INTERVIEW WITH ANNE EASTER SMITH ABOUT THIS SON OF YORK

Anne Easter Smith is the award-winning author of The King’s Grace and the best-selling A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, Queen By Right, and Royal Mistress.  She is an expert on Richard III, having studied the king and his times for five decades. Her sixth book, This Son of York, will be published soon. She grew up in England, Germany and Egypt, and has been a resident/citizen of the US since 1968. Anne was the Features Editor at a daily newpaper in northern New York State for ten years, and her writing has been published in several national magazines. She lives in Newburyport, MA with her husband, Scott.

Sharon: This Son of York is the sixth book in your series about the York family during the Wars of the Roses, Anne. I thought A Rose for the Crown was your Richard III book. Why have you chosen to write another about him?

Anne: As a matter of fact, Sharon, I thought Rose was my Richard book, too! I thought I had nicely tied up the series with Royal Mistress, and in fact had embarked upon a totally new project—a Portuguese prince and his lady-in-waiting lover—when Richard’s grave was uncovered in the car park in Leicester in 2012. It was then that my “first reader/editor” reminded me that Rose was Kate Haute’s book, not Richard’s and that this was the moment to retell Richard’s story. “But Sharon Kay Penman wrote the definitive Richard book, Sunne in Splendour,” I protested. She pointed out that with the discovery of Richard’s bones, surely there was now more to add to Richard’s story that Sharon couldn’t possibly have known in 1983. I knew she was right. And so poor Pedro was put aside, and I plunged back into the period I know better than my own in some ways. When I talked to you at the Denver Historical Novel Conference, Sharon, and you convinced me I was the right person to retell Richard’s story, it rekindled my passion for writing about this much maligned king.

Sharon: Were you as excited as I was when they found the grave after more than 500 years?

Anne:  OMG, I was thrilled! It so happened that I was visiting my sister in London when the news broke that August 25th. I had donated money along with hundreds of other Ricardians when the plea went out to the Richard III Society membership to help with the dig. Without that last fundraising push, the Leicester City Council would have been forced to hand over the car park property to the developers. So I felt like I’d had a vested interest in the dig! What was so exciting was that the August 25th discovery of his skeleton was most likely the same day Richard had been ignominiously buried in the shallow, too-short grave in 1485! What were the odds of that! I was on my winter break in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in February 2013 when the DNA study definitively identified the bones as Richard’s. I cried. Checking my in-box that morning, I saw dozens of emails from friends exclaiming they had seen it on TV and thought of me. Among them was one from PRI’s The World national radio news program that is based out of Boston’s WGBH (my local station). The host, Marco Werman, would like to interview you about Richard III and the discovery, the email informed me. So I Skyped with him an hour later and was excited to have been named as “a Richard III expert.”

Sharon: It looks like you have a new publisher for this book. Can you explain?

Anne: After Royal Mistress was published by Touchstone at Simon & Schuster, I was let go—as were several other historical fiction authors in their stable. Touchstone has now been absorbed by Atria at S&S. It took me a while to get over myself and continue writing, and despite being turned down by several other editors for the Portuguese Prince story, I thought it was the unknown historical figure that was the problem. But after finishing This Son of York, it seemed the market wasn’t right for a medieval male protagonist from any country, and so, after many rejections for Richard and my agent quitting the business, I found myself on my own after two years of trying. Enter two fellow authors who had also been let go by Harlequin after several books and who decided to combine their editing and business skills to start their own publishing house to help women authors like me floundering around in these new boggy publishing waters. I am delighted with the result, and thrilled that Richard’s book can now be “birthed.”

Sharon: What makes you think medieval Richard can buck the trend of female protagonists in World War II novels so popular right now?

Anne: Because Richard is a rock star! At least certainly in England he is ever since the bones were discovered. I was astonished that more than 20,000 people from all over the world crowded into Leicester for the reinterment. Leicester was gobsmacked too! I got up early that day as my husband had finagled a way to see the funeral on BBC-TV live. It was magnificent, and the slew of celebrities interviewed in the special glass booth on the cathedral grounds all day helped to put Richard’s name on everyone’s lips all over the world. I really think he is still a compelling historical figure for lovers of our genre, despite being medieval and male! I don’t think I, or anyone else, can eclipse the great Sharon Kay Penman’s take on this king but I think this new evidence is a wonderful opportunity to again bring his light out from behind Shakespeare’s monstrous depiction and try and restore his reputation, don’t you? I am hoping my book will help and that allowing me to guest post on your blog might start the ball rolling! Thank you so much.

Excerpt from This Son of York: https://anneeastersmith.com/excerpt

Buy books at: https://amzn.to/2IIMKNl

Sharon:    As my readers know, I never read another writer’s novel about a historical figure who has been featured in one of my books.  As Anne and my other writer friends can testify, we become emotionally invested in our characters, having spend years in their company while attempting to view the world through their eyes.  But I like to alert my readers to any book that is likely to appeal to them, and obviously This Son of York (clever title, by the way) falls in that category.  My readers share my fascination with Richard III and many of them are already fans of Anne’s earlier historical novels.   I am sorry I cannot add the photo of the book cover, a problem that will definitely be resolved with my new website, coming next month.  But you can see it for yourselves by clicking onto the Amazon link above.

Anne, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview about a man very close to both of our hearts.

January 29, 2020

12 Responses to “INTERVIEW WITH ANNE EASTER SMITH ABOUT THIS SON OF YORK”

  1. Pam Fulmer Says:

    Great interview! I just bought the book and look forward to a good read!

  2. skpenman Says:

    I received the first copy of The Land Beyond the Sea this afternoon, and as a totally unbiased observer, I can report that it looks spectacular.

  3. skpenman Says:

    Am I glad I am getting a new website soon. This one cut off all of the post after that first sentence. Trying again, but first sending this out to explain why that post is so truncated compared to the one on my Facebook pages.

  4. skpenman Says:

    I received the first copy of The Land Beyond the Sea this afternoon, and as a totally unbiased observer, I can report that it looks spectacular.

  5. skpenman Says:

    No luck….sorry about that.

  6. skpenman Says:

    Lately, I’ve been unable to share my Facebook posts here, which has me counting the days till we launch my new site this month. But I will try again with today’s post for February 2nd was an important day on the medieval Church calendar and in my books, the date of the battles of Lincoln and Mortimer’s Cross and the date of death for Llywelyn Fawr’s beloved wife, Joanna.

    February 2nd was an important date on the medieval Church calendar, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, more commonly known as Candlemas. February 2nd is a secular holiday in the US this year—the date of the Super Bowl. And not to slight Punxsutawney Phil, it is also Groundhog Day.

    February 2nd also resonated in several of my novels. Here is a post from several years ago about all that happened on this date; hope you all don’t mind a rerun.

    February 2nd, 1141 was the battle of Lincoln, in which Stephen was defeated and taken prisoner by Robert, the Earl of Gloucester, on behalf of his sister, the Empress Maude. At the risk of seeming blood-thirsty, I like writing of battles and this was a good one, filled with high drama and suspense. February 2nd was also the date of an important Yorkist battle, at Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. Edward, who’d become Duke of York and head of his fractured family upon the death of his father at the battle of Wakefield barely a month ago, was trying to prevent Owen Tudor and reinforcements coming out of Wales from joining the Lancastrians, and he forced a battle not far from Wigmore. Even before the fighting began, he faced a challenge when a parhelion appeared in the sky, a phenomenon that made it look as if there were three suns overhead. Naturally this frightened his soldiers, but the quick-witted Edward cried out that the suns represented the Holy Trinity and was an omen of victory; he would later adopt this as his cognizance, the Sunne in Splendour. Having staved off disaster, he then proceeded to defeat the Lancastrians, captured Owen Tudor, and had him executed—not surprising, since the heads of his father and brother and uncle were even then on poles above Micklegate Bar in York. Edward then went on to receive a hero’s welcome by the city of London and shattered the Lancastrian hopes in a savage battle fought in a snowstorm at Towton on Palm Sunday. What is truly remarkable is that Edward was not yet nineteen years old.

    I thought of Edward’s parhelion when I was reading a chronicler’s account of the building of Richard I’s beloved “saucy castle, “ Chateau Gaillard. I was familiar with the exchange between the kings over Chateau Gaillard. Philippe, fuming at seeing this formidable stronghold rising up on the Vexin border, vowed that he would take it if its walls were made of iron. When he was told this, Richard laughed and said he’d hold it if its walls were made of butter. But there is another story about Gaillard not as well known. In the spring of 1198, Richard was personally supervising the construction, as he often did, when a shower of blood suddenly fell from the skies. Naturally, this freaked out everyone—everyone but Richard. The chronicler reported that “The king was not dismayed at this, nor did he relax in promoting the work in which he took so great delight.” Now I confess my first reaction to this story was an uncharitable one, wondering if the chronicler, William of Newburgh, had been hitting the wine when he wrote this. Shower of rain and blood? But when I Googled it, I discovered that red rain has indeed fallen at various times, and there were even some unsettling photos of a red rain in India that really did look like blood. Clearly strong-willed men like Richard and Edward were not as superstitious as their brethren.

    For me, though, February 2nd has another, sadder meaning, for on this date in 1237, Joanna, daughter of King John and wife of Llywelyn Fawr, died at Aber and was buried at Llanfaes, where her grieving husband established a friary in honor of her memory. Below is that scene from Falls the Shadow, page 26
    * * *
    Joanna closed her eyes, tears squeezing through her lashes. So much she wanted to stay, but she had not the strength. “Beloved…promise me…”
    Llywelyn stiffened. She’d fought so hard to gain the crown for their son. Did she mean to bind him now with a deathbed bow? He waited, dreading what she would ask of him, to safeguard the succession for Davydd. Knowing there was but one certain way to do that—to cage Gruddydd again. And how could he do that to his son? How could he condemn him to a life shut away from the sun? But how could he deny Joanna? Could he let her go to her grave without that comfort?
    “Llywelyn…pray for me,” she gasped, and only then did he fully accept it, that she was indeed dying, was already lost to him, beyond earthly cares, worldly ambitions.
    “I will, Joanna.” He swallowed with difficulty, brought her hand up, pressing her lips against her palm. “You will have my every prayer.”
    “Bury me at…at Llanfaes…”
    His head jerked up. He had an island manor at Llanfaes; it was there that Joanna had been confined after he had discovered her infidelity. “Why, Joanna? Why Llanfaes?”
    Her mouth curved upward. “Because…I was so happy there. You came to me, forgave me…”
    “Oh, Christ, Joanna…” His voice broke; he pulled her into an anguished embrace, held her close.
    * * *

  7. skpenman Says:

    I was reading about Kirk Douglas today; many people don’t know that the celebrated actor was also the author of a dozen books. I actually have a “Kirk Douglas story” about one of them. A few years ago, I did a blog about books I’d enjoyed and recommended, and one of them was his I am Spartacus, his behind-the-scenes account of the making of that classic film and the fight he waged to defy the Hollywood Blacklist. I gave it a rave review. Much to my surprise, about a week later, I got a letter from Kirk Douglas, or at least so it said on the envelope address. When I opened it, I found a very sweet, handwritten note (!) thanking me for my praise of I am Spartacus. Obviously, someone on his staff called it to his attention, since I think we can safely say he was not a devoted follower of my blog. And yes, I went totally Fan-girl, spreading the news far and wide about his kind gesture. For those of you who have not read this book, I think you should; I found it riveting. And below is a link to his last interview, which he and Anne, his wife of 65 years, gave in 2017. I thought it was absolutely charming, the sort of interview that makes you think, “Wow, I’d love to know these people.” It sounds as if Anne and Kirk were very well-matched.
    I also have good news about The Land Beyond the Sea, another good review, this one in the Historical Novel Society; I’ll post that one later. Meanwhile, if you have a few free minutes, spend them with the Douglases.
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2020/02/05/kirk-douglas-dies-103-final-interview/4674442002/

  8. Teka Lynn Says:

    Re the Anne Easter Smith interview: Thank you for sharing this! In addition to all the other exciting books and news, I actually bounced in my chair when I read of the plotting for a novel about Pedro and Ines. I would very much like to read that AND all the wonderful Yorkist/Ricardian novels I hadn’t known about before!

  9. skpenman Says:

    I will pass your comments on to Anne, Teka Lynn, in case she misses them here.

    I’ve spent much of the day following the accounts of the storm battering the UK, am horrified by the damage it is causing and on such a wide-spread scale. I’ve been able to reach friends in Yorkshire and one in Wales so far, but have had no word from my friends who live in Llanrwst, one of the hardest hit towns in Gwynedd. I heard there were extensive power outages, so I will keep trying to reach them. The streets of Llanrwst look like the canals of Venice. I hope all of my British readers are safe and dry and able to ride out the storm.
    As promised, here is the Historic Novel Society’s review of The Land Beyond the Sea. I cannot remember if I posted the Publisher’s Weekly review here, too? Maybe someone could nudge my memory?
    https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-land-beyond-the-sea/

  10. skpenman Says:

    It was heartbreaking to see so many of my favorite places in Gwynedd underwater and to learn that my friends in Llanrwst had been hit hard, as I’d feared. And after suffering through Storm Ciara, the besieged residents awoke yesterday to a snowstorm, serious enough to close some roads and to send the police out to rescue stranded motorists. So what was the news this morning? That the UK is going to be hammered with another storm this weekend. What next? The Biblical plague of locusts?
    I do have some good news, though, about Lionheart. Like A King’s Ransom last month, Lionheart’s e-book edition is now available at the bargain price of $1.99 on all the major on-line book outlets: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Google, and Kobo. https://www.bookbub.com/books/lionheart-by-sharon-kay-penman-2019-03-07

  11. Sharon K Penman Says:

    My friends and readers in the UK must feel as if they’re trapped in Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, for just as last weekend saw them hammered by Storm Ciara, this weekend it is Storm Dennis, bringing high winds and heavy rains to many of the same areas that were flooded just a week ago. Please stay safe and dry in what looks to be another wretched weekend.

    I mentioned a few days ago that Lionheart is available in its ebook edition for only $1.99. I am happy now to report that the bargain price will remain in effect on all on-line book sites for another week, till the 23rd. Now, onto Today in Medieval History. I am a few days late with this entry, but it’s worth waiting for; I picked a very busy date to chat about.

    February 10th was the date of death of two dukes, a king, one of those treacherous Stanleys, and the worst king-consort ever. Only two of them—maybe two and a half—were worth mourning.
    On February 10, 1126, William, the ninth Duke of Aquitaine, also known as the first troubadour duke, died after a long and eventful life. He had a keen sense of humor so he may have been amused that today he is mainly remembered as the grandfather of our Eleanor. But he also had a healthy ego, so maybe not. I would have grieved for him—unless I was one of his wives!

    On February 10, 1134, Robert, the Duke of Normandy died after being held prisoner by his not-so-loving younger brother, Henry I, for twenty-eight years. Robert seems to have been a feckless sort, certainly no match for the ruthlessness of Brother Henry, but he probably didn’t deserve nearly three decades of captivity.

    On February 10, 1163, Baldwin III, King of Jerusalem, died. He was only in his 33rd year and by all accounts was a very good king, an adroit politician, and a courageous battle commander. He also seems to have been a genuine good guy, charming, affable, and handsome. His death dramatically changed the history of the Holy Land, for he’d not yet had children with his beautiful bride, the seventeen-year-old Byzantine princess, Theodora, and so the crown passed to his younger brother Amalric, the Count of Jaffa. Amalric had none of Baldwin’s charisma, being taciturn and introverted. He proved to be a capable king, though, but he, too, died prematurely, leaving a thirteen-year-old son as his heir, the boy who would tragically become known to history as the Leper king. Had Baldwin not died so young or had Amalric lived long enough for his queen, also a Byzantine princess, to give him another son, the kingdom’s doomed march to Armageddon might not have happened. There is no doubt that Saladin is one of history’s more fascinating figures, a brilliant politician, but his great victory at Hattin was based in part upon the disunity among his Christian foes, just as the first crusaders took advantage of Saracen discord to carve out the kingdom of Outremer eighty-some years earlier. Baldwin III does not appear as a character in my new novel, being dead by the time the book opens, but Amalric makes a few appearances before dying of dysentery and his son is a major character, of course. Had I lived then, I would definitely have mourned Baldwin.

    On February 10, 1495, William, Lord Stanley, was executed by Henry Tudor, accused of treason, irony at its best. Party time!

    Lastly, on February 10, 1567, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was messily murdered, a death that was richly deserved. One of my favorite scenes from the wonderful film, Mary, Queen of Scots, had Elizabeth (the incomparable Glenda Jackson) and Cecil practically falling on the floor laughing upon learning that Mary had been foolish enough to take the bait and marry Darnley.

  12. Sharon K Penman Says:

    A friend from the UK sent me these remarkable photos of Tewkesbury Abbey in this week’s flood and in floods in years past. It looks like an island in an endless sea, and yet the flood waters have never entered the abbey itself, which seems somewhat miraculous to me. I love Tewkesbury, the abbey and the town, and always stopped there on my way into Wales. The scene in Sunne in which Lancastrian soldiers have taken refuge in the church after the battle is one of my favorites. I remember standing in the shadows and envisioning Edward riding his destrier right up to the great double doors…..long before I actually wrote about it. Tewkesbury is one of those places where the past seems very close at hand. As many of you already know, England and Wales suffered more flooding…..so many places I loved, like Ludlow and Shrewsbury and York and almost all of Wales. My heart breaks for the people who’ve lost so much; the aftermath of a flood can be almost as bad as the flood itself.
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8016615/Tewkesbury-Abbey-rises-muddy-waters-town-submerged-brutal-deluge.html

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