INTERVIEW WITH MARGARET FRAZER FOR CIRCLE OF WITCHES

I am delighted to welcome Margaret Frazer back to my blog. I am a great fan of Margaret’s historical mysteries, as most of you know, and highly recommend her Sister Frevisse series and her newer one, featuring one of my favorite characters, the dashing player and sometimes spy, Joliffe.  But Margaret has temporarily abandoned the fifteenth century.  Her new novel, available now as an e-book, Circle of Witches, is set in nineteenth century Yorkshire.  I was quite intrigued by this switch and so I invited Margaret to stop by so I could find out more.

Sharon: Where did your idea for writing this book come from?

Margaret:  Long, long ago I had unlimited access to a university library and I just plundered the shelves. I wasn’t a student. I was working there. And I had a lovely time just searching the shelves for things that caught my interest.
I got involved in studying megalithic circles and standing stones, which sidelined me into books about paganism and alternative ways of seeing our relationship with nature. I remember reading countless books on these topics. And out of this began to grow the idea that these were all good elements for a story. At the same time, I had a deep love for the Yorkshire dales. So I thought that would be a good place to set a story like this: It wouldn’t be modern, but it wouldn’t be far in the past. It would be some place where the transition was happening: Where the ancient world and ancient beliefs were just about gone and the modern world had not yet arrived.

Sharon:  Is that what led you to pick the 1800s as a time period?

Margaret:  Yes. Because they were well past the point where people were saying things like “burn the witches”, but there was still the possibility in the remote areas that the old ways could continue seriously instead of as folk parties designed for tourists to come to.

Sharon:  Speaking of these ancient religious themes versus modern religious themes, the religious themes in Circle of Witches are very different from those in your Dame Frevisse novels. How do you think your readers are going to react to that?

Margaret:  I hope they’ll be intrigued by the differences. I know that a lot of people reading my other books are convinced that I must be Catholic because I create such believable Benedictine nuns, but I’m not. This is simply – or not so simply – an author researching and using imagination to create what they believe to be a real person. And I’ve met nuns who have said, “She’s so real. And all the nuns are so real.” So I know that it worked.
But it’s true. For those who are convinced that this was my primary expression of faith, they’re going to be very intrigued – and perhaps a little disoriented – when I’m talking about a totally different mindset that I’ve research and imagined and created and made real. So I’m hoping that they’ll appreciate the different, for lack of a better word, ambience of the two approaches.

Sharon:  Was it a deliberate choice? Were you deliberately making it different from what you did before?

Margaret:  No, it wasn’t deliberate. It was simply what the story required. If I was interested in this theme and this was the plot I was working on, then this was the way the story had to go. It wasn’t, “I’m going to be very different in this book.” It was simply what the book demanded.

Sharon: You mention the themes and the historical aspects of the time period you’ve chosen in the 1800s. But why this particular location? Why the Yorkshire dales?

Margaret:  I visited the dales several times and once lived there for six months. It’s beautiful. And in the 1800s – especially the early 1800s – it was still a remote part of England. The railways had not come. So the landscape had so many elements in it that make it perfect for centering this story around.
And there was also a simple desire to write about it as a way to re-experience a place I love and care about deeply. So, in some ways, the book is my song of the Yorkshire dales.

Sharon: I know that this is a novel that you came back to time and time again until it was perfect. How did it change and grow over time for you?

Margaret:  Well, I grew and changed over time, so my perception of characters – of people’s relationships to each other and to themselves and to the world – became more complex and hopefully deeper. So things that had been all right when I was in my thirties I wanted to express more of when I was in my forties and fifties. There was more to be said and more to be done. And once you do that all of a sudden there are possibilities in the plot that hadn’t existed when these people weren’t so involved (both internally and externally).

Sharon: What’s the most important idea in the book for you?

Margaret:  I have to think about that… [long pause, then thoughtfully]
That love of place and people should most deeply inform our decisions about life.
 
Sharon:  How have the love of place and people informed your decisions about life?

Margaret: I suppose, when I was in my teens, I fell in love with Shakespeare’s plays. That led to falling in love with England before I ever went there. And it was wonderful when I got there to discover that it was even better than my youthful dreams had envisioned. From there, I fell in love with English history in the 1400s, so that a great deal of my life and my travels have been focused around knowing that time period and knowing that place more intimately.
And my love of people – or, at least, certain people – has given me a deeper understanding of how lives link in order to benefit or harm each other. So I have this love among people and loves of a place and time. And when you love you want to know more. So for decades that’s what’s been informing my life and my work. To explore and to learn.

Sharon:  Do you see parallels between that and the characters in Circle of Witches? Do you see yourself in the character of Damaris?

Margaret:  It’s always been diverting for people to say, “Oh, you see yourself as your main character!” Whoever that might be in the present book. But the truth is, I’m in all of those characters. In order to write believable characters, I have to find some element of myself that I can then explore and enlarge and turn into this person on the page.

So, Damaris? Yes. But also everyone else in the book: The loving ones, the destructive ones, the foolish ones. They all have elements of me. Without that they would be… unliving.
Of course, when it’s someone really nasty sometimes you find things out about yourself you didn’t really want to know! [laughs]

Sharon:  Speaking of that, let’s talk about the villainess of Circle of Witches – the platinum blonde Virna. What do you see of yourself in her?

Margaret:  I have experienced hatred born out of frustration or anger. It’s never led me to try to destroy someone, but it burns and it hurts and it’s terrible. And if you’re lucky, you realize how destructive it is. I did. And I worked at… disposing of the anger in me; turning it into something else and accepting the situation and the people who had given rise to it.
But in Virna’s case, she never does. She hates and that’s all she becomes: Her hatred.
And I can see myself in that: If I had taken that feeling of hatred that I experienced and let it take over my life, that would have been Virna.

Sharon:  But for those of us who love your medieval books, you will be going back there, right?

Margaret:  Most certainly! The two books I’m working on now – the ones roiling in my head – are both back in the 1400s: Not history mysteries, but straight historical fiction.

Sharon:  And for those who have enjoyed your medieval stories, does Circle of Witches have something to offer them?

Margaret:  Oh, yes! It’s an extremely good, exciting story that you can lose yourself in. Which is, I suppose, what I hope for in everything I write. And what I look for in everything that I read.

Sharon:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, Margaret.   Circle of Witches is available now on Amazon.   And I discovered that you have a new collection of Sister Frevisse stories out in Kindle, too, Sins of the Blood.  Naturally I could not resist getting it, too.  So once again you are playing havoc with my deadline for A King’s Ransom!  Here is the Amazon link to Circle of Witches.  http://www.amazon.com/Circle-of-Witches-ebook/dp/B00AG3KGFK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1355629529&sr=1-1&keywords=Circle+of+Witches  
 And since I won’t have another blog up until the new year, I would like to wish all of my readers a peaceful and happy holiday, with fervent hope that 2013 will be a better year for us all.
December 15, 2012  
 

 

88 Responses to “INTERVIEW WITH MARGARET FRAZER FOR CIRCLE OF WITCHES”

  1. Paula Mildenhall Says:

    I would like to wish you a peaceful and happy holiday as well! And to everyone else who posts here. I don’t post here often myself, but I do drop by to see what everyone has to say.

    I own several Margaret Frazer books and this one looks fascinating too. Great interview. Another one for the wish list.

  2. Margaret Frazer » Blog Archive » A Midwinter Blog Tour with Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    [...] that lay at the heart of Circle of Witches came from… and what the book means to me. Please join us for a thoughtful lingering as the blog tour marches [...]

  3. Margaret Frazer » Blog Archive » Circle of Witches – A Midwinter Blog Tour Says:

    [...] that lay at the heart of Circle of Witches came from… and what the book means to me. Please join us for a thoughtful lingering as the blog tour marches [...]

  4. Valerie L. Says:

    Thanks for this interview and letting us know of a new Margaret Frazer book. I went right over to Amazon and bought Circle of Witches for my Kindle. And then I found so many others listed there I just had to buy more. I love the Joliffe mysteries, so I know I have hours of happy reading ahead of me. To everyone here, no matter what you celebrate, have a wonderful holiday season.

  5. skpenman Says:

    I may not be on Facebook for a while, as I am dealing with yet another back pain flare-up and Melusine has been proving that I was right to name her after the Demon Countess of Anjou. I have just been told that her motherboard may be the problem and I have to bring her in to Best Buy tomorrow to be sent out for an exorcism; okay, they said “repair,” but we know what they really meant. So here is the Today in History Note for the 17th. I know I can count on you all to carry on until I can surface again!
    Baldwin, Count of Hainaut and Count of Flanders died on this date in 1195. He was the father of Philippe Capet’s unfortunate wife, Isabelle, who died in childbirth at age twenty. He’d wed the sister of Philip d’Alsace, the Count of Flanders, who appears as a character in Devil’s Brood and Lionheart, and when Philip died at the siege of Acre without a legitimate heir to succeed him, Flanders passed to Baldwin, his brother-in-law. Philip had been wed to the niece of Eleanor, daughter of her sister Petronilla, and he’d claimed her inheritance of Vermandois after contending she’d been unfaithful; some historians and some of his contemporaries were skeptical of that, but it did not help his wife or the poor soul whom Philip alleged to have been her lover; he met a very unpleasant end. To show how impossibly entangled the lives of these people were, Baldwin’s son, also a Baldwin, succeeded him as Count of Flanders and wed the daughter of Marie of Champagne, sister of Henri in Lionheart, and he was said to have loved her “with a fervent love.” Both he and his Marie died young, though, victims of that shameful farce known as the Fourth Crusade, which never reached the Holy Land, choosing instead to sack the Christian city of Constantinople. Baldwin was then named as the first Latin Emperor of what we today call the Byzantine Empire, and died as a prisoner in Bulgaria, most likely put to death. Marie, not knowing of this, had sailed to join him at Acre, where she then took ill and died.

  6. Koby Says:

    Oh, very interesting interview Sharon. I really liked it. And I’ll pray for your back and computer.
    I missed yesterday and today, so: Yesterday, Catherine of Aragon was born, and Henry VI [VII] of England was crowned King of France. Pope Gregory VIII died, having been Pope for 57 days, during which he had managed to issue the bull Audita Tremendi, calling for the Third Crusade. He was also the papal legate sent to investigate Thomas Becket’s murder, and absolved Henry II of blame.
    Lastly, there was this link, which I hope will be taken as good news: telegraph .co .uk/history/9745893/Carpark-skeleton-will-be-confirmed-as-Richard-III .html (delete the spaces before periods to see it - I did it so this comment won’t have to wait for Sharon’s approval due to the link).

  7. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I’m just about to watch that Charlie Rose program on PTSD, aired last night & repeated now. If you go to the website, you’ll be able to watch it as well…..don’t know how many days it will be available online.

  8. Joan Says:

    I also enjoyed the interview with Margaret Frazer……..Circle of Witches sounds like something I’d really enjoy, & will alert a couple of friends & relatives who I know will be interested. I like the idea of how the writing process can become a conduit for self-knowledge, Margaret. Like all art forms.

  9. Margaret Frazer Says:

    Re: Your wish list, Paula. I fully support that, but also recommend buying multiple copies to give as gifts to other people. ;)

    And I’d like to join with Sharon in wishing you all happy holidays. I’m sorry I wasn’t here yesterday to reply to you all properly, but I spent the day driving down to a cottage on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. Holiday cheer fills the air!

  10. Paula Mildenhall Says:

    Margaret, I really need to clone myself so one person can read and the other work. I started a wish list when my TBR pile got out of control. I have 3 of your novels on the TBR pile. I will get to them. And when I do I have a feeling I will read them all. I hear a lot of rave reviews from friends. Last night I actually looked up which of your novels are available on Kindle. There were a lot of the Sister Frevisse novels but I could not see any of the Joliffe books. I am in Australia by the way. Do you know if we can get the Joliffe books on Kindle here?

  11. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I thoroughly enjoyed your note concerning Baldwin of Hainaut. He was Philip of Flanders’s great rival on the tournament field and I love the stories concerning their numerous encounters. For all interested, I highly recommend Chronicle of Hainaut by Gilbert of Mons (Baldwin’s chancellor and admirer) translated into English by Laura Napran.

    Sharon, good luck with your computer. I want to mention, just in case you are not with us today, that on 19 December 1154 Henry and Eleanor were crowned king and queen of England by Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey. Henry of Huntigdon described at length the events following King Stephen’s death: ‘… Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, with many nobles, dispatched messengers in all haste to their now lord the Duke of Normandy, intreating him to come over without delay, and receive the crown of England. Hindered, however, by contrary winds and a stormy sea, as well as other circumstances, it was not till six days before Christmas that, accompanied by his wife and brothers, with a retinue of great nobles and a strong force, he landed in the New Forest. England, therefore, was left for six weeks without a king, but by God’s providence was in perfect tranquility, the love or the fear of the expected king securing it. Upon the landing he [Henry] proceeded to London, and, ascending the throne of England was crowned and consecrated with becoming pomp and splendour, amidst universal rejoicing, which many mingled with tears of joy!’ (p.296-97). What the chronicler does not mention is the fact that at the time of the coronation Eleanor was expecting her second child by Henry. The princeling would be born seventy-one days later, on 28 February 1155, would be given his father’s name and would go down in history as Henry the Young King. Yes, Hal was present at his parents’ coronataion, albeit a little bit incognito :-)

  12. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    I may not be around in the nearest future that is why I want to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! And in my native Polish:
    Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku! I love you and thank you for all the joy you bring into my life.

  13. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks for the heads-up about Charlie Rose, Joan. Paula, I’ll ask Margaret about Joliffe on Kindle in case she doesn’t see this in her holiday retreat. I’d like to know that myself.
    Thanks for another interesting post, Kasia. I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas. I have a video of a beautiful 350 year old Polish church that I am going to post here for you–and everyone else.
    Here is today’s Facebook Note, written last night on Lionheart as Demon Spawn fumed at being bypassed. But it is easier to use a laptop when my back is so painful. Also, who could trust a computer aptly named Demon Spawn?

    My wonderful chiropractor has worked his magic and I am slowly on the mend. Hopefully that will soon be true for Melusine.
    This has been a heartbreaking week for so many. We all feel so helpless in face of unspeakable horror. Here are some stories of people attempting to reach out to one another, to offer some small measure of comfort. I’ve seen photos of vigils being held for the slain children in countries all over the world, Albania, India, Pakistan. Grief is a universal language. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/18/15999109-if-you-do-good-youll-feel-good-ann-curry-explains-origins-of-26acts-of-kindness?lite http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/comfort-dogs-arrive-in-ne_n_2316346.html
    On the historical front, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine were crowned on December 19th, 1154. I’ve always thought this had to be one of the most gratifying moments of Eleanor’s life. Two years earlier, she’d been divorced by the French king for what was perceived as her failure to give him a male heir. Yes, I think she welcomed the divorce, for their marriage was irretrievably broken by then. But the fact remains that she was viewed as a barren, discarded queen in the eyes of her contemporaries, and I find it hard to believe this did not lacerate her pride. But Eleanor was the living embodiment of that old adage, Don’t get mad, get even. She began by defying Louis and taking a husband of her own choosing, probably the last man in Christendom whom the French king would have wanted her to wed. She then gave the lie to the barren canard by presenting Henry with a son just fifteen months into their marriage. And on this December day at Westminster Abbey, she became a queen again. I think we can safely say this was a very good day for Eleanor, a very bad one for Louis.

  14. Joan Says:

    Kasia, thank you for the posts & also want to wish you & your family a joyous Christmas & good wishes for 2013. It’s been so much fun connecting with you.

  15. Koby Says:

    Woah. I beat Sharon for this? Considering the importance and the fact I came home late, that is surprising. Although if it’s because she still has back problems, sorry, Sharon, and all best wishes. You are in my prayers.
    Today, Edith of Wessex, wife of Edward the Confessor died, Anne of Brittany was married by proxy to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, who had been Margaret of York’s step-son-in-law through his previous marriage to Mary of Burgundy. This marriage never came to more than this, as shortly afterwards she was forced to marry Charles VIII of France. Lastly, and most importantly, Henry and Eleanor were crowned today at Westminster.

  16. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Love your post, Koby, but you didn’t beat me. :-) See above, though I only talked about Henry and Eleanor’s coronation. And I still say you have an unfair advantage since your day starts hours before mine does. Same for you, Kasia!

  17. Stephanie Says:

    Hi all! Sorry I’ve been quiet for a while. Life has sped up considerably approaching Christmas but I have reason to expect it will slow down to a normal pace again after the first week of January when the kids are back in school.

    I just wanted to say “hello”. And Margaret, I’ll float a greeting up the Mississippi River to you. If you are still at the cottage, I hope you are having a restful time. You deserve it, for many reasons. ;)

  18. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I would never dare to compete with you or Koby:-) Just dropped by yesterday, read you had computer problems again, read you “count” on us to carry on and, in that case, decided to leave a short note concerning Eleanor and Henry, too important anniversary to ommit (besides I copied the note from Henry the Young King’s blog, had no time to create anything new- we are all quite busy before Christmas :-)).

    Just in case you haven’t noticed my Christmas wishes above:
    Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!

  19. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Joan, thank you for your warm and kind words. The same to you:-) How are you spending your Christmas, if I may ask of course :-)

  20. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Kasia, would it be pushy to ask you to give us a phonetic pronunciation for your Christmas greeting? I’d love to be able to say it properly. Are you likely to have a white Christmas? I think that is a lock for Stephanie. I tease Koby about our competition, but I love the posts that you all make. You and Koby in particular expand our knowledge since you often post on events that are not as well known to my readers or me.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    know some of you will post today that Richard was captured on December 20th, 1192 outside Vienna, but I believe the more reliable date is the 21st, so I will put up an excerpt from Ransom tomorrow.
    Meanwhile here is a fun link about shooting the book jacket photos for Priscilla Royale’s excellent medieval mystery series, which will now be coming out in the UK, too. And I am delighted to report that her novel Sanctity of Hate will be reviewed in the New York Times this Sunday. http://shar.es/htkWO

  21. Joan Says:

    Yet another fun career out there that wouldn’t have occurred to me….shooting book jacket photos! Looking forward to the excerpt, Sharon.

    I second the motion for a phonetic pronunciation, Kasia. The day I shopped at our Polish deli, I tried to compose a list of what I’d bought but couldn’t get the “kreska” & “ogonek” right. I’ll be spending Christmas with my son in Tor & getting excited….we have an intractable dwarf to see (Thorin in The Hobbit)…it’s become a ritual in our family…..saw the LOTR trilogy with both my kids, even flying to DC one year to see the last in that trilogy together. We take Tolkien seriously….well, Peter Jackson too! Looking forward to the 5 hr bus trip too…..I have a date with some special people (uninterrupted reading time!)

    Nice to hear from you Stephanie.

  22. Koby Says:

    Ah, in my haste I indeed missed both Sharon and Kasia’s mention of it. Still, I did get in those events Sharon did not mention. And it’s not an unfair advantage, Sharon; I usually don’t get to the computer until around 5 in the evening these days. And thank you for the compliments; you flatter me.

    I want a phonetic pronunciation too, Kasia, though obviously I have no use for Christmas wishes. Still, thank you, and I hope you have a merry Christmas.

    Joan, I had great fun watching the Hobbit, and I’m sure you will as well. It was amazing.

    Lastly, today is the Winter Solstice, Yule, the shortest day in the year. Sharon already mentioned Richard’s capture, so I will only add that some chronicles have this as the date of Thomas Becket’s birth.

  23. skpenman Says:

    On December 21st 1192, Richard was captured by the Duke of Austria, an event that changed the history of several countries. There were a few other happenings worth mentioning on that date; Thomas Becket was born in 1118 and in 1295 Marguerite, queen of St Louis of France and one of the four famed sisters who all wed kings, died. But I’m much more interested in Richard’s bad day. So, as promised, I am posting below an excerpt from A King’s Ransom.
    Here is the background. Richard and a German-speaking youngster and one or two knights made a desperate dash for safety in Moravia, covering an incredible 150 miles in just three days although they were in the mountains in the dead of winter. By the time they reached Vienna, they were just fifty miles from the Moravian border. But Richard was running a fever and was too exhausted to continue, so they took shelter in a village near Vienna until he was up to riding. We do not know the identity of the German-speaking youth, so I named him Arne. We know the other knight with Richard was Guillaume de l’Estrang, although I use an older version of Guillaume, having more than enough Williams wandering about in Ransom. The English chroniclers said he was accompanied by only one knight, but in the letter that Heinrich wrote to Philippe, he said that two knights had been captured with Richard, so I went with that version since it enabled me to insert Morgan into the action. All sorts of legends were later spun out about Richard’s capture, and they were just that, legends. The most reliable accounts are by the Austrian and English chroniclers, as the German and French chroniclers all had very sharp political axes to grind. In this scene, Richard is sleeping and Morgan and Guillain are discussing their plans to move on the next day; Arne was sent into Vienna to buy food, and has not yet returned.
    * * *
    . They were keeping their voices low so Richard would not be disturbed, and frowned as sudden barking erupted outside. Richard did not stir, though, and Morgan began looking for the dice.
    But the barking did not stop, was so loud now that it sounded as if all the dogs in the village were in full tongue. The two men exchanged uneasy looks and Guillain crossed to the window, unbarred the shutters, and peered out. “Holy Christ!” He slammed the shutters and whirled around, the blood draining from his face. “There are soldiers outside!”
    Morgan reacted instinctively, crying out Richard’s name and dashing across the room to bar the door even as he realized the futility of it. The urgency in his voice awoke Richard at once. “Soldiers, sire,” Guillain said hoarsely and Richard was at the window in two strides. Opening the shutters just enough to give him a view of the ale-wife’s yard, he saw crossbowmen and men-at-arms taking up position. Els and her sons were standing out in the street, looking bewildered, as her neighbors emerged to see what was happening. Several knights had dismounted and, as Richard watched, they drew their swords and began to approach the house, shouting his name and one of the few German words he knew, konig—king.
    Richard latched the shutters again. His heart was thudding, his breath coming quick and shallow as his body reacted to the danger, while his stunned brain still struggled to accept what he’d seen. Morgan and Guillain looked just as shocked. None of them had truly believed that they’d be caught, for Richard’s self-confidence was contagious and they’d seen him defy the odds time and time again in the Holy Land. Now that his legendary luck had suddenly run out in this small Austrian village, it did not seem real to any of them, least of all, Richard.
    He had his sword in hand now, but that was an unthinking response. For the first time in his life, he experienced what so many other men did in battle—pure physical panic. They were trapped, with no way out and only two choices—surrender or die. As he stared at the bed-chamber door, hearing the thud of boots as they tried to kick it in, his emotions were in such turmoil that death seemed preferable to what awaited him outside this room.
    * * *

  24. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I’m sending a link to the pronunciation. Could you free it?
    We had snow two weeks ago, but it melted. Wish I’d live in central Poland. They are snowed in there :-)

  25. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Here’s a proper pronunciation of Polish traditional Christmas wishes:

    http://www.omniglot.com/soundfiles/christmas/hppyxmas_pl.mp3

  26. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Joan, I love your LOTR Christmas treadition ;-)

    Stephanie, it’s nice to hear from you again. How are you spending your Christmas?

    I will write a few words about our Polish traditions during Christmas break. Now, back to the kitchen :-) Gee, how I love it!

  27. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Oh, I would forget. Sharon, some sources claim that Stephen was crowned today not on 26th??? Roy Strong in his Coronation and David Crouch in the Normans both take it for granted.

  28. skpenman Says:

    This is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences, in this case, with very good results. My wonderful American editor and publisher, Putnam’s, have agreed to give me a much needed extension for A King’s Ransom. I was in full-panic mode, seeing no way that I could meet the deadline, so I consider this the best possible news, for me and for the book. This means, however, that Ransom cannot be published in October of next year, as was originally planned. I know that some of my readers will be disappointed, but I also know you all understand how much research is involved in writing one of my books, research that requires extra time. Now I will be able to give the remaining chapters the attention they deserve. And my secret fear won’t come true, that after missing the deadline, I’d have to enter the Witness Protection Program!
    Now to the unexpected consequences of this decision. My British agent passed the news on to my new British publisher, Macmillan, which was also my first British publisher. I then learned that they’d been planning to publisher Ransom next October, too, which came as a surprise. They were very understanding, though, and then informed me that they really wanted to publish a book by me next year. And so, since they have the rights to it, they intend to bring out a hardback edition of The Sunne in Splendour next September. Sunne was first published thirty years ago, after all, and books rarely get a second life like this, so I felt as if I’d been given an early Christmas present. They initially set a pub date in October, but rescheduled it for September since I will be in the UK then for my Richard III tour. They will then bring out a new paperback publication of Sunne in 2014, possibly to coincide with their publication of Ransom. Since I know that so many of you are like me and want to have hardback editions of favorite books, I think this is very good news for us all. Maybe even for Richard.

  29. Joan Says:

    Well that is good news all round, Sharon & now you & your back can relax somewhat & enjoy the holidays. And what an honor for Richard III with Sunne resurfacing (along with Richard himself) in another edition……..second lives all over the place!!

    I’m looking forward to hearing of your Polish Christmas traditions when you have time, Kasia. I will have to work at those pronunciations but it will be fun. I found similar sites for Welsh when I was into the trilogy & also Scottish Gaelic with other reading. I love my Welsh name, Siwan…….& Seonag in Scot Gaelic. Sharon, what is your Welsh name?

    Sharon & everyone on this blog, I wish you all a Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays, & my New Year’s wish is for personal fulfillment, new adventures, peace, & healing.

  30. Stephanie Says:

    Kasia, thanks for posting that link. And I look forward to hearing about your traditions. We will really have a quiet Christmas. Will just be home with my husband and two kids. Making some prime rib, a few side dishes and a couple of pies. I think two pies for four people might cover it, don’t you think? :)

  31. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Stephanie, as for my Christmas, let me quote you: “We will really have a quiet Christmas. Will just be home with my husband and two kids.” As for the two pies you’ve mentioned, I definitely agree, they should cover it :-) Although in my case, I’m not sure whether my children’s apetites would be satisfied. We still have our Christmas tree to decorate. It’s waiting patiently in the garage. According to Polish tradition it should be decorated exactly on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure why :-)

  32. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I cannot agree with Joan. That is not good news at all. Not after the snippet of Ransom you have provided (the one describing Richard’s capture). I cannot wait to read the whole.

  33. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Oh, and if you have some free time during Christmas, girls (and boy- Koby I mean you, of course- how is Kenneth Notorius Troublemaker John, BTW? Any news from him?), click onto “Kasia” and meet my new Good King Wenceslas :-)

  34. Joan Says:

    What a great post on your blog, Kasia! Wouldn’t it be fun if we could all time-travel back for a Christmas celebration….let’s make it a whole week. We’d join in on the outdoor activities, hawking for the not-faint of heart, certainly some kind of winter outing….on a horse-drawn makeshift sleigh. All the feasting & dancing & swooning listening to the troubadors (while transfixed by the silks & velvets & bling & gorgeous men……putting all that mistletoe to good use!) And Hal would have arranged a special moment for you via his favorite troubador……a tribute to Kasia.

  35. Stephanie Says:

    Kasia, I’m pretty sure that the tradition of waiting to decorate the tree was a fairly common American tradition too (which obviously came with the Europeans who immigrated) until the last couple of generations. So it’s only fairly recently that we decorate so far ahead of time.

    And would you all suggest that I make three pies? Maybe four, so there is one for each of us? My kids prefer French silk pie, my husband prefers pecan pie, and I am partial to coconut cream. And maybe a pumpkin pie for the fourth. Mmmmmm…. I”m getting hungry.

  36. Stephanie Says:

    I forgot to mention — The last I heard from Ken, he was having a little too much fun with his grandchildren. I can’t imagine why. ;)

  37. Joan Says:

    Stephanie, what is French silk pie? A cream/sugar pie? It sounds like I need the recipe for that. Pecan was a fave till allergies set in, but love coconut cream.

  38. Koby Says:

    In order: Sharon, that was a great scene, and excellent news. Thank you for sharing both. Kasia, that was a very interesting post, I really enjoyed it, and thank you for the pronunciation.
    Today, Bernegaria of Navarre, Richard I’s wife died.

    More importantly (as I reckon): http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dhgdh_o53a0

    Today is the Tenth of Tevet, the day set by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to be the Day of the General Kaddish, for those victims of the Holocaust whose death date was never known, and in memory of all the 6 million Jews who were murdered. This piece, called ‘Kaddish’, by Maurice Ravel, and the accompanying story, are in their memory.

    On the first Day of Judgement after the Holocaust, a group of survivors gathered for the traditional prayers beginning Rosh HaShana. Before they began, one of them spoke. “Today, Jews all over the world will plead with God to judge them favorably and grant them what they wish. What shall we wish for? Sustenance? We have lived on air for the past five years! Life? What life is there to those who have walked through hell?! Children? They were all taken from us, and have returned to the Earth from which we were born! And yet, as Jews, we yet have one last request from God on this day: ‘Yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba!’*
    *’May His great name be exalted and sanctified!’, the opening line of the Kaddish.

  39. Koby Says:

    Foiled once more! My comment is awaiting moderation. And it was such a nice one, too. Free it from its bondage by your grace, Sharon?

  40. skpenman Says:

    I am sorry I took so long to pay the ransom, Koby, but I just logged on. It is now free to fly like a bird. This was a very interesting post, as yours always are. I don’t believe, though, that they are sure Berengaria died on the 23rd; it was my understanding that the actual date of death is not certain. That is sad in and of itelf, isn’t it?

    I just posted this on Facebook and want to share it here, too, in case it helps anyone.

    I want to share a Geek Squad tip that just came in very handy. They told me that Melusine’s troubles were due to malware. The tech said that I should beware of false messages that will look as if it comes from the computer owner’s security system, saying viruses have been found and saying to click at once to clean the computer. He said that even careful people can easily fall for that. I asked him what to do if it happened to me and am I glad I did. This afternoon, I suddenly got a warning from Microsoft Security Essentials, my security program, with the fake virus message. Thanks to the tech, I knew what to do; he’d said it was dangerous even to close it myself. So I followed his advice and called up Task Manager to stop the program from running. So I want to pass this on in case some of you find these false messages popping up on your computers.

  41. Koby Says:

    Indeed, Sharon, you are correct that it not fully confirmed. Similarly, many believe John of England was born today; but I believe the 27th is the more correct date. Thanks for the tip, and I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

  42. skpenman Says:

    I agree, Koby, think the 27th is the more likely date for John’s birth. And i always enjoy your posts!

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    The Welsh princes would have wished you Nadolig Llawen. Henry and Eleanor and their Devil’s Brood would have gone with Joyeux Noel. I’ll settle for a simple Merry Christmas to my friends and readers who celebrate it and thanks to you all for creating such a close-knit, fun community for us on Facebook and Goodreads and my blog.

  43. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Merry Christmas to you, Sharon. See you in September.

  44. Stephanie Says:

    Joan, French silk pie is basically a chocolate cream pie. Eggs and sugar are heated, then baking chocolate is added (melted and stirred in until smooth). Meanwhile you whip up some heavy cream, fold it into the chocolate mixture and then the whole lot is poured into a pre-baked pastry shell and chilled. I also always add peppermint. It is served with chocolate shavings and whipped cream on top. It’s quite a simple pie to make but tastes very decadent! My personal favorite pie is coconut cream, but I”m the only one that will eat it so never make it.

  45. skpenman Says:

    I’m so looking forward to that, Malcolm; I just wish all of my blog friends were coming, too.
    French silk pie is my favorite, Stephanie, so you are lucky I don’t live in MN or I’d have crashed your party for certes.

    I hope you’re all enjoying a special, peaceful day. Here is today’s Facebook Note.

    Christmas day was a very popular one for medieval coronations. The following monarchs all began their reigns on this date.
    Charlemagne became emperor on December 25th, 800 AD
    William the Conqueror became England’s king in 1066
    Baldwin of Boulogne became the first King of Jerusalem in 1100
    Roger de Hauteville became the first King of Sicily in 1130; Roger was the father of Constance de Hauteville, who would later wed the German emperor Heinrich, and is a character in both Lionheart and A King’s Ransom.
    Also on Christmas Day, 1170, Thomas Becket threw a torch into the hayrick of Henry’s Angevin temper, with devastating consequences for all concerned.
    Time and Chance, page 448
    * * *
    On Christmas morning, Becket preached a sermon to the townspeople of Canterbury, assembled before him in the cathedral nave, based upon the text Peace on earth to men of good will. He then excommunicated again those men who had transgressed God’s Laws: Rannulph and Robert de Broc; Henry’s chancellor, Geoffrey Ridel; and his keeper of the seal, Nigel de Sackville; and he published the papal censures against the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of London, and the Bishop of Salisbury.
    “Christ Jesus curse them all!” he proclaimed, and flung the lighted candles to the ground where they flickered and guttered out.
    * * *
    Henry erupted when he heard, as surely Becket knew he would do. But he did not say “Will none rid me of this turbulent priest?” What he actually said was “What miserable drones and traitors I have nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be mocked so shamefully by a lowborn clerk!” As we know, four knights hearing this took it upon themselves to show they were not miserable drones and traitors.
    You would think that Henry would have learned from this how dangerous it could be to speak without thinking. Yet fourteen years later, he was vexed enough with his son Richard to tell seventeen year old John that Aquitaine was his if he could take it from Richard. I had Geoffrey speak for me when I had him marveling to himself that surely one Becket moment was enough for any man’s lifetime. Eleanor was no less astonished, saying scathingly, “Very good, Harry. It is always heartening to see that you’ve learned from your past mistakes.” Henry did not mean it, of course. He certainly did not intend for John, who had no troops or money of his own, to ally with Geoffrey, who had both, to try to take Aquitaine from Richard, as Henry had so carelessly invited John to do. They succeeded only in giving their brother a legitimate grievance, never a good idea when the injured party is also a first-rate battle commander. If ever there was a family in need of group therapy, it was the Angevins. But what a wonderful gift their dysfunctional drama was for future historical novelists!

  46. Stephanie Says:

    Sharon, there would have been no need to crash. I’d make one any time you wanted it. And besides, you would have been invited over to begin with. So there.

  47. skpenman Says:

    I shall bear that in mind, Stephanie!
    I hope my blog friends had a peaceful Christmas. Here is today’s Facebook Note.

    I hope you all had as lovely a Christmas as I did. Christmas Eve and Christmas day were wonderful, and right now I am listening to Christmas music and sipping eggnog, feeling very mellow and content before I join Richard in attacking the French king at Issoudun. (It is still Christmas as I write this; I am not starting out the morning with eggnog, honest.)
    So on to tomorrow, December 26th. On that date in 1135, Stephen was crowned King of England and the period known as the Anarchy or the time when Christ and his saints slept officially began. And on December 26th, 1194, Constance de Hauteville, daughter of the great King Roger of Sicily and unhappy consort of the German emperor, Heinrich von Hohenstaufen, defied the odds by giving birth to a son, her first child, at the then-advanced age of forty, after eight years of an apparently barren marriage. Because she knew there was much skepticism about her miracle pregnancy, with many of Heinrich’s enemies (all of whom he’d earned) spreading rumors that the pregnancy was a sham and a baby would be smuggled into her birthing chamber, she invited all of the women of the Italian town of Jesi to witness her labor, giving birth to Frederick in a large tent set up in the piazza. I dramatize this in my short story that will eventually (I hope) see the light of day when the George RR Martin’s anthology Dangerous Women is published. Also on December 26th, 1776, a battle was fought in New Jersey that had tremendous consequences for the fledging American republic. Had George Washington not crossed the Delaware River and won a decisive victory over the Hessians at Trenton, it is certainly possible that the American Revolution would have had a different ending, for things were not going so well for the colonists and they were in desperate need of a morale boost, which this victory provided.

  48. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I’m glad you had such a wonderful Christmas. Mine was peaceful and “mellow” too :-) spent in the company of my family and friends, although we’ve had the ugliest Christmas Tree ever :-) I’m not sure how it could have happened.

    Are you sure Stephen was crowned on 26 December? Both David Crouch in The Normans and Roy Strong in Coronation give 22 December as his coronation date and they take it for granted. I just want to make sure for I’ve already given 22nd on the Hal’s blog and would like to correct my mistake if there is one.

  49. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, to be honest, I don’t know. But I think Dr Crouch is a very reliable source.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    You can pick up a biography of John, even one written by a reliable scholar, and be told that he was born on December 24th, 1167. I used that birth date for some of my earlier books. But it is not accurate. John was actually born in 1166. There is a story behind this, of course, but I will have to delay it till later, for Richard is demanding that I join him in attacking the French king at Issoudun, and kings expect lowly scribes (especially female ones) to do as they’re told. So more on John after I deal with his imperious brother. There is no doubt that the 1166 date is correct. The day itself is more questionable. While Christmas Eve is the traditional date, I remain convinced John was actually born on December 27th, the feast day of John the Apostle, which would explain the first grafting of a John onto the Angevin family tree.
    I hope you all are basking in the after-Christmas glow and that those under siege by Mother Nature will soon get a break, too. Safe driving, too.

  50. Koby Says:

    Indeed, Sharon, I cannot agree with you more. Also, today Anne de Mortimer, Duke Richard of York’s mother was born.

  51. Stephanie Says:

    Thanks for that tidbit, Koby. Those couple of generations of Mortimers and those who married into that family (including all of the other power brokers of that day) were so very interesting and I guess they just kept up the interest level for a few more generations. At least until those blasted Tudors came on scene.

  52. skpenman Says:

    I forgot to alert my Briitish readers that Macmillan has included Sunne in a special deal. For now you can buy Sunne in the e-book format for 99 pence. Sorry, but this is only good for UK readers. Here is the link. http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Sunne-in-Splendour-ebook/dp/B008NB2GI2/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356623382&sr=1-1

  53. skpenman Says:

    Richard and I are very busy at Issoudun Castle in the Berry region, but I am taking a quick break to mention today’s historical happening; on December 28th, 1065, Westminster Abbey was consecrated. Of course this was not the magnificent cathedral that we know today; that one, we owe to Henry III, who wasn’t a very good king, but who left quite an architectural legacy.
    And here is a post-Christmas miracle for one little girl. Video captures her terrified little dog being stolen by a thief on Christmas Eve. But when he tried to sell it, a Good Samaritan became suspicious, bought it, and took it to her vet. Thanks to the dog’s microchip, Marley and mistress are reunited, as you can see below. Yet more proof of how indispensable a tool microchips have become.
    Now back to the bloodletting.
    http://www.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_t3#/video/us/2012/12/27/dnt-ny-stolen-dog-returned.wabc

  54. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    December 29th, 1170 was the date of one of the most shocking events of the Middle Ages, the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his own cathedral by four knights who thought they’d be pleasing their king. This act of violence would have far-reaching consequences. It would make Becket a saint and cause Henry great trouble with the Church. There is a new biography of Becket out, but it is very hostile to Henry and that presented a problem for me. I would recommend the biography by Frank Barlow, which I consider the best one done to date. I would also recommend Thomas Becket, His Last Days, by William Urry, which I found very helpful in writing Becket’s death chapter. And then, of course, there is a novel called Time and Chance. 

    The brilliant writer, Dennis LeHane, has shown considerable ingenuity in attempting to find his lost dog, a rescue beagle named Tessa. He has promised to write her finder into his next novel. Good luck to both him and Tesssa; I hope she is found and returned home. Here is a link to a story about this and a link to his Facebook page. If any of my readers live in the Boston area, maybe they could post this on their Facebook pages, too. http://www.facebook.com/sharonkay.penman#!/Dennis.Lehane?fref=ts
    http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/28/showbiz/lehane-lost-dog/index.html?hpt=hp_bn9

  55. Valerie L. Says:

    Sharon has asked me to let you all know she’s having computer troubles AGAIN and she won’t be able to post here for at least the rest of the day today. Tomorrow the Geek Squad will be out to the house with a new router and all should be well. Luckily for us, Microsoft is working just fine for her, so she’ll be able to continue writing. And, if any of you have access to the Aussie fan group on Facebook. please let them know too. Thanks.

  56. Koby Says:

    Thank you for informing us, Valerie. I am sure we all hope it will work out.
    This also explains why Sharon did not post about what happened today, so allow me to resume my usual duty:
    Today, the Battle of Wakefield took place, where a Lancastrian army ambushed the Yorkist army which had sallied out of Wakefield castle, utterly defeating it. Among the dead were Richard, Duke of York, his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Sir Thomas Neville (who was Warwick’s brother) and William Bonville, Baron of Harington (their brother-in-law, who was executed immediately following the battle). Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury was captured and executed a day later.

  57. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks, Koby–I knew i could count on you to take up the slack!

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I am back! My router died and I had to replace it and then arrange for tech support to come out today and install it. I know my limitations and was sure I would not have been able to do it myself. As it turned out, I was correct, for both printers balked at accepting the new router and the wonderful tech had to find a way to outwit them; it was not easy, either, since my main printer kept insisting it was still connected to the old router. Most people don’t realize that printers are dangerous; they sit there looking deceptively innocuous, but they are really receiving instructions from their master, Satan.
    So I have to catch up now. December 30th, 1460 was the date of the battle of Wakefield, in which a Lancastrian force defeated the Yorkists when they rashly ventured out from Sandal Castle. The Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury were among those who lost their lives. The death that shocked people, though, was that of the Duke of York’s seventeen year old son, Edmund, who was captured after the battle and murdered in cold blood by Lord Clifford. Edmund was the first character that I had to kill, and it was a challenge. I didn’t realize then how much blood there’d eventually be on my hands, but writers always remember our “first.” Even after so many years, when I reread that scene on the bridge at Wakefield, I feel a sense of loss, and from what readers have told me, they do, too. RIP, Edmund, I wish your life had not been cut short so brutally.
    On today’s date, December 31th, Leopold V, the Duke of Austria died in 1194, a particularly gruesome death that convinced his contemporaries he was being punished by God for having defied the Church by laying hands upon a crusader king. He had remained defiant, even threatening to kill Richard’s hostages if Richard did not send his niece to Austria to marry Leeopold’s son, one of the many conditions of Richard’s release. Richard had not wanted to do this, but to save his hostages, he yielded. His ten year old niece was on her way to Vienna when word spread of Leopold’s death. She was able to return home, but ironically, given the future that lay ahead of her—held prisoner by John and then John’s son for forty years—it would have been better for her if the marriage had taken place. The circumstances of Leopold’s death probably gave even the German emperor a few uneasy moments. He’d crushed his ankle when his horse rolled on him, and when it turned black, his doctors warned that only amputation could save his life. But none of them were willing to attempt it, including his own teenage sons. So Leopold himself held an axe against his ankle and ordered his steward to strike it with a mallet. It took three tries to chop the ankle off, and it did not save Leopold. He was lucky, though, that he was able to reconcile with the Church on his deathbed, for he’d been excommunicated for the part he’d played in Richard’s abduction and imprisonment. But when he expressed contrition, his cousin, the Archbishop of Salisbury, absolved him of his sins after he promised to return Richard’s hostages and repay his share of the ransom. Before the archbishop would permit him to be buried in consecrated ground, though, he extracted a vow at graveside from Leopold’s eldest son, that he would honor Leopold’s deathbed promise. .
    I think most of us are glad to see 2012 go; some good but too much tragedy and heartbreak, ending with the slaughter of the innocents. I hope the new year will be a better one for us all.

  58. Joan Says:

    Happy New Year Sharon & everyone! My wishes are also for a better year, though an important personal highlight of 2012 was discovering your novels & joining your blog which has been enlightening & fun. A whole new world opened for me. When something like this happens & one feels so privileged, it’s a very, very good year! However, my hopes for humanity are always the same…..& for this beautiful planet which I appreciate more & more. I think the key is to continue seeing the world through a child’s eye & am grateful I’ve always seen things this way.

    Christmas was the best, & Koby, I agree, The Hobbit was amazing, esp on Imax 3D! Two & 3/4 hrs went by in a flash!

    Here’s a toast to 2013! (just bought a lovely Shiraz)

  59. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Happy New Year, Sharon, Joan, Stephanie, Koby, Ken, Malcolm and everyone!
    Hope 2013 will be an eventful but also a peaceful year.

    Sharon, I do agree about Edmund. His was the death really hard to deal with. I couldn’t come to myself long after reading the scene in the Sunne and had to take a break for I had no idea what I was reading about throughout the next few pages.

  60. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Kasia, thanks for letting me know that. Unless readers are generous enough to tell us, we knever know if a particulr scene in one of our books resonated with them.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I couldn’t find any medieval events of interest for January 1st. But I did find some non-medieval happenings to mention. IN 1431, Rodrigo Borgia, who would later become the controversial “Borgia Pope,” Alexander VI, was born; I suppose that might be considered medieval. He is probably luckier than he deserves, for he has been portrayed in the past few seasons on Showtime by the incomparable Jeremy Irons. And on January 1st, 1511, a son was born to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, but sadly, he lived only a few weeks. This is a good example of one person’s death truly changing history. Imagine if Henry VIII had not been so desperate to sire a son. If this boy had lived, Henry might not have morphed into the Tudor Bluebeard. And two definitely non-medieval birthdays on this date, but both of interest to Americans. Paul Revere was born on January 1st, 1735 and Betsy Ross born seventeen years later, in 1752.
    I hope you all are enjoying the first day of 2013. I expect to have a new blog up later today, too.

  61. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Kasia, thank you for remembering me, though I do not post here very often. Sharon, I did not read Sunne until fairly late, 2008 or 2009 I think. After discovering the quality of you work in 2003, reading a copy of When Christ and His Saints Slept loaned by a friend, I read your 12th and 13th century novels and mysteries for the next several years. From reading Paul Murray Kendall’s biography of Richard III way back in the ’60s, I knew well Edmund of Rutland’s fate (speaking of deaths that changed history). It was still difficult to read about his end, since you had drawn such a compelling portrait of Edward’s more responsible younger brother. Happy New Year to you both.

  62. Stephanie Says:

    A happy new year to you as well, Kasia! And to the rest of you as well. Joan, I agree with you about Hobbit, by the way. I plan to go see it for a second time in the theater which is saying a lot since I can’t even remember the last movie I have seen in a theater.

    2013 has started cold for us here in Minneapolis. We had sub-zero temps overnight (-18C) for the first time since last January. Yay! (not really)

  63. Koby Says:

    A bit late as always, but thank you for the well wishes, and a happy new year to everyone as well.
    Sharon I will only add that today Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’ de Medici was born.

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