high, the glowing windows of a chapel in the middle of them. A chapel in the middle of London bloody Bridge.

Oh crap, Eve thought, I must already be dead. I’m bloody hallucinating.

The north end of Medieval London Bridge, with a pleasingly smoggy effect that had nothing to do with the lighting and flash on my camera. Honest.

The very idea of it fascinated me, and I knew I wanted to use it in my book. Since in my alternate history, there was no Blitz and no Great Fire, a lot of the medieval City of London remained, still within its walls, with manned gates, and London Bridge was the only bridge over the Thames (as it was until the early 18th century). Pictures of the medieval bridge are few and far between, but the Museum of London Docklands has two wonderful reconstructions of the bridge in both the 14th and 16th centuries, which is where these photos are from.

Reconstruction of London Bridge c. 1600

The other bridge used as a location in the book is, comparatively, quite modern, being built at the end of the 19th century. Tower Bridge has, of course, become an iconic symbol of London, and quite rightly so as it was an utterly innovative idea to have a bridge which opened, thereby allowing ships to pass further downriver as far as London Bridge. The top walkway is about 140ft above the river, and 100ft above the road beneath. This is important, because a key scene in The Untied Kingdom takes place on top of the West Walkway.

From the North Tower, looking down at the Tower of London. Looks small, doesn’t it? That’s because I was 140ft in the air!

It’s also important, because I went up there to take some pictures to illustrate my point…and I’m utterly petrified of heights. By the time I came down I was, quite literally, shaking, and it was quite a relief to look at some nice soothing Victorian machinery on the ground floor. So I hope you appreciate the view!

The East Walkway, taken from the West Walkway. There’s just a hundred-odd feet of nothing under there…
The view west towards the City of London. That boat attached to a pier is HMS Belfast–up close, that thing is huge, but from the top of the bridge it’s like a dingy!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my views of London, both modern and ancient! If you’d like to win a copy of The Untied Kingdom, please leave a comment here and tell me: what’s your favourite view?

Kate is a prolific writer of romantic and paranormal fiction. Born in 1982, Kate is Choc Lit’s youngest author and lives near Stansted. She is a self-confessed fan of Terry Pratchett, whose fantasy fiction has inspired her to write her own books. Kate worked in an airport and a laboratory before escaping to write fiction full time. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has previously published short stories in the UK and romantic mysteries in the US. She’s a previous winner of the WisRWA’s Silver Quill and Passionate Ink’s Passionate Plume award.

Her UK debut novel The Untied Kingdom has had rave reviews from everyone who has read the manuscript. This eagerly awaited novel will be published in April 2011 by Choc Lit.

Huge thanks to Kate for including me in her blog tour, I wish her every success with this book. As she said, I was one of the first people to read The Untied Kingdom when it was sent into ChocLit and I absolutely LOVED it! I cannot wait to see it in the flesh!

You can purchase the book by clicking on any of the highlighted titles. Kate has her blog, Twitter , Website and a Facebook page, too.

Good Luck, Kate!


9 thoughts on “Kate Johnson – Blog Tour

  1. Love those pictures of the Old London Bridge! I'm fascinated as well by the way that bridges were seen as extensions of the town, not just ways of crossing the water – goes back to the 'liminal places' of offerings and sacrifices. But some of Kate's pictures…urgh, high up places…! Can't wait to read Untied Kingdom, sounds like it's going to be brilliant.


  2. I never knew there was shops and a chapel on the bridge, how amazing. I really like the picture of St Thomas' Chapel, imaging staying in a chapel on top of a bridge. It does sound like a fascinating book, I wish I could have read it when it was sent out as a manuscript with Choclit.


  3. Sounds like a fantastic book, can't wait to read it! My fav view is The East Walkway, taken from the West Walkway. I like the way you said "There's just a hundred-odd feet of nothing under there…" pretty scary when you think about it!!!


  4. Great pictures, Kate. One of my favourite bridges is the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, precisely because it has medieval shops built across it. I had no idea that the old London Bridge once looked similar to that! Despite the fact that you've been a bit mean to your heroine, tossing her into the water by London bridge, I still want to read The Untied Kingdom. It sounds like such a terrific premise for a story.


  5. Ooh yes, it was very high up there–the things I do for research!I've never been to Florence, but I've seen pictures of the Ponte Vecchio and I imagine that's how Old London Bridge might have looked. I'd love to see it some day!


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