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Maximilian HawkerMaximilian Hawker works in frontline children’s social care in Croydon, where he lives with his wife and two children. He has had poetry and short stories - occasionally nominated for awards - appear in publications run by Dog Horn Publishing, Kingston University Press, Arachne Press and Rebel Poetry, among others. He holds an MA by Research in English Literature from Kingston University, where he also studied at undergraduate level, and has previously worked in editorial and education.Breaking the Foals is Hawker’s thrilling debut novel and the result of ten years of intensive work; it is a journey far beyond the mythology – a fresh story of family drama, social revolution and war constructed on a platform of historical research, ground-breaking archaeology and the writer’s own experience in Turkey and Greece.
Hektor jumps from the saddle to inspect his horse’s vagina; as he feared, a pair of twitching legs protrude. The mare grunts and wobbles forward onto her knees, collapsing in exhaustion.
‘Gods, Kummi. Couldn’t you have waited?’ he huffs, slapping a hand down on the animal’s swollen belly. ‘We were almost there.’ His eyes flick to the load slung over the horse’s back: dusty leathers, a bronze sword, two severed heads, Father’s baked clay tablets, and, below all that, the pouch of herbal medicine, rolling across the animal’s flank, undelivered.
Hektor fixes hands to hips and squints beyond the turquoise musculature of pine trees under which he stands enjoying the respite from an Aegean sun, already skull-chiselling in its intensity. Here and there, across fields, farmers are busy about their work and livestock practise uniform stupidity. Further off, barely visible, bands of tradesmen writhe across the plains, more energetic than anything else in these rural parts and the beat of song, music and, more worrying still, laughter is present somewhere beyond the cicadas’ rhythm of lazy emptiness.
Hektor snorts, turns back to Kummi and faces up to the inevitability of what he must do. The mare holds his eyes, blinks slowly, lays her head down, rolls onto one side and swishes her tail. The emerging foal’s legs flex in a honeycomb of blood, sweet stink and elastic white. A moon early, but such is the lack of propriety of expectant mothers. Hektor thuds to his knees. I know this is not quite the same as when a woman gives birth, he thinks, reflecting on his instruction regarding the nature of horses and, most pertinently, foaling. Consequently, he decides to put all thought of common girls in alleyways with their labour screams out of mind. Recently, one of Father’s wives laboured a full day before her brat shot out. A day! But he knows foals are different. ‘The little horses, they are eager for the light of Appaliunas, so they come quickly.’ That’s what Father once told him. ‘Let the animal spill and do not force. Our patience must bow before the foal’s impatience.’ Hektor’s attention sneaks away to the pouch of medicine; he bites his lip against an impulse to run – such a small dose, but no less than my boy needs. Today, patience could be death. To gently ease the foal free; that could work.
Gently, Hektor acknowledges, grimly, glancing again at the severed heads of yesterday’s bandit attackers, will be a challenge for me. He looks back over the plains. On a haze-hidden hillside reclines the whitewashed city of Wilusa, which the Ahhiyawans, to the west, call Troy. Home. His eyes flash, yet again, to where he expects to see the medicine riding atop the horse’s sweaty flank, quickly rising and falling with the speed of the animal’s lungs. Where is it? Perhaps some demon has snatched it, taken it away to barter with a mother for her baby’s breath? But no, there it is – present.
Somewhere much nearer: the possibility of a branch snap and murmur of voices. Maybe farmers close by, though he cannot yet see anyone. Probably nothing. A man in his position is always in danger when travelling alone; Father hates that I do it. ‘Dek, Kummi. Get a move on, old girl.’ Hektor will not be riding her the rest of the way home – this he knows, yet there is grievance in his heart. She’s been the closest thing to a friend I’ve had since childhood, so he cannot leave her. Brittle thighs, thick with jellied blood, are now apparent. He snorts, wraps tender-yet-firm fists around the foal’s legs. The limbs slither in his palms at first, but quickly enough he makes a grip and awkwardly eases the foal, twisting his forearms with the mare’s contractions.
Gods! The damn thing’s like an eel. Hektor holds his hands up, shakes them, hisses in disgust. He needs to dry off, but refuses to get Kummi’s fluids all over his tunic or kilt. He wishes he had a servant with him to dry his hands on their clothes. He looks about... Eyes lock on to the severed heads. He reaches over and grabs the one with the longest hair, wipes his hands thoroughly. Then he turns back to the foal and grips again.
- 26th July 2018 Post-Publication Update
It's been three months since publication and so I thought I would give you all an update on how Breaking The Foals is doing. First of all, it would be greatly appreciated if those of you who've had a chance to read it could leave a quick review on Amazon here. At the time of writing, I have six reviews up there (all five stars, which is encouraging) all from people I've never even met! Reviews are…9th August 2017 The Campaign Trail #3
So, here I am back with a fresh update on how things go with spreading the word about Breaking the Foals. Truth be told, it's been a little slow of late as I've been primarily busy with work and also the structural edit for the novel. However, there is still some news to report.
Firstly, I'm going to attend the first ever Croydon Literary Festival on Saturday 9th September where Unbound's own Scott…26th June 2017 Making the Foals #2
Research. It is a word that conjures very different ideas depending on who you are and what you do. When I think of it my mind is cast back to my time at university and spending hours upon hours in the British Library trawling through musky tomes and daring not to cough, lest a librarian slap me in the face. However, research for Breaking the Foals was an entirely different affair, and I thought I…9th June 2017 100 is a Magic Number
On Wednesday 7th June 2017, we got our 52nd backer and are now 100% funded. Naturally, I am absolutely delighted and will offer many a fine goat in sacrifice to the sun god for shining upon me.
I sent a notification email to Kwaku, Junior Editor at Unbound, who has been with me every step of the way. Email content was as follows:
Above: my composed announcement to Kwaku through the medium…1st June 2017 The Campaign Trail #2
Hello once again and thank you for joining me on the next step of 'The Campaign Trail'. So, what's been 'appening? Well, as I described in #1, my social media reach is fairly limited so I have made an attempt to remedy that.
I've never been a fan of Twitter. I know that it's popular with a lot of people and can be a zippy little tool for sharing information, news, spats between minor celebrities…22nd May 2017 Making the Foals #1
So begins the first in a series of posts about how my novel went from idea to completed manuscript.
Today, I'd like to focus on the very important question: what sets Breaking the Foals apart from other novels about the myth of Troy? After all, we're not exactly short of literature on the story, are we now? You would therefore be completely justified in thinking that anything new written on Troy…16th May 2017 The Campaign Trail #1
So, here I am with my first update specifically about how I'm spreading the word of my novel! Now, I came into all of this with no real social media presence. I get that it's kind of important these days to be a digital uberlord with tentacles writhing acrossTwitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. but I've never been a big fan of it and, hell, I simply don't have the time to 'retweet' this or 'like' that…10th May 2017 If You Liked... ...You May Like Breaking the Foals
Apologies for the delay - I've experienced some technical difficulties but fortunately everything is well once more!
In this update I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss some of my literary influences and how they have impacted my writing of Breaking the Foals.
I think literature first came properly to life for me back when I was studying for my GCSEs. I remember being so-so about…26th April 2017 Welcome!
Blimey. This has all happened rather quickly.
On Monday 24th April, I launched my novel, Breaking the Foals, on Unbound and I’m delighted to welcome you here to my page, whether you’ve been snared by a cursory search or because you’ve thought, ‘Ooo! Ooo! Troy! Greek myth!’.
It seems that as I’m inviting pledges to my project I should also make some pledges to you as my potential audience. So…
These people are helping to fund Breaking The Foals.
An anonymous donor