To celebrate the release of her book, Reign of Madness, (about Juana of Castille) this week in paperback, Lynn Cullen joins us today to talk about her love of history and writing. Check out the end of the post for a giveaway (US only).
I am often asked how my love for history has led me to become a writer of historical fiction. That’s sort of a chicken-or-egg question. I don’t which came first, my love for history or my love for writing. I do know that I have to have both in my life or die. Especially after I figured out in college that my other love, anthropology, would probably entail getting really dirty. While hanging out in buggy rain forests observing primates or going on digs on the dusty plains of Africa sounded cool, I realized I wasn’t cut out for roughing it. After spending my vacations as a kid on camping trips (the only kind of vacations that my parents, with seven children, could afford,) I’d had enough of tents and sleeping bags. And of canned fruit cocktail and Dinty Moore stew. And of the sound of mosquitoes droning in my ears as I tried to sleep. And of state park shower stalls rife with fat spiders and other people’s soggy soap wrappers. But I digress….
Actually, those childhood camping trips, as much as I hated the feel of a damp sleeping bag, opened my eyes to the history that is all around us, right in our hometown or state. My dad always included stops at historical sites in his itinerary, be it in our home state of Indiana or farther afield. I became an authority on Abraham Lincoln by age 12 (or at least I thought so), after inspecting his childhood homes in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, visiting Springfield, the town where he set up a law practice and first held a political office, and making the pilgrimage to the place where he met his maker, the house near Ford’s Theater, in Washington.
Meanwhile I was writing. I collected glass horses—many of which I gathered in souvenir shops in on our camping trips—and wrote a complete dossier on each. I was up to 50-some horses and a notebook full of stories by the time I had become a Lincoln “expert.” During this period, I would also compose stories in my mind by pretending I was a pioneer girl on my walks to and from school. I did this to a much greater age than I will admit.
I no longer camp out when I go on vacations, although I do like to keep it simple by staying in Mom and Pop B & B’s or inns. No fancy grand hotels for me—I like to meet real people. But I do plan my trips around the history in my books. Here are some of my favorite places for diving into the past:
The Castle “La Mota” in Medina del Campo, Spain. Juana “the Mad”, the main character in REIGN OF MADNESS, is said to have roamed the ramparts here in a fit of madness. The castle is so well preserved that it is easy to imagine you are in 1504 Spain.
The Royal Palace in Barcelona: Christopher Columbus is said to have paraded up these stairs on his way to be received by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand when he returned from his first voyage of discovery. REIGN OF MADNESS starts with this scene. A point of pride: I’ve been to every place where my scenes were set in REIGN OF MADNESS.
Even the Romans loved Segovia, Spain. One of the most complete and largest Roman aqueducts in the world is just one of the many fascinating aspects of my favorite Spain town. I had to set several scenes in both REIGN OF MADNESS and THE CREATION OF EVE here.
One way or another, I’ve always been writing historical fiction. I count myself as one of the luckiest persons alive to share my love of it with readers like you.
Thanks Lynn. Great pictures - I would love to go there someday! If you would like to win a copy of Reign of Madness, (US only) please complete the below form by midnight, May 13, 2012. There will be two lucky winners!
About the book:
Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her parents’ crowns, but as a princess knows her duty: to further her family’s ambitions through marriage. When she weds the Duke of Burgundy, a young man so beautiful that he is known as Philippe the Handsome, she dares to hope that she might have both love and crowns. He is caring, charming, and attracted to her—seemingly a perfect husband.
But when Queen Isabel dies, the crowns of Spain unexpectedly pass down to Juana, leaving her husband and her father hungering for the throne. Rumors fly that the young Queen has gone mad, driven insane by possessiveness. Locked away in a palace and unseen by her people for the next forty-six years, Juana of Castile begins one of the most controversial reigns in Spanish history, one that earned her the title of Juana the Mad.