Hi Elaine, I’m so happy to have you stop by my friend! Quite the plane ride from the UK, but thanks so much for coming in to our snow covered little town and plopping down on my big comfy couch in my cozy library. I’ll put on the tea, what kind of tea would you drink in America…same as at home, or something new? That’s your toughest question of the day. Kidding. I’m having English Breakfast Tea with honey, but what is your pleasure? Would you like sugar and milk?
Elaine: Erin, it’s so lovely to be here! English Breakfast with milk would hit the spot. Or even a Mojito. But probably a bit early for that. Sigh.
Erin yells from the kitchen: Oh, stay for afternoon lunch too then, I’ll make mojitos too (blueberry, mango, original…), you know they are also my fave!! Now, I’m also bringing in a plate of homemade cranberry scones, warm from the oven! I’ll be right in. (I’ll answer here to your tea comment) Make yourself at home, just don’t get any ideas about stealing my Paddington Bear sitting by you in the corner. I have an obsession.
Elaine: Scones?! Hold the cocktail- I’m going to need all the room I can get. And don’t worry about the bear. He’s already giving me one of his Hard Stares. I wouldn’t dare go near him.
Erin: Ah, here we are then. Tea, scones, and comfy socks and splendid conversation. Shall we begin?
Elaine: Yes, please! I’ve been so looking forward to this since we had our last lovely chat.
Q: The Fifth Knight, published by Thomas and Mercer, had extreme success reaching high on the Amazon charts and receiving acclaimed reviews. How has that made you feel going into the publishing of its sequel? More excited? More nervous? More confident and secure?
A: Abso-blooming-lutely petrified! I had heard of Second Novel Syndrome, in all its definitions. That a very successful debut will lead to disappointment with Book #2. That you’ll have spent years on Book #1, so you’ll have to rush Book #2. That you’ll find it so hard to write another book when faced with not just a blank screen but the weight of expectations from Book #1. Oh, and don’t even THINK about writing a sequel! They’re really hard at the best of times, let alone as Book #2. That, my dear, adds up to what I think we can call a challenge.
Q: When you first had your idea to write a historical mystery set in the time period of Henry II, where your “detective” searches for the killer of Archbishop Thomas Becket, did you imagine a series featuring your sleuth, Palmer?
A: Not at all. I can let you and Paddington in on a secret: The Fifth Knight was meant as a stand-alone novel. My agent, the peerless Josh Getzler, suggested that I add a few short pieces that left the door open for more stories featuring Palmer. I’m so glad I followed his smart editorial advice.
Erin comments: We are also glad!! You are a good listener!
Q: How does The Blood of the Fifth Knight differ from its predecessor? What tactics did you employ to try to “outdo” the first? I have my own ideas and opinions, but I’d love to hear what you’ll say.
A:In The Fifth Knight, I used Becket’s horrific murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 as the spring board for the plot. It is one of the most infamous events in British history. It also provided a hugely dramatic event on which to base my novel. What followed was a pursuit of the hero and heroine by the murderers. My agent was very fond of describing it as car chases with chain mail. As I was writing a sequel, I then had to look around for material to support a novel that also fitted the time frame. And I happened on the legends surrounding Rosamund Clifford, also known as the Fair Rosamund. She was the beautiful mistress of Henry II and she died at a young age. The legends have it that she was murdered by Henry’s jealous Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Not true, as Eleanor was imprisoned by Henry at the time. But it gave me another terrific ‘what if?’ to work with, although I couldn’t just produce another murder/chase-the-witnesses book. So Palmer, on Henry’s orders, becomes investigator-in-chief when someone attempts to murder Rosamund.
Q: You obviously do an enormous amount of research for your books. What is the best part about the research for you and on the flip side, what is the part that frustrates you, if any? What is something you came across in your research that surprised you?
A: I think most historical novelists work really, really hard on their research. We have to, if we are to credibly build our worlds. What I love about the research is the sheer fascination of it and yes, it can be frustrating when a timeline doesn’t fit your carefully crafted plot. Yet history is wonderful in that it can throw up the most bizarre events that you couldn’t make up. Such a gift to a novelist! As for surprises, finding that leopard in twelfth century England is up there.
Erin comments: That was so cool!
Q: Your portrayal of the reign and time of Henry II and his dealings with his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was historically accurate overall. In writing your mystery, did you keep it this way due to wanting it to be historically accurate first and foremost, or was it what fit better in setting up your mystery?
A: As with all recounting of history, people’s characters, their relationships and their actions are open to interpretation. Some people are very pro-Henry, others paint him as a villain and are of the view that Eleanor was badly wronged. So my version, where she is most definitely out to get him and his throne, is simply one of many. She did take part in the rebellion against him, though! Fellow historical fiction writer Deborah Swift has described our trade as ‘Storians, not Historians.’ I think that sums it up perfectly.
Q: Where did you come up with the ingenious idea of using the menagerie that became the zoo at the Tower of London?! I loved that you utilized that, infused with your great imagination. What other tidbits can you share that didn’t make it into the book?
A: One of those research gifts! Many people who have visited the Tower of London will know that a menagerie of exotic animals was kept there, and that the collection formed the basis of what was to become London Zoo. But the first menagerie was housed at Woodstock, the hunting lodge built by Henry’s father. The historical record puts Henry at Woodstock with Rosamund. So I have the King’s mistress in the company of lions, lynxes and a leopard. (no bears: sorry, Paddington). I really wanted to make more of the winter of 1175/76, where the country was buried in snow and ice up to the roofs of the houses and many people perished. Some of that was in an earlier version. But it slowed the story too much so it had to go.
Erin comments: That might part might make a cool free short story e-book!
Q: Your characters are superb, full of depth. How do you create your characters? Outline? People you know? Long walks?
A: I’m a magpie. I pick up bits from everywhere. That covers bits I like and bits I’m less happy with. Bottom line is my characters are pure fiction, but helped out by real people I’ve encountered.
Q: What is the best part for you about writing a historical mystery? Will there be a third Palmer mystery?
A: Just the fun and sheer hard work of putting it all together. It’s so satisfying when it works. And yes, Palmer book #3 is in the pipeline. The working title is The Fifth Knight: Lord of Ireland. It’s based on John’s (youngest son of Henry II who will one day become the despised King John) disastrous campaign in (yes, you guessed it!) Ireland in 1185. Palmer is sent by Henry to keep watch on the impetuous John. But Palmer uncovers a plot by John to make his mark on the Lordship of Ireland by appalling means. John has to be stopped at all costs, with only Palmer standing in his way.
Erin comments: I knew it! I look forward to reading it.
Q: Who are some of your favorite mystery writers of old and new? What are some of the best mystery books you’ve read? Do you believe that a good writer must read often?
A: I think C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series set in Tudor times is second to none. I’ve had a few reviews comparing me to him. (Hang on: did that bear just roll his eyes?) That’s a wonderful comparison but probably a tad generous! I started to read Agatha Christie novels in my teens and never, ever guessed who the murderer was. For writers who write contemporary thrillers/mystery/crime, I love Tess Gerritsen and Michael Connelly. And as for reading? How on earth can anybody not do it! But seriously, when I was about to read my final, edited draft of The Blood of the Fifth Knight, I read my favorite Rizzoli and Isles novel first. That, for me, is a pacing masterclass. Going back to my own work, I ask myself: ‘What would Tess do?’ It really works!
Erin comments: I didn’t mention it, but truly you are on the same level as Sansom. Don’t sell yourself short. His books are very good and his readers would love your books.
Q: Why do you think people love mystery books so much? What gives them lasting value?
A:I think people love a puzzle and they love trying to figure it out. That’s what I do when I read a mystery. And that’s what makes them so challenging to write. You’ve got to juggle your knowns, your unknowns and lay your red herrings. You must never cheat your reader. It’s amazing what you can actually get away with. I have one of my characters say something that (reading the words in hindsight) completely reveals the truth. But people don’t see it, which pleases me very much.
Q: What draws you to the medieval ages for your books and/or overall as a passion?
A: Because it is such a wild time in history. I believe it to be one of the most exciting, extraordinary and at times downright bizarre periods there is. What other period has Magna Carta, Becket’s murder, Richard the Lionheart, the Wars of the Roses, the Great Plague, the building of the greatest cathedrals, stunning manuscripts, a belief in the Devil? I could go on. And on.
Q: What other types of historical literature do you see yourself writing in the future? Will you try other genres or other time periods?
A: As well as writing Palmer’s next adventure, I’m working on a Steampunk series set in the Coroner’s office in Victorian Manchester. A Coroner’s duty is to investigate unnatural, sudden or violent death. Watch this space!
Erin comments: I will watch my inbox for news and share with readers. I’m excited for this one too!
Q: I know you are from Ireland, but live in England. Favorite place to visit in the UK? Favorite place in Ireland? Favorite place in England? Favorite place in the world? Why?
A: I love visiting Harrogate as I have friends there who are very talented on both the food and history front. Ireland? It has to be the beaches in Cork where I learned to swim. Jackson NH is pretty special, with the fabulous White Mountains nearby and crystal clear falls you can swim in. It’s even got an Irish pub. London and Washington DC are neck and neck on museums. And I love them all because of having had the best time there with my wonderful husband and daughter.
Q: As you know, we are both dessert foodies. Favorite English treat? I’ll be looking for it when I come to visit. 🙂
A: Chicken Madras, tarka dhal and nan bread. Yes, curry is the most popular dish in the UK! And there’s great marmalade for the bear. Promise.
Paddington says, “mmmm, marmalade!”
Erin comments: Well being born and living in England when I was little, my mom says my fave was blueberry buckle. I still love it, but in fact, I love curry too. Maybe this is where I get it from? And Paddington is very pleased about the marmalade.
Q: Favorite TV show at the moment, when you watch? What is a guilty pleasure? Mine is Vikings!
A: Sleepy Hollow is so, so good. They even get the Middle English in the flashbacks and spells right! Guilty pleasure is the Great British Bake Off. People bake stuff. Someone wins. That’s it.
Erin comments: I also LOVE Sleep Hollow! And ironically, Great British Bake Off. Last year or so there was an American version (though at the time I thought an American thing). Then I saw on BBC here recently, the British version. Oh, my! Cherry cake and they had me sold. I am a faithful watcher now!
Q: Where can readers connect with you best? What types of questions do you hope they’ll ask?
A: My website is www.empowell.com, where all those details are. I have a Facebook page at E.M. Powell Author. I tweet as @empowellauthor. Questions I would like are: ‘Where can I buy your book?’ and ‘Would you like an award?’
Excuse me, why is that bear sighing, Erin? I’m joking! Seriously, I get all sorts of questions and love answering them. It’s so great to hear from readers. Without them, us writers couldn’t do what we do.
Erin: You make me laugh!!! Thank you so much for coming over and chatting with me, Elaine. It’s always a pleasure to see you and as well, to read your novels. You’re a gifted writer and a lovely person. Best of luck with your newest novel!
Elaine: Thanks so much, Erin! I had a wonderful time, as I knew I would. And P.B.: I’ve got my eye on you. Okay?
Erin: Aw, Paddington, put his little hand to his heart.
The Blood of the Fifth Knight, Synopsis~
Publication Date: January 1, 2015
Thomas & Mercer
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Thriller
A triumphant sequel to Powell’s acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight. A desperate king trusts a lone knight to unravel a web of murder.
England, 1176. King Henry II has imprisoned his rebellious Queen for her failed attempt to overthrow him. But with her conspirators still at large and a failed assassination attempt on his beautiful mistress, Rosamund Clifford, the King must take action to preserve his reign.
Desperate, Henry turns to the only man he trusts: a man whose skills have saved him once before. Sir Benedict Palmer answers the call, mistakenly believing that his family will remain safe while he attends to his King.
As Palmer races to secure his King’s throne, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry’s traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated.
The Blood of the Fifth Knight is an intricate medieval murder mystery and worthy sequel to E.M. Powell’s acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight.
Review Praise for The Fifth Knight
“Powell does a masterful job. Highly recommended.” Historical Novels Review
About the Author, E.M. Powell~
E.M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller THE FIFTH KNIGHT which was a #1 Amazon Bestseller. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) she now lives in the north west of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.
She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.
She is a reviewer of fiction and non-fiction for the HNS. Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com.
You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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