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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!
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
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Q&A With Historical Fiction Author Jules Watson
* In your historical trilogy, beginning with the novel THE WHITE MARE, you take readers back to the first century AD. What was it about ancient Scotland that fascinated you enough to make it the setting of an historical series?
Few historical authors had tackled Scotland in that era, so it was uncharted territory. Also, people had a view of England being a Roman province, but not many people knew that the Romans invaded Scotland many times, ultimately unsuccessfully. So choosing Scotland gave me an exciting plot framework - the well-oiled and heartless Roman war machine rolling over the mystical, sacred land of the ancient Scots, which they defend to the death. Battles, ambushes, rescues, danger, dramatic partings and reunions were easily spun from that background! Aside from the storytelling, Scotland is a spiritual home for me; I was entranced with its wild landscape on my first visit. It's at the dangerous, unknown borders of everything, and that has always appealed to me - the edge of the known world at the time; the modern edge of Europe, jutting into the stormy Atlantic; and the borders of the unseen, or Celtic Otherworld. On a ghostly day, when the mountains or islands disappear into mist, you can believe in anything.
* Your latest novel, THE SWAN MAIDEN, signals a departure from your Dalriada trilogy, and tells the story of Deirdre, an Irish legend. What was it about the legend of Deirdre that captivated you?
As far as tragedies go, this is also the “big one”. It has all the elements that make up the most riveting adventures — escapes and chases, battles and near-misses, and terrible twists of fate. More than that, it encapsulates the most rousing of human emotions: the wonder of unbreakable love, the sorrow of betrayal and death, and the excitement of great acts of courage and sacrifice. People first made up stories to be recited around a fire on a stormy night, and the best have the “ooh” and “aah” factor as the audience is thrilled and dismayed in turn. Deirdre is a great ooh and aah tale.
The more authorial reason is that the Irish myths set in the pagan Iron Age were originally oral, and only written down much later by monks when Christianity and medieval society had brought in a new world-view. The Irish heroines are often portrayed as manipulative seductresses bringing destruction and death to men, and there is an implied derision at and fear of their sexuality and innate power. I was therefore intrigued by the idea of “resurrecting” the maligned Deirdre and imagining what she might have been like. Deirdre, in my book, is a free-thinking, rather wild soul who in running away tries to break the shackles of her male-dominated society, only to be sucked back in again, of course. To me, this makes her a modern heroine with whom the women of today can identify.
* How much of THE SWAN MAIDEN is based on fact and how much is fiction?
* How did you do your research for the novel, given that the story is based on Irish mythology?
* What are you working on next?
Monday, February 2, 2009
Q&A With Historical Fiction Author Karen Harper
*In your latest novel, MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE, you explore an aspect of William Shakespeare’s life that no other historical fiction writer has delved into. What fascinated you about William’s love affair with Anne Whateley?
Other writers have used Anne Whateley in two dramas I know of, but no one—as far as I can find—has written her story in a historical novel. However, the “other Anne” theory has had its scholarly champions over the years. Proof of Anne’s deep involvement in Will Shakespeare’s life hangs mostly on the fact that an Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton is recorded in a still extant marriage bond as betrothed to Will previous to the entry that he would wed Anne Hathaway of Stratford. (My website www.karenharperauthor.com has more on this, including a link to the marriage bonds, which are in Latin.)
Also, I see Anne W’s footprints other places in Shakespeare’s life. In his will, he left Anne H. his “second best bed,” and there has been much discussion over the years about who got the first best bed. Also, Shakespeare arranged for a friend to inherit the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse where he lived in his heyday in London—in other words, neither it nor its profits went to Anne H. And who was the Dark Lady of his sonnets and the inspiration for many of his feisty, bright female characters? I love writing mysteries and detective stories, and in this case, clues point to “Will’s other wife” having a great impact on his life.
Let me emphasize that I think Anne W. would see herself as Shakespeare’s wife and not just his mistress. They might well have married secretly. In that era, of course, the word mistress meant Mrs. or wife, not only lover or kept woman.
But to your question—everything fascinated me about Anne Whateley. If people can argue about what Will did in his “lost early years” and even whether or not he really wrote the plays, let them take a look at my novel and then argue Anne Whateley.
*How much of MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE is based on fact and how much is fiction?
*Tell us something surprising about women in 15th century England.
*How did you go about researching Anne Whateley’s life?
*What are you working on next?