Today I’ve invited Anna Belfrage, author of The Cold Light of Dawn, the fourth book her current series to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her latest novel.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel.
AB: The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in my series about the rise and fall of Roger Mortimer, first Earl of March. In this instalment, a very young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, and while Queen Isabella and Mortimer do their best to retain control over him, time is working in Edward’s favour. Caught in the middle of this conflict is Adam de Guirande, my fictional (and very honourable) knight who serves Edward but loves Mortimer as a father.
What prompted you to write about this historical event?
AB: I’ve wanted to write about the times of Edward II and in particular Roger Mortimer since my sixth-grade history teacher spent a double/period history class sharing his own passion about these events with us. He was no Edward II fan. In fact, he wasn’t much of a Mortimer fan either, but he found Mortimer the necessary catalysator to rid England of Edward II and pave the way for Edward III, in Mr Wilmshurst’s opinion the best king ever.
How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
AB: In this case, I stick pretty close to historical facts (with one major exception, but I will not reveal it here as it is central to the plot) When I do deviate, it is usually because there’s an element of uncertainty regarding the fact itself – some things we believe to be true are often based on somewhat flimsy evidence and could, in fact, be untrue.
However, the recorded events of 1329 and 1330 offer plenty of drama in themselves, so there was little reason to not stick to them. Roger Mortimer points out (he’s in my head a lot) that he does feel I could have ignored certain facts and specifically events that happened on November 29, 1330. I did not feel I could, which left me with a terrible headache for days while Roger kicked his way round my brain in retribution.
What research did you do for this book?
AB: Well, I’ve read a lot of biographies 😊 And then I’ve spent a lot of time visiting various sites. On one such visit I was standing on what remains of a curtain wall and realized, to my sorrow, that the view from this particular point faced east, not west. It obliged me to rewrite a rather beautiful sunset scene….
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 prefer having fictional protagonists as this allows me much more freedom in what happens to them. However, the point of the novel is to tell the story of what really happened (from the POV of my characters) in the years 1329 and 1330 so Edward III, Roger Mortimer, Henry of Lancaster and quite a lot of other real characters are very much a part of the cast. One real figure that I have taken some liberties with is Thomas of Brotherton, uncle to Edward III. In recorded history, he doesn’t appear much, being dubbed an “unremarkable” man. This has allowed me to create a fictional Thomas, loosely built round the facts we know.
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: Well, first of all I believe the human experience is relatively unchanged if we compare now to then. We experience the same emotions as our ancestors did and probably express those emotions in similar ways, albeit our vocabulary is different to theirs. So I would argue there is little difference in breathing life into a contemporary character and a character from the past. However, there are some fundamental differences: the Church played a very central role in everyone’s life in the 14th century, which I of course have to reflect. Likewise, a woman back then usually had a much more restricted role than us modern women do—even if I do not believe this means medieval women as a rule were weak and submissive.
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 suppose that depends on what period you write about. Also, I’d argue that very many historical novels are in fact built round a female rather than a male protagonist (take Philippa Gregory’s books as an example) I like writing both genders – I enjoy presenting the events through both a female and a male lens so to say. Obviously, if I want the character to be part of a battle, it will have to be from a male’s POV—at least if I’m writing 14th century. Likewise, a birthing chamber was unlikely to have any men present.
Thanks for answering my questions in such interesting detail and leaving me with a couple questions to ponder, Anna. I know I’ll only get the answers in the book so I look forward to reading it.
For more information about Anna Belfrage, please visit her website, www.annabelfrage.com. Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king. It is available at the following outlets:
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.