I"m very happy to welcome Paticia Bracewell today to answer a few questions about her upcoming debut novel, Shadow on the Crown (release date, February 7, 2013).
I’m always interested in how authors became writers. How did it come about for you?
I think that every writer starts out as a reader, and I was always a big reader. I majored in English in college, because it meant I could read lots of fiction! I taught high school English for a time which gave me more opportunities to read and talk about fiction. When I started to write with an eye to publication, though, I focused first on short pieces – the personal essay and the short story. I was raising a family at the same time, so it was a long, slow process before I found the time, energy and courage to attempt a novel. My first two manuscripts are currently residing in a closet, which is where they belong, but writing them taught me a great deal.
As the writer of historical fiction you must have an interest in history. Was there something in particular that sparked that interest?
That’s difficult to pinpoint, but it probably had something to do with all those novels I read in high school and college, and I think that’s not unusual. The books of Jean Plaidy, for example – oh my goodness, I inhaled those books. And a novel didn’t have to be about a historical figure to interest me; it just had to be set in the past. The 19th century intrigued me for the longest time, thanks to Dickens; for a while it was Arthurian legend, and I remember being fascinated with Geoffrey Ashe’s non-fiction work, The Quest for Arthur’s Britain. I went to
just after reading that one, and it was such a rush to be looking up at Glastonbury Tor and wondering if I was looking at Arthur’s Avalon. England
Shadow on the Crown is set during the early 11th century. What drew you to write about this particular period of history?
It was Emma herself who drew me into her early medieval, Anglo-Saxon world. I first read about her only a dozen years ago, and I was so astonished at discovering a queen of England that I’d never hear of before, never mind that she’d been crowned twice and had mothered two kings, that I had to learn more about her.
During your research did you discover anything unusual or unexpected about Emma of Normandy?
I think one of the most unusual things about Emma was that she commissioned a book to be written, in her lifetime, about historical events that she had witnessed. Historians believe that the writer of that book, which today is known as “Encomium Emmae Reginae” was given information by the queen herself. I don’t know of any other woman in the mid-eleventh century who insisted on making sure that her version of the story during a time of tremendous political upheaval was recorded.
I have a fascination for book covers. What do you think of the
US and covers for Shadow on the Crown? UK
I’m fascinated by book covers, too, and my own are quite different from each other! They each capture certain key elements of the novel. The
cover, with Emma standing before a portcullis looking as though it’s aimed at her head, captures the threat implicit in the title, and the dark imagery I tried to weave through the book. The US cover, with its lovely gold lettering above the prow of a longship, reflects the elite Anglo-Saxon culture that Emma embraced. I imagine that ship as one that carried Emma to her new home. I adore them both. UK
My favorite character is Emma. I’ve instilled her with qualities that I admire, but at the same time I hope I’ve made her more real than perfect! My least favorite character is Æthelred, because it’s not much fun being inside his head. On the other hand, I love to torment him. Still, I’ve tried to make him human. There are times that, like Emma, I feel sorry for him.
Do you have the opportunity to travel to the places you write about and if so, what has been your favorite place to visit?
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks studying Anglo-Saxon history at
Downing College, in 2007. Although I didn’t set any scenes in my book near there, those two weeks were all about Emma and the time in which she lived. Besides that, it was a dream come true to have a room of my own at one of the finest universities in the world. It was like being in a Dorothy Sayers or a Laurie R. King novel, only at Cambridge Cambridge instead of , and nobody was murdered. I’d love to do it again, and I may one day. Oxford
If you could be one person in history for a day, who would it be and why?
I would choose to be Jane Austen. I am a great admirer of hers, and I would love to spend a day inside her mind, looking at the world the way that she saw it, thinking her thoughts. I wonder what kind of a book I could write after that experience.
What do you like to read for “fun”?
My “fun” reading is done with my ears, not my eyes. I listen to audio books when I’m at the gym or gardening or even sorting the laundry. Mostly I listen to mystery, historical fiction or fantasy, and I love books that are part of a series.
When you aren’t writing or doing research, what else do you like to do?
I play women’s doubles tennis, but only once a week so, sadly, my game never improves. I like to work in my small garden. I’m convinced that pulling weeds is therapy for housebound authors.
Can you tell us what you are working on next?
I am working on the second book in the Shadow on the Crown trilogy. It will begin about a year after Shadow ends. The situation for Emma and all of the characters gets more desperate, and although I’m almost finished with it, the book has not been an easy one to write.Thank you Patricia!
Thanks to the nice people at Penguin, I am giving away one copy of Shadow on the Crown. To enter, please complete the form below by midnight, February 14, 2013. US only (no PO Boxes).