Today, Flashlight Commentary is pleased to welcome author Deborah Swift to our little corner of the net to discuss her latest release, A Divided Inheritance.
════════════════════════════ ❧ ════════════════════════════Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Deborah. To start things off, please tell us a bit about A Divided Inheritance.
A DIVIDED INHERITANCE is set in 1609 and is the story of Elspet Leviston, a lace-trader’s daughter. Her life is turned upside down when a cousin she has never met arrives unannounced. Zachary Deane, a former petty thief, trickster, and swordsman takes her place in her father’s affections. When her father dies she must fight to salvage her inheritance which has been left equally to her and her cousin. It is a story of courage, hope and the triumph of kinship over adversity.
What inspired you to write this story?
Three things -
one was the idea of exploring how much of our inheritance we take for granted. Our inheritance such as our cultural expectations and identity, and what might happen if these were challenged. I wanted to show that a 17th century woman could survive in a man's world, despite the expectations of the age.
At the same time as I was mulling over this, I came across a fascinating book about 17th century fencing masters and thought it would be interesting to research women who fought using rapiers and to find out more about whether any women used these training techniques. I have an interest in this through practising swordplay through martial arts. The particular Spanish training method I was researching is an esoteric system designed to produce a kind of 'Renaissance man' - or in this case, woman.
The Spanish fencing method gave me the idea of having someone travel from cold, damp England to the heat and dust of Spain.I also became interested in a period of history in Spain where there was massive cultural change and Phillip III expelled a large population of Spanish citizens - an act that divided families and was to impoverish Spain for generations. So this seemed an ideal backdrop for my family drama.
What research went into A Divided Inheritance and did you discover anything particularly surprising while investigating background material for your book?
I went to Seville to research and was shocked by the whole Morisco thing – which only came to my notice through my delvings into 17th century Spain. I had never heard the history before and had no idea so many people were forcibly expelled from Spain. They had three days to report to the ships and would be killed if they did not leave.
Religion plays an interesting role in A Divided Inheritance. Did you find it intimidating or difficult working with this material?
All my books have religion in the background, but I hope not in a heavy way. Earlier centuries were much more concerned with their religious beliefs than most people are today. People who had no religion were extremely unusual, so I suppose I am aiming to reflect the concerns of the day. I did not find it too difficult to work with, though I had to be careful about making my cross-cultural romances realistic and not too idealistic. I found it particularly interesting that it was illegal to be a Catholic in England, but illegal not to be one in Spain during this period, and the book examines that.
One thing I loved about this piece was the sword fights. How did you approach writing these scenes?
I drew out the training grid used at the sword school on my floor at home and took up a rapier, to follow the fencing manual of the day. But most sword fights are about the emotion behind the fight, not just the technique, so although it was good to get it technically right, I was also concerned with keeping it interesting for the reader, and not just a technical exercise.
You probably have many, but is there are scene you really enjoyed writing?
I enjoyed writing the very first scene – I always love beginnings! And in this book, the opening scene sets up the lie on which one of the characters is based, so I had fun making that work. And I wanted Zachary’s mother to die beautifully, which takes subtlety of touch. I was a long time working and re-working that scene.
What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author?
Any of the scenes with the moriscos – because it was a culture I have never experienced and I had to do a lot of research to make sure I got it right. I didn’t want to end up offending anyone, or making assumptions about those characters attitudes.
Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
Many of the characters fascinated me. I was desperate to know what happened to Luisa and her family, but knew that easy answers were not possible. Maybe one day I’ll explore her story in another book.
If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
It would be Elspet’s father, though I doubt if it would be an easy conversation! I would want to ask him why he could not just trust his daughter with the business, and why he treated Elspet’s mother so callously.
What do you hope readers come away with after reading your work?
I hope my readers will have experienced the emotions that my characters feel. I hope they will feel they have visited the seventeenth century with all its differences. I also would like to think they might warm to my themes and find something thought-provoking there too.
Finally, what is next for you? Any new projects waiting in the wings?
I’m working on a Teen novel set in the mid-seventeenth century, and based on a real historical character.
Thank you for hosting me, Erin, and many thanks for your review.
════════════════════════════ ❧ ════════════════════════════
About the Author: Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association. For more information, please visit Deborah’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
About the Book: A family divided by fortune. A country divided by faith. London 1609... Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace. Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relative but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary - determined to claim back from him the inheritance that is rightfully hers. Under the searing Spanish sun, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery which finally unlocks the true meaning of family... A Divided Inheritance is a breathtaking adventure set in London just after the Gunpowder Plot and in the bustling courtyards of Golden Age Seville.
════════════════════════════ ❧ ════════════════════════════