Interview: Author Anna Belfrage Sits Down to Discuss Writing

Author Anna Belfrage is no stranger to this site. She’s been here numerous times for her beloved series – the time travel historical novels of The Graham Saga – and now, she’s been back already a few times for her new medieval series, The King’s Greatest Enemy. The second book in that series, Days of Sun and Glory, released this year and we talk about that among other new and upcoming adventures she has under her sleeve. Enjoy our discussion below her magnificent cover…..

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Hi Anna! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It seems we were just talking about gingerbread and tea and Christmas traditions when your first The King’s Greatest Enemy novel, In the Shadow of the Storm, came out this past December 2015. Time has flown since then, and it’s already September of 2016 and time for another book by you! What have you been up to? What’s some good news for the year?

Anna: Hi Erin – and it is so nice to be back here in your cozy corner of the blogosphere. Yes, time does fly, doesn’t it, and this wonderful, warm summer has come and gone in the blink of an eye. As to what I’ve been doing, well, I guess it comes as no surprise that I’ve been writing. A lot. As to good news, I am rather chuffed that Days of Sun and Glory has already been named a Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice – and that I have mastered the art of making mojitos.

Mojitos are my absolute favorite so I probably should have had you make our drinks today! Your “Anna” chair is still here for you, so have a seat so we can talk about the second book, Days of Sun and Glory. You’re visiting me so it’s about 99 degrees and humid in Ohio. I don’t even think I shall turn on the oven! Shall we have some sort of iced tea or lemonade – I have sun tea with mint leaves on the porch or freshly squeezed lemonade with fruit? What’s your pleasure?

Anna: The lemonade! Throws me back to my childhood in Colombia, where every day when I came home after school there was lemonade and “morenitas” (chocolate-dipped thin cookies) waiting for me.

Erin: I will get the pitcher and pour us some drinks as we cool off in the corner of my library. I baked muffins early morning, peach and blueberry, so I will pull some of those out for us. We can get started to chat a little about your new series and new book once one of us doesn’t have our mouth full. We can look at your beautiful cover until then. How important to you are these beautiful covers? Do you think they assist you in selling your books?

Anna: I do. I actually start the cover production relatively early in my creative process, as I find the effort of defining the visual presentation of my book acts as an inspiration for the writing as such. I want the cover to hint at the content of the book, so it is important for me to have a “medieval” flavor on this cover. I hope I – or rather my fabulous cover artist, Oliver Bennett at MoreVisual – have succeeded in delivering that.

Erin: We explained last time that you ended your time slip The Graham Saga series (Waaaaa!!! Readers – if you haven’t read this, get it NOW!) and started a new series which is not time slip at all, but medieval historical fiction surrounding Edward II and his wife Isabella of France, set in the 1320s! We had a great interview on the start of your new series and the first book, as I stated, back in December. It’s still a good read for new readers, so they can get to that from this link HERE.

 

As you began writing the second book in this series, did you intentionally write it so it could be read as a standalone or did you intend have it join one book to the next? Of course either way your characters carry over….

Anna: I think it is important the various books in a series can be read as standalones. A new reader should not groan and put it down after fifty pages, thinking it is too much of an effort to catch up with the characters. Having said that, I believe the books are enhanced by being read in order.

Erin: Because I’ve had you on so often, I believe I’ve asked you this before, but let’s look into this again. Did you write all of these books at one time, then split them up and stagger out their release dates? Or do you write each one between the other?

Anna: Ha! Not a question I recall you having asked before. In general, I write all the books in a series before I start publishing them. But I write them as separate books, not as one long story I then have to go back and split up.

Erin: I have asked it, but I always like to bring that up. It’s a unique of doing it I think most authors writing a series of books should try! Why did you choose to do it this way and was it easier that way or more difficult?

Anna: Well, as a reader I hate it when I start a series and it takes several years between installments. So, by having all the books written, I can release them at adequate intervals. Also, by writing the complete series, I can ensure I have consistency throughout – and I also have a major problem in leaving my characters hanging, so I have to find out what happens to them, all the way.  Having said all this, the fact that the books are written does not mean they’re finished. Book 3 in the Kit and Adam series is now on its way into the next editing phase which culminates with an external editor taking over.

Erin: Did you do your research all at one time? What did you do for research? Go to libraries? Read? Travel? Tell us some of your best research stories…

Anna: For The King’s Greatest Enemy (in which Days of Sun and Glory is number 2 of 4) I’d done most of my general research prior to writing. Once into the writing, I have a drafted timeline of “real” events to consider as I develop the novel, but there are frequent examples of me highlighting a paragraph or a word in yellow, which means I must revert and research further. I do this after the first draft, so as not to interrupt the flow. I read a lot on line, but I also buy nice, heavy books I can spend hours reading (very distracting at times).  And I do travel to the various locations – I find it important to have a feel for the general lay of the land.

Best research stories – hmm… I must admit I was rather surprised when I read Ian Mortimer’s meticulous descriptions of items confiscated from Roger Mortimer (and no, they are NOT related) when Roger was attained, only to realise this particular baron had a thing about butterflies – he even had a tunic embroidered with them. Whimsical – but also very humanizing.

Erin: You had to form to new characters with this series, and we talked on that the last time, but as you went further into your series, did you hear them conversing with you and each other as you did the Grahams? Were you as connected to them? Why or why not?

Anna: Poof! Do they talk? OMG! My head is full of them. Not only Kit and Adam, Roger Mortimer and Isabella, but also Matthew and Alex (Matthew and Adam have bonded over several mugs of good ale) and various other Graham family members. Unfortunately, these my beloved chatterboxes are at their most active just after midnight, which has a detrimental impact on sleep.

Erin: How accurate did you strive to make your historical accounts and characters in the book? The guest post you wrote for my readers the other day, which they can read HERE, talked about forming Isabella. Do you think overall you captured close to their character of record, or did they take you in new directions?

Anna: I think it is more or less impossible to know what my “real” historical characters were truly like as people. In some cases, we know what they did and when they did it, but human beings are so much more than the sum of their actions, and from a distance of seven centuries, how are we to assess their motivations, their fears and hopes? I do try to stick to the known events, and often a sequence of events reveals a lot about the person – but it is my interpretation of the facts that colour the characters. As a specific example, take Roger Mortimer, who until relatively recently was mostly depicted as hungry for power, harsh and domineering. I am quite sure he was all of those, but he was also a father of twelve, a devoted husband – at least for the first twenty years or so of his marriage – and, by all accounts, initially a capable and loyal servant to his king, Edward II. I write the story mainly from Adam’s perspective, and he owes everything he has – including his life – to Mortimer, so obviously his take on Mortimer will be somewhat rose-tinted. Not, necessarily, a correct interpretation of Mortimer when applying a holistic approach, but neither can we say it is wrong. Mortimer inspired strong loyalties, and in my experience men who do so have quite a few redeeming qualities. However, as the story progresses, Adam is forced to confront the fact that the hero of his youth is not always a hero, and this causes quite some tension.

Once my characters begin to take shape, I take a step back to allow them to develop as per their own inclinations. Sometimes, they surprise me – Isabella most definitely does so in book four – and while there are no historical records proving this is what they did or said, neither are there records to disprove it. Perfect, IMO.

Erin: What has been your favorite character to write so far? Why?

Anna: In all my books? Alex Graham in The Graham Saga sits very close to my heart – but so do Matthew and Adam – and Kit, especially as she grows into her full potential. And Jason &Helle (whom you haven’t met yet) But if I have to choose, it’s Alex, probably because she gets to time travel – lucky her! (“Lucky?” Alex snorts. Yeah, yeah…we’ve heard it all before, and seriously, honey, if I hadn’t dragged you back in time, someone else would have ended up as Matthew’s very happy wife.)

Erin: What theme(s) do you hope readers take away from The Days of Sun and Glory? What could they ponder as they await the third book?

Anna: This is very much a book about a child caught up in the conflict between his parents. In Days of Sun and Glory, the future Edward III takes up a lot of space, angrily defending his slighted mother to his father, helplessly standing to the side when his mother and her lover bring war to his father’s kingdom. Adam does his best to protect his young lord from all this emotional turmoil and pain, but he can’t shield the boy as much as he would want to. Being torn apart by your parents is, sadly, not uncommon in this day and age either, and it always makes me very angry when adults use their children as weapons against each other. Edward, just like any child caught in such a conflict, has little say over what happens – but shoulders a huge portion of guilt.

Erin: What will the next book in the series be about and when can we expect it?

Anna: The next book covers the first few years of Edward III’s reign. Isabella and Mortimer are in control, and not everyone is delighted at this turn of events, putting it mildly. Edward is as yet a boy, but in the fourth book the boy has become a man – a very young man, but definitely a man. God help Isabella and Mortimer then…

The third book, Under the Approaching Dark, will be out in April 2017.

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Erin: If you aren’t writing about Scotland or England, what else catches your fancy to write about? Will it always be historical fiction or do you think you have more genres up your sleeve?

Anna: Oooo, I definitely have more genres up my sleeve. I hope to release the first in a new trilogy early next year, and the preliminary blurb goes something like this:

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In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with the golden hair and eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died.

Since then, they have tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all in the same place, the same time. It is time to end that which began 3 000 years ago. Time to lay old ghosts to rest, time to finish what was started in distant fogs of time.

This is the story of Jason and his Helle. He betrayed her in their first life – he wants to make amends and has lived through a sequence of lives in a desperate attempt to find her again. He remembers all his lives, she does not – but when she sees him, she knows him, which scares her silly. What also scares her is Sam Woolf, yet another visitor from her distant past – and where Jason wants to make amends, Sam wants revenge…

*************************

 

As to my historical fiction, I am working on a story set in 17th century Sweden. And one set late in 13th century England. And a book featuring a certain Matthew and Alex…

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Erin: Do you have more time to write now and what have you been working on? How do you write? Do you outline and plot extensively or do you write as the muse takes you?

Anna: My personal muse, Ms Inspiration, would tell you I am incorrigible & have the attention span of a gnat. A new idea pops up, and off I go to explore it, even if I’m in the midst of something else. I tell Ms Inspiration to remember it is all her fault – she’s the one who distracts me by introducing new characters, new settings, new everything…So no, I generally do not outline or plot extensively – beyond a detailed timeline of actual events.

I’ve had more time to write lately, but I’m back to working again – too much time spent mostly with me and my imaginary friends was actually having a negative effect on my output (And how strange is that, huh? I’ve concluded that when I write as a treat at the end of a working day, the time is more precious and I go all wild and crazy with joy, while when I can do it all the time, some of the glow fades)

Erin: If you didn’t already answer this in the question about research, did you do any traveling this year? If so, what were some of the favorite things you saw?

Anna: I did answer it in passing, but I’ve been fortunate enough to do two research trips to the UK this year. My highlights are Tewkesbury (I could move there tomorrow) and Lincoln (I could move there like right now). Lincoln Cathedral is probably one of the most “soul-touching” experiences in my life. I still haven’t quite recovered from the awe it inspired.

Erin: Where do you hope to go in the future? I just love how big and bright your eyes are always for learning and doing new things!

Anna: I like the BIG part. Recently, my eyes have looked very small 🙂 As to the future, it’s a great start just having one. Obviously, I want to see my book babies “born”, and I would really, really like to master a yoga stance or two. And I’d like to relearn how to ride – preferably on a very small horse so that it won’t hurt as much when I hit the ground (I stopped riding when I was thrown by a thoroughbred and dislocated my shoulder).

Erin: Sweden seems like an amazing place to live. We are always so busy talking I rarely get to ask you about it. For a vicarious traveler, what are some sites that are must views?

Anna: Stockholm. In summer, this must be among the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Sigtuna, a very, very old city where some of the first Swedish coins were produced. Lund, just as old, where some of the first Danish coins were produced (Lund was Danish until mid 17th century) Ironically, both the mint in Sigtuna and in Lund were started by the same Anglo-Saxon mint-master – or so it seems. Malmö, where I live, so that I can have you over for tea, coffee, lemonade, elderberry cordial or whatever else you may want. 🙂 (and that invite includes your family)

Erin: Yay! That would be amazing to visit you. Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the year?

Anna: Other than writing and working? No, not much.  But I am thinking a week or two somewhere very warm and sunny in March or so would be nice.

Erin: Thanks so much Anna for stopping by and hanging out with me again! It’s always fun to have you by to drink, eat, and be merry with me as we talk about your fabulous books, my friend. Be sure to come back soon ( I bet you will, right?)! Best of luck with this new series, but you don’t need it, it’s terrific!

Anna: Thank you for having me! I am more than delighted to stop by and talk to you whenever you want me to.Actually, I can come back and just eat your muffins. 🙂 

Erin: See you again soon, Anna!

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Days of Sun and Glory (The King’s Greatest Enemy #2)
by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: July 4, 2016
Matador
eBook & Paperback; 418 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy
Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the king’s grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queen’s plans – whether he likes it or not.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.

Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Anna Belfrage, Biography

03_annna_belfrage-2015Had 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, was published in 2015. The second book, Days of Sun and Glory, published in July 2016.

Other than on 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 FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of Days of Sun & Glory by Anna Belfrage, please enter below.

Enter via the Gleam Direct Link

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on September 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

 

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