1. Please tell us about your novel, "Four Sisters, All Queens."
“Four Sisters, All Queens” is the story of the lives and careers of four remarkable women, all sisters from the illustrious House of Savoy, daughters of the Count of Provence, who became queens of France, England, Germany, and Sicily. Told from alternating points of view of the four sisters, it provides the splendor and intrigues of four courts, each very different and yet, in terms of the frustrations and limitations on women’s power, all very much the same. And yet Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice worked together to broker peace between England and France for the first time in 200 years. They were among the biggest celebrities of their time – more famous than the Kardashians! Beauty, wealth, adoration – they had it all, until a family dispute threatened to tear them apart.
2. How did you research the lives of the historical characters of your story?
I read as many books as I could find, plus perused the pipe rolls from the reign of Henry III. I had been to England and France, and recently returned to France for further research. I listened to music from the era and read the literature of the age, including the songs of the troubadours, which play a big role in the book, and the Arthurian legends.
3. What was your biggest research challenge?
Finding specific information about the women, which is usually the case. It’s a man’s world, and most of the contemporary chroniclers as well as the historical research and writing has focused on the men.
4. What is the most surprising thing you learned in writing Four Sisters, All Queens?
How little we have changed as human beings! Xenophobia swept England in the 13th century, spurring anti-immigration measures aimed, in particular, at the French. Today, we still see widespread fear of, and resentment toward, “foreigners” who come to our own countries to live. Also, anti-Semitism was growing. I was very surprised to learn of the mysterious death of Floria, the wife of Richard of Cornwall’s Jewish employee, Abraham. What happened to her is still unknown, but what happened to him – the false confession he was forced to sign, denigrating the Jewish race – is atrocious. Islamophobia – and the Crusades, in which thousands of Muslims were killed out of greed which was justified by religious bigotry, ran rampant, as it does today. And women struggled then as now for power, personal as well as political, amid patriarchal attempts at infantilization and objectification.
5. What is your next book project?
I’m under contract with Simon & Schuster for a novel about Heloise and Abelard, the famous 12th-century Parisian lovers. It’s going to be an erotically charged love story and a feminist tale at once, for Heloise dared to live on her own terms and lost everything that mattered to her – but what she found, instead, may have been even more precious.
6. Who or what inspired you to become and author?
My love for reading, which started very young. By the second grade I knew I would be a writer someday.
7. Who is your favorite author and why?
I have many more than one! Eudora Welty, Alice Hoffman, Jane Smiley, Anne Patchett, Ellen Gilchrist, Rose Tremain, Hilary Mantel, Edith Wharton, Debra Magpie Earling, E.D.E.N. Southworth, Salman Rushdie, Rick Bass, Cecelia Holland. I love beautiful writing and stories that make me want to keep turning the pages. I especially appreciate literature written about women, for women.
8. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
In this age where e-publishing allows anyone to publish anything at any time, the temptation is great to put out your work before it’s ready. Resist that temptation. Remember: The first draft is always shit (Hemingway said this). The second draft usually is, too. Even the third draft may not be good enough yet. My advice is to read as much good writing as you can – “Garbage in, garbage out” – and find a really good freelance editor to help you polish your work. It’s well worth the money. And when you feel discouraged, remember this: the late, great John Gardner wrote that if your book is good, someone will publish it. This I believe to be true.
Sherry Jones is perhaps best known for her controversial debut novels, “The Jewel of Medina” and
“The Sword of Medina,” international best sellers about the life of A’isha bint Abi Bakr, the youngest wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Her new novel, “Four Sisters, All Queens” (Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books) tells of four sisters in 13th century Provence who became queens of France, England, Germany, and Italy. This tale of love, lust, intrigue, and sibling rivalry on a royal scale follows Jones’s recently released e-novella, “White Heart,” about the formidable French “White Queen” Blanche de Castille.
When she’s not working on her next book – about the famous 12th century French lovers Heloise and Abelard -- Sherry is traveling the world as a speaker on topics including free speech, Islam, the middle ages, and women’s rights. In particular, Sherry aims to empower girls and women with her tales of extraordinary women in history.
Learn more about her and her books at http://authorsherryjones.com.
Thank you Sherry for this wonderful interview!