MY UPCOMING BOOK TOUR FOR A KING’S RANSOM

February 15th, 2014
A King's Ransom

A King

A King's Ransom

A King

I finally have a new blog up!   I’d begun to think I’d never do another one, for this has been a hectic month, dealing with the horrific winter weather and my (ugh) income taxes and research for the new book and reality, at least every now and then.   But I wanted to get this up before my book tour in case some of you might be able to attend one of my readings.   It is so much fun to be able to meet so many of my Facebook friends.
I am delighted to report that the first advance reviews for Ransom have been good, one from Booklist and one from Kirkus.   Would I have mentioned it had they been unfavorable?   I’m glad I was not put to the test.    Ransom will be published in the US and Canada on March 4th and on March 13th in the UK.  I believe the publication date Down Under is early March, too.
I confess to having ambivalent feelings about closing the circle with Ransom.  It is always exciting (and a bit worrisome) when a new book is published.  But I am not sure I am ready to let go of the Angevins.  For five books and nigh on twenty years, they’ve been my house guests, and I am going to miss them.   Richard will likely make a few appearances in the next book, Outremer—the Land Beyond the Sea, but I’m afraid I’ve said farewell to Henry, Eleanor, and the rest of their Devil’s Brood.  Well, Henry did manage to snare a scene in Ransom, and if I ever am able to resume my medieval mysteries, Eleanor will have some more time on center stage.   So I’ll definitely be motivated to revive Justin de Quincy’s career as the queen’s man.  Justin does appear in Ransom, though, along with his nemesis, Durand de Curzon; I’d promised Justin’s Facebook fan club that I’d let him infiltrate the action, and it was fun to have him riding out on missions for Eleanor again and sniping with Durand in his spare time.
Here is my itinerary for the book tour.

TUESDAY, MARCH 4th at 7 PM
Chester County Book Company
West Goshen Center
975 Paoli Pike
West Chester, PA   19380

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5th at 7 PM
Barnes & Noble #2368
Market Fair
3535 US Highway 1
Princeton, NJ  08540

THURSDAY, MARCH 6th at 7 PM
Poisoned Pen
4014 N. Goldwater Blvd.  Suite 101
Scottsdale, AZ   85251

FRIDAY, MARCH 7TH AT 6:30 PM
Murder by the Book
2342 Bissonett Street
Houston, Texas  77005

SATURDAY, MARCH 8th at 4 PM
Nicola’s Books
Westgate Shopping Center
2513 Jackson Road
Ann Arbor, Michigan  48103

MONDAY, MARCH 10th at 7 PM
Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way, NE
Lake Forest Park Washington   98155

TUESDAY, MARCH 11th at 7 PM
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd
Beaverton, Oregon  9700

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12th at 6 PM
Book Passage—Ferry Building
1 Ferry Bldg Marketplace #42
San Francisco, California  94111
THURSDAY, MARCH 13th at 7 PM
Books, Inc.
855 El Camino Real  #74
Palo Alto, California  94301

This officially ends the book tour, but I will be at the Tucson Festival of Books on Saturday, March 15th and Sunday, March 16th.   http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/

We are planning another Richard III Tour this September, and I will post the details on my website and Facebook pages once everything comes together.   With luck, we might be able to visit Richard’s new resting place, assuming that a decision has been made by then whether Richard will be buried in Leicester or York.
This has been one of the worst winters on record, with severe droughts in California, unending snow and ice storms in the Midwest and Northeast and New England, even snow in the Deep South.  Conditions are even worse in the UK, for their storms have caused horrific flooding.  And my friends Down Under tell me they are enduring their hottest summer in decades.  So here’s hoping that Mother Nature shows us some mercy in the coming weeks.
February 15, 2014

INTERVIEW WITH BERNARD CORNWELL

January 14th, 2014

I am delighted to have this opportunity to interview one of my favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell.  Since I discuss his books often on my Facebook pages, I know that he is a great favorite with my readers, too, and several have asked if they could submit questions of their own.  So this meeting of the unofficial Bernard Cornwell Fan Club now comes to order!
Bernard, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.   Your American fans have been waiting impatiently for The Pagan Lord to be published on our side of the Atlantic and this finally happened on January 6th.    I have yet to read a book of yours that I did not greatly enjoy: your Sharpe series, your Grail Quest books, stand-alone novels like Agincourt, just to name a few.  But I confess that it is your Saxon series which resonates the most with me, for Uhtred is simply magnificent, as mesmerizing as he is unique.  He is the ultimate outsider, a Saxon raised by Danes, a man of conflicting but fierce loyalties, impulsive, hot-tempered, swaggering, skeptical, sardonic, and always highly entertaining.  I would wager that he is the most popular of all your characters, even though you’ve created some memorable ones in other books.

Q.   How did Uhtred come into being?  Did he spring fully-formed from your head like Minerva?  Or did he gradually assert himself, finding his own voice as the writing progressed?

A. I’ve never been able to plan anything; neither a book nor a character. The only way I know how to write is to begin at the beginning and see what happens! So he emerged slowly. I did know from the start that he would choose paganism over Christianity, which gives him a certain orneriness (not that he needs more). I suppose it’s a fairly common theme in my books; Sharpe is an officer up from the ranks which puts him at odds with the more privileged; Starbuck is a northerner fighting for the south, and Uhtred is a stubborn pagan in a very orthodox Christian setting. As for the rest?  He just muscled his way onto the page.

Q.  Did you start out with a road map, knowing from the first how Uhtred’s story would end?
A. Oh, I wish!  I don’t even know how the chapter I’m writing now will end! In fact it’s a complete rewrite. I finished chapter three of the new Uhtred story last week and realized that he said, ‘You see? Nothing happened.’ And he was right, nothing had happened, so I hit the magic delete button and have started again. The only glimpse of a road map is the Battle of Brunanburg which took place in 937AD and is really the end of Uhtred’s story because it’s that battle that establishes England as a country (and the series is about the making of England). So I have a destination, but the map in between is murky (‘here be dragons’). And Uhtred will be so old by 937 that I’ll have to make some awkward decisions before then. It was E.L. Doctorow who said that writing a novel was rather like driving on an unknown country road at night, the way ahead illuminated only by very feeble headlights, and that’s true for me. I envy writers who can plan a whole book (or series) then write to the plan. I stagger from one crisis to the next!

Q. Our fellow historical novelist, Priscilla Royal, would like to know if you intend to carry the story into the reign of Athelstan?
A. Very much so! Athelstan was the victor of Brunanburh and the first man who could legitimately claim to be the King of England, so yes!

Q. Priscilla is much more knowledgeable about this period of English history than I am; I confess that I am learning as I read your books, and I tend to accept Uhtred’s views as gospel.  So naturally I am not all that fond of Alfred.  I think you’ve been scrupulously fair, though, in your depiction of Alfred, and I am curious about your own feelings for the man?
A. I hope my admiration for him shines through Uhtred’s rather sour view.  The standard view of Alfred is a warrior king, witnessed by the statues of him which show a man built like a linebacker, clad in mail and carrying a huge sword. In truth he was a very sickly man whose chief passion was Christian scholarship. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a warrior, but it does suggest that the truth might be more nuanced. My take on him is that he was a very good man, a very very intelligent man, and an honest one. He was also a puritan and Uhtred, like me, has a strong distaste for puritanism. On a beam over my desk I painted in letters of red and gold Sir Toby Belch’s admonition from Twelfth Night; ‘Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?’

Q. This is from Shelly.   Is AElfwynn Uhtred and Aethelflaed’s secret love child?
A. No, sorry!

Q. This is from Jo, who says she has always wondered what or who inspired the “fabulous character” of Skade?
A, I really have no idea. I wish I could suggest something exotic. But I do like my female characters to be strong (and Skade certainly qualifies). One of the things that annoys me is the inevitable sequence in a film where a man and woman (or boy and girl) are running away from the villains, and you know, sure as eggs, that the woman will trip over.  That is such garbage, and I try to avoid it.
What’s emerging in the new book is a much stronger treatment of Aethelflaed, Alfred’s daughter, who successfully ruled Mercia after her husband’s death at a time when female rulers were as common as hens’ teeth. We know she led campaigns against the Danes, so she was a considerable warrior, yet somehow she’s been forgotten by history and she deserves to be better known.

Q. This is Stephanie’s query.  “How old could a successful warrior (and by successful, I mean one who has not yet been killed or seriously maimed) expect to live?   How many reasonable fighting years does Uhtred have?”  She confesses that she is just trying to get a better idea of how many more books are left in the series!
A. I think the sensible answer is that if a man survived into his 50’s he had far exceeded the average life expectancy, though we know some folk lived on into their 80’s and beyond. Stephanie has touched on a problem I’ve yet to solve, which is what to do with Uhtred as he gets much older. I really don’t have an answer yet, though I’ll have to find one soon.

Q. I am convinced that no writer does better battle scenes than you do, whether it be in Uhtred’s scary shield wall, with the Black Prince’s lethal archers, or in the Spanish hills with Sharpe and Harper. So Paula’s question is mine, too.  She says, “When I read the battle scenes, I feel like I’m there with Uhtred in the shield wall.  I am walking step by stealthy step and jabbing upwards with my sword.  Where do you think this comes from?  Is it years of research, a vivid imagination, or a bit of both?”   I would add another question, asking if you’d rather fight battles with Uhtred, with Thomas of Hookton and his archers, or with Sharpe and his Chosen Men?  Which of these wars is the most fun to write about?
A. Years of research? Yes! But perhaps the greatest influence was Sir John Keegan’s book The Face of Battle. John was born with a deformed foot so could not serve in the armed forces, yet at heart he was always a soldier. He became a military historian and lectured at Sandhurst (Britain’s West Point) and was ever curious about what was it really like to be in combat? That was an experience he had been denied and many of his friends, who had served, were reticent. The books didn’t help much – most military histories were very dry and full of technical stuff, so he wrote The Face of Battle to find his answer. The point he made is that it’s impossible to understand any conflict without comprehending what the men (mostly men) involved experienced; what they saw, felt, smelled, touched and heard. I try to remember that, and that, of course, means imagining the answers. I was struck recently by an archaeological report from Towton where England’s bloodiest battle was fought in 1461. A forensic scientist examined many of the bodies found in the grave-pits and discovered that the men were so terrified by the experience that they had shattered their own teeth by gritting them too hard. That’s a frightening image, and one backed up by one of the chroniclers of the battle of Poitiers who reported the same thing. I suppose if I had to make a choice I’ll go with Sharpe, only because there’s going to be much less hand-to-hand fighting. The experience of a Saxon shield-wall, or the clash of men-at-arms in a mediaeval battle is truly horrifying; think of an NFL player encased in armor coming at you with an axe. No wonder that many accounts suggest that men were often drunk!  As to which era is most enjoyable? Whichever one I happen to be writing about at the time!

Q. Historical novelists often have to risk alienating or shocking their readers, for while I do not think human nature has changed over the centuries, beliefs and superstitions and society’s expectations obviously have.   Some writers try to soften the harsh edges of historical reality to make their books more palatable for today’s readers; for example, writing a novel set in the Ante-bellum South in which the major characters are all secret abolitionists, or having a female character in a medieval setting be a dedicated feminist or determined to marry for love.   You never fall into these traps, presenting Uhtred’s world as it was—hard-scrabble, brutal, and often bloody.   Have you ever been tempted to take the modern sensibilities of your readers into consideration when writing a scene likely to trouble them?    Maybe easing back a bit on the throttle?    I confess I can’t find any evidence of that, though!
A. I have, yes!  I sometimes think I’ve gone over the top and I’ll delete . . . . and for some reason I’m reluctant to use the efficacious word even though it was certainly the commonest word in Sharpe’s time. I’ve always been amused by the objections people have to the F word, but they happily accept blasphemy. Why? Sharpe can take the name of God in vain a hundred times and no one notices. Oh well.

Q. I could think of many more questions, but you have things to do, places to go, and most importantly, books to write.  So I will conclude by asking the question we all want to know.
Can you tell us how many more books remain before you end the Saxon series?   Is this negotiable?  And is there any chance at all that Richard Sharpe might march again?
A. Again, I wish I knew! At least about Uhtred. Certainly another four or five? Maybe more? I just don’t know! I do have an idea for one more Sharpe book – I kept back the Battle of Sorauren for my old age, though God knows I’m in that already. I’ve just finished my first (and only) non-fiction book, the story of Waterloo for the bicentenary in two years, and I was VERY tempted to write Sharpe straight afterwards, but resisted the temptation and launched into another Uhtred instead. I do miss Sharpe. I once started a Sharpe book with the words ‘Sharpe was in a good mood,’ and of course it didn’t work, but I really hope the grumpy bastard will march again soon!
Bernard, thank you again for stopping by.  I loved The Pagan Lord, of course, and Uhtred continues to dazzle readers, even if he will never be named Father of the Year!   The only downside to a new Bernard Cornwell novel is the realization that there will be a long wait until the next one.
January 14, 2014

AND THE WINNER IS…..

January 10th, 2014

Priscilla Royal and I are happy to announce that the first winner of the book giveaway for her newest mystery, Covenant with Hell, is Pat Yarbrough.   Priscilla is a generous soul and she decided to offer a second book since there were so many entrants.  The second lucky winner is Libby.    If you e-mail Priscilla at tynprior@aol.com, she will make the arrangements to mail your signed copies of Covenant.    Here is a brief message from Priscilla:
“I am amazed and thrilled by the response to the drawing!  Thank you all for so many kind words. I hope Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas will bring some hours of reading pleasure.  And thank you, Sharon, for inviting me to your blog and all the years of reading delight you have given me with your wonderful books.”
*        *        *        *       *
I hope all of you who were under siege by the polar vortex have thawed out by now.   It was dramatic, inconvenient, and sometimes scary, sadly taking the lives of at least 15 people.  Naturally my furnace decided to stop working on the coldest day since 1878.    Thankfully, a furnace tech, my new knight in shining armor, was able to get it going again, and Wednesday he returned to make more permanent repairs.   While I was talking to him, Holly seized her chance to eat my vitamins, momentarily left untended.  Unfortunately, they included a medication that can be toxic to dogs.   So I had to spend time with the Pet Poison Hotline and they recommended I take Holly to my vet for monitoring because there was the risk of neurological or respiratory problems and seizures.    I am happy to report that Holly is just fine, the only damage being done to my frayed nerves and bank account.   She did not get away scot free, though, missing lunch, and for Holly, a missed meal falls into the “cruel and unusual punishment” category.
I have some exciting news, at least to me.   I will be doing an interview on my blog with Bernard Cornwell in the near future; his latest book in his wonderful Saxon series, The Pagan Lord, has just been published in the US on January 6th; it was already out in the UK and Down Under.    I highly recommend it, of course!
Lastly, I have more information about the March book tour for A King’s Ransom.   My publicist is still working on the itinerary, but at the moment, it looks as if I will definitely be going to Chester County Books in PA, the Barnes and Noble in Princeton, NJ, Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ, Murder by the Book in Houston, TX, and Nicola’s in Ann Arbor, MI.  There is also a good chance that I will be making appearances in Seattle, Portland, and the Bay Area before flying to Tucson to attend their Festival of Books on March 15-16th.     I will put up details as I learn them.    I have enjoyed meeting Facebook friends on these tours and I am looking forward to this very much.
January 10. 2014

INTERVIEW WITH PRISCILLA ROYAL

December 4th, 2013

December brings many good things—Christmas, the first snowfall of the winter, a new Priscilla Royal mystery.   Covent with Hell is her latest, set at one of the most celebrated of medieval shrines, and once again I am losing sleep as I steal time each night to re-enter her world.   Most of you know that I am obsessive-compulsive about historical accuracy; I’ve never been able to decide if that is a blessing or a curse. As a result, I am really put off by novels in which the characters could be my next door neighbors; I think of these books as “The Plantagenets in Pasadena.”   But that is never the case with one of Priscilla’s novels.  Her people are firmly rooted in the Middle Ages.  Readers never doubt that they are reading of men and women who live in thirteenth century England, and that is why we read historical novels, after all.  We turn the pages to time-travel.   So I am delighted to announce that Covenant with Hell is now out and I have persuaded Priscilla to stop by to talk about it.

Tell us about Covenant with Hell.

Covenant with Hell contains a hint of Canterbury Tales and a dash of George Smiley. While I was finishing Sanctity of Hate, I watched the two Alec Guinness portrayals of George Smiley, read John le Carre’s books, and fell in love with the character. I had never tried a spy story but knew it must have a firm medieval context. The spy system of the late 13th century was not as sophisticated as it was under Elizabeth I, but every historical era has its secret agents.
As I was prowling through Edward I’s activities in the year after Sanctity of Hate, I found the perfect setting for my story. Walsingham was one of his favorite shrines, and he decided to go there on Palm Sunday of 1277. (Being a practical man, he combined the pilgrimage with a trip to buy 200,000 crossbow bolts for his invasion of Wales.) Fortunately, this famous and very interesting medieval shrine is also close to where I have placed Tyndal Priory.
After The Sanctity of Hate, Prioress Eleanor has been deeply troubled over a rumor that she was found worthy to receive a vision of the Virgin Mary, a story she wishes had not gained credence but fears she might have fostered some way. Her concern led me to suggest that she might fancy a penitential pilgrimage to this lovely shrine. My prioress quickly agreed. What she and Brother Thomas didn’t know is that I planned for them to fall into the midst of an assassination plot against the king and a swarming of spies.

You have said that each of your books presents you with a different challenge. What was it in Covenant with Hell?

I do not want to write “costume dramas”, but I also acknowledge the universal nature of human experience. The more I read, the more I realize that many things we think of as modern enlightenments were found in more ancient times, although the manifestation would have been era-appropriate. The union of the twelve tribes of Israel, albeit under a king, bears resemblance to the union of the thirteen colonies that formed the United States. Athens practiced a form of democracy, and many monasteries elected their own leaders. And if no one in the past ever questioned the accepted beliefs (always called truths in any era), we would never have advanced our knowledge of general science, medicine, or the complex nature of the human creature. So I took a chance and introduced a character whom I believe would have fit into his time but who also resisted convention just a bit with a little quiet courage in the face of his own terror of consequences. To say more would be a spoiler.

What was the most enjoyable part of writing this story?

As is often the case, it is the research. The shrines of Walsingham have a remarkable story, one I have told in more detail in the Author’s Notes. Not only was it a popular medieval pilgrimage site, regularly visited by King Henry III, Edward I, and on a par with Canterbury and Santiago de Compostela, it was also highly favored by King Henry VIII—before he chose to destroy it. It was supposed to be the only place in England where the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision. She came to a local woman in a dream and took her to Nazareth where she showed the woman the house where the Annunciation occurred, then ordered the woman to construct an exact replica in Walsingham. Unlike most shrines, the house was kept simple, although the many gifts received were lavish. In addition, there were wells nearby that remained full, pure, and very cold despite the weather or any drought. These were also believed to be gifts of the Virgin Mary. Perhaps the most miraculous part of the Walsingham story is the fact that it has returned as a significant pilgrimage site. The Holy House has been reconstructed. The wells remain. It is visited by both Catholic and Protestant pilgrims today.

You have written ten books in your series. Do you now feel you have a firm grasp on the craft of writing?

The short answer is no! After I finished the first book, I realized that the second would have its own problems. That one felt even harder to write than the first. I will say that the third wasn’t as terrifying, but I have learned that every book is its own lesson in how to write unless you fall into a pattern. Sometimes I hate myself for making each book a challenge, but I am happier once it is written. Covenant with Hell was my attempt to be so devious about the killer that the herrings, red or otherwise, would be especially fun for readers. Even though I have always wanted to keep the solution secret for as long as possible, I admit that I often get caught up in character development, the question of acceptable justice, and the historical background. None of that is really a bad thing. We all read mysteries for different reasons. But good herrings were the craft lesson for me in this book.

What are you working on next?

Prioress Eleanor has been sufficiently successful as both a manager of priory recourses and a sleuth that she will have gained enemies. In the next book, someone has accused her of an unchaste relationship with Brother Thomas. Since the Order of Fontevraud was under the authority of Rome, the abbess in Anjou, who enjoyed unusual authority over her many daughter houses, would not have wanted any hint of scandal in her Order, one that many already believed to be unnatural because of female leadership over men. She would have sent a trusted priest of high social rank (to match that of Prioress Eleanor) to investigate so that she could assure Rome that innocence had been proven or due punishment ordered. Of course, Prioress Eleanor is innocent of acting on her lust for Brother Thomas, but nothing is ever simple for her. Murder happens. The innocent are accused. Subplots cause her additional angst. I confess that she will be pretty miffed at all I plan to put her through.

How can readers contact you?

Should anyone have questions about my books, they can reach me through my website at www.priscillaroyal.com. And I am one of several mystery writers blogging on The Lady Killers at www.theladykillers.typepad.com.

Thank you so much, Sharon, for inviting me to post on your blog. Not only have you taught me much about research, but your books have long been an inspiration. In fact, I learned something from one of them that gave me an idea for a character in Covenant…

And you are not going to tell me more than that, are you?   You’re getting too good at keeping secrets!   I am about halfway through Covenant and I confess I haven’t a clue who the killer is yet.  There are a few hateful characters I would happily volunteer as other victims for the killer, though.   And there is a very appealing young girl, a street urchin who will touch the hardest heart, reminding us that there were few safety nets for the poor throughout most of history.   Thank you for agreeing to talk about Covenant.  I do sympathize with Eleanor; she yearns only for spiritual peace and you keep dragging her into murder investigations.  But as you say, “Murder happens, and we, the readers, benefit greatly from it.

December 4, 2013

A Day at Dover Castle

November 16th, 2013

           I do intend to blog about my Richard III Tour, but I have had to put it off for a while as I fight the Deadline Dragon, who came back again as soon as the galley proofs for A King’s Ransom landed with a resounding thump on my front porch.   Before I disappear into the dragon badlands again, I want to put a new blog up, for the current one is probably collecting cyberspace cobwebs by now.  So here is the story of my day at Dover Castle.
 After the Richard III Tour was over and I’d done what I needed to do for my British publisher in connection with the hardback publication of The Sunne in Splendour on September 12th, I had five whole days for myself.    By pure chance, my friend Stephanie Churchill Ling and her husband, Steve, were visiting the UK at the same time and we were able to get together on the weekend before they flew home.  On Saturday we went with my friend, Dr John Philipps, to the Globe Theatre in Southwark to see a performance of MacBeth.  This Globe is a reconstruction of the original Globe theater in Shakespeare’s time, and it was such a remarkable experience to watch one of Shakespeare’s plays in a sixteenth century theatre.  They even had standing room space in front of the stage for the “groundlings.”   We were wimps and sat in the sheltered section, having rented cushions to soften the hard wooden benches; John has often been to the Globe and we benefited from his expertise as it was the first visit for Stephanie, Steve, and me.   Here is a link to a great website offering the history of the original Globe theatre and a certain playwright from Stratford on Avon.  http://www.william-shakespeare.info/william-shakespeare-globe-theatre.htm   And this site has some striking photos of the new Globe. http://www.londontown.com/LondonInformation/Entertainment/Shakespeares_Globe/8f9c/imagesPage/15462/ 
 On Sunday, John drove us to Dover Castle as I was eager to see the renovations that had been done since my last visit.  They have set up interior chambers that look as they would have done in the time of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.   This was one of the highpoints of my trip, for we usually have to rely upon our imaginations in order to envision a medieval bedchamber or garderobe or kitchen.    At Dover, no imagination needed!   I will try to post a few photos with this blog, but we’ve had trouble doing this in the past and I am not sure the problem has been resolved.  However, Stephanie found this wonderful virtual tour of Dover Castle, which is almost as good as being there.   http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/dover-castle/great-tower/virtual-tour/   Be sure to click onto the interactive map on the left side of the page.   On certain days, Henry is there to greet visitors, muttering about his troublesome wife and sons; if you click onto the great hall introduction on the interactive map, you’ll get to see a brief video of his grumbling.    
 I’ve been fortunate enough to pay numerous visits to Dover Castle over the years, and whenever I crossed the Channel from France, I enjoyed watching the white cliffs of Dover come into view. ( I’ve never taken the Chunnel as I am not crazy about tunnels, especially underwater ones.)   I am an even bigger fan of Dover Castle now, for I kept thinking that if only I turned around fast enough, I might catch a glimpse of Eleanor’s skirts as she entered the stairwell or see Henry striding across the great hall, bellowing for his hounds and huntsmen, eager to indulge his passion for the hunt.   
 Castles have atmosphere, at least to me, and they are often claimed by the ghosts of the people who lived in them.  At Middleham, I never think of the Kingmaker, only of Richard and Anne during the years when he was the Lord of the North.   Kenilworth stirs no echoes of Simon de Montfort, for I think it belongs to Elizabeth Tudor’s great love, Robert Dudley.   I can easily envision Edward I at his Conquest Castles in Wales, probably one reason why I much prefer the strongholds of the Welsh princes!  When I visit Clifford’s Tower in York, I can think only of the medieval Masada, the tragedy that engulfed the city’s Jews in March, 1191.    Fougeres Castle in Brittany puts me in mind of my fictional characters, Justin de Quincy and Durand de Curzon, who were entombed in its underground dungeon.  
But Dover Castle never evoked the spirit of the Angevins to me—not until this last visit, looking at it through Henry, Eleanor, and John’s eyes; I don’t sense Richard’s spirit there, am not even sure if he ever visited it during the six months that he spent on English soil.    The key to the kingdom, they called this awesome fortress,  and getting to see it with friends on a rare sunlit day was about as good as it gets for a woman whose favorite century is the twelfth and whose favorite king is the second Henry to rule England since the Conquest.  
November 16, 2013
 

The complete Author’s Note for the new hardcover edition of The Sunne in Splendour

October 15th, 2013

I do plan to blog about my Richard III tour, but I am still having to devote all of my time and energy these days to fending off the Deadline Dragon, who is lurking around until I can finish the Author’s Note for A King’s Ransom.   So in the meantime, I am going to post the new Author’s Note for the hardcover edition of The Sunne in Splendour, which was published in the UK on September 12th.  Because of space constraints, my publisher, Macmillan, was forced to go with an edited version of the AN, although the AN in its entirety is included in the new e-book.     The new e-book is the one currently available for sale on Amazon.co.UK, although the date given is July, 2012; it incorporates all of the changes I made for the hardcover edition of Sunne.   And I have good news for my non-British readers.  St Martin’s Press has now made their new e-book edition of Sunne available; it includes the new AN and reflects all of the changes I made to the hardcover Sunne edition, correcting mistakes that were not caught and making some minor alterations to the dialogue.   The date listed for the Kindle edition is 2008, but the one now for sale is the new one.     
As I discussed on Facebook, Book Depository, dear to book lovers for their worldwide free shipping, is refusing to sell the hardcover edition of Sunne to non-British readers.   In the past, Amazon and Amazon.co.UK would pull a “foreign” book if a publisher complained.  In Sunne’s case, that did not happen, of course. No American publisher would lose sales if American readers bought the Sunne hardcover, for there are no plans to publish a hardcover edition on this side of the Atlantic.  So only Book Depository can explain why they have chosen to penalize would-be book buyers who live in the “wrong” country.   Sunne is still available for sale on Amazon.co,UK and Waterstones and other British book sites, although the mailing costs are not cheap.  
 Okay, end of rant.  I just find it so frustrating when artificial barriers are put up to keep people from buying books since we live in an age when book buying is in a downward spiral.  But as I promised my readers, here is the new Author’s Note for Sunne, in its entirety. 
*     *      *       *       *
AUTHOR’S NOTE   2013
I was a college student when I stumbled onto the story of Richard III, and the more I learned, the more convinced I became that he’d been the victim of a great injustice, transformed by the Tudors into a soulless monster in order to justify Henry Tudor’s dubious claim to the throne.   While I’d always realized that history is rewritten by the victors, I was taken aback by how successful this particular rewrite had been, and I began telling my friends how unfairly Richard had been maligned.  I soon discovered that they did not share my indignation about the wrongs done this long-dead medieval king.  I got a uniform reaction, a “Richard who?” before their eyes glazed over and they’d start to edge away.   
 So I decided I needed another outlet for my outrage, and it occurred to me that I ought to write a novel about Richard.  I had no idea how that casual decision would transform my life, setting me upon a twelve year journey that would eventually end in the publication of The Sunne in Splendour.   It took twelve years because the manuscript was stolen from my car during my second year of law school.  It represented nearly five years of labor–and it was the only copy.  The loss was so traumatic that I could not write again for almost six years.  And then one rainy California weekend, the log-jam suddenly broke and the words began to flow again.  I ended up moving to England to research the book, and three years later, I was lucky enough to find an  editor, Marian Wood, willing to take on a novice writer and a thousand page manuscript about that “long-dead medieval king,” and able to convince her publisher, Henry Holt and Company, that this was a good idea.   
 I am very grateful to Richard, for he launched my writing career and saved me from a lifetime practicing tax law.  I am very grateful, too, to Macmillan, my British publisher, for deciding to re-issue Sunne in a hardcover edition.   Few books ever get a rebirth like this, one that has enabled me to correct the typographical errors that infiltrated the original British hardcover edition of Sunne and to rectify my own mistakes that came to light after Sunne’s publication, the most infamous being a time-traveling little grey squirrel.  In this new edition, I have also made some changes to the dialogue.  Sunne was my first novel and was therefore a learning experience.  In subsequent novels, I came to see that in attempting to portray medieval speech, less is more. 
 It does not seem possible that thirty years could have passed since Sunne’s publication in the United Kingdom.   And because history is not static, ebbing and flowing like the tides, there have been new discoveries in those thirty years, information surfacing that was not known during those twelve years that I was researching Richard’s world.   For example, I state in Sunne that Richard and Anne wed without a papal dispensation, but there is some evidence that this is incorrect. The Earl of Warwick sought papal dispensations when he was planning to wed his daughters to George and Richard, and since he received one for George and Isabel, there is no reason to suppose he’d not have been granted one for Richard and Anne; Richard also sought and received a papal dispensation in April, 1472 because of the affinity created by Anne’s marriage to Edward of Lancaster, who was Richard’s second cousin once removed.   We still do not know the exact date of Richard and Anne’s marriage, nor do we know when their son was born, but it seems more likely it was in 1476. 
We also know more about the life of Edward’s daughter Cecily, for since Sunne’s publication, it has been established that she wed Ralph Scrope in late 1484.  He was the son of Thomas, Lord Scrope, but we know little about this brief marriage. Henry Tudor had it annulled upon becoming king so that he could marry her to his uncle, John, Viscount Welles.  He was in his forties and Cecily only eighteen, but what little evidence there is suggests the marriage was a happy one.  They had two daughters, both of whom died before the viscount’s death in 1499.  Cecily had often been in attendance to her sister the queen, but in 1502, she made what had to be a love match with a man of much lesser status, a mere esquire, William Kyme.  Tudor was furious, banishing her from court and confiscating her estates.  But she had an unlikely champion in Tudor’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who’d apparently become fond of Cecily, and she interceded with her son on Cecily’s behalf.  After the death of her beloved sister, Elizabeth, in 1503, Cecily and her husband retired from the court and settled on the Isle of Wight.  She and William had a son, Richard, born in 1505 and a daughter, Margaret, born in 1507.  Since Cecily died on August 24, 1507, she may have died from the complications of childbirth.  This marriage, too, appears to have been a happy one.  I would like to think so, for this daughter of York, said by Sir Thomas More to have been “not so fortunate as fair,” had suffered more than her share of sorrow in her thirty-eight years. 
            And in my Afterward, I said that Francis Lovell was not seen alive after the battle of Stoke Field and probably drowned trying to cross the River Trent.   Well, now we know he actually reached safety in Scotland, for he was granted a safe-conduct by the Scots king in June, 1488. Sadly, he then disappears from history’s notice, leaving us to determine for ourselves whether he died soon afterward or perhaps chose to fly under the Tudor radar for the remainder of his days.  
 While these are undeniably interesting discoveries, none of them would be classified as dramatic or a game changer.  We still have not solved the central mystery of Richard’s reign–the fate of his nephews.  That argument goes on, unabated, with many still claiming they died at Richard’s command, others sure they were put to death by Tudor, still others confident that the younger boy survived, surfacing as Perkin Warbeck, and some agreeing with me that the Duke of Buckingham was the most likely culprit.   So my views on that have not changed in the intervening thirty years.  
 There has been, however, a truly amazing development in the fascinating, improbable story of the last Plantagenet king.   In September of 2012, DNA results confirmed that Richard’s lost grave had been found, in a Leicester car park of all places.  I confess I’d been dubious when the expedition was first announced, never imaging they’d find their royal needle in that Leicester haystack.  But once they described their find, I had no doubts whatsoever that this was indeed Richard.  The skull had been smashed in and his bones bore the evidence of a violent, bloody death that tallied with descriptions of Richard’s last moments at Bosworth.  Even more convincing to me was that this man had suffered from scoliosis, which would explain the disparity between Richard’s shoulders, noted during his lifetime; in Sunne, I had him injured in a childhood fall.    I have scoliosis myself and my heart went out to Richard, living in an age without chiropractors.  I’d always known he did not have the deformities claimed by the Tudor historians, for he’d earned himself a reputation as a superb soldier at an early age, and at Bosworth, he fought like a man possessed, coming within yards of reaching Henry Tudor before being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. I still like to think that memories of Richard’s last, desperate charge gave Tudor nightmares for the rest of his life.
What else did we learn from the discovery of Richard’s remains?   While we always knew he’d died violently, we now know he suffered no less than ten wounds after being surrounded and unhorsed.  We know he was five feet, eight inches tall.  And, most amazing of all, we now know what he looked like, thanks to the reconstruction of his face.  There are no contemporary portraits and the best-known one in London’s National Portrait Gallery was tampered with to make him appear as sinister as the stories then circulating about him.  For those who have not seen Richard’s reconstruction, it is accessible on the Internet, and will be included in some of the many books sure to be written about this remarkable archaeological find.  What struck me was how young he looks.  It is almost like watching a film about England before World War I; the characters always seem so vulnerable, living their lives with such heartrending innocence, not knowing what horrors lay ahead for them.   Eden before the Fall.  Or Eden while Edward IV still reigned and Richard was the loyal younger brother, Lord of the North, never imagining what fate held in store for him and his doomed House.   
S.K.P.
March 1, 2013
*     *     *     *      *
 The members of my Richard III tour agreed that the highlight of the trip was our visit to Leicester, where we visited the car park and met with Philippa Langley and Mathew Morris.  Philippa was the driving force behind this quixotic, remarkable project and Mathew is one of the archaeologists involved in the dig.  Philippa’s fascinating story of the hunt for Richard’s long-lost grave will be available for sale on October 22nd.   Here is the link.   http://www.amazon.com/Kings-Grave-Search-Richard-ebook/dp/B00CQY9FDG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381806318&sr=1-1&keywords=philippa+langley    I will discuss our Leicester experiences when I am able to blog about the tour; it was a memorable evening in so many respects.   The odds were so against Philippa, but she persevered when most people would have given up in despair.  If Richard III does have a guardian angel, she lives in Edinburgh!
October 15, 2013
   

The Sunne in Splendour UK edition - onsale 9/12

August 16th, 2013

This is the cover for the new hardcover edition of Sunne, which gets its rebirth in the UK on September 12th, thanks to my British publisher, Macmillan’s.  As an utterly neutral observer, I think it is spectacular.   Just to jog memories, it will include a new Author’s Note and I have made some changes to the dialogue as well as correcting some typographical errors that infiltrated the original hardback edition.   And Macmillan is issuing a new Sunne e-book to reflect these changes.

My Richard III Tour and The Sunne in Splendour

July 30th, 2013

As many of you know, I am leading a tour to England this September, following in the Footsteps of Richard III, visiting all of the places that were important to Richard during his lifetime and brief reign.  The tour sold out in two days, showing that Richard has rock star appeal even after 500 years!  Some of my British readers had indicated they’d love to meet me during the course of the tour.  I discussed this with Academic Travel and they explained they normally do not permit non-tour members to take part in the scheduled events.   But they understood that these were unusual circumstances and they knew I did not want to disappoint my readers.  So I was very pleased when they came up with this option.  They have scheduled a special event in York that will be open to the public.  It will take place on the evening of September 10th at Mansion House in York.  But because seating is limited, anyone wanting to attend must purchase a ticket in advance and sooner rather than later would probably be better.   Here is the information below, as well as links to the Mansion House and Barley Hall, where the reception afterward will be held.  My publisher has assured me that we will have copies of the new hardcover edition of The Sunne in Splendour available for purchase and of course I’d be delighted to sign them.  (Writers love doing that!) 
Tuesday September 10th, Mansion House, York at 6:30 pm.
Ticket price £25
Join Sharon Kay Penman for a short preview reading of A King’s Ransom, to be published in 2014.
A buffet reception with live music inspired by the Middle Ages follows at Barley Hall.
Sharon will also be available for book signing.
Pre-booking is essential as capacity is strictly limited. For more information or to make a booking please call +44 01904 615505 or at jorvikbookings.com
 http://www.mansionhouseyork.com/ 
http://barleyhall.co.uk/about-barley-hall/
 Our Eleanor tour was a magical experience and many friendships were formed, which I suspect does not usually occur on tours.   If this one goes as well, we will give serious consideration to another Richard III tour next year, perhaps in time to visit his new tomb.  We are still planning another Eleanor tour, but we continue to be stymied by the renovations at the Abbaye Royale hotel on the grounds of Fontevrault Abbey, and so we would not be able to schedule the Eleanor tour until 2015.    
 This has been such a good year for Richard—and therefore, for Sunne.  I am very happy to report that Sunne is back on Amazon.com.UK’s Kindle historical fiction bestseller list.  I was puzzled at first by the sudden bump in sales, but then I realized I probably have Philippa Gregory to thank for that!  It makes sense that viewers of her television series being shown in the UK this summer might be motivated to find out more about the Wars of the Roses.  
 I will try again to get my blog to allow me to insert the new Sunne book jacket, which I love.  (This has been an on-going problem, which will not be surprising to any of my friends and readers who’ve been following my computer woes on Facebook. Several of them even suggested that I have my very own “dead zone” hovering over me at all times.)    But in case it balks again, I am including the Amazon.com.UK link for those who have not seen the new cover yet.
This rebirth of Sunne gave me a rare opportunity.  I was able to rewrite some of the dialogue from the original edition of Sunne thirty years ago—and yes that makes me feel very old.   I have also written a new Author’s Note to reflect the amazing discovery of Richard’s lost grave.  Unfortunately, space constraints compelled us to cut some of the new AN for the hardcover edition.  But the AN will appear in its entirety in the new Kindle edition of Sunne, which will be released at the same time as the hardcover, September 12th.  And I will post it on my website, too, once the book is published.   Many of my American readers have expressed their disappointment at missing out, but they can still buy the new hardcover edition; the wonderful folks at Book Depository will ship worldwide for free.     They cannot buy the new Kindle e-book, of course, thanks to the restrictions that drive writers and readers to drink.   But one of my American publishers, St Martin’s Press, will be bringing out a new Kindle e-book edition of Sunne that will mirror the British one, even as to the British spelling.  American spelling really jars a minority of my British readers, but I’ve never had any American readers complain about British spelling.  I rather fancy it myself, and managed to get the British spelling of grey approved for all of my books because Elizabeth Woodville’s first husband was named Grey.
 Anyway, here is the Amazon link.   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sunne-Splendour-Sharon-Penman/dp/0230768695/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373755647&sr=1-2 And here is the Book Depository link.  Apparently they are not taking pre-orders, but they do have a Notify Me feature to alert readers when it becomes available for sale.  Ignore the icon saying the paperback edition will also be published on September 12th.  That is not so; it will be published in the UK next spring.  http://www.bookdepository.com/search/advanced?page=1&searchRefined=1&searchAddedTerm=&searchTitle=The+Sunne+in+Splendour&searchAuthor=Sharon+Penman&searchPublisher=Macmillan&searchIsbn=&searchLang=&submit=%3CSPAN%3E%3CEM%3ESearch%3C%2FEM%3E%3C%2FSPAN%3E 
 These are exciting times to be a Ricardian!
July 30, 2014
 

INTERVIEW WITH ANNE EASTER SMITH

July 20th, 2013

I am sure many of my readers are familiar with the books of Anne Easter Smith, who has written several well-regarded novels about the Yorkists, beginning with her first, A Rose for the Crown, about Richard III.  Her newest book is about a woman I always found very sympathetic, Edward’s mistress, Jane Shore.  Jane always reminded me a bit of Charles II’s favorite, Nell Gwynn, and I am sure that Anne will do justice to Jane.  Anne has also provided a brief biography.  Sadly, I could not put up a photo of the Royal Mistress book cover as my blog has been rejecting them for some time now and we’ve yet to resolve the problem.  But you can see the cover on Amazon here.  http://www.amazon.com/Royal-Mistress-Anne-Easter-Smith/dp/1451648626/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374334120&sr=1-1&keywords=anne+easter+smith+royal+mistress       So read the interview below and enjoy!
short bio:
A native of England, Anne spent some of her childhood in Germany and Egypt and the rest at boarding school. She came to the US in the late ‘60s for two years and is still here, living in Newburyport, MA with her husband, Scott. Anne is the author of five novels about the York family in the Wars of the Roses, all published by Touchstone at Simon & Schuster. Her third, The King’s Grace, won the 2009 Best Historical Biography award from Romantic Times Book Review. Royal Mistress tells the story of the rise and fall of Jane Shore, King Edward IV’s favorite and final mistress. The book arrived in bookstores on May 7th.
Q. How did you chose Jane Shore as your latest protagonist?
A.  The one important member of the York family who I had only written about as a peripheral character to the main ones in my first four books was King Edward IV. I felt he needed fleshing out (although he did that himself rather well!). After all, Edward became the first Yorkist king at 19 after some thrilling victories in battle, like Towton and Tewkesbury. I had dealt with his early years as king in A Rose for the Crown and Daughter of York, as seen through the eyes of his brother, Richard of Gloucester in the first book and his sister, Margaret, in the second. As I have consistently told the York story during the Wars of the Roses through a different woman’s eyes in each book, I searched for a compelling protagonist to focus on Edward’s character. I suppose I could have chosen Elizabeth Woodville, his queen, but as  Philippa Gregory had only just released her book about Elizabeth, I did not want to be accused of being a copycat! (Although my take on Elizabeth would have been quite different.) I knew Jane Shore’s story from reading Jean Plaidy’s The Goldsmith’s Wife(pub. 1950) long ago, and when I found out that Plaidy’s research was now not up-to-date, I decided to retell Jane’s story with the new information we have about her early life.

Q. Tell us a little about who Jane was.
A.  Elizabeth (Jane) Lambert was a daughter of John and Amy Lambert of the London parish of St. Mary-le-Bow. John was a wealthy mercer, or silk merchant, and had been Master of the Mercers’ Guild (or Company or Mystery), the largest and most important guild in the city. Before we meet Jane in Royal Mistress, he had been an alderman and sheriff of London. We believe Jane was one of six children, although a couple of them disappeared from the records. The exact date of her birth is unknown. However, we do know she lived a fairly long life as Sir Thomas More describes a meeting with her, somewhere between 1516 and 1519, and used the word “septuagenarian.” I think he was probably guessing, and that the penury she found herself in at that time may have made her appear older than she was. Jane became Edward’s mistress sometime in the mid 1470s, not long after she married another mercer, William Shore. The marriage was not successful and Jane filed for annulment not long after. Whether it was through the king’s influence that she was freed from her marriage vows, we don’t know, but she was granted an annulment (“divorce” was a word not used in those days) on the grounds of impotence–very unusual and hard to prove. We know that Jane was beautiful, and later portraits of her always depict her with long fair hair and large eyes. She was described as rather small, even for her time, and one can imagine the picture she and Edward made together as he was 6ft. 3 1/2 inches! Edward is to have declared that Jane was the wittiest of his mistresses, and those who chronicled the goings on at court also mentioned that “of all women, he loved her the most.”

Q. Your previous books are told in third-person personal narrative but for Royal Mistress you use omniscient narration. Why did you change your structure?
A.  I am glad you noticed! In case the terms are unfamiliar to anyone, the difference between the two forms of narration is that in third person personal, you must pretty much hang out in your protagonist’s head. This means it’s hard for you to go into battle if you have a female protagonist; she needs to hear about it from a letter or from someone who was there. Because Jane was the king’s mistress, there were too many scenes where Jane would not be present but that would be key to the story, so by using the omniscient voice, I can be inside other people’s heads and certainly in other places where Jane was not present. It was confusing at first, but once I got the hang of it, I found it very freeing.

Q. Whose heads in particular did you want to be in other than Jane’s?
A.  For the first time, I braved the inside of male brains! I still am not sure how men think, but I gave it my best shot. So, Edward IV was an obvious target, as were his chamberlain, friend and Jane’s champion, Will Hastings, Jane’s husband, William Shore, and most important to me, Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III. In my other books, my pro-Richard stance comes through loud and clear. But in Royal Mistress I had to look at him through other people’s eyes–notably my protagonist Jane’s and her protector Will Hastings’s, both of whom Richard punished severely after Edward died. But, by also being able to jump into Richard’s head, I could temper what other people were saying or thinking by showing Richard’s motivation for some of his more controversial actions. Richard was driven by a strong sense of duty, morality and loyalty, and woe betide anyone who did not measure up.

Q. Although Jane was a concubine and rose and fell because she used her body, did you find her a sympathetic character to research and write?
A.  Oh yes. Jane was witty, kind and loyal. She was doomed as soon as William Hastings set eyes on her and marked her out as a lover for either himself or for his friend and master, King Edward. Once her marriage was annulled, she was at the mercy of any man who fancied her. In those days, a woman’s path was defined by the men in her life: father, brother, husband or lord. I had to find the person that won the love and admiration of three of England’s most powerful men in 1470-1480s: Edward IV, William Hastings and Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset and oldest son of Queen Elizabeth Woodville (by her first marriage). And Jane’s story was full of enough drama to inspire poets, playwrights and prose writers to retell it through the centuries. Royal Mistress is just latest of many efforts to do justice to this intriguing, almost-forgotten woman in history.

Thank you so much for sharing this with your many and faithful readers, Sharon. Anyone who loves your Sunne in Splendor will recognize most of the characters in Royal Mistress.
Thank you, Anne, for agreeing to this interview.   It was a pleasure to “chat” with you.  I am sure Royal Mistress will be a great success and I am also sure that somewhere, Jane Shore is smiling.
July 20, 2013

My Game of Thrones Quiz

May 15th, 2013

May 15th is another slow
history day, so I was going to fall back on that old standby, Game of Thrones,
which is quite medieval except for the dragons and Others and dyrewolves
and…Okay, maybe it is not so medieval.  But I decided that my Game of Thrones quiz
would make a better blog than a Facebook entry. 
First, I want to pass on an interesting bit of information.  George RR Martin wrote Sunday’s episode
himself.  He writes one each season; I’m
not sure which one he did in Season One but he did the Blackwater Battle
episode in Season Two.

     I hope this will
be fun for my fellow Game addicts.  
While we are all living in the Martin universe, we live on separate
continents; there are those of us who have read the books and those of us who
have not, preferring to watch the series without knowing what is coming
next.    So it will be tricky to pull
this off without telling the latter what they do not want to know.  But I have confidence we can do it.   The first SPOILER ALERT is for those who are
watching the HBO series but have not seen Sunday’s episode yet.  Read no further if you want to preserve the
suspense.    I found it interesting that
almost all of the scenes in this episode were not in the books, and even more
interesting that Master Martin penned them himself.   I really like the by-play between Bronn and
Tyrion.  I am still very worried about
Gentry.  I loved Tywin’s response when
bratty grandson Joffrey whined about having to climb all the steps up to the Hand’s
Tower.  Tywin said coolly, “We can always
arrange to have you carried.”   Joffrey
may be an idiot as well as a sociopath, but at least he has enough sense to be
wary of Grand-dad.   And I also loved Arya’s answer when asked who
her God was:  Death.    Rather sad, though, that this young girl
could make that sound so believable.

            Okay, now
we are into more dangerous territory.  I
want to ask a few questions about the characters.  Only some of my own answers come from the
books and we do not want to give anything away for our HBO-only brothers and
sisters.  So I suggest this.  In your own answers, do not specify WHY you
are choosing a particular character if his or her bad behavior has not yet
occurred in the series.    Just say; see
books.   Those who’ve read them will
understand and we won’t be spoiling the suspense for those who haven’t.  Here are the questions.

1)        Who do you think is the most evil character
in the Ice and Fire series?  For me, it
is Littlefinger, but my pick is based on what he does in later books.  So I am not going into detail about his many
sins.  This is a SEE BOOKS sort of pick.

2)       Who do you think is the most unlikable
character in the series?   For me, it is
Cersei.  My choice is based more on the
books than the series, especially the fourth book when we are allowed into
Cersei’s head—not a pleasant place to visit.

3)      Who
do you think is the character who has made the most remarkable
rehabilitation?  For me, that has to be
Jaime.

4)       Who do you think is the most sadistic
character in the series?    For me, it is
a dead heat between Joffrey and Theon’s torturer.  (Notice I do not identify the monster since
he has not be identified yet on HBO)  I’d
actually give him the edge over Joffrey, although it is a close race.

5)      This
is strictly an HBO question.  Which
character do you think makes more of an impact in the series than in the
books?   For me, it would be Margaery,
who did not make much of an impression on me on the printed page, but who
steals every scene she is in, thanks to the wonderful Natalie Dormer.   Same for her grandmother, the Queen of
Thorns, played by the incomparable Diana Rigg, who’d make a marvelous Eleanor
of Aquitaine in her winter years.   And
while I think Tywin is a strong character in the books, Charles Dance gives him
even more of an edge on screen. 

6)      Who
do you think is the character nowhere near as smart as he or she thinks?   For me, this is Cersei, based on both the
series and the books.

7)      Which
“good character” do you find the least sympathetic?   For me, that is Catelyn.  I can’t forgive her for the cruelty she
displayed to Jon Snow as a boy. 

8)       I
often found myself wanting to scream at my Angevins when they were about to do
something they’d greatly regret.  
Eleanor, maybe you ought to rethink this rebellion idea.  Richard, I think you forgot your hauberk;
want to go back for it?   Henry, for a
brilliant man, how can you be so dense as a dad?   Applying the lessons you belatedly learned
with Hal to Richard and Geoffrey is not going to work out so well for you.   You get the drift.  So here is my Game of Thrones question.   Which character did you want to grab and
give a good shake?  For me, this was an
easy one—the noble Ned Stark.  

9)      This
one is posed out of curiosity about your answers.  Who is your favorite character?  For me, it is Tyrion, both in the books and
as played by the brilliant Peter Dinklage in the HBO series.  

10)   Which secondary characters are you most happy
to see in a scene in the HBO series?  
For me, it would be Bronn and Ygritte and Brienne.    

11)   Lastly, what is your favorite scene in the
series so far?  And which one do you
think is the most shocking to date?   For
me, my favorite is the scene with Daenerys and the slimy slave trader, when she
trades one of her precious dragons for his Unsullied slave army and then pulls
a beautiful double-cross.   The most
shocking to me—especially since I had not read any of the books when I watched
the first episode of Season One—was when Jaime murmured, “The things I do for
love,” and pushed Bran out that window.

 

May 15, 2013