Cynthia, thank you for the pleasure of an second interview and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion.. You write about an interesting time in History. What inspired you to write Thwarted Queen?
I was watching a BBC documentary in which Tony Morrison was talking about the Princes in the Tower, who disappeared in July 1483, and were never seen again. He mentioned that British historian Michael K. Jones had been going through the records of Rouen Cathedral and had discovered that Richard Duke of York, Cecylee’s husband, was absent for a period of five weeks in the summer of 1441. This was important because Edward IV, the father of the Princes in the Tower, was born on April 28, 1442, and thus this raised the whole issue of whether King Edward was illegitimate. I did my research, and the more I looked into it, the more I became convinced that Edward IV was illegitimate, because it explained so many things about the subsequent behavior of his relatives. My question as I started to write the novel was “What on earth did Cecylee say to her husband Richard, when he returned from fighting the French in the summer of 1441? And that was how I started.
This is four books into one, spanning over almost a century? How did you pull it all together? Where there any challenges?
This is a long book, about 495 pages, which I wrote over a period of seven years between 2004 and 2011. In the course of writing it, I divided it up into four parts as the material naturally shaped itself that way. So the first part is about Cecylee’s girlhood, the second about her love-affair with the archer, the third about her husband’s political career, and the fourth part about her life after his death. Realizing that not everyone might wish to read a book of this length, I decided to publish each of its parts. I wanted to follow the same pattern with my paperback version, but was unable to do so because parts 1 and 2 were too short to be able to put a title on the spine. So I put those parts together, and called the resulting paperback ROSE OF RABY. The challenge was not so much in the writing, but in coping with trying to market all these different versions of THWARTED QUEEN. It has been a bit of a headache. On the other hand, the books are selling well, much better than if I had just brought it out as just one book.
When writing with an extensive list of characters, how do you keep up with them?
Fortunately, I have an historical mind, so I don’t mind remembering dates or doing all the research necessary. What happened as I wrote the novel was I got to know all of my characters so well, I had no trouble keeping track of them. The challenge was to make sure that the reader could follow what was going on.
Who is your favorite/least favorite character to write about? Please explain.
Naturally my favorite character is Cecylee herself, because she is so willful and high-spirited and she had to put up with living in a time when women were not treated well. But I also developed quite an affection for her husband, Richard, Duke of York, who is so serious and high-minded and must have found his high-spirited wife a trial at times! In my mind, he is madly in love with Cecylee, whereas she is fond of him in a tepid sort of way. He is completely devastated when he finds out about her affair.
My least favorite character is Elisabeth Woodville, Queen of England, wife of King Edward and therefore Cecylee’s daughter-in-law. Cecylee loathes her and perhaps my fondness for Cecylee led me to follow suit. On the other hand, I loved writing those scenes between them. And I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for King Edward IV, who had to mediate between his formidable mother and strong-minded wife!
What were some of the fictional aspects to this story?
So little is actually known about Cecylee’s girlhood and young womanhood, so parts 1 and 2 are largely fictional. Cecylee doesn’t really step out of the mists of the past and onto the historical stage until about 1445, when her husband Richard, Duke of York, returns to England from France, and begins his political career. Not a great deal is known about Cecylee’s life after the death of her youngest son, King Richard III in 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth, so the Epilogue of the novel is largely fictionalized as well.
What book are you currently reading?
FINGERSMITH by Sarah Waters, about a nest of thieves, locked up girls, madhouses and pornography. All set in Victorian England, circa 1862.
What do you plan on reading next?
NANA by Emile Zola.
Where is your favorite spot in your home to write your stories?
I have two places, a daybed where I hand write my ideas on a notebook, and my yoga chair in front of my Mac desktop, where I type everything up and do my editing.
Oh dear, I don’t remember. I walk a lot, to the yoga studio, to the grocery store, and around the pretty village of Georgetown, near Washington DC, where I live with my husband. That’s probably where I get my ideas.
A friend of mine (Nan Hawthorne) announced that her novel had won the BRAG award, so I got the email address and asked if I could submit THWARTED QUEEN.
In 2010, I sent my manuscript around to 45 agents, and got 45 rejections. By February 2011, I was just wondering whether I should send it out to more agents, when I heard from Publisher’s Marketplace that Anne Easter Smith was going to publish her own novel about Cecylee with Simon & Schuster in May 2011. It seemed obvious to me that no agent would want to touch my manuscript with a barge-pole, so I used my time to educate myself about self-publishing. I finally published in October 2011.
Thank you, Stephanie, for your interesting questions. It was a pleasure to chat with you again!
Author of THWARTED QUEEN,
2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
Finalist for 2012 Global e-books Awards
Finalist, Historical Fiction Category, 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Redroom and Smashwords.
WEBSITE & BLOG: http://www.spunstories.com
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Cynthia Haggard who is the author of, Thwarted Queen, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Thwarted Queen merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.