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History Buff is a site for history lovers everywhere. It is also a site very interested in women of the past. Although I (sadly) no longer have time to continue these interviews, here is an archive of Q&As about women's lives in history. And please feel free to stop by History Buff's sister site for archaeological discoveries making news today. Enjoy!

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author

As an historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the past as it's unearthed and reimagined and brought to life. I spend a
large quantity of time searching for news in archaeology and history. Once in a great while a new archaeological discovery will act as an inspiration for what I'm currently writing. But most of the time the news stories I read are simply interesting tidbits of history. Unfortunately, I have disallowed comments because I travel so frequently that I can neither monitor nor respond to them. But I would still love to share the history that I find fascinating each day. So welcome! And feel free to visit my website at or contact me at authormichellemoran at hotmail dot com.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Q&A With Historical Romance Author Lynna Banning's%20lady_cvr.jpg

* In your historical romance CRUSADER'S LADY, you write about
a woman named Soraya al-Din who disguises herself as a boy during the Middle
Ages. Although Soraya is a fictional character, is there any historical
Precedent for women cross-dressing as men during the 12th century (or even

I don't know about historical precedent, but logic would suggest that women traveling
alone (or even in company), unless they were nobility, would be much
safer in disguise. Many noble women were kidnapped anyway by
pirates and sold into slavery. Sounds too wild to be true, but it is.

* How much of CRUSADER'S LADY is based on fact and how much is

The true part is that Richard the Lionheart was in fact captured by German knights while traveling overland on his way home to England from the third crusade. One story goes that he was disguised as a monk, and when the German knights burst into the inn, Richard tried to masquerade as a cook, turning a spit.

The other true part is that Richard's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, acting as regent, collected
the requested ransom of some 200,000 silver marks and personally traveled across Europe to deliver it. Eleanor had been waylaid and almost kidnapped years before, in Aquitaine, and after that experience she often traveled in disguise.

It is also true that the famous worthy knight William Marshall, who had been fiercely loyal to Henry II (Richard's father), pledged himself to Richard and to Eleanor and his appearance in Eleanor's court at Winchester would be authentic.

* Your novel spans many countries, but eventually, Soraya journeys to
Richard the Lionheart's kingdom. Tell us something surprising about women
in 12th century England.

Noble women rarely married for love but were used as pawns to gain property and secure "family heritage." Common women, however, were much freer (in England) to be courted and to marry for love, or because they were already expecting. The "jumping the broom" ceremony was common in the countryside--a couple simply committed themselves to each other and from then on were considered married by the community. The Catholic church didn't like this one bit.

* CRUSADER'S LADY brings together two very different cultures. Soraya is
a spy for Saladin, while your protagonist Marc is a Scottish knight on Crusade with Richard I. What prompted you to bring such different cultures together in one book?

In the first place, it intrigued me that the Scots did in fact contribute crusader knights to the cause. Later, after the brutal 14th C dissolution of the Templar order, many Templar knights of "the brotherhood" fled to Scotland. In the second place, I am fascinated by "culture clash"--where different cultures meet and overlap. I guess I like to suggest that throughout history beneath cultural, religious, etc. differences, human beings are human beings.

* Are you working on another historical romance novel, and if so, where
will it be set?

I am in fact working on another historical romance; this one (tentatively titled Pilgrimage of the Heart) revolves around another cultural "mix"--that of Christian and Moorish culture in Spain and southern France in the 12th century. The novel setting begins in Granada and moves to Carcassonne. The heroine is half Arab (but Christian); the hero is a (ahem) Templar, sworn to celibacy and fighting in the crusades. BUT he was raised, as a Christian, by an Arab foster family in Moorish Spain. I love the heady mix of cultures in Arab Spain--Jewish, Muslim, Christian. One historian I read refers to this time and place as "Paradise."

Photo: Lynna  BanningThank you, Lynna! And feel free to visit Lynna Banning online for more information about Crusader's Lady.