Today I’d like to welcome Helen R. Davis to Ascroft, eh? to discuss Isabella Unashamed.
Welcome Helen. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel.
H.R.D: ISABELLA UNASHAMED is a novel about Isabella I of Castile, one of history’s most infamous queens. She is widely viewed today through the lens of a more politically correct mindset that looks upon her as a despot. This is an alternate history novel that imagines Isabella taking a different route, not only after the fall of Grenada, but with her children.
What prompted you to write about this historical event?
H.R.D: I have always been both fascinated and repulsed by Isabella I. Unlike Elizabeth I, she is not remembered fondly in historical novels or books. I learned about Isabella as a teenager, through the Royal Diary series Isabel:Jewel of Castilla, by Carolyn Meyer. Though I adored her independent spirit, I loathed her intolerance, not realizing, of course, I was projecting my own values onto a figure who lived long before 20th/21st century ideals. As I matured, I began to view Isabella in a more nuanced light. I decided to try to re-imagine how her life and legacy would have been if she had done things a little differently. The inspiration was my own CLEOPATRA UNCONQUERED series, but I did not identify with Isabella or Spain as passionately as I do Cleopatra and ancient Egypt, so I decided to team up with Carolina Casas, who knew Isabella’s story more intimately than I did.
How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
H.R.D: While this is alternate history, we still stuck to the details known about Castilian customs, the 15th and 16th century, Isabella and Ferdinand’s characters and what was known about them.
What research did you do for this book?
H.R.D: I have visited Spain and the palace where Ferdinand and Isabella married in Segovia. Carolina has done most of the reading of the nonfiction sources used. I also read several biographies on Isabella, and several novels to help with her writing style.
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?
H.R.D: Writing is easy for me, so I don’t really have any difficulties. The difficulty for me was writing scenes set in Spain, since I have more of a passion for France, England and Egypt.
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?
H.R.D: Part of it is being in Isabella’s castle and walking the same streets and places she walked in in Spain. Another part is just reading until you feel you ‘know’ the personages of the past. I did a lot of research on Spain in college, and most of it culminated in this novel.
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?
H.R.D: Female characters. While I would not go as far as to say women have been purposely written out of history, they are still underrepresented.
Thanks for answering my questions, Helen, and good luck with the novel. Isabella Unashamed is available on online retailers, including Amazon.
About the authors of Isabella Unashamed:
Helen R. Davis: She is an American author. Her first novel, Evita: My Argentina was previously published as Evita: My Life and republished with Custom Book Publications in Hong Kong. Her second novel, CLEOPATRA UNCONQUERED, which is the first in a series, imagines a world in which Antony and Cleopatra, rather than Augustus Caesar, are the victors of the Battle of Actium. the sequel, CLEOPATRA VICTORIOUS, will be released soon, followed by the titles CLEOPATRA MAGNIFICA and CLEOPATRA TRIUMPHANT. Her third novel, or at least, her third historical novel/alternate history, THE MOST HAPPY, will be published with Callipe Editorial, based out of Madrid Spain.
Carolina Casas: She has a BA in History and a minor in women’s studies.
Her debut novel “Isabella Unashamed” was co-written with the author of “Cleopatra Unconquered” & “The Most Happy”, Helen R. Davis, and it is a powerful alternative historical novel that asks the important question that has been on everyone’s mind: what-if? What if Isabella had taken a different route than the one she did following the surrender of Granada at the beginning of 1492.
A young woman who enjoys life and giving to others, she is also a self-proclaimed nerd who currently resides in the lone star state of Texas where she spends her free time writing, drawing, reading about her favorite historical subjects and watching classical horror and rom-coms with her friends.
Carolina’s journey into the realm of alternate history began when she was very little. After a frightful and sleepless night, she was introduced to the legend of King Arthur and his knights through Sir Thomas Mallory’s epic “Le Morte d’Arthur” which started her fascination with the medieval period and later with other eras. This, along with her curiosity, has led her to delve into the realm of alternate history.
Carolina has several pages on Facebook where she works alongside other history buffs and novelists (Tudor Nerds with Glasses and Tudor Facts vs. Fiction), as well as a history blog where she shares her thoughts on movies and TV shows as well.