Yesterday, I reviewed Anna Belfrage’s In the Shadow of the Storm with positive thoughts. I hope you check it out. Today, she’s graciously stopped by for tea, cookies, and discussion on all things new. Enjoy!
Hi Anna, welcome once again for Oh, for the Hook of a Book! You’ve visited so many times you have a permanent special chair with a nameplate on the back of it! Come in and have a seat, put up your feet, and let’s begin with our normal pot of tea and sweet. What type of tea will we be brewing today ma’am? In Ohio, this week, though a week till Christmas, it’s muggy, balmy, and almost 70 degrees, though it’s dropping to the 30s soon. It’s unheard of, really, and Santa might be wearing flip-flops this year.
Anna: He’ll be in shorts and a raincoat here. Not as much as a glimmer of snow around…But as we are in December, I do think we should go for something nice and comforting – some Darjeeling, perhaps?
Erin: Lovely choice! Since it is the Christmas season for me, and I always get to baking my grandmother’s vintage gingerbread, I’ll bring out a gingerbread lad or two and we can munch on them (nothing beats pretending to munch on men does it?)…
Anna: *fans herself* Too right! You know, we have a vintage gingerbread recipe as well – it’s from my great-great grandmother.
Erin: I bet it’s wonderful. It may seem weird to call my grandmother’s recipe vintage, but my grandmother was born in 1899! Long story. Plus I think it was handed down to her. I think those recipes are the best ones.
Let’s get started with some conversation then. Things have changed for you in the past 6 months to a year, with a career change I believe, and an entire new book series. I cried when we had to say goodbye to the Graham family, and from your fabulous The Graham Saga series of eight time slip historical books, but I was excited to read the first book, In the Shadow of the Storm, of your new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, as well!
Q: First of all, how hard was it to leave the Graham family behind and shift gears in your writing? I know how special your characters are to you and how they lead your writing. Hopefully, no one did a cross over in your head! How did you make the shift to writing The King’s Greatest Enemy in regards to now you’re in England, the dialect and dialogue changes, and etc….?
A: It was difficult – I was very worried Alex and Matthew would contaminate my new characters, but that never happened – and Alex and Matthew are still very alive in my head (so alive I’m working on a ninth book in between doing other things). It helped that I knew the history so well – I’ve been something of a medieval nut for most of my life – and as to dialect, I don’t really do that. I keep my dialogue relatively “modern” as I want people to be dragged into the story by it, not sit back and think “hang on: what does that mean?”
Q: A ninth in the Graham? A-ha! That’s new news that will please many people!! You didn’t call it quits with the series for long. I love medieval period as well. The overarching plot within the books that make up the The King’s Greatest Enemy is not a time slip. If you didn’t answer this above, how do you best describe this series set in the 14th century and what was your inspiration for it?
A: Describe? The King’s Greatest Enemy is straightforward Historical Fiction with a large dose of love in the mix – but then I am a sucker for the love angle. My inspiration was very much the life of Roger Mortimer – and then I had this nagging little picture in my head of a man, a big, strong man who was reduced to fear for his life while cradling his foot. Now that you’ve read the book, you know exactly what I am referring to, right? So Adam came to me at his most vulnerable, and in his wake came Kit – not as vociferous or as “in your face” as Alex, but strong and determined all the same. Anyway: I saw him look at her, saw her look at him, and from the way her mouth curved, how his face lit up, I knew I had a new leading couple. 🙂
Q: In the Shadow of the Storm, the first book in the series, just released in November (2015). How has the reception been for the novel? I mean, I’m so excited myself as I haven’t read much surrounding Edward II in regards to historical fiction.
A: So far so good – a lot of nice reviews and promising sales. But some of my loyal Graham Saga readers are finding the transition difficult – I have a lot of e-mails asking me to write more about the Grahams – plus for those in love with time slip, In the Shadow of the Storm does not quite deliver that. I think I’ll find new readers with this series. I hope so!
Q: I did like your time slip, but I do generally read a lot more medieval historical fiction, so it was great in my opinion. How much research did you need you need to do for the series, how long did it take to write and research, and did you write them all at once before publishing or are you writing each one after one publishes? Whichever tactic you used, why did you set up your process this way? Why does it work for you?
A: Oh, I did a lot of research, but more along the lines that I’ve always enjoyed reading about this period than specifically “okay, let’s build Adam’s and Kit’s world.” The world-building happens as I write – so now and then I’ll yellow stuff which flags I have to go back and double-check or do more research.
I have the general plotline more or less done, and book two was completed before initiating the publication process. Book three is done as well, and book four is a somewhat recalcitrant WIP (Work in Progress) as there are some upcoming scenes I am very much dreading. Gulp.
I wouldn’t want to publish the first book in a series without having the whole series under way – I would be worried I might promise more than I can deliver otherwise.
Q: I always like how you put some humor into your novels, or in your plot. I find that sometimes you channel a little inner Shakespearean comedy. How do you come up with these ideas and do you make yourself laugh along with the characters? <You make us laugh, of course, in a good way…*laughs and spits out bits of cookie*>
A: Oh, I laugh. In this my latest book I am very fond of the scene ending with “It is my hen.” That whole dialogue makes me laugh. I think there has to be some levity as otherwise things could become too grim, too intense.
Q: I’m really excited to read about your female character, Kit, I just feel she is going to be another strong, fun, kick ass lady…how do you describe her? Did she appear to you or did you model her after someone from history?
A: Kit is strong more than kick-ass. After all, she is a product of her time and age, and while there are some events that really bring out the inner lioness in her (like the appearance of Cassandra de Ley in book two and this lady’s designs on Adam), she usually opts for a more discreet approach. The first time I properly met Kit – beyond the shadowy woman in Adam’s wake – she was studying her reflection, all that thick Pre-Raphaelite hair lying unbound down her back. There was something very lonely about her, and I think this was just after her mother died, leaving her entirely without family. She obviously needed someone – as did Adam.
Q: I did get a sense of loneliness about her, and though strong and independent, it’s much more introverted at times with her I realized. This is how I feel she differs from Alex, from a reader’s perspective. That said, let’s move on…
Did you find time to travel this year, locally or otherwise? If so, what adventures did you have? What did you see or do? What fun things have you been up to?
A: I’ve been a bit all over the place this year, but the highlight was when my husband and I went to the US in June. A second honeymoon if you will, the first time in 28 years that we travelled without the kids – a bit disconcerting at first, we kept on glancing over our shoulders, looking for our perennial tail – and it was absolutely wonderful. We did San Francisco, Yosemite, Las Vegas and Denver. I think we both agreed Yosemite was the most amazing.
Q: That sounds lovely! Are you preparing for the holidays? What holiday do you celebrate and what are some traditions? I celebrate Christmas and I’m really big on family traditions or old world English traditions (I was born in England, I try to make it still representative for the kiddos).
A: Well, here in Sweden the big day is Christmas Eve. Over the years, we’ve developed our own family traditions, principal among them that my husband and I get up really early and prepare hot chocolate with whipped cream, warm saffron buns and a plate of gingerbread biscuits (in the shape of hearts). We light the fire, a veritable forest of candles, and then we put on our favourite Christmas record at full blast. Our children are all adults by now, but they come stumbling down the stairs the moment the music comes down, and I swear their eyes still glitter with expectation. Because after the chocolate and the buns, there are always some morning gifts…
Another tradition is the very long and mandatory Christmas walk – we burn the calories in advance, if you will.
Erin Comments: That sounds quite amazing, Anna!! What a beautiful scene you just set. I hope it’s just as lovely this year. I love to create our own traditions too, which we have. Speaking of Sweden and Christmas though, my eight year old came home today having done her Christmas Around the World unit on Sweden!
Q: What type of holiday festivities would the characters in the 14th Century have partaken of?
A: Mass. Caroling. The odd mummer, various boisterous games. Food – more plentiful than usual. Kit’s favourite would be the music – and especially the French troubadour who specialized in love songs.
Q: What is your favorite baked good this time of year (besides my gingerbread cookies) that your healthy son might not let you eat?
A: My health-freak of a son would prefer it if I gnawed on a carrot throughout the holidays. But I’m going to ignore him and enjoy my saffron buns – plus your excellent gingerbread, of course!
Q: Live the life, eh?! In closing up the discussion, what is the name of second book in the series and when will it come out? How will it continue the story? How many books will there be total?
A: The second book is called Days of Sun and Glory. I hope for it to be out by summer and this time I’m taking you along to France, where Roger Mortimer is kicking his heels while planning just how to avenge himself on Hugh Despenser. Plus we have Queen Isabella taking centre stage – not something that pleases Kit all that much.
Erin: Thank you so much Anna for spending this time with me. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you and I can’t wait to do so in person someday. Best wishes on a new wonderful series!
Anna: Thank you for inviting me. Oops, seems I’ve cleaned you out of gingerbread lads – don’t tell my health freak son J And I definitely hope to have the opportunity to meet you for real someday. Until then, a warm virtual Christmas hug!
Erin: Take all the yummy gingerbread men you want, I’ll make more. Warm Christmas and friendship hugs back to you! ❤
In the Shadow of the Storm (The King’s Greatest Enemy, Book One)
by Anna Belfrage
Publication Date: November 1, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Sir Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Sir Roger for his life and all his worldly good, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Sir Roger thinks she is. So when Sir Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.
England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down, and fate is a fickle mistress, favouring first one, then the other.
Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but at present Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and the baron, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.
Kit de Courcy has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. What will Adam do when he finds out he has been duped?
Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Sir Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.
In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his baron, his king, and his wife.
Author Anna Belfrage, Bio
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.
When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.
Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.
Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series 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.
The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, will be published in the autumn of 2015.
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