Tag Archives: historical fiction mysteries

From the Charred Remains Historical Mystery by Susanna Calkins: Available in Paperback + Review

charred remains 2


From the Charred Remains, the second book by Susanna Calkins in the Lucy Campion Mysteries Series, comes out March 17, 2015 in paperback, after publishing last year in hardcover and e-book format. I’m celebrating with a review today, as I read it last year and inadvertently left it in my drafts section! That was remiss of  me, because I really liked this book and I’d been excited to tell you about it.

I read the first book in her historical mystery series, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, when it came out in 2013, you can see that review HERE and an interview about her debut HERE. If you haven’t read either, I suggest both. In reading them all, you’ll get to know Lucy better; however, these can also be read stand alone as Susanna does a wonderful job of including enough information that you won’t be missing too much. And coming in April 2015, is her third book in the series, The Masque of a Murderer.

Lucy is a chambermaid, a former chambermaid as we read this book two of the series, and I was thrilled to see that she was taking on a different job, working at the print shop in publishing and selling! Right there, that part of book peaked my interest. I loved the early description of how the printing press worked, the intricate block system. I felt myself as if I were Lucy, experiencing it all. Lucy as a quality about her that makes her seem very authentic. As a journalist and lover of books, like many other inquisitive minds, I knew that Lucy becoming an apprentice in this world would only serve her well with her curiosity (and if she happened upon any other murders, of course).

In the 1600s in England, printing was a busy profession and one that set the pulse of the area lived, as people read their news and opinions through the written word on paper and in book form that were sold amid the streets daily. Many time political, religious, and social outrage graced the pages, as well as propaganda. However, working in this field allowed Lucy, as a single woman, some freedom of movement that other women might not be allowed.

I loved Susanna’s characterization of Lucy in A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, but I enjoyed even more her growth in this second book. I really appreciated her determination and confidence in creating a life for herself. She’s a very detailed and analytical person and that’s someone with whom I can relate. Plus, it’s perfect for solving murders, of which Lucy just can’t seem to get away from, even if she isn’t sure that something she truly wants to continue to do in her life! But aren’t the greatest sleuths like that…they are rather unlikely and kind of just fall into the role. That allows us, as readers, I think to see a more authentic view, almost as if we are able to solve the murder ourselves too.

I thought the book was so interesting historically as Susanna set it during the time of the Great London Fire of 1666, which overtook much of the central part of London destroying about 80,000 homes in the process and many churches. The fallout from that was economic and social issues as many were without homes, work, or their goods. Rebellion simmered at an already volatile time. Susanna sets up the murder in her book in a way that utilizes this turning point in Restoration London history by having a body be found, one charred during the fire, when all is extinguished, and laying with a knife in its chest. Was this person murdered before the flames ignited? What are the strange items found by the body? Lucy gets right to exploring this question with Constable Duncan, putting her intelligence and wit to the test.

All of the historical detail, Lucy’s personality, and the mysterious plot all made this reader turn the pages with lightening speed. Sometimes historical detail can bog down a mystery, as well as the writing style, but Susanna’s books don’t do either. The historical description is just enough to make a reader feel as if they’ve entered the time and place, while her sentences are well-constructed and flow with ease. There are a myriad of twists to keep you on your toes and engaged.

Susanna is one of the best historical mystery writers on the market today! From the Charred Remains enticed me, educated me, and most of all entertained me, and I am looking with eager anticipation to the next books in her series. Susanna is very original and stands on her own well in the 17th Century historical fiction mystery genre. In this era of historical mysteries, there aren’t many others who write and research with as much captivating quality.

Charred RemainsFrom the Charred Remains, Synopsis

Series: Lucy Campion Mysteries (Book 2)

Paperback, 352 pages; Also available hardback or e-book
Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 17, 2015-Paperback; 2014 Debut Hardback)

It’s 1666 and the Great Fire has just decimated an already plague-ridden London. Lady’s maid Lucy Campion, along with pretty much everyone else left standing, is doing her part to help the city clean up and recover. But their efforts come to a standstill when a couple of local boys stumble across a dead body that should have been burned up in the fire but miraculously remained intact–the body of a man who died not from the plague or the fire, but from the knife plunged into his chest.

Searching for a purpose now that there’s no lady in the magistrate’s household for her to wait on, Lucy has apprenticed herself to a printmaker. But she can’t help but use her free time to help the local constable, and she quickly finds herself embroiled in the murder investigation. It will take all of her wits and charm, not to mention a strong stomach and a will of steel, if Lucy hopes to make it through alive herself.

With From the Charred Remains, Susanna Calkins delivers another atmospheric historical mystery that will enchant readers with its feisty heroine and richly detailed depiction of life in Restoration England.

Praise for Susanna Calkins~

“Susanna Calkins makes Restoration England come alive in her terrific debut, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate. Murder, romance, and flawless social history combine into a beautifully crafted mystery that captivates until the very last page.” —Stefanie Pintoff

“Calkins’s debut brings London on the eve of the Great Plague to vivid life . . . the high quality writing augurs well for future outings.” —Publishers Weekly

“Calkins makes Lucy’s efforts to find the [killer] entirely plausible, leading to a nail-biter climax . . . This history-mystery delivers a strong heroine making her way through the social labyrinth of Restoration London.” —Booklist

“Calkin’s debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail. Even mystery mavens who winkle out the killer may well enjoy the story anyway.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[An] excellently written, well-researched and engaging debut.”—Washington Independent Review of Books

Purchase Links~

Barnes and Noble

Susanna Calkins Biography~

calkinsSUSANNA CALKINS became fascinated with seventeenth-century England while pursuing her doctorate in British history. A former pirate, she once served on the Golden Hinde–a museum replica of Sir Frances Drake’s ship–now dry docked in the Thames. Originally from Philadelphia, Calkins now lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two sons.

The Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (2013), featuring Lucy Campion, is her first novel and was shortlisted for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity). Her second novel is From the Charred Remains (2104) and was shortlisted for a Lovey and recently nominated for LCC Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third mystery in the Lucy series is set to come out in April 2015, called The Masque of a Murderer.

You can contact Susanna Calkins at s.calkins.nu@gmail.com or like her author page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorSusannaCalkins or on Twitter @scalkins3.

Find her on the web at: www.susannacalkins.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

The Little Known Exploits of the 17th Century Lady Derby: Guest Article by D.W. Bradbridge

Have you heard of Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, the Countess of Derby?

by D.W. Bradbridge, author of A Soldier of Substance

Unless you are either an expert on the English Civil War or were brought up in the town of Ormskirk in Northern England, it is unlikely that you will have ever heard of Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, the Countess of Derby.

In itself, this is perhaps not surprising, for, in the grand scheme of things, her role in the Civil War was of minor importance both strategically and politically. Nonetheless, the dramatic nature of her valiant defence of Lathom House during the Spring of 1644 with only three hundred men against a vastly superior parliamentary force, is a story well worth telling.

Not that I am the first to think this. Until the end of the 19th century, the tale of Lady Derby’s exploits retained a much more prominent position within the British national consciousness, spawning a number of popular books and poems, just about none of which have stood the test of time. The best known of these is William Harrison Ainsworth’s novel The Leaguer of Lathom.

Historically, it suited many of those writing about the siege to portray Lady Derby as a defenceless woman, who loyally defended her husband’s house against evil and heartless oppressors, as this fitted in closer with prevailing views on morality and the role of women. It is, however, clear that Lady Derby was nothing like this. She was clearly a woman of steel with impressive negotiating skills, who proved herself able to run rings round the parliamentary officers with whom she crossed swords. In his 1991 book on the siege To Play the Man, Lancashire historian Colin Pilkington describes her as being ‘as devious as Elizabeth I, as inflexible as Mrs Thatcher and with the physical presence of an Amazon.’Lady Derby, who was a granddaughter of William of Orange (William the Silent) and a cousin of Prince Rupert, was most certainly not a woman to be trifled with.

Lady Derby’s strength was certainly recognised at the time of the siege. She waseulogised by those on the royalist side, and readily compared in the newssheets with her husband, the Earl of Derby. The Perfect Diurnall, for example, described her as being “of the two a better souldier”, whilst the Scottish Dove newspaper famously pointed out that she had “stolen the earl’s breeches”.


Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, the Countess of Derby / Anthony Van Dyck (1599 – 1641) – Frick Collection, New York / Wiki

Most of the eye witness accounts of the siege were written by royalists, so it is easy to be misled. However, the overriding impression given by these documents is of a supremely confident woman holding court, whilst being ably aided by a team of efficient professional soldiers and wise strategic advisors, such as her personal chaplain Samuel Rutter, who was responsible for fooling the besieging forces into thinking that the thing Lady Derbymost feared was a siege, whereas the Countess was perfectly well aware that only a direct assault on the garrison would be likely to succeed. It is no surprise that Sir Thomas Fairfax, initially in charge of the siege, and notoriously unable to deal with women in the strict manner necessary in a military negotiation, took the first opportunity to return to Yorkshire, leaving the siege in the hands of the inept Colonel Alexander Rigby.

Over the last hundred years, the details surrounding the First Siege of Lathom House (there were, in fact, two sieges) have gradually drifted into the backwaters of history.This is a shame, because the events which took place between March and May 1644 make up a captivating adventure story. Given the abject incompetence of the parliamentary forces at times, they would also, in my opinion, form the basis for an engaging comedy film – but that is another story. In any case, I make no apologies for purloining this piece of history as the basis for A Soldier of Substance.

A Soldier of Substance, Synopsis and Info~

02_A Solder of Substance CoverPublication Date: November 1, 2014
Valebridge Publications
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 470

Series: Daniel Cheswis Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads Link 


The smoke of parliamentary musket, cannon, and mortar fire is in the air around the royalist stronghold of Lathom House. Though guards still stand atop its walls, it is besieged on all sides, and it is only a matter of time until the house, along with its embittered and unwavering countess, Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, falls to Parliament’s might. Yet somehow, a royalist spy still creeps, unseen, through its gates, and brings the countess Parliament’s secrets.

Barely recovered from the trials of the last few months, Daniel Cheswis is torn from his family and sent north, to uncover the identity of the traitor; though before he can even begin, Cheswis finds himself embroiled in a murder. A woman has been garrotted with cheese wire in her Chester home, suggesting there is more than just the usual hatreds of war at play.

As lives are lost and coats are turned on both sides, Cheswis is tasked with finding the murderer, uncovering the traitor, and surviving his soldierly duty long enough to see Lathom House fall.

Buy the Book~

Amazon US
Amazon UK

About the Author, D.W. Bradbridge~

03_Author D.W. BradbridgeD.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/asoldierofsubstanceblogtour

Hashtags: #ASoldierofSubstanceBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #HistFic

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @DWBradbridge

04_A Soldier of Substance_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Leave a comment

Filed under Q and A with Authors

The Harlot’s Tale by Sam Thomas Delves into a Mystery Surrounding a Social Issue of 17th Century York

If you like a great historical mystery set in the mid-1600s of York, then I highly recommend Sam Thomas’ midwife mystery series for its superb character development, intriguing mystery, and detailed social and emotional issues of 17th Century England!

The Harlot's TaleThe Harlot’s Tale is the second book in a series by Sam Thomas, with the first being The Midwife’s Tale, and though I recommend both, I’m reviewing The Harlot’s Tale today as it just published earlier this month!  Feel free to see my review of The Midwife’s Tale by clicking HERE.

As The Midwife’s Tale introduces widowed, wealthy, and independent midwife Bridget Hodgson to us, as well as her supporting characters of maid Martha and Hodgson’s nephew Will, we learn about how they all came to be in their respective situations in York, the state of the citizens, and takes us en route with them as they solve a murder mystery.

In The Harlot’s Tale, the novel picks right up in their ongoing lives, giving us a brief update, as well minor (but more than enough) details about who the characters are in case someone picks it up to read without reading The Midwife’s Tale. But it doesn’t at all make the book seem wordy or redundant for those who did read the first book, either. In my opinion, he does a nice job of setting the story and is fast getting to the plot of The Harlot’s Tale. I definitely think you could read this second book without even reading the first (though reading the whole series will certainly show a progression and give more depth to the series).

I LOVED The Harlot’s Tale even more than his first book. The writing seemed more carefree, as if he was more at ease with himself as fictional writer. He seemed more willing to be open about the social issues of the day, namely the inclusion of fundamentalist Christians who began giving roadside sermons and cracking down on sinners at this time. Isn’t this the main source of all angst in English cities of the past? Trying to rid the area of whores and pox by telling women they are sinners seems to be one of the most talked about issues in history. Maybe eventually it’s because of Jack the Ripper immortalizing the situation for everyone. Well, long before Jack came, Christians tried to rid the cities of whores by condemning them even further than their already lowly status.  Thomas does an excellent job within the story of allowing us to see the circumstances through the eyes of women who lived in poor conditions without a husband and had to sell their bodies in order to survive.  He allows his protagonist Bridget to be rather religiously impartial, even though her law enforcer brother-in-law is not. Thomas has her character weighing both sides of the coin, which I always think is a great way to get readers to think on important issues and break down judgemental barriers.

When a harlot is gruesomely murdered in a strange death scene in the novel, it’s as if the Old Testament of the Bible is being acted out to represent their sin. Bridget, Martha, and Will take to their detective work again, all the while uncovering heartfelt emotions for the reader (well, this reader) as to the plight of those women who were forced to work as prostitutes just to feed their children. Why were the men never taken to task for their abhorrent behavior? No demand, no supply right? That’s the way I see it. Many times these women had no other choice. Those Christian women with money who tried to preach a better way to them didn’t understand that most of them KNEW it was wrong, and why, and didn’t even like doing it themselves.  Who would? But as a line in the book said, words don’t feed children. I really like how Bridget always has compassion for them as she holds men accountable for having bastard children and then leaving them to starve. At any rate, I think Thomas handled this issue extremely well and I applaud him as a man for genuinely being able to channel a strong female character as a male author. He has a very uncanny knowledge of women’s emotions and desires and it all adds to his well-developed characters as well as to the social message of his books.

Thomas’ mystery novel was fast-moving, intelligent, emotional, gritty, and I didn’t want to put it down. It moved much faster and was written with more finesse even than his first. I am beyond excited to read the third in his series next year. Bridget is a perfectionist at everything she does, whether it be delivering babies or solving a murder, and as I reader I felt as if I was bustling around the city with her and Martha. She has her own fears and nightmares (and grief) behind the scenes which really softened her more in this novel and as I reader I could connect with her even further than before.

Thomas is a historian and his research on midwives is unparalleled. His intricate details of her work as a midwife in this series is captivating. Overall, he creates a world for us that makes it easy to join in as we read, even though we could never imagine what it might have been like to live in it.

I am eager to recommend The Harlot’s Tale to fans of English mysteries set in the mid -1600s. If you like Sherlock Holmes, switch up the protagonists and try your hand at reading about a female midwife who stumbles upon becoming a detective of sorts and finds she not only rather feels it a duty, but an intense desire within herself to help women in need. As she delivers babies in to the Old World with precision, she also pieces together puzzles of death and mayhem. It’s absolutely a series not to be missed!

The Harlot’s Tale, Synopsis~

The Harlot's TalePublication Date: January 7, 2014
Minotaur Books
Hardcover; 320p1250010780
ISBN-10: 1250010780

It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, whipping is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution.

Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city.

To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction.

Sam Thomas, Biography~

Sam ThomasSam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and in 2013 leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy.

He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. The Harlot’s Tale is the second book in his series, in which The Midwife’s Tale is the first.

Thomas lives in Ohio with his wife and two children.

For more information, please visit Sam Thomas’ website and blog.  You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out my interview with Sam Thomas by clicking HERE!

Link to Tour Schedule:  http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theharlotstaletour
Twitter Hashtag:  #HarlotsTaleTour

The Harlot's Tale_Tour Banner_FINAL

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Delightful Interview with E.M. Powell, Author of Medieval Novel The Fifth Knight

Yesterday, I reviewed The Fifth Knight by E.M. Powell, which is a medieval mystery, thriller, and romance all wrapped in one! You can see that review by clicking on the HERE. Today, I have a fabulous interview with the author herself and I think it’s a great read if you’re interested in things medieval, a writer’s life, about Powell’s Irish heritage, and what’s in store for her next……

Read on, and don’t forget to enter into the giveaway at the end!

Hi, E.M.! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are happy you’ve stopped by today to share your love of historical and medieval fiction. How are things?

Hi Erin! I’m so pleased to be here too. And things are great- they’re extra great because I’ve read your amazing review of The Fifth Knight. So I’m guessing I’m going to be among friends here!

Absolutely! Let’s take a minute to get settled in and we’ll begin to learn about you. Here we go….

Q:  Your novel, The Fifth Knight, is a thriller featuring Sir Benedict Palmer during the time of King Henry II, in England. Where did you come up with this historical crime drama idea?

A: I’ve always loved medieval history. It’s so neglected in fiction compared to, say, the Tudors. But there are so many intriguing people and events from that time. The murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his own cathedral in 1170 is one of the most infamous. History records four knights committed the murder. I added my fictional fifth, Sir Benedict Palmer and asked ‘What if…’

Erin Comments: I like many various types of historical literature, but current medieval (you know what I mean) seems to be what I’d love to read more of too. I’ve always loved that time period (on paper, wouldn’t want to live it) and really love King Arthur tales. There is quite a bit of lore that would make people some great novels. Glad you took on the murder of Becket….

Q: How do you explain the element of romance within your book?

A: It’s quite a strong one. Benedict’s relationship with Sister Theodosia Bertrand, the young nun who’s hidden in the walls of Canterbury Cathedral, who is abducted by the knights- it goes through quite a few challenges! Prior to publication, The Fifth Knight was a multi-contest winner and finalist in Romance Writers of America chapter contests. My proudest achievement was winning the Kiss Of Death Chapter ‘Daphne’ Contest in the Mainstream Category in 2011. Kiss of Death is the chapter that specializes in Mystery & Suspense and the Daphne is a hugely respected contest.

Q:  What kind of research, and how much research, did you need to do before or during your writing of this novel?

A: I studied Anglo Saxon and Middle English at University so I got to read fascinating tales in the original language. Anglo Saxon is very far removed from what we speak today but I loved Middle English. To me, it sounds like someone is speaking English but in the next room where you can’t quite catch what they are saying! Like this line from the epic poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poet describes Sir Gawain: ‘His surkot semed hym wel that soft was forred.’ It looks a bit ‘Eh?’ when you see it written down. But try reading it aloud and you’ll see what I mean. In case anyone is left wondering, the translation is ‘His softly furred surcoat suited him well.’

Erin Comments: Amazing, dialect is so intriguing!

I also read widely from many excellent historical reference books such as Henrietta Leyser’s Medieval Women. Living in the UK is an advantage too. My poor family has been dragged round more medieval castles and museums than they probably would like. Ditto with historical re-enactments. But walk into one of those and you get all the sounds and smells as well as the sights. They’re amazing.

Erin Comments: If I lived where you live, I’d say my family would be drug around too! I always thought I’d come back one day to England and be married in a fabulous castle…..every girl’s dream I guess. Nothing compares to that kind of history here in the U.S.

Q:  What was the most intriguing thing you came across when doing your research?

A: Probably the lifestyle of an anchoress when researching for my heroine, Sister Theodosia Bertrand. An anchoress was a cloistered nun and Theodosia is preparing to take her final vows.

When I first came across the concept, I was intrigued.  I visited a remote church in Lancashire, where I was shown an anchoress’s cell that had survived for hundreds of years. Hearing that a woman had voluntarily been locked in that tiny stone room, and all for the purposes of glorifying God and saving the souls of others, had my interest caught.

As I researched the role of an anchoress more, it became even more fascinating. The religious ceremony that took place when an anchoress took her final vows included singing of Psalms from the Office of the Dead. She was sprinkled with dust before entering her cell and the door was closed after her. Some cells were as little as eight feet square. With others, even the door was bricked up. There was a tiny window left through which the anchoress would hear the prayers of others. But she always had to be screened from view, as to be seen was considered a sin.

An anchoress could be enclosed for twenty years and there are records of fifty years of enclosure. A guide for anchoresses written at the turn of the twelfth century, the Ancrene Riwle, advises them to daily scrape up the earth from the floor of their cells, as a reminder that the earth will form their graves ‘in which they will rot.’ Eve, the sister of Aelred, twelfth century abbot of the abbey of Rievaulx, was brought up from the age of seven at the convent of Wilton before becoming an anchoress. And every day, these girls and woman spent hours in prayer, devotion and physical deprivation for the sake of the souls of others.

Erin Comments: This really renders me speechless…this life of an anchoress. I wasn’t even aware of them, or had forgotten, until I read your book. The thought of even surviving that way without going mad….strong women.

Q:  Who was your favorite character to write about in The Fifth Knight and why?

A: It would have to be my hero, Sir Benedict Palmer. In earlier drafts, he was already an established knight and rescued Theodosia because he was a noble, committed knight. That was too dull. By making him a knight-for-hire, with flawed motives, he became much more interesting. He’s a far rougher diamond than when he started off, but that’s what readers seem to really like.

Q:  What is your writing process like? Do you form an outline or write at will? Do you set writing goals?

A: Outline every time. My first novel was a write-at-will and it shows. It’s not structured enough and- Oh, goodness, I’m not going to try and dress it up. It’s 150,000 words of formless drivel. It will never see the light of day but I learned a lot about plotting because of it.

Q:  How long did it take you to complete your novel?

A: Two years. But that included a 30,000 word re-write (out of 100,000 words) when I realized Benedict’s character was wrong.

Q:  You have a day job and a family. How did you make the time for such as accomplishment as writing a novel? What tips do you have for other authors who need motivation?

A: I gave up sleep in 2002. Kidding! I love to write so I try and make time where I can. Having good critique partners can be a huge help. Every writer has days when they look at the screen and think: ‘Aaargh! I just can’t do this.’ But try. Lay down one word after another. The first couple of paragraphs will be dross, then you’ll be back in the flow, that marvelous flow where the story that’s in your head is coming to life before your very eyes.

Erin Comments: Yes, sleep is fleeting sometimes! I think we should add 8 hours to each day…that might work, right? GREAT ADVICE, I like what you say about just starting in and eventually it will flow.

Q:  What did you learn about yourself through the writing process and with the completion of your book?

A: That I really, really don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. I will keep going until I get a ‘Yes.’ And for any writer who wants to achieve publication through a traditional route, that is what has to happen.

Q:  How did you begin the process of publication?

A: I wouldn’t have got there without first getting my agent. And I have the nifty Query Tracker website for that. It’s ace.

Q:  What are your thoughts on self-publishing versus traditional? How does either help and/or hinder the historical fiction genre?

A: Self-publishing is a revolution that is still happening. No-one has the benefit of hindsight to say how it will all pan out. It’s like any huge change: it’s working brilliantly for some people, others not at all. For me the most important thing is this: writers must make sure their work is the best it can be before taking it to any market. Readers deserve that because we ask them for their time and money.

Erin Comments: I agree. I sometimes wonder if some writers even edit their work. But that does a disservice not only to the reader, but to themselves, and their story,  as well.

Q:  What authors have inspired you? What are some of your favorite books, movies, or the like?

A: I love Robert Harris. For anyone who has not read his novel of 79 AD and the eruption at Pompeii, give yourself a huge treat. I love C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series set in Tudor England. And I love thrillers (surprise, surprise!). Tess Gerritsen is my all-time favourite. I love Michael Connelly too.


For movies, it has to be Raiders of the Lost Ark (historical thriller based on ‘What if? Hmm..) Spielberg is just the master of stories that grab you and won’t let go. Speaking of which, I ought to sue him for seeing Jaws when I was ten. I only ever go into the ocean now if I think someone more edible-looking than me is already splashing around.

Erin Comments: Love it!!

Q:  Who are your favorite women in history? Who would you want to write about in the future?

A: Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Suffragette movement. She led a tough, tough fight on the road to equality for women and didn’t give up until she won. And Rosa Parks, a middle-aged, ordinary woman who was brave enough to say ‘Enough’ to the unacceptable.

Erin Comments: I am total agreement with you pursuing that book(s).  Emmeline to British women is like Susan B. Anthony in America. I have long been interested in the history of all these women across the globe that fought for our women’s rights. I am hoping more authors take on writing about them. They were amazing trailblazers. And Rosa, yes….quite an inspiration. As we still fight the fight against racism today, she is always an example to look toward, remember that many small acts can combine into one large moment of change.

Q:  I read you are from Ireland, I think….or Irish descent. Have you thought of writing anything from your ancestor’s history? Why or why not?

A: Yes, I’m Irish and proud to be. I get described as British, which gets a particular set of hackles rising!  My grandfather’s uncle was Michael Collins, who was one of the key figures in fighting for independence from the British and who lost his life in the process. When I did my launch for The Fifth Knight, I was presented with a very unexpected and moving link to my past. You can read about it here. http://empowell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/these-irish-eyes-are-smiling.html

Michael Collins

Pictured: Michael Collins-I see the resemblance!

As regards writing about Collins’ history, I don’t think I’d ever take that on as it’s all a bit close to home. I’m primarily interested in medieval history. But I would never say never to any good idea for a novel, so maybe I need to leave this one as an open ‘Maybe.’

Erin Comments: Very interesting! Another example of someone standing up for what they believe in. Definitely always good to keep the notion of possibility open…

Q:  I also see that you like the medieval time period. What do you like best about it and are there plans to pen a novel with that theme? There seems to be few books but lots of interested readers.

A: I love the art, the distinctive colours of illuminated manuscripts. The architecture is wonderful- stone castles of that era are just amazing.

There’s also something that really resonates about a society where religion is woven into every aspect of daily life, where peoples’ lives are ruled by it. I grew up in Ireland when the control and influence of the Catholic church was still incredibly powerful. I was born in a hospital run by nuns, I was educated in a convent school. We went to Mass every week and every holy day. We learned how to baptize a baby in an emergency to save it going to Limbo. Contraception was against the law because the Church forbade it. The Constitution had been co-written by the Archbishop of Dublin in 1937. I could go on. And in so many ways, that is what the medievals experienced, except even more so. So the concept of a life ruled and dominated by religion feels very familiar.

And of course, with the medieval period, there’s chain mail. Everybody likes chain mail. Especially me.

Erin Comments: At our Cleveland Museum of Art here in Ohio, in the U.S., they have a fabulous medieval collection of chain mail, armor, helmets, swords, tapestries….that an opulent family had collected, then donated. There is a very large horse (not real of course) that is decked out in armor and a helmet. It’s my 5 year old daughter’s favorite part of the museum!

Q:  Do you have plans for a sequel and/or separate novels? If so, please share with us.

A: I’m working on the sequel, which is called The Blood of The Fifth Knight. King Henry has to call on Sir Benedict Palmer once again.

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

Website: www.empowell.com/

Blog: www.empowell.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/empowellauthor


Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583496.E_M_Powell

E-mail: elaine@empowell.com

Q:  Please let us know where your books are available for purchase?

A: It’s out worldwide on all Amazon sites-

To purchase the book via Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/The-Fifth-Knight-ebook/dp/B00A017O0I/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1352134191&sr=1-1#

Or on Amazon.co.uk http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Fifth-Knight-ebook/dp/B00A017O0I/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366708643&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fifth+knight

Erin:  Thank you so very much for joining us and sharing on our site today. We wish you the best of luck!

E.M.:  And many thanks to you as well, Erin. It’s been a real pleasure!


Enter to win one (1) paperback copy of The Fifth Knight by commenting below or emailing me at hookofabook@hotmail.com by 11:59 p.m. EST two weeks from the date of this post. Open internationally.

Get 1 extra entry for following this blog and two extra entries for liking my new Hook of a Book Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook.


Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Thomas & Mercer Publishing
Paperback; 390p
ISBN-10: 1611099331

To escape a lifetime of poverty, mercenary Sir Benedict Palmer agrees to one final, lucrative job: help King Henry II’s knights seize the traitor Archbishop Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. But what begins as a clandestine arrest ends in cold-blooded murder. And when Fitzurse, the knights’ ringleader, kidnaps Theodosia, a beautiful young nun who witnessed the crime, Palmer can sit silently by no longer. For not only is Theodosia’s virtue at stake, so too is the secret she unknowingly carries—a secret he knows Fitzurse will torture out of her. Now Palmer and Theodosia are on the run, strangers from different worlds forced to rely only on each other as they race to uncover the hidden motive behind Becket’s grisly murder—and the shocking truth that could destroy a kingdom.

Author E.M. Powell, Biography~

E. M. Powell was born and raised in Ireland, a descendant of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins. At University College, Cork, she discovered a love of Anglo-Saxon and medieval English during her study of literature and geography. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Manchester Irish Writers, the Historical Novel Society, and International Thriller Writers. A reviewer for the Historical Novel Society, she lives today in Manchester, England, with her husband and daughter.

For more information, please visit E.M. Powell’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thefifthknightvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #FifthKnightVirtualTour

The Fifth Knight Tour Banner FINAL


Filed under Q and A with Authors