Today I have an interview with the one-of-a-kind Anna Belfrage. Her eighth book in The Graham Saga series has published, but as it’s the last, we’ve talked about the series as a whole and what’s next. If you missed my review of To Catch a Falling Star yesterday, you can view it HERE. Enjoy!
Hi Anna, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s always a pleasure to have you here for conversation, drink, and sweets…and your characters…oh, how they like to try to come along for some fun too! Alas, though I’m sure this won’t be the last time I have you on my site, it does look like it is the end of the The Graham Saga series for now, with the publishing of the eighth book, To Catch a Falling Star. Let’s chat a bit today about it all. How has it all been going for you?
Anna: Well, I’ve exceeded my normal annual consumption of Kleenex by now… I had no idea it would be so difficult to say goodbye to Alex and Matthew. My husband tries to comfort me by pointing out there’s nothing stopping me from writing some more about them, and he’s right, of course. But there are other characters calling for my attention, and so…I do think there will be a novella or two. Mainly to dull the edge of abstinence I am presently suffering.
Erin: I better go get my extra box of Kleenex then, I’m sure we’ll need them as we talk. Are we up for a spot of tea today? If so, I’ll put on the tea kettle and brew up whatever you’d like. It’s rainy and humid and chilly here right now. Or we can do iced tea, in fact, if you’d prefer. And I know that you haven’t been allowed sweets in your home lately either, but you do love good cake, so I baked up a celebratory pound cake with raspberries and cream. Name your pleasure and I’ll serve it up!
Anna: I love you. Love you! And your pound cake! (Eagerly extends her plate) And yes, tea would be nice – it’s sunny and freezing cold over here, so I prefer the kettle variety.
Erin: It’s all prepared, so I’m on my way back in to settle beside you in some of my comfy library chairs. Aw, *hugs* Anna, I so enjoy you too! I’m looking forward to chatting, and hopefully, laughing as well. I do think I love your laugh, even if I’ve never heard it in person! Let’s get started.
Anna: My grandmother (a dour person who spent most of her life in a housedress and rollers until my grandfather died when she suddenly lost 20 pounds, bought herself jeans, a leather jacket and let her hair grow long) always said my laugh reminded her of the sound a goat makes if it shits on a tea-tray. Did I mention she wasn’t very nice? Actually, I think both of us have contagious laughs – I can see it in your eyes.
Erin: Hahahaha!! I literally just spit out this nice tea I just made all over my lap. I should know better, you are so very funny. I’m going to have to compose myself to even begin again. I might need to wipe myself up a little as well.
Ah, ok, now that I’ve recovered, let’s see if I can ask some questions. The most general question would be, especially after I’ve had you on my site probably 10 or more times, how does it feel to have accomplished writing and publishing eight books in a successful series? Do you feel content and ready for something new? Will you miss it? Will you keep promoting it?
Anna: Will I miss it? Gah! Yes, of course I will. And yes, I will continue promoting the series – among other things by publishing the odd novella or two as mentioned above. But I have so much other stuff in my head, and for some months Alex and Matthew will have to cede center stage to other characters. (“You can’t be serious!” Alex scowls, arms akimbo. “After all we’ve done for you, and you’re just going to leave us like this? Like this?” She gestures at Matthew’s half-finished little cabin, their private retreat. “Just for some months,” I try. Besides, if we’re going to be honest I’ve already written a couple of chapter sin which the cabin is finished and furnished. “You have?” Alex softens. “Well then.”)
Erin: After reading this eighth book, Alexandra Lind and Matthew Graham certainly, to me, don’t seem like they are finished, or that they’re family is finished. Excuse me if you’ve mentioned anything like above already. Though I know you tease about making them immortal, truly, do they still prod your mind with things they want to say?
Anna: Constantly. That Alex is a chatter-box, let me tell you! (“I am not!” Alex says, glaring at me. Matthew just smiles, draws his wife close and kisses her head. “Aye you are. The miracle is that most of what you say actually makes sense.”)
Anyway, yes, there are some things that need clearing up: Samuel and his life among the Mohawk, for example. And there’s an infected situation between Daniel and that horrible toad Richard Campbell. Plus Jacob’s unknown daughter in London is dealt a very, very bad hand of cards.
Erin: When you first set out to write a time slip series, and wrote the first book, did you have in mind it would remain set in the past throughout the series and she might never come back to the present to live?
Anna: Yes. I had this terrible premonition that if I allowed Alex to return, she’d never get back to Matthew. There was this horrible line running in my head: “She died just as twilight tinged the skies with tones of purple dusk. It was the 7th of May and it was exactly twenty years since she’d lost him. Him. Her Matthew, the man she’d last seen as he ran towards her, arms open in a futile attempt to grab her as time sucked her back. Him. Twenty years of arid emptiness, of longing for his voice, his touch. Him. Alex Lind turned her face to the wall and gave up breath.”
Well, as you can guess, that served as a pretty good motivator in never, ever, allowing Alex to slip back through time.
Erin: Oh my, yes. Why did you choose, as an author, to have her slip into the 17th century? Do you feel that only someone with Alex’s robust personality could really be strong enough to “get on with her new life and love?”
Anna: The 17th century was a given. I am fascinated by this period in time, by the people who were brave enough to traverse the oceans in small wooden ships to start up life in the New World, by men and women so committed to their faith they were willing to die for it. And yes, I do believe most of us, if yanked out of our context, would more or less curl up and die, so it takes a determined – and open-minded – person to sort of pull up her socks and get on with it. I also think it helped that Alex came with some deep personal scars, and in some ways being transported backwards in time gave her an opportunity to reinvent herself.
Erin: Obviously Alex falls in love with Matthew and they start a family, so in the course of the series, they travel many places and take on new things with each novel. Though they seem a simple, down-to-earth couple, they are also very revolutionary. How do you, as the author, feel that they, and their family, grew over the course of the series? What did they learn?
Anna: It was difficult for Matthew to recognize just how dependent he was on Alex – as he had to do when they immigrated to Maryland, with him more or less torn apart with the pain of leaving his beloved Scottish manor.
Over time, both Alex and Matthew have learnt to share their emotional burdens with each other, whether it be the painful secrets of their past, or the devastating loss of their children. Theirs is a relationship built on love, respect and trust, on the certainty that no matter what, they’ll be there for each other – and they pass this on to their children, all of whom have successful marriages with partners they respect as well as love.
Erin: Alex and Matthew both are very strong, passionate, and yet emotional. How did you capture their personalities for the page? How do you think they mirror each other and how do you feel they are similar?
Anna: Well, if you ask Alex, she’ll tell you she is nothing like her obstinate, old-fashioned man, and Matthew will let you know he has little in common with his stubborn, opinionated wife.
I think they are similar in their outlook on life – do the right things, speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves.
Matthew is far more devout than Alex is – and initially, his brand or religion has a whiff of intolerance – he is, after all, a man shaped by the events of the English Civil War. Alex may have her doubts about God being a Presbyterian, but over time she is influenced by Matthew’s deep-seated conviction that God exists, and by the end of the series she has regular little chats with God, mostly to make sure He’s doing His job and keeping her family safe.
Passion is something they definitely have in common – for each other, for life, for their children.
Erin: Of all the secondary characters, children, etc., who was your favorite to write? Who did you enjoy creating the most, who had a mind of their own, and who did you not like very much?
Anna: I’m ambivalent to Daniel and Ruth, both of them with a rather narrow-minded approach to things, where things are either black or white. In my experience, life is mostly a jumble of varied greys…
My favourite… Well, Ian is very close to my heart as is Samuel. Both of them go through the harrowing experience as children of being torn in two between people they love, having to choose one over the other, all the while knowing that the person they don’t choose will be very hurt. Children are very perceptive like that, aren’t they?
Erin: Over the course of the saga, as mentioned, many times and places were encountered. Which was your favorite setting and time period? Why? Was there one that was more of a challenge?
Anna: I am a sucker for American Colonial – the courage it must have taken to ride off into the wilds, stake a claim and then set about taming the wilderness into arable lands. So I am very fond of my version of Colonial Maryland, including Providence, this bustling little town that evolved into Annapolis. The time period is consistently 17th century, so I guess that shows this is my favourite time.
Erin: Yes, I agree. Colonial America is also one of my favorites in general, and about your series.
Beyond that, what lessons and values do you feel you’ve taught within your book as you went along? Alex and Matthew both seem whole-heartedly like fine examples in regards to love, friendship, loyalty, justice.
Anna: I think my books are about love – the enduring kind, the one that has you sitting up all night when your loved one is ill, just to be able to hold his hand, the one that makes you look at your partner after thirty odd years and still see the person you fell in love with. I also firmly believe that most people strive to be good. Yes, for some it doesn’t work out all that well, but deep down, most of us want to do the right thing. Matthew and Alex are such people, and at times their integrity places them at risk – but some things are worth fighting for. Finally, Alex makes a journey into the unknown and becomes an ambassador for tolerance in an era where people were suspicious of anyone different from them. Sadly, I think we still see that type of behavior in our world of today, and I agree with Alex, that ultimately there’s no difference – we are all creature blessed with a short but priceless span of life.
Erin: So, the question everyone is probably asking, will there be more to this series in some shape and form? Will we ever hear from any of these characters again?
Anna: Well, I think I’ve replied to that question further up. So how about you go up and read it while I serve myself another slice of this fantastic pound cake? 🙂
Erin: Yes, when you sat down you did say you might write a novella or two! I can’t wait to hear more about them. I’ll ponder it while I pour you more tea to have with your cake. 🙂
In all of the heartache, turmoil, heartbreak, and yet also joy, in your epic familial saga, do you feel that you’ve wrapped up most of the character arcs in this final book, at least especially with the children? Why or why not?
Anna: Not all of them. Samuel tugs at my heart – a lot. Daniel remains unexplored, and little Adam is growing into a young man of character.
Erin: Samuel is one of my favorites. I’d love to read a book about him. HINT!!!
Have you ever thought of going all the way in the opposite direction and writing a novel or novella that is a prequel? You know, one that tells us about Alex’s upbringing and normal everyday life in modern America before she slips? Something about that intrigues me!
Anna: Oh, I have started a prequel – but it starts much, much earlier than that! “She was born just as a bolt of lightning struck the Giralda, causing the heavy bell to boom out a greeting. That, at least, was what her grandfather said, laughing at the thought of a Catholic bell ringing in the birth of a little Jewish girl.” Welcome to 15th century Seville, and the story of Mercedes.
Erin: Oh, THAT’S exciting, I want to read that already!
I saw an excerpt at the back of To Catch of Falling Star, from a new project you’re working on which is set in 14th century England. I’m excited and want to know more about it! What can you tell us?
Anna: Adam de Guirande is a man who has more than one reason to love his lord, the enigmatic and ambitious Roger Mortimer. In 1321, Adam marries Kit Coucy – except he thinks he’s marrying Katherine de Monmouth, and doesn’t take it all that well when he realises he’s been played the fool. Not that Kit had any choice, but Adam has a hard time believing that.
When the conflict between Baron Mortimer and Edward II explodes into armed conflict, Adam has no choice but to ride with his lord, no matter that treason comes with dishonourable death. With Mortimer in chains, and Adam’s at death’s door, only one person cares enough to come looking – Kit.
This is but a brief introduction to a story that will require at least three novels to tell in full. A story where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.
We first meet Adam as he stands waiting for his bride:
Adam de Guirande approached his impending nuptials with as much enthusiasm as a lamb about to be led to the slaughter. Had it not been for the dowry, further enlarged by the baron’s generous gift, he would have refused the honour, all too aware of the fact that most men viewed his intended wife as used goods. He’d only met Katherine briefly, but rumour had her spending a lot of time alone with the baron – especially during the past winter, when the baron had spent several consecutive weeks at Wigmore – and Adam knew better than most just how carnal a man the baron could be. Not for him the refined love of troubadours and chansons, no, Sir Roger Mortimer preferred his pleasures in the flesh, so to speak.
The first instalment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, is planned for later this year. I rather like the title – what do you think, Erin?
Erin: I like the title and the book premise. Again, excited! I look forward to it!
I love the subtle humor in your books, within Alex but in many of your other characters as well. I feel like you are like this in real life. I think this makes your books fun to read. Do you always wish to carry an element of humor into your characters or does it just “happen?”
Anna: It mostly happens – I do believe my characters take after their creator. But I think it is important with humour – it serves to save a scene from too much sentimentality.
Erin: What is one of the funniest things that have happened to you while in the course of researching or writing your books? If not when writing, then in general, because I know you have some of those stories!
Anna: Funniest? Hmm. I was in Cumnock – I felt I had to see this center of the universe in Matthew Graham’s Scottish life – and I must admit to being a tad disappointed. It wasn’t quite as picturesque as I had hoped. It did, however, have a hotel smack bang in the middle, and this hotel offered afternoon teas. The place was deserted. It was my BFF, me, and the waiter. At some point he asked what we’re doing there. I told him and he just blinked. “Write about Cumnock? Whatever for?” He gestured at the window. “There must be thousands of Scottish towns prettier than this.” Absolutely. But only Cumnock had Sandy Peden, that endearing fanatical preacher who livened up the nearby area in the 17th century.
Erin: I know you already live overseas, and you travel some, what is your favorite place nearby where you live? What is your favorite place abroad?
Anna: I suppose whether it is overseas or not depends on perspective. From where I’m standing, it is you who is overseas, while I have my feet firmly planted in Swedish soil. My favourite place here in Sweden is our country house. Situated in the middle of nowhere, it sits on a lake, and there are no sounds other than those of the wind in the trees, the birds, the bees… Like balm or my soul. My favourite place abroad has to be London. Or Istanbul. Yes, Istanbul, historical highway between east and west, between old and new.
Erin: Oh, Anna, I know! I meant overseas from myself, silly. I still sat I was born overseas (England), you know, not that I live overseas now. It’s all relative, you’re right. J I’d love to go to Istanbul too!
If you could time slip yourself, where would it be? Who would you meet? What would you wear? What would you eat? (I’m sounding like Dr. Suess…)
Anna: There are so many events in history I’d like to peek in on, but if I have to choose one moment, I think I’d have liked to be on the Santa Maria when Columbus saw land – well, when the look-out screeched that he saw land. As this was an all-male venture, I’d be appropriately dressed in scratchy hose, breeches, a short – and too warm – doublet over a long linen shirt. Food would have been boring: fortunately, I’d have brought along a lime or two to ward off scurvy.
Erin: Ha! Somehow, I can see you doing that! My dearest Anna, I hope we meet your characters from The Graham Saga again in some shape or form, but if not, I look forward to your creation of new ones. Thank you for sharing the Graham’s story with the rest of us; the books will be forever treasured and I’ll pass them down to my daughters. I am excited for you to keep writing, as I know you have many more stories to tell. You’re still welcome here anytime!
Anna: Sheesh! Now look what you’ve done – pass me the Kleenex, will you? It’s been my pleasure to visit with you, and I hope to have the opportunity to do so many more times over the coming years. After all, I haven’t even begun telling you about Jason and Helle, have I?
Erin: Big teaser!!!
Publication Date: March 1, 2015
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Series: Book Eight, The Graham Saga
Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip
To Catch a Falling Star is the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.
Some gifts are double-edged swords …
For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option.
Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours.
While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet.
All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes.
Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?
Buy To Catch a Falling Star~
Graham Saga Titles
Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star
About the Author, Anna Belfrage~
I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive …
Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.
I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.
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