Roan Rose, my newest novel, which will soon be published by Second Wind Publishing, is a story about a peasant girl who becomes a house servant to a royal family. Their wealth and power and their eventual downfall affect her life in unpredictable and sometimes terrible ways.
How long was the idea for the book developing before you wrote the story?
Perhaps four or five years. I’d wanted to write a book about the Wars of Roses since childhood, but was never sure how to approach it, especially as the subject has lately become very popular.
What inspired you to write this story?
My love for the Late Medieval period and my interest in the royals involved. I’d already researched the period pretty thoroughly.
Tell us a little about your characters. Who was your favorite?
The heroine, Rosalba, is my narrator. It is through the lens of her perception we see the events of this tumultuous, barbaric era. As a poor girl, she sees life in the castle in ways her masters do not. As a peasant woman in the 15th Century, Rosalba has a mostly insurmountable set of challenges, but she is bright and resourceful. Occasionally her emotions keep her from making the best choices, but she is always courageous and not afraid to act.
How long did it take to write Roan Rose?
About three years, which is fast for me. One thing about writing a historical based upon the lives of real people is that the plotting is done in advance. I don’t think a historical writer should alter facts to pretty up—or tidy up—a story.
What do you want people to take with them after they finish the story?
I’d like them to know a little more about history and about the historical characters involved, of course. In this case, I’d like them to think about women’s lives, and how perceptions of women have changed in 600 years—and how, in many ways, they haven’t changed at all. Limitations placed upon women simply because they are women are present the world over. In positive and in negative ways, biology is still destiny.
How has your background influenced your writing?
My mom was an Anglophile who loved to travel. I spent my teens in Cornwall and in Barbados. An English education reinforced my interest in the UK and her history. (She is called “Britannia” after all.) I read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, which is a classic mystery novel about the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, before puberty. As I was nerd child who had crushes on historical figures, the idea of an unjustly accused King whose name had been blackened by the real perpetrator was appealing. My interest in this Wars of Roses story resurrected during my writing years. Somehow, I felt I “owed” the Middle Ages a book. Roan Rose is my take on what is becoming a favorite ground for novelists.
What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a number of words a day?
My schedule, when I’m deep in a story, is ideally all the time. As I’m retired, that’s possible. Otherwise, I don’t push. My muse—and I believe in her/him—goes back out the window when rules are set in concrete. Now, if you are a writer with lucrative contracts and books pending, you are working at a job, and need to punch the clock. Otherwise—my kind of writer sometimes needs to run the vacuum, cook a meal or clean the cat boxes.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve got a creature story in the works. Thank heaven no one is waiting with baited breath, because I don’t have time for creativity just now. Every now and then, I’ll jot down a paragraph or two, just to hold onto the images.
What is the most difficult part of the writing process?
The most difficult part is WRITING. It’s one thing to have those little voices in your head and pretty images of some long-ago world, but it takes the other side of the brain to actually find the words and force them out through the tips of your fingers onto a keyboard. Left side creates; right side organizes and uses logic in order to discriminate, to pick and choose among effects you want your words to make. That takes time and lots of re-reading and re-thinking—commonly known as “editing.”
What do you like to read?
History/non-fiction is my favorite, because that’s where my stories come from. However, I spend a lot of time reading in order to review e-books of all kinds and historical novels through the Historical Novel Society magazine.
What writer influenced you the most?
At the moment, I’d say Cecelia Holland.
What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?
It’s here, and it’s called the internet. The rise of the e-book, after a decade in which problems of software and hardware have been (more or less) sorted, is the best thing that’s happened for readers since the printing press. It gives them far more books to choose from at better prices. Traditional publishing has a long way to go before it can meet the e-book prices of independents or the appetite of e-reading consumers. It’s good for writers because more of us can take a crack at the market than ever before. Perhaps we can find readers in a more direct way than through the strangle point of NYC.
Where can readers learn more about you?