Today I have the honor to host author Patricia Bracewell, author of Shadow on the Crown. Her novel focuses on the period in English history just prior to the Norman invasion and conquest – and I’m super excited to read it. Here I have an interview with her to give you a taste of what you can expect.
I love the period of English history prior to the Norman Conquest, so I was thrilled to see another author taking on this oft-overlooked time period. What is it for you that draws you to write about this period?
I think, in a way, I’m drawn to it because of all the things that we don’t know about the period and about the people. We know just enough to tantalize. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle can be maddeningly cryptic a lot of the time; the 12th century historians were drawing on earlier chronicles and ballads that have not survived. So we know names, dates and events that occurred in Anglo-Saxon England, but we don’t know the why or the how. Trying to fill in those gaps is endlessly intriguing.
I know first-hand that this period can be difficult to research because much was destroyed and rewritten following the Saxon defeat at Hastings. What difficulties (if any) have you had in your research? What have you found to be the best sources of information?
I live near the University of California at Berkeley, so the library was my main resource. There are wonderful academics who are writing about this period, and their books provide a wealth of information: Gale Owen-Crocker on clothing, Ian Howard on the Viking invasions, Pauline Stafford on queenship, Nicholas Higham on late Anglo-Saxon history and many more. There are two very helpful journals: Anglo Norman Studies and Anglo Saxon England. The most difficult thing to research was the architecture. As you say, the Normans destroyed so much! We don’t even know for certain where the late Anglo-Saxon palace was in London, for example, much less what it looked like! I had to read whatever I could find, then draw my own conclusions.
I have read varying interpretations of Emma, everything from a weak, quiet young woman to a strong willed queen. Where does your Emma fall on this spectrum?
In Shadow on the Crown I’ve written about the first few years of Emma’s marriage to Æthelred II, so she is quite young and in many ways powerless under her husband’s rule. But although she is forced to act from a position of weakness, she is not weak. I’ve given her all the character traits that I believe she must have had in order to become that future, strong-willed queen. I hope that readers will see Emma change over the course of, not just this book, but the entire trilogy. Her priorities and her understanding of her role as queen will change. Her determination and her courage will not.
I saw on your website that Shadow on the Crown is the first in a planned trilogy. Can you foreshadow anything for us as to what we can expect in the rest of the series?
Ah. One of the characters in the first book has already done it for me. She is a seeress, consulted by Æthelred’s eldest son. She tells him “A bitter road lies before the sons of Æthelred, all but one,” and she also says that whoever “would hold the scepter of England must first hold the hand of England’s queen.” In the two books to follow Shadow, we’ll see how that all plays out.
When you are not working on your writing, what do you like to do with your time?
I read a lot, but not as much as I would like. I have very little free time these days, so I love to listen to audio books while I’m working out or doing chores. I play tennis whenever I can – doubles only! And I live in a terrific neighborhood, so I like to go for walks.
Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. She has always been fascinated by English history and holds an MA in English literature. Her historical research has taken her to Britain, France and Denmark. She has two grown sons and lives with her husband in Oakland, California.
I also have the opportunity (thanks to the publisher) to offer one paperback copy of The Shadow of the Crown to one resident of the USA. Entries through the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway will end February 1st. Good luck!
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