Wednesday, October 31, 2012
My Guest Today: Sandra Worth, Award-Winning Author of Wonderful Romantic Historicals!
Sandra has graciously agreed to give to one lucky winner a signed, collector's copy of the first in the trilogy, ROSE OF YORK: LOVE AND WAR, so comment for a chance to win!
Q: Why did you choose the War of the Roses to write about?
I became intrigued by Richard III when I saw his portrait in the National Portrait Gallery in London. He had a gentle face and looked nothing like a villain. As I learned more about him, I came to see uncanny similarities between his life and that of King Arthur – another king who lived in tumultuous times and strove for justice in a land torn by civil strife.
Q: Do you consider your novels historical romance, historical fiction or both? (It occurred to me that ROSE OF YORK: LOVE AND WAR could be both.)
I’d call it is a romantic historical, which is essentially another way of saying it’s both. The story is driven as much by true historical events as it is by Richard and Anne’s Romeo-and-Juliet love story.
Q: What is your favorite of your own works? Do you consider it your best or is there another?
Of my six published books, I have a soft spot for The Rose of York: Fall from Grace. It’s won me four wonderful prizes, each worth a thousand dollars or more, but perhaps more importantly, I feel it drew on some deep and special place. Once a book is published, there are usually things I wish I’d said or done differently, but not with this book. My agent, however, thinks my newly-finished manuscript set in the Eastern Roman Empire is my best work.
Q: Some of the history you write about in the ROSE OF YORK trilogy is very sad…do you ever get depressed writing a story that includes so much tragedy?
If only we could change the ending to history’s great tragedies, Regan! Richard’s story is powerful because, like King Arthur, the more we come to know him, the more we care and the deeper our admiration. Had he lived, the Renaissance would have come to England a hundred years sooner, and many thousands of good people would have been spared the horrors of the Tower that they endured during the Tudor Reign of Terror. That is something to mourn. As Hilary Mantel said, it is necessary to understand that the dead are real and have power over the living (see my Facebook page for more, https://www.facebook.com/sandraworthauthor?fref=ts#!/sandraworthauthor?fref=ts).
When a hero touches your heart and loses his life, it’s a real loss, whether it happened today or hundreds of years ago. It takes time to come to terms with tragedy.
Q: You took a different position on Richard III than others down through the ages, yet you backed it up with years of research. Have you faced criticism and what are your thoughts on that if you have?
What a wonderful question, and how astute of you to pose it. Yes, I’ve been attacked for my views and my work in a certain quarter. It baffled me at first. Now I realize that if my books didn’t change hearts and minds, they would go unnoticed and unchallenged. As someone pointed out, you can’t please everyone and even Shakespeare had his detractors. It’s taught me to see the attacks as a barometer of how well I’m doing.
Q: Were you amazed at how adult the children and young teens were in that time? Even the beautiful way they wrote?
Children grew up quickly in the middle ages because life was so short. The poor had no childhood and went to work as soon as they could walk, while noble children - in many cases - saw adults die young, taken by disease, or war, or sent to the Tower at the whim of a king. They quickly learned that life was an uncertain business at best. I think the writing of these children in the middle ages is touching because their world view was so different from modern children who enjoy a measure of well-being and security.
Q: What are the challenges of weaving factual history into a fictional story?
It’s like putting a puzzle together. You have some pieces, and some holes. You fill the holes with fiction to get the whole picture. The more holes, the more fiction. The more pieces, the less fiction. In the end the picture you draw has to be believable and interesting. Sometimes it comes down to interpretation. Anne had only one child. Does it mean she had an unhappy marriage and avoided sleeping with Richard (as one historian suggests) or that the marriage was happy, but her health was fragile and she couldn’t have more children? That was an easy one for me.
Some things are harder. Richard is known to have ordered the execution of his brother-in-law, St. Leger, and the Yorkist, Lord Hastings. I had to figure out why he would have done it. Was it because he enjoyed killing people, as the Tudors would have us believe? Or is there another reason, one that we, across the divide of time, can understand and forgive? It would be easier to ignore these pieces that seem to prove Richard a villain and I had to go deep to find an explanation that meshes with his character as a hero. Known facts like these can be a constraint, and not all authors handle history the same way. Some take more license than others. That’s not wrong. It offers readers an array of treatments.
Q: How much of your day do you spend writing?
Depends. Beginnings are always hard, as the old adage goes, and when I first start writing, I’m staring at white paper. I find it daunting, and it takes more effort to get that initial draft out, so I don’t write as long as I do at the end when I’m revising the completed manuscript. Once I have the clay to work with (so to speak) I start the molding process, and since I find that much more enjoyable, I spend more of my time doing it. At that point it gets intense and I’m writing about 8 to 9 hours a day.
Q: Do you travel in connection with your research and, if so, what have been your favorite places and where do you want to go next?
I always begin my research by going where my book will set, and usually it takes several trips before I’m ready to sit down and write the story. I went to Bruges and England multiple times in search of Richard III, and to Wales and Scotland in search of Perkin Warbeck. As I stand where they once stood, and look out at what they once saw, or hold a book in my hands that bears their autograph on the flyleaf and their notes in the margins, I feel a closeness to them that is magical. Scenes will come to me and sometimes I’ll even hear dialogue. Without these visits, I couldn’t write with any depth.
Q: What do you do to relax from your writing, or for fun?
Nature always revitalizes me. I unwind by sending as much time as I can in my garden, listening to the birds sing and watching the skies change. My husband and I also travel for fun (not research), and we enjoy good movies and good television (like Masterpiece Theater, MI5, Homeland and the old “24”). We subscribe to the symphony and the opera, and when we have a chance, we love to go dancing. Of course, there’s also the family. I have three girls, and we’re always visiting them, or they’re coming to visit us. Life is busy, and wonderfully full.
Q: What are you working on now?
I’m between books, but getting ready to begin my next one that will also be set in the Eastern Roman Empire. Right now I’m doing my preliminary reading. There’s not as much to tackle because I spent two years studying the standard historical textbooks and sources for my first book set in Constantinople. The next one will require visiting another area of the Mediterranean, and hopefully I’ll come back with a scene or two for the new book ☺.
Thank you, Regan, for these great questions and the interview. I’ve enjoyed it!
My thanks to you, Sandra, for your wonderful, insightful answers! I would love to make one of those research trips with you should you ever need a companion.
Sandra’s website: http://www.sandraworth.com