Today I’m welcoming Anna Belfrage to Ascroft, eh? Anna is the author of The Graham Saga, an eight book time travel series, set mainly in the seventeenth century. She is currently writing a new series set in fourteenth century England.
Welcome Anna. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your latest novel.
AB: Under the Approaching Dark is the third in my ongoing series, The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in early 14th century England. My main character, Adam de Guirande, is a man who has once served Lord Roger Mortimer and is now serving the very young Edward III. Adam loves both his lords, and as the tension between Edward and Roger rise, the more difficult things become for Adam—and for his beloved wife, Kit.
What prompted you to write about this historical era?
AB: I have been fascinated by Roger Mortimer and his rise to power in the later 1320s since my 6th grade history teacher first told me about it. His passion for this period was contagious, and since then I have a thing about medieval England and the period between 1250 and 1399 (which is when John of Gaunt died. Well, a LOT of other stuff happened as well, starting with Henry IV’s usurpation of the crown).
How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
AB: I stick to the historical facts as far as I can. There is a rather large grey area regarding what happened in 1327—specifically related to Edward II—and this ambiguity is something I’ve exploited to the full because it adds a twist or two to the story. In general, I think it is important to stay true to the events, and any deviations should be presented in a Historical Note.
What research did you do for this book?
AB: I read. A lot. I read about the main players, about the times as such, about pastimes and food, clothes and faith.
Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?
AB: Yes, I use a mix. As I am depicting real events, it would be difficult not to have the historic figures taking part. My invented characters give me the opportunity to comment on what is happening, plus I can also explore how minor players would have been affected by the major political events of the time.
I find the invented characters easier to write – they’re “mine” in a way the historic figures never are. Having said that, Edward III has definitely grown into a strong individual presence in my head, as has Roger Mortimer.
In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
AB: Like most historical fiction writers, I expend a lot of time, thought and effort on creating a vivid setting. Personally, I think it’s about details, the odd mention here and there that transports the reader to the era without drowning him/her in information. In general, if a writer knows their period, this shines through in a multitude of little things, like from how the tallow candle soots the walls to how the beeswax used on the floor tiles smells on a warm day. A girl hopping by with a spindle in her hands, a mother replacing a coif on her infant’s head—little things that build a window to the past.
There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?
AB: I’m not sure I agree with the above. After all, women have been around as long as men, and while they may not have made it to the written records, this doesn’t mean they didn’t have substantial impact on what went on around them. I enjoy writing both male and female characters and my latest book is no exception, with my two POV characters (one man, one woman) sharing the limelight, so to say.
Thanks for answering my questions, Anna. I look forward to stepping into this new era with you, and I know it will seem as real to me as seventeenth century America did in the Graham Saga.
To learn more about Anna, you’ll find her at her website, www.annabelfrage.com, and her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com when she’s not busy writing. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
About Anna Belfrage: Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…
For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.