Today I am honoured to welcome the inimitable Anne Belfrage to History…the Interesting Bits. Anna’s latest novel, Under the Approaching Dark comes out today. The 3rd instalment in the King’s Greatest Enemy series promises to be as tense, exciting and nail biting as the first two books. Set in the times of Edward II and Queen Isabella, the series follows the fortunes of Kit and Adam de Guirande through one of the most turbulent periods of English history. Look out for my review, which will be live in a couple of days. In the meantime, Anna and I had an interesting little chat….
Hi Anna, thank you so much for talking to me about your fabulous books. Welcome to History…the Interesting Bits.
Thank you so much for inviting me!
Tell me about your latest book, is it going to make me cry?
I hope so 😊 Well, at least a little, although I think it will be more nail-biting than tears.
It is the 3rd in a series of books about Kit and Adam, set in the tumultuous reign of Edward II. What attracted you to that particular period of history?
A fabulously inspiring and passionate history teacher who had two major interests: the Maya Empire and its disappearance, and the convoluted period in English history featuring Edward II (Whom he didn’t rate much) Isabella of France (whom he respected, but didn’t like), Roger Mortimer (Whom he was very ambivalent towards: a capable man corrupted by his own ambition) and the very young Edward III (now here was a great king in the making as per Mr Wilmshurst)
Who is your favourite real historical person? And why?
You expect me to give you ONE name? How cruel of you! Nope, I don’t think I can do that—especially as the more I learn, the more historical people I develop a fondness for. So you get a list, instead, a “flavor of the month” selection, as it is a fluid thing 😊 I am very intrigued by Roger Mortimer, but I also have a thing about Edward I, his wife Eleanor of Castile, Edward III, Philippa of Hainaut (Edward III’s wife), Charles II and Leonor Guzmán (mistress of Alfonso XI of Castile) Oh, and our very own Gustav II Adolf, Queen Kristina and Axel von Fersen (our in this case being “Swedish”)
And which historic person do you like least?
Lenin comes VERY high on that list as does Stalin and Hitler. And I’ve never liked Cleopatra, but can’t quite tell you why.
So, do you think Edward II survived his own murder?
Ah, that would be telling wouldn’t it? Besides, shouldn’t you say “his own death”, not “his own murder” as we don’t know if he was helped along, so to say? Rumour has it that he was, but in this age littered with fake news, one should learn to take rumour with a pinch of salt. I like it that there are a lot of uncertainties around Edward II’s demise, thereby giving me as a novelist quite some leeway. And because I like Edward II as a person if not as a king, I sort of hope he didn’t die at Berkeley in 1327.
Is this the end of the series, or are their more stories to come, featuring Kit and Adam?
The series consists of four books, so there’s one more to come (out very early next year). I am playing around with a further book, but more along the lines of a stand-alone mystery story. On the other hand, I have so much other stuff I want to write about, so we’ll see.
What made you create Kit the way she is, a strong woman who is firmly set within the confines of the social rules of fourteenth century England? Were you ever tempted to put a sword in her hand and send her into battle?
No, I never wanted to hand Kit a sword—she just isn’t the type. She has her strong points, and in making her literate and capable of swimming I have already stretched things a bit, so having her also being some sort of medieval ninja jarred. It was important to me to create a credible 14th century woman, and while Adam worships the ground his wife walks on, he never delegates the truly important decisions to her—even if he does discuss them with her. And Kit doesn’t expect him to do so, she is fully aware of her position as wife and helpmeet and the restrictions this comes with.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The escapism. It is quite wonderful to step into a bubble of my own creation and forget about everyday life for a while.
What is the worst thing about writing?
The not getting it right. I know exactly what I want to convey, but what I write is clunky and imprecise, and I have all these words on the tip of my tongue (or at the tip of my fingers) but they won’t quite come.
How do you organise your writing day?
I work full time as a Financial Director which means my days are organised around work. My writing takes place in the evenings and weekends, and once I start on a new project, I let the story run its course, writing until my fingers bleed (well, figuratively speaking). After that comes the truly fun part: the rewrites. I try to block off time for “pure writing” as opposed to writing blog posts and stuff like that.
Who have been the big influencers of your writing?
I work hard on developing my own voice, but historical writers I admire are Sharon K Penman, Edith Pargetter, Dorothy Dunnett, Diana Gabaldon, Elizabeth Chadwick and Conn Iggulden to name a few. And then there are all the other writers, such as Stephen Fry, García Marquéz, Strindberg, Nevile Shute, Hemingway…an endless list.
How long have you spent researching your characters?
All in all, several years.
Do you find social media – such as Facebook – a benefit or a hindrance?
I enjoy connecting with other likeminded people, but it is also a time-thief. What frustrates me is not quite knowing what works/doesn’t work when it comes to twitter, for example. One day, a tweet will have fifty-odd RTs, the next time I post the same tweet, it gets 3. Very stochastic, isn’t it?
What is your next project going to be about?
Well, I have a trilogy ready to go set in the present day but featuring Jason and Helle who have lived and died innumerable times since that first time in which they loved, lost and died. Jason desperately wants a second chance, an opportunity to make things up to her. Helle has no idea she is a reincarnated soul, and coming face to face with this man she has these vague dreams about is not an entirely pleasant experience. Plus, of course, there’s another person involved—the man who crushed them last time round and who has every intention of doing so again.
From a historical fiction perspective, I have two projects: one is set in 17th century Sweden, the other in 13th century England featuring a very young woman, Ellie, and her husband, one of Edward I’s loyal men. Plus I have this rather exciting time travel thingy growing like a mushroom in the darker corners of my brain, in which Tewkesbury Abbey plays an important role.
Anna, I wish you every success with the book.
Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview, and for taking the time to answer my questions – I hope they weren’t too onerous.
It was a pleasure, Sharon – and especially seeing as you so generously expend your time on reading and reviewing my books. Authors like me are very dependent on bloggers like you!
Aw, thank you – it is truly a pleasure to be able to read your fabulous stories, Anna.
About Anna Belfrage:
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, winner of multiple awards, including the HNS Indie Award 2015. Her ongoing series is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures during Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.
If you would like to find out more about Anna and her books, visit her blog.
My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, is now available in hardback in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It is also available on Kindle in both the UK and USA and will be available in Hardback from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.
©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly and Anna Belfrage