Tales from the Tower

Words by:
Barbara Young
Featured in:
May 2024

Lincolnshire author Megan Clawson, the daughter of a Beefeater, tells Barbara Young how living inside the Tower of London has inspired her writing.

Born and raised in Boston, 23-year-old Megan Clawson says she never dreamed that she would see her name on the cover of her own book, let alone experience the unique opportunity of living within one of London’s most iconic and historic tourist attractions.

The chance to move into accommodation within the Tower of London came when her father Chris was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal after 30 years in the RAF. This qualified him to apply for a role as a Yeoman Warder – ceremonial bodyguard to the monarch, guardian of the Tower of London and keeper of the crown jewels, popularly known as ‘Beefeaters’.

In 2018, Megan’s father landed the job and went to live in the Tower. Shortly afterwards, Megan moved to London to study English with Film at King’s College London, but when the pandemic hit, she found herself in need of some more company. She jumped at the chance to join her father, taking her beloved four-year old Cotonoodle canine companion, Ethel, with her.

She spent the second and third Covid lockdowns living in this famous riverside landmark and describes her time here as “a memorable experience that money can’t buy”.

“I don’t think any of us really knew what my father had signed up for until he was there in his tights and Tudor ruff!” says Megan, whose debut novel Falling Hard for the Royal Guard was published last year, swiftly followed by her second Love at First Knight, out this month.

Living history
Megan, who combines writing with working as an English tutor and TV and film extra, says she wasn’t really sure what to expect when she joined her father and moved into this remarkable castle and fortress on the banks of the River Thames.

The Tower of London, which dates back to the 11th century, played a prominent role in English history, serving as a prison during the Tudor Age. It is also said to be haunted by several famous folk who were incarcerated there, including the ghost of King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was executed in the shadows of the Tower in 1536.

“You definitely feel like you’re living within history. It sounds corny, but the whole place feels alive, like even the walls are breathing and watching you. I’d love to talk to them; I can’t even begin to comprehend what those walls have seen in the millennium that they’ve been standing.

“I did have a few spooky encounters; I’d often be walking Ethel and feel like I was being watched, but it fascinated me more than anything.”

Megan says that contending with the presence of spooks aside, life in the Tower was far more normal than she had anticipated.

“The houses felt like regular houses and the community within the Tower consists of veterans and their families so it was very familiar to me.

“Many of my friends and people who contacted me online expected damp dungeons and four poster beds, but the only really abnormal things were the amount of stairs and the constant stream of tourists walking past my bedroom window!

“You might not think it, but you do get used to life there quite quickly. Most of the rules relate to being respectful of your surroundings and the people working to preserve the traditions, but as someone who has a great admiration for the Tower and the Yeomen, it was very easy to adapt.

“There were a few times that I got locked out during the Ceremony of the Keys which was annoying at the time, but it is quite funny knowing that I was being inconvenienced by a ceremony that has been performed in the same way for over 700 years!”

Megan says that getting to know the close-knit community was the best part of her time in the Tower and she still considers many “family”.

“All of the Beefeaters are veterans so they have lived incredible lives and have so many stories to tell.

They all seemed to adopt me like one of their own and it always took so long to leave each day because I’d always bump into someone I know and we’d have to have a long conversation.

“My time in the Tower really was a dream, obviously there were some days where life wasn’t perfect, there are quite a lot of rules to abide by, but when you’re living in an actual palace you get over the annoying little inconveniences pretty quickly.

“As someone with my background, I was so immensely grateful to be given the opportunity to live in London, let alone inside a palace so it will definitely be an experience I’ll tell my grandchildren and anyone who will listen in the pub 50 years from now!”

Published author
It comes as no surprise that Megan knew she wanted to be an author from an early age.

“As a teenager, I used to stay up well into the night reading or writing stories that I’d publish online. When I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for the first time at 15, I knew that this was my dream.

“I had always believed that it was only something I’d be able to do once I’d lived a life already and was retired. I assumed that I wasn’t old enough, clever enough, or rich enough to be a ‘proper writer’ but I loved it anyway. Thankfully, I was wrong!”

Now a successful published author with two titles under her belt and fast expanding worldwide sales, Megan pays tribute to her close family who have supported her through her literary journey.

“My family are really close, in geography as well as affection. Almost my whole life I have never lived more than a mile or two from most of my family – they’re as much my friends as they are my flesh and blood.

“They have also always supported me in everything, whether coming to see me perform in school productions, coming to book launches, or talks where they hear me say the same things over and over.

“My grandparents even sat through two seasons of The Witcher on Netflix just so they could see me for a split second in the background of the very last episode.

“Both my family and my experiences of being raised in Boston have definitely inspired my work, there is such a wealth of character, everyone seems to have something to teach me, and a story to tell.”
Megan also has fond memories of attending Boston High School.

“I had an incredibly supportive role model in my English teacher, Mrs Bell. Still to this day she supports my career and we keep in touch. She really pushed me, and helped me to believe in myself, to aim even higher than I ever thought possible.

“I went back to the High School recently to speak with some of the students and it was exciting to see how confident so many of the young women were.

“I have always doubted myself, and believed I’m not good enough, so to see how willing they are to put themselves out there, to take risks, and express themselves so clearly, makes me unbelievably excited to see what they will achieve in the future.

“Lincolnshire will always be my home. The people of Boston have been so supportive of me as an author. It’s such an honour to have so many people, both strangers and life-long friends, show their kindness and support and I’m so proud to be part of a community who do their best to celebrate local people.”

Finding inspiration
Although Megan’s books might be marketed as romantic fiction, her audience, which includes 360,000 followers on TikTok, comes from a diverse background worldwide.

“Typically, people assume that romance readers are women, but my dad is one of my biggest fans and is always one of the first to read my books.

“There is something for everyone, from real life history, to references to books and films, and there are even plenty of sword fights in Love at First Knight.

“Both of my books address themes of mental illness and anxiety, but in a way that doesn’t define my characters. They don’t have to conquer it, or be perfect at the end, these are stories that aim to show the world that you can still achieve in spite of everything that holds you back.

“Writing romance novels is as much of an escape for me as it is for my reader. I can vent, I can heal, I can live through my characters, rather than making them and myself relive all of the awkwardness of my dating life.”

In Megan’s “real life” she admits that both her literary leading lady characters Daisy Hastings and Maggie Moore are “a little bit of me”.

“Both Daisy and Maggie are flawed characters, they don’t always make the right decisions, they’re frustrated with the world and the hand they have been dealt, but they get on with it. In spite of all that holds them back, they find happiness.

“I never wanted to write perfect protagonists, I wanted them to be relatable; to sometimes not be able to get out of bed, to be a little bit sweaty, or to sometimes say the wrong thing. Both of them share many of my struggles, and in writing these stories I feel like I can acknowledge my own flaws, and show myself and my readers that if you look at life from a slightly different angle, you can find hope in even the most hopeless circumstances.”

Megan’s first book Falling Hard for the Royal Guard has close personal connections as she met her boyfriend George, a King’s Guard soldier, while living in the Tower, while her latest title Love at First Knight is set in Friskney and inspired by the Knights of Skirbeck.

“When planning my first book, I realised that I had never read anything in contemporary fiction about the Guards. From creating my TikTok videos, it was clear that so many people knew of the guards, but hardly anyone actually knew anything about them, so I thought they would be a perfect subject for a romance novel that not only entertains and provides an escape, but also teaches you something.”

Looking ahead, Megan says she plans to carry on writing for as long as possible, and continue to challenge herself as a writer.

“I’d love to try my hand at scriptwriting, or even transfer my novels to screen myself, but I am just grateful that in this moment I can call myself an author, as I never thought that would be possible.”

Love At First Knight by Megan Clawson is published by Avon, out now. For more information visit www.harpercollins.com/pages/avonbooks

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