Cynthia Sally Haggard, author of Thwarted Queen, has graciously stopped by the blog for an exclusive interview. Find out about her motivation to write about Cecylee Neville and Richard, Duke of York, as well as where she’d like to travel, if she misses England, and how she became a writer! With Thwarted Queen being her debut collection, I look forward to more novels to come from Haggard in the future.
Erin: Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for coming by to speak with me at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are happy to be able to talk to you about your life and your books.
Cynthia: Hello! Thank you for interviewing me.
Let’s make some history of our own and get started!
Q: What was your inspiration for Thwarted Queen?
A: A documentary made by Tony Robinson on BBC 4, in which he talked about the Princes in the Tower, and casually mentioned that British historian Michael K. Jones had been going through the archives of Rouen Cathedral and turned up evidence that King Edward IV might be illegitimate. It seems that Richard, Duke of York was away during that long hot summer of 1441. In his absence, his wife Cecylee, Duchess of York had an affair with a well-favored archer on the Rouen garrison.
Erin comments: That is all so very interesting. It seems the case in many of these historical figures, when historians or writers are doing research they turn up all kinds of juicy things that make great stories and get the creative juices flowing!
Q: How would you describe this novel, beyond the synopsis, to potential readers?
A: This is a fictionalized biography that covers 71 years of Cecylee’s life. It starts in 1424, when Lady Cecylee Neville is 9 years old, and is about to be betrothed to 13-year-old Richard of York. It ends in March, 1495, a couple of months before her death. So it has an enormous story arc. I see things in colors, so the beginning of the novel is the golden color of sunlight, that gradually becomes darker and darker.
Erin comments: I love the color analogy, Cynthia, and now that you said that, I can see it within the novel. Very well done.
Q: Will this be a stand alone or have a sequel?
A: THWARTED QUEEN in its entirety (all 495 pages) is a stand-alone novel. However, it is also available in as a 4-volume e-series (THE BRIDE PRICE, ONE SEED SOWN, THE GILDED CAGE and TWO MURDERS REAPED) and as a 3-volume paperback series (ROSE OF RABY, THE GILDED CAGE and TWO MURDERS REAPED). The reason for doing that is because the novel naturally falls into 4 books, and I didn’t want people to be intimidated by having to read the whole of a large novel. The reason why the paperbacks are in a 3-volume series, is because Books I and II are too short for me to put the titles on the spine, so I combined them into ROSE OF RABY.
Q: What other books have you written? Can you tell us about them?
A: The only books I have published are THWARTED QUEEN and the THWARTED QUEEN series, as described above. However, I have 3 novels that are works in progress.
Q: Where do you hope your writing takes you in the future? What do you have “in progress”?
A: What I actually have in progress are a 2-novel sequence set in the earlier part of the 20th-century (between 1921 and 1944), and a third novel that is set in the early middle ages (around 830 AD). As you can see, I like to write about very different periods. Part of the reason for this is because I like to have two very different projects going at once. I find that they feed off of each other. I hope to continue to build my career as a writer. To that end, I’ve applied to take an MFA in Creative Writing.
Q: I read that you found a love for fiction writing during a university class project and never looked back. Is then when you first started to write, why or if not, when?
A: I started to write fiction after I decided to make the transition from research scientist to science writer. I thought that taking fiction classes would help my writing. So yes, I did find my love for fiction writing during that class project, and I have never looked back.
Q: What is your process for writing like? Do you schedule, outline, or write as the inspiration arises?
A: I actually do both. I do a great deal of reading before I write a word. Then I usually write what I refer to as “Act I” where I set the story up. At that point, I may let it rest awhile before I continue. During that first draft I usually write to inspiration, because there is something so magical about discovering your story as you write. And I like to give myself that treat. On subsequent drafts, I do a lot of editing, organizing and planning.
Erin Comments: I can appreciate that. I tend to also write from the heart first, getting it all down and then go back and revise later. I think you can funnel a lot of emotion into writing that way. Though I know different things work for different people.
Q: What has been the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome on your writing journey?
A: The biggest problem I face (like all other writers) is, how much can I get away with before the reader notices or minds? There are all these rules we are supposed to obey, like “Show, don’t tell.” But the fact is that you can get away with telling the reader things, if you know how to do it without annoying the reader. (Jane Austen knew how to do it).
Q: Where is your favorite place to travel or that you would like to travel? And why?
A: I do a lot of traveling, and I always have travel plans. So I don’t have a favorite place yet, because I’m in the process of discovering the many marvelous places in this world. So far, I’ve confined myself to traveling around the US and in Europe. But one day, I hope to find the courage to visit non-European cultures.
Q: I was also born in England and my mom’s ancestors originate there. I can’t wait to go back and do some further research for some upcoming novel ideas. What brought you to America and how much do you miss the UK? Why and/or why not? Do you find inspiration in family history?
A: I came to America thirty years ago when I married my first husband. It took me ten years to settle down here because I missed England so much. I still miss England, but I am now happy here. Yes, I do find inspiration in family history. I would like to do a fictionalized biography about Grandma Stephanie, who was quite a colorful character. (I talk a bit about her on Spun Stories, as she was a person who inspired me to tell stories.)
Q: What other historical time periods are you interested in?
A: All historical time periods interest me, but I particularly gravitate to those periods in which a transition is happening, like the early years of the 1920s, or 1938 on the cusp of the second world war, or the ninth century just as Sicily was being taken over by the Saracens. I love those transitional times because that’s when conflicts erupt and interesting things happen.
Erin Comments: I concur. Though I don’t normally like American History, I do tend to like those major transition periods most and have lately been getting into early 1900s history. I think it would be great if you looked into writing a novel on ninth century Sicily!
Q: What authors have, or do, inspire you? What books do you like?
A: I love historical novels. But I have also been influenced by authors such as Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov.
Q: What is your best loved hobby outside of writing and reading?
A: I love to dance, do yoga, hike and now I’ve taken up karate! I spend a great deal of time doing physical exercise, principally because I suffer from chronic back pain and that is how I treat it. (Better for my health & wellbeing to exercise rather than pop painkillers. J )
Erin Comments: I also struggle with a condition that brings chronic pain and I do a lot of yoga and hiking. I commend you for being so physical, I agree it does help!!
Q: Where can readers connect with you?
A: The best place is my website, http://www.spunstories.com
Erin: It was lovely to host an interview with such a wonderful woman such as yourself! Thank you and I do hope to talk to you further another time!
Cynthia: Thank you for asking such interesting questions! It was a pleasure to get to know you.
Thwarted Queen Synopsis~
THWARTED QUEEN is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.
Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up.
The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.
But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War – during which England loses all of her possessions in France – and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.
This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.
SEE MY REVIEW of THWARTED QUEEN HERE! There’s a GIVEAWAY there until March 4, 2013!
Cynthia Haggard, Biography~
Born and raised in Surrey, England, CYNTHIA SALLY HAGGARD has lived in the United States for twenty-nine years. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Why does she write historical novels? Because she has been reading them with great enjoyment since she was a child. Because she has a great imagination and a love of history that won’t go away. And because she has an annoying tendency to remember trivial details of the past and to treat long-dead people as if they were more real than those around her.
Cynthia’s biggest influence was her grandmother, Stephanie Treffry, who had a natural story-telling ability. As a widow in 1970s Britain, Grandma Stephanie didn’t drive a car, so would spend time waiting for buses. Her stories were about various encounters she had at those bus-stops. Nothing extraordinary, except that she made them so funny, everyone was in fits of laughter. A born entertainer, Cynthia tries to emulate her when she writes her novels.
In case you were wondering, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of SHE and KING SOLOMONS’S MINES. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of her great-grandfather.) Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society.
You can visit her website at www.spunstories.com.