The blog that became a novella

Before we get to your questions—my favorite part of the blogs—I want to give you a brief report of the Historical Novel Society convention.  There was an unexpected eleventh-hour development.   I’d signed up so late that I wasn’t on any panels and so I was looking forward to being a social butterfly, flitting about visiting old friends and meeting new ones.   But then I had a call from Jane Kessler at HNS.  Edward Rutherfurd was to have been one of the two keynote speakers, but a sudden family illness caused him to bow out at the last minute, and they asked me to step in.   So I ended up giving a speech Saturday night, definitely not the high point of the evening, though, as they then held a lively costume contest, followed by a public reading of their sex scenes by some very brave authors.

        Naturally the air travel portion of the trip was awful; I got in so late on Friday that I missed Margaret George’s much-praised keynote speech that evening.   Aside from that, I really enjoyed myself, getting to spend time with three good friends (Priscilla Royal, Barbara Peters of the Poisoned Pen, and Margaret Frazer) and meeting Michelle Moran and Anne Easter Smith.  Barbara, Margaret, and I had an interesting experience on Sunday night.  We had dinner at a restaurant in the mall across the street from the hotel, and afterward we sought to leave via the mall, only to find it locked up tighter than Fort Knox; we eventually escaped through the tornado shelter.  BTW, in this entire huge and rather posh mall, there was not a single bookstore.   I got to meet C. W. Gortner, who has written a novel about one of history’s most intriguing women, Juana La Loca; it is called The Last Queen and I now have a copy atop my pile of Books to Read.   I also met an American who now lives in Cyprus and she very generously offered to do any on-site research I might need for Richard and Berengaria’s stay in Cyprus! 

        Now, some interesting news about the other writers at the conference.  Good news for those of you who enjoy Margaret George’s books, and that would be anyone who appreciates well written and well researched historical novels.  Margaret’s next book will be about Elizabeth Tudor, beginning with the Armada in 1588.   All you Diana Gabaldon fans are going to be very jealous of me, as I got to hear two of Diana’s sex scenes from her new book, An Echo in the Bone, to be published in September of this year; she chose to contrast the male and female approach to sex, with one scene given from Claire’s point of view and one from Jamie’s.   Since Diana’s book tour is going to cover everyplace but the Falkland Islands, you’ve all got a fairly good chance that she might be coming to a book-store near you!  A slight exaggeration, but in addition to her U.S. tour, she’ll be visiting New Zealand and Australia and the United Kingdom and Germany.  

          Cathy, I was lucky enough to snag a copy of the galley proofs for Michelle Moran’s new book, Cleopatra’s Daughter, which, as you noted, comes out in September.  I expect it will be a great success for her; who can resist both Egypt and Ancient Rome?  I am going to interview Michelle on my blog after her new book comes out.  I will also be interviewing two medieval writers (and friends, in the interest of full disclosure), Priscilla Royal and Margaret Frazer when their new mysteries come out later this year.  And Elizabeth Chadwick (another friend) has kindly agreed to do a “guest appearance” for the American launch of her novel about William Marshal, The Greatest Knight, which will be published in September, 2009.    So if you have questions you’d like to submit to any of these authors, e-mail them to me and I’ll see what I can do.   And Cindy is quite correct; Anne Easter Smith is now working on a novel about Cecily Neville.

        I wish they’d made tapes of the panel discussions available for sale, as they’ve done at the Bouchercons.  Two in particular were fascinating.  C. W. Gortner monitored one on Sunday in which the panel discussed the bias in publishing about male authors writing of female protagonists and vice versa.  I was very surprised that this prejudice is still so prevalent and apparently widespread.  I never encountered it myself and, speaking as an avid reader, all I care about is that a book is well written.

       I especially enjoyed the panel discussion about the fine line writers must walk to balance fact and fiction.  You all know my rather passionate views on this subject, and to judge by your blog comments, I am preaching to the choir here.  I’m happy to report that the panelists were in agreement with us.   Laurel Corona offered a wonderful comment that could well serve as the Eleventh Commandment for historical novelists: “Do not defame the dead.”   That says it all, doesn’t it?   I think I’ve mentioned  my own shorthand for “historical novels” that are not rooted in any time or place:  “The Plantagenets in Pasadena.”   Well, I came away from the panel discussion with two more apt phrases: “costume fiction” and from Margaret Frazer, “Mary Jane visits the castle.”

        Okay, on to your questions.  First of all, thank you for all the Robin Hood recommendations: Jerry was very pleased.   I think my 1185 slip speaks for itself.  Ken, what a lovely compliment, comparing me to Eleanor of Aquitaine.   I only wish I had her inner strength and steely will.   Your comment about medieval archers not being able to take dead aim was fascinating; thanks for sharing your expertise with us.   Your anecdote about the infamous William de Braose was slightly off target, though.  It actually happened to one of his knights and Giraldus Cambrensus claimed that after an arrow pinned one leg to the saddle, he was hit by a second arrow in his other leg.  This is so vivid in my mind because Morgan, Ranulf’s son, related the incident to Richard in an early chapter of Lionheart—and this time there were no bizarre suggestions that longbows were easier to master than crossbows!   I was very interested in your reference to Savoy, Ken, and have an interesting anecdote (which you probably know), but I will have to save it for my next blog, as this one is going to be another whopper.

        Michelle and April, I’m going to have to pass on your questions about casting a film for Sunne.  I don’t have a “dream cast” for any of my novels, have honestly never given it much thought.   Although I am convinced that no actors ever born could have surpassed Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter.  But if some of you want to suggest casting for any of my books, please do share them with us.  And Dave, I think I can speak for women everywhere when I say that Johnny Depp is not a prat!   I’d be utterly euphoric if he wanted to play one of the characters in any of my books.  Well, maybe not Henry Tudor, for there is no way Tudor had Johnny’s humor or sex appeal.

     I’m so glad that some of you will be able to attend my readings in Bailey’s Crossing and Anne Arbor.  Jenny, do bring your old copy of Sunne; I’d be happy to sign it.  Occasionally a bookstore owner will limit the number of previous books customers can bring to a book signing and there are even a few writers who balk at signing their earlier books.  But that is relatively rare and I am delighted to sign any of my books; it is a lovely sight to see a well-worn—hence well-read—copy of Sunne or Dragons.

     Brenna, I’m sorry, but I can’t be of any assistance when it comes to Allison Weir’s Princes in the Tower, as I have not read it.  Nor did I read the Bertram Fields book, though several of my friends were quite enthusiastic about it.   As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I did not keep up on Ricardian reading, moving on to Wales and then the Angevins.   So for that reason, I cannot recommend any Ricardian books published since Sunne.   Can any of my readers help Brenna with this?

      I was interested and somewhat surprised by the comments that Elizabeth Chadwick and several of you made about John in Here Be Dragons.   I never thought that “my”  John was that favorably portrayed.  I was not aiming to “rehabilitate” John, as I obviously was with Richard III; I had a more modest goal, merely to show his humanity.   I did find him an intriguing character to write about, for the ones with dark corners in their souls are always more fun than the saintly ones.   And I don’t think you can really whitewash a man who betrayed his dying father, did his best to keep his brother rotting in a German prison, had his own nephew murdered, hanged a number of Welsh hostages, and starved Maude de Braose and her son to death!  I do think John was quite intelligent, but he was also the most damaged of Henry and Eleanor’s sons, and I think his kingship must be judged a failure—not because of Magna Carta or even that he died alone and virtually abandoned by all, mourned by none.  I think John’s greatest failing as a king was his inability to trust others, and once they realized that, they could not trust him, which was an even more fatal flaw than Stephen’s inability to win respect or fear from his nobles.  It is always interesting, though, to see how other people view “my” characters.  I remember being surprised by some comments on the Historical Fiction On-line forum to the effect that my Richard III was too perfect to be true, for I truly never saw him in that way.  Hey, he did send Hastings to his death without a trial, remember!   Surely the most unique response I ever got came from an Australian reader, who wrote that she could not enjoy Dragons because Llewelyn reminded her too much of an old boyfriend.

      Suzanne, you had a very interesting question, asking how writers pick scenes to dramatize and why some get left on the cutting room floor.  Because that deserves more than a few quick sentences, I am going to save my response for my next blog.  And I’m sure we’d like to hear from you writers out there, too, on this subject.

         Now, Cindy, it is your turn.   You mentioned the massacre of the Jews of York in March, 1190, and you and Blair both brought up Richard’s execution of the Muslim garrison at Acre.  These are serious topics and I want to address them fully.  First of all, your source for the York massacre was very much in error.   Briefly, this is what happened.   Richard had forbidden any Jews to attend his coronation feast.  When I read that initially many years ago, I assumed that this was an anti-Semitic act, for we all knew this was the ugly underside of medieval life.  But Richard’s subsequent actions changed my mind about this; now I think it is quite likely that he was trying to keep the King’s Peace, as whenever a crusade had been declared in the past, the Jews were the first to suffer.  During the first and second crusades, bloody pogroms had flared up as would-be crusaders looked for “infidels” closer at hand than the Saracens.   I think Richard may have been trying to avoid such outbursts of violence in England.  But Benedict and Josce of York, prominent moneylenders from that city, possibly not having heard of the prohibition, showed up at Westminster and were attacked by bystanders.  Soon a mob was surging through the city streets, burning and looting and assaulting any Jews they could find.   Richard was infuriated; the Jews were under the king’s protection and were an important source of royal revenue.  He did what he could to punish the rioters and at once sent out writs to the major cities of his realm, warning that the Jews were not to be harmed.  And they were not.  The writs were obeyed—as long as he remained in England.  But he left for Normandy after Christmas, and that “crusading fervor” soon erupted again, like a virulent plague.   Jewries were attacked in Lynn and Norwich and then it spread to Stamford, Bury St Edmunds, and Lincoln.  Drunken mobs pillaged and looted and the Jews fled to the royal castles for refuge.   Then, in March of 1190, the madness reached York.

       Remember the two York moneylenders, Benedict and Josce?   Josce had escaped the London mob, but Benedict was trapped and forced to accept conversion.  When peace had been restored, Richard had him summoned and asked if his conversion had been voluntary.  When Benedict said it was coerced, he was allowed to recant, although the Archbishop of Canterbury angrily told him that he could be the Devil’s man if he refused to be God’s man.   Benedict died soon after of his wounds, but Josce returned safely to York, where a worse fate awaited him.  

         When the York mob attacked Benedict’s house and killed his family, Josce and the other Jews fled to the castle for safety.   But they did not trust the castellan and when he left the castle, they apparently overpowered the garrison and refused to let him back in.  He then turned for help to the sheriff of Yorkshire, who just “happened” to be in the immediate vicinity, and the sheriff made the fateful decision to retake the castle.  The York mob was only too happy to join in, and by the time the sheriff had second thoughts, the mob was in control.   The trapped Jews held out for two days, but they realized they were doomed and made the desperate decision to die by their own hands rather than to be butchered by the mob.  Husbands slit the throats of their wives and children, Josce being the first one to kill his family.   It is estimated that about one hundred and fifty had taken refuge and most of them chose suicide.  

      Those still alive appealed for mercy and agreed to accept baptism and they were promised that they’d be spared.  But this promise was not kept and when they emerged, they were all slaughtered, men, women, and children.   The mob then revealed the real reason for the rioting.  They forced their way into York Minster and compelled the monks to turn over the Jews’ debt bonds, which they burned right there in the nave of the church.

      When Richard, then in Normandy, learned of this, he was outraged.  We have no way of knowing, of course, if he pitied the victims.  We do know that any medieval king would see this as an act of political defiance.   He immediately sent his chancellor, Longchamp, back to England and Longchamp led an army into Yorkshire, where he found how difficult it is to punish mob violence.   The citizens of York swore that it had been perpetrated by strangers and would-be crusaders, who’d fled into Scotland.  Longchamp dismissed the castellan and the sheriff—more on him in a moment—and imposed heavy fines on the citizens.   And this heavy-handed response was sufficient to keep other cities at peace; there were no other violent outbursts against the Jews during the remainder of Richard’s reign.

        I can highly recommend a first-person account by the medieval chronicler William of Newburgh; a translation was published in 1996.  Blair was quite right that some of the chroniclers did approve of the pogroms against the Jews; Richard of Devizes faulted the citizens of Winchester for protecting their Jews.  But William of Newburgh was horrified by what had been done in his God’s Name.   In a telling phrase, he described how Josce slit the throat of “Anna, his most beloved wife.”    He wrote that the rioters’ first crime was to shed “human blood like water,” their second “acting barbarously,” their third “refusing the Grace of Christ to those who sought it,” and the fourth, “deceiving those miserable people by lying to induce them to come forth.”     And he very clearly stated that the motivation for the rioting was to avoid paying the debts owed to the York moneylenders.

     Now, back to the sherff.   As I said, he was sacked by Longchamp.   Sadly, he was later appointed to another shrievalty by John, though there is no evidence that John played any role in the York massacre; he was in Normandy with Richard at the time.  The disgraced sheriff was none other than John Marshal, older brother of the celebrated William Marshal, and he was either guilty of gross incompetence or he was in collusion with the mob.  

      Okay, on to Richard’s crusade.  This is the story of the siege of Acre.  When it surrendered to the crusaders in July, 1191, an agreement was struck with Salah al-din (more commonly known to us as Saladin) to ransom the garrison.   The ransom was not paid—there are various explanations as to why it was not, the most likely being the mutual mistrust on both sides—and the garrison was marched out onto the plains beyond the city and there killed.   This decision had been made by all the crusade leaders, but there is no doubt that Richard wanted this done.   There is a very matter-of-fact letter of his to the Abbot of Clairvaux, in which he describes the execution of “about two thousand, six hundred” of them being “quite properly” put to death.    He saw this as a purely military decision as his army was about to march out of Acre and he was unwilling to set so many enemy soldiers loose on his rear, apparently having decided that he could not spare enough men to guard them.   Cold-blooded?  Yes, it was, and later historians would judge him harshly for it.  At the time, the chroniclers seem to have accepted it as what needed to be done.  

      You notice that I’ve talked only about the “garrison.”   You will find it said in some histories, including one by the respected historian, Sir Stephen Runciman, that the families of these unfortunate men were slain, too.  But I have so far been unable to find any contemporary source for this.  I have read five English chronicles and two Arab chronicles, one written by one of Saladin’s intimates, and none of them mention the families of the garrison being killed, too.   And in all of the histories or biographies that report this as a “fact,” not a single one cites a medieval source for it.  This is why writers drink.   I am going to continue to try to track down the origin of this story, but if I have no luck, I will most likely follow the medieval sources and then discuss the controversy in my Author’s Note—you guys are getting a preview of it here!

          This is a good example of the challenges that novelists face; it matters greatly to me that I get the facts right, especially about an event of such significance.  It is also a good example of the great gap that sometimes existed between medieval and modern sensibilities.   I’ve seen the massacre of the Acre garrison compared to the killing of captured French knights by Henry V at the battle of Agincourt, which was also done for military reasons.   Obviously we don’t see such killings in  the same light, but I think historical novelists ought to try to view them from a medieval perspective if at all possible.   

      Lastly, there is your question, Marilyn.    Marian Meade was wrong; Richard did not make  a “public confession of his homosexuality.”   If only he had!   That would have saved me so much work and research trying to solve the “mystery” of his sexuality.  What he did do was to summon his bishops to him in Messina and confessed to his sins.  The chronicler mentions “the thorns of lustfulness,” but is not more specific than that.  He says that Richard “received the penance imposed by the bishops and from that hour forward became a man who feared God and left what was evil and did what was good.” 

        This public penance alone would not raise questions about Richard’s sexual proclivities.   It is truly amazing what was held to be sinful by the medieval Church.  In addition to fornication, adultery, and sodomy, medievals were told that they sinned if they had sex in any position other than what we today call the “missionary position.”  They sinned if they had sex on Sundays, holy days, during Advent, Lent, and Pentecost.  Open mouthed kissing was a sin, as was making love in daylight.  Any sexual act that was not procreative was a mortal sin.   According to some canonists and penitentials, a husband who desired his wife with “excessive lust” was guilty of adultery!  

       In a future blog, I will discuss the multitude of medieval sins covered by the term sodomy, which included any sexual act thought to be “against nature.”   This is relevant because a chronicler reported that in 1195 a hermit approached Richard and warned him, “Be thou mindful of the destruction of Sodom and abstain from what is unlawful.”    Historians today have been having some very lively arguments about the meaning of this warning and there is no consensus, any more than there is a consensus about Richard’s sexual inclinations.   Until 1948, no one suggested he preferred men to women.  After 1948, it became accepted as gospel.  But within the last twenty years or so, there has been another reassessment of something we can never really know for certain.   Richard’s pre-eminent biographer, the British historian John Gillingham, is convinced Richard was heterosexual and many historians now agree with him.   Others still believe Richard was either homosexual or bisexual.   As I said, I will be addressing this subject in later blogs.  While doing this research, I’ve come across some very comprehensive and perceptive studies about medieval sexuality and the considerable differences between the way they viewed sex and the way we view it today.   Would you like me to include some of these books on my Recommended Research page?

        Well, here’s another blog stretching out into infinity.  But we’re talking about mutual guilt now.   You all really have to stop asking me such intriguing questions!

June 25, 2009

PS  Ken, thanks for posting the entry on Joanna from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  That is a subject I had to save for a future blog, too.

77 Responses to “The blog that became a novella”

  1. April Says:

    Wow Sharon, what a wonderful post, but too many topics for me even start. I look forward to more on medieval sins. That should be very interesting indeed.

    It sounds like you had a wonderful time with your friends at the HNS. Thanks for sharing that with us.

    Although you said you don’t have plans for a cast of one of your books, it would be fun to find out what character of your books you’d pick for Johnny Depp. I do agree with you about the cast in The Lion in Winter. What a great classic movie.

    I am going to try and pick up some of the books that have been mentioned in this entry and others. I need some good material to read!! :)

    Sure wish I lived closer to one of the states you are going to be visiting. Arkansas is just too far from either coast, and so many of our small bookstores have closed and been taken over by books-a-million, and other large bookstores. It’s a sad day for the small business owners.

  2. Michelle Moran Says:

    Cathy, don’t let Sharon fool you. I was the lucky to have had Sharon not only read - but blurb - the novel! I am really looking for to the interview. And Sharon, as always, a wonderful post!

  3. Michelle Moran Says:

    Ooops - this is what happens when you attempt to type from your cell. Let me try that again!

    Cathy, don’t let Sharon fool you. I was the lucky one to have had Sharon not only read - but blurb - the novel! I am really looking forward to the interview. And as always, Sharon, a wonderful post!

  4. Suzanne Says:

    Can I just say that much as I enjoyed Dragons, I’d gladly trade it in for an old boyfriend like Llewellyn! :-)

    I thought your treatment of John in Dragons was pretty even-handed, but Sharon surely you’d have to admit that the John of your mysteries was delicious! I guess I’d have to reluctantly concur that your Richard III was probably too good to be true (and the Hastings scene, which I found very powerful and which is still burned into my brain, didn’t change that at all!) — years later, I’m still in love with him! I could say the same of your Llewellyn and Simon de Montfort — we’re aware of their flaws, but we develop such affection for the characters that the flaws don’t bother us or can easily be excused. Perhaps you could have done more to make us more irked by them (assuming you wanted to), I don’t know…

    Thanks for that wealth of information about Richard, etc. Fascinating stuff!

  5. Yvette Hoitink Says:

    Thank you so much for all the background information. I’m really into reading, history and genealogy. Eleanor of Aquitaine has been my favorite historical person and your books about her my favorites for years. But earlier this year I discovered that I Eleanor is actually an ancestor of mine! You can only imagine my joy :-)

    I’m a descendant of her daughter Marie (with Louis) through a bastard son of one of the dukes of Brabant. Thankfully he acknowledged the bastard, or I would never have known!

    I am now trying to find as many primary sources as I can about her life. I have been wondering about the kinship between Louis and Eleanor that allowed them to annul their marriage. They are supposed to be related in the 4th degree but I haven’t been able to find any definite shared ancestors for them so far. Would you happen to know how they were related?

  6. Marg Says:

    As much as I love reading all this, I didn’t get much past Diana Gabaldon is touring just about everywhere!

    I really wish that it was not such a long way to get to the US for a HNS conference. You talk about some of my favourite online people (Elizabeth Chadwick, Michelle Moran, CW Gortner etc). Of course, if I was there and had to choose which line to go into you would be one of the options as well!

  7. Elizabeth Chadwick Says:

    Sharon, you are one of the loveliest authors out there and so very generous with your time and in the way you help and promote other writers when you could have more time to talk about yourself. That is real class!
    People. I am hoping that if all goes well, I will be interviewing Sharon on my blog some time in August when Devil’s Brood comes out in paperback.
    Sharon, you sound as if you had a blast at the HNS conference. I’ve seen some photos around online of the conf. including several of you and the named suspects. Can’t remember where. It might be on Sarah Johnson’s blog, but you all seem to be enjoying yourselves. :-)
    Re John. I think you write him brilliantly. Everyone has facets and I think you capture that side of him which contains that hint of dangerous glamour. As Suzanne said, in your mysteries he is utterly delicious!
    Thank you for Laurel Corona’s comment ‘Do not defame the dead’. I think this is very important and a mantra by which writers of historical fiction should live. I’ve recently come across a novel where a woman known in history to be a pious, quiet lady with a physical deformity has been portrayed as a young beauty up for ravishment (in graphic detail) at every opportunity going. And the author claims it’s historically accurate! All writers have to paint with their imagination, but there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed - IMO anyway.
    Re John Marshal and the Jews. I would come down on the side of his being inept. He wasn’t the man his brother was. His father’s house in Winchester was close to Jewish neighbours and William seems to have had no problems with the Jews. I think that John Marshal Jnr. just wasn’t up to the job.
    Medieval sexuality is fascinating isn’t it? A friend with a doctorate in medieval cultural studies teaches classes on the subject, so I find it useful to pick her brains on occasion! Re sexuality too, although I’ve got a few ’scholarly’ works on my bookshelf, my favourite book covering the matter is ‘The Secret Middle Ages’ by Malcolm Jones - which discusses the Middle Ages through the culture and the iconography of everyday items and folk tales etc. Chapters include one on the phallic pilgrim badges that have been discovered, and ‘rude’ tapestries - chapter title is ‘Wicked Willies with Wings.’ The first chapter ‘Love, Death and Biscuits’ discusses erotic Flemish biscuit moulds, including one of a high-street pedlar of dildoes surrounded by some very interested housewives! Sometimes the past sure is another country!

  8. Megan Sneary Says:

    Sharon - your posts make me feel like part of a community and, in this day and age especially, that is truly a gift! I check your site daily and my list of books to read grows with each post and comment. I still get all giddy to think that I converse with two of my favorite authors online! (I need to get to the Moran books soon so that it can be three!)
    I went to Tulane University in New Orleans and my favorite professor was an expert on Early Modern England - Linda Pollock. She is a fun and engaging lecturer - and a proud Scot! Her primary focus is on the hard to proved stuff of daily household life, sexuality and marital relationships. I recommend her writings to everyone - and if you can get to New Orleans to audit a class - DO IT! I wrote a paper on infanticide in Elizabeth I’s reign and had to get an extension since the details were so graphic that I had nightmares!
    It’s wonderful to get a glimpse into the world of HNS too! Thanks so much for your details accounts!

  9. Steven Till Says:

    I’ve provided a link to William of Newburgh’s account of the destruction of the Jews at York for any who are interested:

    Very interesting post. Thanks, Sharon!

  10. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thank you so much, Stephen! I’m delighted that my readers can now check this out for themselves.

  11. Paula Says:

    One branch of my family tree can be traced back to a Templar knight who lived during the reign of Henry III. My great grandmother who was Jewish married one of his descendants. I therefore found the story of Jacob and Benedict in Falls the Shadow to be very interesting and very powerfully written. In those times there was so little understanding between the majority Christian population and the Jewish community. I find it so hard to fathom as I am a product of both communities. Sharon, did Simon de Montfort really expell all the Jewish people from his lands and was it just so the Christian people in his lands wouldn’t borrow money from them?

    Sharon I find your portrayal of John to be a little kinder than Elizabeth Chadwick’s but both are plausible and thoroughly enjoyable to read. I remember from an earlier blog that you won’t read The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion until you finish your book on Richard but you are in for a real treat when you do.

    Another interesting point from an Elizabeth Chadwick novel (I can’t remember which one it’s from) is that a woman was told that if she didn’t feel pleasure during intercourse her seed would curdle. It would only mix with her husbands seed and take root if she enjoyed herself. I found this fascinating. From all the rules about lovemaking you reminded us of in your blog I would have thought that enjoying yourself would be frowned upon. Please do add sources on Medieval sexuality to your recommendations page.

  12. Steven Till Says:

    You’re welcome, Sharon. Glad to help out in any way!

  13. C.W. Gortner Says:

    It was a pleasure and honor to meet you at the conference; I echo Elizabeth Chadwick’s sentiment that your generosity and humility are true class. (And Elizabeth, too, has shown equal class, with me :) Your speech on Saturday night was THE highlight of the evening; you spoke eloquently and made several important points about the importance of historical veracity vs the Plantagenets in Pasadena ;) You were also witty, self-deprecating, and fascinating. I could have listened to you all night. Thank you for mentioning me here, too. I’m so thrilled to have met you and hope I can help give Devil’s Brood a push at my blog when it comes out in paperback.

  14. Mandy Says:

    Wonderful blog post! I enjoy reading your “novella’s” so much! What fun to see some of my other favorite authors mentioned here, too!
    I recently rented Lion in Winter based on your recomendation and loved it - thank you for that!
    I wanted to ask you if you’ve ever considered writing a book about the Tudors. I’m sure it’s a question you’ve been asked before, but if it is, I haven’t read the answer. I confess I’m partial to Henry VIII and his wives - would love to read your take on them!

  15. cindy Says:

    Sharon, thanks so much for setting me right about Richard and the York massacre. My source obviously was incorrect; I appreciate the information. I still remember my first visit to York, and seeing the sign by the castle (whats left of it). I had shivers up my spine, and could not get it out of my head for days. Still haunts me. Amazing what is done in the name of God (or really in the name of greed, for indeed, Paula, Jews were often expelled because of lending (and remember that was the only business they were allowed to do because it was against the Church for Christians to do so). Many pogroms in Europe were started by nobels because the wanted to erase their debt they had to the Jews.

    Sharon your comment re John “I had a more modest goal, merely to show his humanity’ made me smile, because just showing his humanity portrayed him in a good light, he was so bad! (if you know what I mean). I do think both you and Eliz do a very good job showing his humanity, and his motiviations, while not whitewashing him.

    Your posts almost (but just barely) keep me from chomping at the bit for your next book! So keep up your lengthy posts, I enjoy reading them.

  16. Elizabeth Chadwick Says:

    Just dropping in to add a bit re Paula’s post on the ‘curdling seeds’. That was just one model for the medieval period and there were others that suggested if you were a guy that you get it over and done with as fast as you could because contact with women was bad for the humours, never mind the sin aspect. It’s like theories today. We don’t always sing from the same hymn sheet and the medievals were the same. Even given their general mindset, one size didn’t fit all. The ’seed curdling’ model could have complications in that if a woman became pregnant from a rape, then how could it be rape if her seed had descended? Have to add that I haven’t seen this in primary source, but I have seen it mentioned in reference works.
    C.W. Great to see you here. I really enjoyed The Last Queen.
    Sharon, I also meant to mention that I love the UK paperback cover for Devil’s Brood - what a fabulous colour that red is!

  17. Ken Says:

    Hi, Sharon.

    Really enjoyed your ‘novella blog!’ Always interesting and informative.

    Being the consummate author you are, you have left us with some inviting ‘cliff-hangers’ re: your next blog! For me, your anecdote about Savoy and your final comment about Joanna. In addition, I will be very interested in what you have to say re: Suzanne’s question on how writers pick which scenes to dramatize and why some get left on the cutting room floor.

    The life of my protagonist Othon was so full of adventure over such a long time and involved so many of the well known personages of his time, that I have difficulty knowing which to highlight and which to leave out!

  18. Michele O'Connor Says:

    Great post Sharon…. I think I’m looking forward to heareing more about medieval sins the most! I agree that O’Toole and Hepburn were incredible in The Lion in Winter - but I have to add that I saw Laurence Fishburne and Stockard Channing in the play at the Roundabout Theater in NYC some 10 + years ago - and they were AMAZING!!! Anyway - I agree that John was a the most damaged of Henry and Eleanor’s children - and you definitely captured that aspect- and his inability to trust or be trusted was truly his downfall. For me the homosexuality question re: Richard is most intriguing because there are so many conflicting reports….What an intriguing time - and wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to travel back in time and see what really happened?

  19. Paula Says:

    Thanks for your comments Elizabeth! I certainly hope some people had some fun in medieval times. Both you and Sharon write passionate scenes so well. One of my favourites is between Annais and Sabin in The Falcons of Montabard.

  20. james watson Says:

    Thank-you Sharon Again for a wonderfull Blog?..Edward 4th would have struggled a Bit(sex on a sunday And All) still-Being A prince(A king )?Any thing Go;s….Rutger Hauger(Ladyhawke)…..Would be A good William Marchall,??…..The Girls would like That…..johnnie Depp…A great John?? Stop I;m Gettig Carried Away..??…..The Sunne in Splendor ..Mebies made in the Ilk,….of (Henry 5th … Kenneth Brannah) Brian Blessed…Anyway We All need the Movie………James

  21. Patricia Says:

    I gave you the Heartfelt Award

  22. Yvette Hoitink Says:

    I would love it if When Christ and his Saints Slept were to become a movie.

    For me, Catherine Zeta-Jones would be the perfect Eleanor of Aquitaine. I think she can pull of the charm and charisma needed for the role. For Louis VII, I think Padraic Delaney might do (George Boleyn in The Tudors). It’s hard to think of actors who can pull of a non-macho role though. It feels like all of our best known actors are simply too masculine to get into Louis’ character.

    Johnny Depp would be credible in pulling the stunts Henry II did, like getting his uncle Stephen (Steven Waddington aka Lord Buckingham in The Tudors?) to pay for his soldiers. You can’t be too much ‘out there’ if you’re playing Henry II, I guess.

  23. Koby Says:

    I do so love your blogs, Sharon. They are such a joy to read.
    I did enjoy your portrayal of John. I never thought you whitewashed him; rather, you showed him from a different angle - that of a family man. I always considered John to be a good person, but a bad king. His evil reputation all comes from what he did to become and stay king - betraying his father, killing Arthur, hanging Welsh hostages, etc.
    Regarding the York massacre - this may be something to explore - the Muslim regard towards Jews against the Christian. It seems the Muslims were much more tolerant, as there were much less pogroms and massacres of Jews in Muslim lands. It might have come into play when the Crusaders came to Israel. By then, the original crusaders had adopted at least part of the Saracen lifestyle, and I’ve read in quite a few places that this often caused friction - the newcomers not understanding how the earlier crusaders could live like Saracens.
    Will we see any refrence to the Old Man of the Mountain and his assassination of Conrad of Monteferrat in Lionheart? After all, most people think it was either done with support from Salah ad-Din or Richard. In Prince of Darkness, Durand said Richard helped, and tried to assassinate Philip as well.
    Is Lionheart set only in Middle East? Or will we see John as well?
    Do you have any plans beyond Lionheart? Is it possible that we may see Joanna (of Wales) again? And why did you choose to name her Joanna and not Joan, as is common?

  24. Paula Says:

    I had meant to comment in my previous post about bias in publishing. I have to admit that as a reader I am guilty of that bias. Many years ago I stopped reading books written by men which had main characters that were women. I only enjoyed female characters that were written by women. Unfortunately I based that judgement on only a few bad experiences.
    As you say a more sensible criteria should be whether a book is well written or not and I am actively trying to redress the imbalance in my reading and book buying habits. But I can understand why the bias in publishing still exists.

  25. Samantha Says:

    I’d never seen your blog until a friend sent it to me this morning (she thought I’d be interested in your comments on Richard I). I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you.

    I also wanted to say that I agree with you - William of Newburgh’s chronicle is one of my favorites. It is extremely perceptive and the 1996 edition is a pleasure to read. In respect to his attitude towards the massacres, I tend to agree with you that he condemned them, at least outwardly. However, I recently went to a lecture which argued that his stories about the undead are actually references to the Jewish people and a covert way of approving of the massacres. With both the massacres and the undead the bishop stood in the way once, while in the other cases people took things into their own hands. I’m not sure I agree with the argument, but it is interesting that Richard of Devises uses the same word to describe the Jews as William of Newburgh uses for the undead.

    I also appreciate your willingness to keep an open mind about Richard’s sexuality. I have studied him extensively and find that many young academics are now swinging back to the idea that he was gay. I’m not completely convinced that he wasn’t, but I think the level of respect he received from his contemporaries may point in that direction - I also tend to agree with Gillingham’s analysis. Philip Augustus on the other hand…

  26. Marilyn Says:

    Sharon - wonderful blog as usual. I really look forward to them. I had to laugh at “Plantagenets in Pasadena”. A couple of years ago there really was a lady in Redwood City, California who called herself “HRH Princess Catherine H. Plantagenet.” It would be interesting to know how many millions of living people there are today who are descended from the Plantagenets. I’m quite sure none (or certainly not many) of us are eligible for any high-falutin’ titles tho’. Yes, I would certainly like to see some of the books you referred to about medieval attitudes on sex on your Recommended Research list.

  27. Jenny Says:


    I just love reading your blogs. How lucky are we to be treated to regular interactive history lessons with you and your friends?

    As for the HNS convention…sigh! Socializing with so many talented authors and getting the scoop on all the newest books- it must be so much fun to be you!

  28. Dave Says:


    I have a question for you. I was starting to re-read “When Christ and his saints slept” when I began to wonder about poor Berold the Butchers lad from Rouen. If you had to write the book again, what would you have happen to him after the sinking of the white ship? Would he just give up on his quest? Or, assuming that he didn’t lose the money that Stephen gave him, would you have him catch the next boat to england so he could bring back his brother, Gerard, from London? I’m curious to know.

    Iechyd da,


  29. Christy K Robinson Says:

    Thanks to your July 1 email blast, I have “discovered” your blog. Fantastic! The blog comments also led me to Elizabeth Chadwick’s site, so that is also added to my bloglist.

    No questions for you this time, but may I publicly thank you for your private answers to my comments of April 2008, about Henry II and Eleanor (both of them ancestors through their many liaisons), and the genealogy article you snail-mailed about Ida de Tosny and Roger Bigod.

    ALL of your books hold a prominent place in my library. Thank you for your careful research and your lively prose.

  30. Janna Says:

    Sharon, thanks for mentioning on one of your recent blogs (I can’t remember which one, b/c I’ve been reading the last few right in a row…I was away for a while and couldn’t check on your blog, so when I came back, there was four or five waiting…and most of them were novel-length, which by the way, don’t ever apologize for a blog that ends up longer than you anticipated. I have a feeling most of your readers would agree with me that if you want apologize for anything, it should be for a short blog…haha!). Anyhow,…I check it out and it’s a great website. I’m addicted to those kind of quiz games, anyhow, so it’s perfect for me. I think I donated about 2000 grains of rice the first time I played, b/c I couldn’t stop!

    I generally don’t feel like I have much to add to all the scholarly discussions that go on around here, but I LOVE to read both what you write and what everyone else comments on. Thank you so much making yourself so available to your readers!

  31. Gayle Says:

    Re: Richard’s sexual proclivities. Personally I think Richard was too busy fomenting war, fighting war, ending wars and preparing for war to think too much about sex! My reading has included hints at homosexual behavior between men during war. Besides who would Richard have coupled with? A camp whore?

    If Berengaria had been a firey, exciting woman (like Richard’s mother), maybe she could have kept his interest and this whole discussion would be moot.

    It is funny how the pendulum of popular opinion swings. Like Shakespeare’s hatchet job on Richard III. We have to remember that the play was written during the reign of Elizabeth I. the Tudors would not have allowed anything positive to be written about Richard III, because they would have lost their excuse for invading England and seizing the crown!

  32. Liz Says:

    That’s all so incredible.
    History is my passion, so reading about it like this and seeing how research is really done is..well, yay for original sources!
    ‘Nuff about me and my enthusiasms.
    Mentally, I call Richard I, Richard II, and Richard III the Richard trilogy. They’ve always intrigued me. Three men who shared the same name, the same crown, and the same early, tragic death (even if not by the exact same means). I enjoyed meeting R3 in Sunne and now….Now it’s delightful to really try and see into R1’s head…who was he really? Couer-de-Lion? The callous king who visited his country twice? Or someone else altogether?
    I know whoever he really was, you’ll figure it out…so I’ll wait with baited breath for Lionheart.

  33. Brenna Says:


    Thank you so much for responding to my questions! I actually just finished When Christ and His Saints slept this morning and I second Dave’s question: What happened to poor Berold the Butchers lad from Rouen? I was simply amazed that people of the time thought Stephen’s reign was a failure just because he didn’t execute everyone who betrayed him. If anything, I think more of him because he obviously wanted to see the best in people and believed that people were honestly good at heart. How he had a son like Eustace, I will never know. You would have thought that since he grew up in a rather “loving” family, Eustace would have been a little more forgiving.

    I’ve just started Time and Chance and already can’t put it down. You may discuss this later in the book, but do we know what killed Eleanor and Henry’s son William? Was it just the “fever” that seemed to spread throughout Europe during that time?

    Oh and I personally didn’t think Richard III was described as too good to be true in Sunne. In fact, I think he had many faults, but wasn’t sure how to balance the desire to be the King’s brother and a ruler at the same time. I second the suggestion that Catherine Zeta Jones would be the perfect Eleanor! She is one of those breath-taking beauties like I imagine Eleanor was in her time.

    Thanks again for a wonderful blog!

  34. Kristen Elizabeth Says:

    Once again, I agree with everyone else who is thrilled with the latest “novella” blog post! I always learn so much! Thanks, too, for the book recommendations. I have added The Last Queen to my megalist of to-read books. I’m always thrilled to learn about another great author!

    It would be fabulous if you could add recommended books on medieval sexuality to your website. It’s really amazing how much guilt and anxiety could be wrapped up in one basic and completely fun biological need! :) For a society that thought sex was sinful, they sure seemed preoccupied with it. I suppose it can be argued that modern society is much the same, though…

    It is interesting to read all the various ways in which historical persons can be interpreted. I wondered if you ever feel proprietary towards any of the people you write? I can appreciate the differences in perspective, but there are some authors’ characters who I get attached to, and then if someone else writes something differently about them, I get a little indignant.

    “This is why writers drink.” *giggle* I’m sorry your research is driving you to drink. I felt the same way when I wrote my MA thesis.

    Thanks again for another wonderful post! Have a good day!

  35. Nan Hawthorne Says:

    Off topic…

    When I finished reading “Here Be Dragons” I breathed a sigh of relief that there was no death scene with Joanna and Llewlyn… wasn’t sure I could take it. Now I am reading “Falls the Shadow”… oh dear.

    I am about to review “Dragon’s Lair” on “That’s All She Read”.

    Someone recently asked me on Facebook if I liked Sharon Kay Penman’s books… what’s not to like??? I love them. How could I not?

    Nan Hawthorne
    “An Involuntary King: A Tale of Anglo Saxon England”

  36. Shauna Tevels Says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I just recently started reading your blog here. It’s absolutely fantastic!!

    When I first read “Here Be Dragons” when I was about fourteen or fifteen, I fell in love with Medieval History. Your portrayal of John, Llewellyn, and daily life in the middle ages inspired me to make Medieval History my life’s work. A bit melodramatic I know, but that’s how much I love this subject.

    I saw a copy of the Magna Carta at the Constitution center in Philadelphia, PA a couple of summers ago, and I ended up enlightening the tour guides some about the history of the document. I was with my parents on a family trip, and they were just tickled pink that my education was paying off some! I give sole credit to you Sharon to inspiring me!

    Anyways, I have a question for you, if you would be so kind. In “Here Be Dragons”, you show Joanna as having a fierce abiding love for John. Is there any documentation of this fact, or is it made up?? I’m writing a paper on the influence of the women in John’s life: Eleanor, Isabelle, Joanna, etc., so anything you might suggest as it pertains to Joanna would be wonderful.

    Thank you!!
    Shauna Tevels

  37. Kate Says:


    First of all, let me say that I am thoroughly enjoying your lengthy blog posts. I definitely agree that Johnny Depp is most definitely not a pratt. Personally, I think he’d be brilliant as Llewellyn’s younger brother Davydd–he’s got that devil-may-care charm so essential to that character. Of course, someone else suggested he play John, and I can see that too.

    Speaking of John, I thought your portrayal of him was very interesting. What struck me most was that John really wasn’t any more ruthless than his father or brother, but somehow acquired a darker reputation than either of them. Henry and Richard would never have hesitated to eliminate rivals or use violence to prove a point, but they did so openly and with little regard for what anyone else would think of it. John always felt the need to act in secret or over-justify his actions–perhaps due to an inability to trust, or perhaps as a way to protect a fragile conscience. That’s what I noticed reading your work, at any rate.

    I’m looking forward to your book tour this month–I’ll be at the Bailey’s Crossroads Borders on the 29th!

  38. Dave Says:

    Alright, I’ll agree Johnny Depp is a reasonable actor, and should play a part in The Sunne in Splendour, only if he could get the accent right. It would be as bad as Kevin Costner playing Robin Hood, with an american accent. ugh!

    Iechyd da,


  39. Ken Says:

    Hi again Sharon. I’m sure you will have some info on Joan for Shauna, but I thought she might be interested in an article by Louise J. Wilkinson in ‘Thirteenth Century England - Proceedings of the X Durham Conference,’ entitled, Joan, wife of Llywelyn the Great’,

    It is made quite clear that Joan’s role in mediating and softening relations between her husband and her father and later between her husband and her half-brother Henry 111 was of the utmost importance. The esteem (and love) in which she was held by King’s John and Henry, is clear from the terms used to describe her in the English records: ‘Our beloved daughter, Joan, wife of Llywelyn; and ‘our beloved sister, Joan, wife of Llywelyn, Prince of North Wales,’ or more simply, ‘our sister, the Lady of North Wales.’

    She had in fact followed in the footsteps of another ‘illegitimate’ anglo/welsh wife, Emma. She was the illegitimate daughter of Geoffrey of Anjou, making her the illegitimate half-sister of Henry 11. She married in 1174, Dafydd ab Owain and after Dafydd’s defeat and capture by Llywelyn continued to hold lands in England and sought protection from King Henry 11’s sons.

    Hope this is of some help!

  40. Shauna Tevels Says:


    Thanks so much! I’ll go see if I can look up that article.


  41. Brenna Says:


    I just saw your dates for the book tour, and I’m thrilled that you are coming to West Chester! I will be there with bells on! My mother, who has read your books since Sunne first came out will be unable to make it. However, she has made me promise to buy as many books as I can (even though she has all of them already) and have you sign them. I feel very sorry for your poor hand and will just to get her to settle for one, perhaps two books with your signature.

  42. Sandi Thompson Says:


    Wow. I can’t wait for the next book. As for Richard, I am sure the debate will go on forever. He may have been bisexual, but like you said, you have to look at things from the medieval perspective - which is what makes your books so much better than some others.
    I have always wanted to hate John but really you do have to feel sorry for him. His mother hated him and his father used him and no one else really liked him very much. He probably was very intelligent, but it didn’t help his dark side.
    As for Llewellyn, I loved his character.
    Hope to get to Dayton to see you!!

  43. admin Says:

    Here are some of my responses to questions posed in this blog. More to follow.

    HI, Mandy. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I have no plans to write about the Tudors. That ground has been ploughed so often that it needs to stay fallow for a while. And as a devoted Yorkist, I’d feel as if I were sleeping with the enemy. Although I do find Elizabeth Tudor to be fascinating, both brilliant and neurotic—not that I blame her for being neurotic with Henry VIII as a father.

    Patricia, thank you so much for nominating me for the Heartfelt Award. That is a very interesting website.

    Hi, Samantha. That was a very interesting bit of information about William of Newburgh, but totally bizarre. Why would William use “code” to refer to the Jews? I can think of no reason why he would do so; can you? We know that anti-Semitism was all too prevalent in the MA, so a medieval chronicler would have felt no need to disguise his sentiments. To the contrary, they usually flaunted them. I’m at a disadvantage, not having heard the lecture, but it sounds quite unlikely to me.

    Dave and Brenna, this one is for you. We don’t know what happened to the real Berold, the butcher’s apprentice; he disappears from the pages of history after his rescue. And of course I had to invent a background for him, since nothing was known. I’ve decided that my Berold would have given up his quest and gone back home, vowing never to set foot on shipboard again. And his family would have been so thankful that he’d been spared that they welcomed him with open arms. Like many people thrust unwillingly into the spotlight, he was uncomfortable with so much attention, but his “fame” as the sole survivor of the White Ship clung to him for years afterward. He probably did get a lot of free hanaps of wine bought for him in taverns, though!

    Hi, Liz. One charge that Richard has been acquitted of is that he was “a callous king who visited his country only twice.” Richard’s reputation as an absentee landlord came from the Victorian historians, who were Anglo-centric, to put it mildly. England was their sceptered isle, the center of the universe, and they never even considered the fact that Richard was more than England’s king. Although he never called it that, he ruled an empire, and spent the last five years of his life defending it from the French king. Modern historians understand that and do not fault him for spending those years in his continental domains or see his absence from England as proof of neglect or indifference. It is also sometimes overlooked that he was almost continuously at war after finally securing his freedom from the Holy Roman Emperor, and that has to be taken into account when judging his prolonged stay in Normandy and Aquitaine or even his marriage, for that matter. A fun “what if” game is to speculate whether Normandy would still have been lost if Richard hadn’t died so unexpectedly. I don’t think it would have happened in Richard’s lifetime, for he was winning his war against Philippe. But I do think the loss was inevitable and eventually France would have gained control of the duchy. Ironically, it was Eleanor’s Aquitaine which remained under the English flag long after Normandy and Anjou, etc, had become French possessions.
    July 13, 2009

  44. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Here are some more responses to reader queries for this blog.
    Yvette, Ralph Turner says on p. 105 of his new biography of Eleanor that she and Louis shared a common ancestor in King Robert II of France, who was Louis’s great-great-grandfather and Eleanor’s great-great-great-grandfather. I hopes this helps.

    Janna, I am glad you agree with me about I think it is a wonderful website, allowing people to test their vocabulary skills while donating free rice to the world’s poor. I recently discovered that they have a category for foreign languages and people can choose French, Spanish, Italian, or German. A shame they didn’t include Welsh, but we can’t have everything.

    Brenna, I agree with you that Stephen’s “vices” sound more like virtues to us. But medieval kings had to be strong and ruthless when need be, and Stephen never learned the mastery of other men, which helped to doom his kingship. I think the best contemporary judgment on Stephen was the one I cited in the AN for Saints, that “He was a mild man, gentle and good, and did no justice.” While we can sympathize with Stephen, I think it is only fair to judge his kingship by the standards of the 12th century. The same holds true for Richard Coeur de Lion. We find it hard to understand or identify with his crusading fervor, yet that passion was looked upon as very admirable in his time and helped to gild his legend. After Henry died, some of the chroniclers claimed that he met such a wretched death because of his lack of enthusiasm for crusading. Maybe we can talk about this more at my West Chester book signing.

    Kristen, you asked if I felt possessive of my characters. Good Lord, yes! When I was writing Sunne, I deliberately chose not to read any of the many novels about Richard, not wanting to be influenced, even subconsciously, by the way they handled the fate of the “Little Princes in the Tower,” etc. I thought I’d catch up once Sunne was done. But I discovered that I was not comfortable reading about another writer’s Richard, and this admittedly illogical emotional reaction has carried over with my other books. This is why I have not read Edith Pargeter’s Brothers of Gwynedd quartet, even though I was a great fan of the mysteries she wrote as Ellis Peters. And the fact that she’d written of “my” Welsh princes about 30 years before I did didn’t matter at all! I am not alone in this lunacy, though, as it is shared by a number of other writers.

    Nan, I loved your review of Dragon’s Lair. Is it okay if we post it on my website? I’d also like to link to your blog, if that is okay with you? For other readers, Nan has an excellent blog in which she reviews books, primarily historical ones, I believe. Correct me if I’m wrong on that, Nan. I really enjoyed writing Dragon’s Lair because it enabled me to flesh out Justin’s past history and it was wonderful to have the young Llewelyn ab Iorwerth hanging around the house again! Again, for the rest of you; Nan has written a novel set in the 8th century called An Involuntary King. And Nan, back to you again. I saw that you hadn’t filled out your Author Page on Amazon. I finally got around to doing my own this past week, so it now has a mini-biography and a little blog. It was so easy to do, Nan, that I have been spreading the word to all of my writer friends. It makes sense to do it since your Author’s Page is the first thing that comes up when an Amazon reader does a search for Nan Hawthorne.

    Okay, Koby, it is your turn. Lionheart will cover Richard’s entire reign and the first year of John’s kingship, with a lot of action taking place in Outremer during Richard’s crusade. I recently came upon a charter of Berengaria’s, issued in Rome in 1192, and she dated it from “the year we left Syria,” which I thought was interesting, since Outremer was the term most commonly used by the chroniclers. No, I have no plans to write again of Joanna of Wales. As much as I’d love to, her story was told in Here Be Dragons. I couldn’t have worked her into one of my mysteries, either, as I did with Llewelyn, since she was only about 3 years old in 1194. And I used Joanna because she was known by that name, too, except in Wales, where she was Siwan. In her own time, of course, she’d have called herself Jeanne, since she spoke French.

    I am glad you mentioned Conrad of Monterrat, who was an intriguing character in his own right, cut out of much the same sort of cloth as Richard—a first-rate soldier with a swagger. Unfortunately he won’t play a large role in Lionheart, but I hope to give him more time on center stage in my book about the real Balian of Ibelin. I don’t agree with you, though, that “most people think it was either done with support from Salah al-din or Richard.” Today most historians seem rather skeptical of that, at least the ones I’ve read. In Lionhearts, Richard I, Saladin, and the Era of the Third Crusade, Geoffrey Regan makes a convincing argument for exonerating both Richard and Salah al-din; see pages 197-199. In Richard’s case, he no longer had a motive after coming to terms with Conrad, for by then he was desperate to return home and deal with the treachery of the French king and John; when the barons of Outremer chose Conrad as their king, Richard could then leave, knowing the kingdom was in capable hands. Salah al-din had a more compelling motive than Richard at that point, but he would not have had time to arrange the assassination with the Old Man of the Mountain in the brief period between Richard’s accommodation with Conrad and the latter’s murder. Regan thinks that Rashid al-Din Sinan, known as the Old Man of the Moutain, ordered Conrad’s murder because of a personal grievance, Conrad having seized one of his ships. John Gillingham also gives a thorough and dispassionate discussion of Conrad’s murder and the charges made against Richard and Salah al-Din in his biography, Richard I, pages 198-201. I could probably have written a novel about this episode alone, with its amazing aftermath, the immediate marriage of Conrad’s beautiful widow, Queen Isabella, to the dashing young Count of Champagne, whose mother Marie was the half-sister of both Philippe and Richard. As for Durand in Prince of Darkness, you can’t believe anything he said, Koby! He was just expressing his own views. My characters are all influenced by their personal biases, of course. So Conrad will not appear in a favorable light when Richard is talking about him, and vice versa. That is especially true with Richard and Philippe, who take pleasure in assuming the worst about each other. As an interesting aside, in Roberta Gellis’s book about Edward IV’s daughter and Henry Tudor, she even mentions in her AN that she personally does not share Tudor’s very hostile and negative views of Richard III. Anyway, thanks for an interesting question.

    Gayle, medieval armies were followed by hordes of prostitutes, so that an army encampment resembled a rather disreputable town. On the Third Crusade, the leaders tried to keep their men’s minds on the task at hand by forbidding any women to accompany them, save only laundresses of “good character.” But they found no lack of ladies of easy virtue in the Holy Land, and Richard had trouble at times dragging his men away from the carnal temptations of Acre. I also think you are being a bit harsh on Berengaria, Gayle, for she found herself in a very difficult position. Richard was the one who set the parameters of their marriage; he could act, while she could only react, as was usually the case with medieval women. I’m sure this subject will surface again in future blogs.
    Okay, I think I am all caught up now. Thanks for coming up with such intriguing questions and comments. On to the next blog.
    July 13, 2009

  45. Lisa Markovitz Says:

    Hello Ms. Penman! I was so thrilled to meet you at Borders in Bailey’s Crossroads. I am happy to be reading your blog, as I now have something to read with your lovely style and in-depth, intriguing researched portrayals of your and my favorite medieval characters, while waiting for your next book.

    Stay well and good wishes. My husband says how can that be here real name, a write named Penman, ha ha.

    After you finish Lionheart, are you going to continue with Henry II’s children and explore John’s earlier years flowing into the Wales (Dragons, etc.) period? Or are you going to head elsewhere?

  46. Anne Says:

    Thank you for researching and sharing the bloodline of Llewelyn Fawr and Joanna. I have always loved reading about medieval Wales and Llewelyn, Joanna and their descendants and now I have a genealogy that I can keep.
    It will be helpful if Sharon wites another novel about Wales. (HOPE & WISH). Anne

  47. Anne Says:

    The posts here are so wonderful and informative that this is a site that I now visit daily. I have ordered Nan Hawthorne’s book and have started re-reading all of Sharon’s earlier books. There are very few books that I keep forever, but I have all of Sharon’s.
    Sharon, I saw your earlier post saying you are not planning on writing another novel about Joanna, but is there a chance that you will be writing about other descendants of Llewellyn & Joanna or more about Wales? Your triology on Wales are the best historical novels that I have ever read about this fascinating country. I love medieval history, especially England/Wales/Scotland/Ireland and your novels are so well written and researched that I feel that you are one of the best historical novelists, if not the best writer out there.
    Like you, I feel that there is enough out there on the Tudors that you don’t need to add to that timeline. You thought “Devil’s Brood” would be the final Eleanor & Henry book, but there was too much fascinating information left that you are writing “Lionheart” (Thank You!) and once it is finished I am sure that you will have an idea about your next novel or series.
    Love all the posts!

  48. Алексей Says:

    Всем привет! Я здесь новенький. Примите в компанию? :)

  49. Beckham Says:

    Где-то я уже нечто похожее читал, причём практически слово в слово… :)

  50. J.Armstrong Says:

    Hello Sharon

    Have to confess I found your books at in our Library by accident.
    I love Medieval Mysteries.
    You really bring that period in our history to life.
    Over here in the UK we do not have many copies, which is a big loss to anyone who likes this type of book.

    Really enjoyed the read’s hope you bring out new books soon.


  51. Jill Houlden Says:

    I always knew that these computer things were good for something. To be able to say direct to SKP that her books are marvellous, to find out that I’m not the only history loopy in the world, and to anticipate other books as they are mentioned, its just my idea of library bliss.

    What the librarians are going to say when I go into our library at Te Aroha with a list as long as my arm I can actually imagine. Fortunately for me Lorraine and Claire enjoy the “chase”.

    I can see that research can be as fascinating as the finished novel - Tracy Borman taught me that with “Elizabeths Women”. I will be making this “blog” a “favourite. Cheers from NZ, Jill

  52. John Armstrong Says:

    Hi again Sharon

    Any chance of more Justin de Quincy medieval mysteries?
    These are a very good read, Pity to stop with Prince of Darkness

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