Thursday, December 10, 2015

Interview with Anna Belfrage, author of In the Shadow of the Storm

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Anna Belfrage back to Flashlight Commentary to discuss In the Shadow of the Storm.

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Anna. It’s great to have you with us. 
And it’s great to be here, Erin! Even happier to notice there’s tea for me while you stick to your ubiquitous coffee. You do know coffee is addictive, right? 
Yes, well, whatever…

To start things off, please tell us a bit about In the Shadow of the Storm. 

This is very much the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his wife. Adam de Guirande sort of gets caught in the middle when Roger Mortimer sees no option but to rebel against his king, Edward II. Adam loves Lord Roger, owes him for everything he has, and so he must ride with him – to ruin and death, even – despite realizing just how badly this whole venture can backfire. Plus there is Kit, Adam’s wife, with whom he wants to spend an entire long life, not some measly months before he is brutally executed for treason. Fortunately for Adam, Kit has every intention of spending many years with him – and she is willing to do what it takes to save him. Or try to, at least…

Your first publications, books one through eight of The Graham Saga, were time slip novels. Did you have any trouble adjusting to a novel set wholly in the fourteenth century? 

Moving back to the fourteenth century in itself was a challenge, but the real headache (an enjoyable headache, I must add) was how to use the boundaries offered by the real historical events to drive the story of my invented protagonists. 

On a similar note, what drew you to this particular place during era? 
Oh, I’ve had a soft spot for Roger Mortimer since I was a teenager. I think this is due to a most passionate history teacher, a Mr Wilmshurst, who painted such a vivid picture of the events in the early 14th century. He was a major Mortimer fan too, and one of the first to tell me it was a “load of rubbish” that Edward II had been killed by that rather unsavoury method of inserting a red-hot poker up his backside. Seeing as Mr Wilmshurst’s other two passions were the Restoration period (think The Graham Saga) and the Maya Empire, well, you can see where I might very well end up next…

Her unfortunate resemblance to Katherine de Monmouth aside, how would you describe Kit de Courcy? What kind of woman is she and what does Adam see in her? 
Kit is a woman who is quietly self-sufficient. She has been raised in isolation – due to the circumstances of her birth she has been secreted away with her mother on this little manor – and has had to depend on mostly herself for entertainment. In an effort to keep Kit adequately occupied, Kit’s mother ensured she was taught to read and write – most unusual for the time – but it’s not as if she’s had much to read. Due to her upbringing, she is unprepared for life in the bustling Mortimer household, and a lot of stuff is very new to her. But she’s a quick learner, and then there’s Adam, this man who so obviously expected to be disappointed in her – but wasn’t – and for whom Kit very quickly develops a huge attraction, to be followed by deeper sentiments. So when it seems fate is about to snatch her man away from her before she’s even had the opportunity to really get to know him, Kit decides it is time to take what action she can. So I’d say that Kit is also courageous, determined and quite inventive. 

Erin's ubiquitous coffee cup
Speaking of Adam de Guirande, what kind of man is he?
I’d have hoped you’d have worked that out for yourself (wink, wink) Adam comes from a difficult background, and some events in his childhood have left him deeply scarred – and forever indebted to Lord Roger, who literally saved Adam’s life when he was twelve or so. His obvious skills with weapons, his loyalty and capacity to think on his feet have raised him from being a man-at-arms to being a knight – he was knighted by Lord Roger after a particularly bloody skirmish in Ireland. Adam owes Lord Roger fealty and service – but he also loves him, and is more than willing to die for him if needed. Or was willing to do so – until Kit entered his life, thereby presenting Adam with an alternative to the life he’s been leading so far. First and foremost, Adam is a man of honour. His word, once given, is never taken back. 

Thomas and Cecily de Monmouth caught my attention early on. Can you tell us a bit about this couple? 
Well, it’s not exactly a loving relationship, is it? Thomas and Cecily are make-believe characters, parents to Richard de Monmouth who is documented as being the squire that shared Mortimer’s imprisonment in the Tower. Thomas hails from Worcestershire, his family minor gentry, but his mother brokered a great marriage for him with wealthy heiress Cecily, whose mother holds substantial lands in Gascony. This is a marriage made for other reasons than pink and cuddly love: Cecily brings money and land, Thomas brings his family’s connection to the Mortimers, and the idea is that this combo will benefit their children. Lady Cecily, as I see it, is very aware of the fact that she’s no beauty – she never has been. But she’s a dutiful wife and it aggravates her no end when she realizes Thomas has a mistress – not a wench he occasionally sleeps with, but a woman he loves – which is why she is so bitter and resentful versus Kit. Also, Cecily is a borderline psychopath – wouldn’t you agree? 
That she is and no, her relationship with Thomas is not loving at all, but I think that is why it caught my eye. The complexities of their union were dramatically different than Adam and Kit's and I liked the contrast created when comparing them side by side. 

What theme from the story do you most hope strikes a chord with your readers? 

Well, I am a bit of a sucker for love, so I guess I’d like Adam’s and Kit’s relationship to resonate – but also the love between Adam and Lord Roger. These are two men bound to each other by more than vows of fealty, and ultimately this will become something of a problem for Adam. 

What sort of research went into In the Shadow of the Storm? What sources did find most valuable? 
Well, I think I’ve read three biographies over Edward II – not that he plays a major role here, but I needed to get a take on him. Then I have read and re-read Mr Ian Mortimer’s book about Roger Mortimer “The Greatest Traitor”. (And no, they’re not related) Plus I spend a lot of time reading books about food and buildings and clothes and life in general. And then I had a lot of fun re-reading my Maurice Druon books about Philippe le Bel of France and his children (which include Isabella, Edward IIs wife). 

Edward II of England receiving his crown
You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing? 
I am especially proud – and fond of – the scene in which Mortimer submits to Edward II. I could see it all before me, hear it, smell it even…

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it? 
There is a scene involving feet and an iron stake that I found very difficult to write – especially as I also had one character who was experiencing some sort of sexual reaction to the inflicting of pain on someone else. I think I rewrote that scene like twenty times. An odd sentence here, another there…

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 on?

I’d have liked to develop Katherine de Monmouth, but she was weirdly uncooperative. 

Historical novelists frequently have to adjust facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing In the Shadow of the Storm and if so, what did you alter? 

No, not really. The historical events depicted happened as described – including the escape from the Tower. Of course, including Adam is an adjustment, seeing as he didn’t exist. Unfortunately. 

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? I’d personally invite Mabel, but that’s just me. 

You would? 
I would. I have a thing about the older characters, the mentors and such. That and servants know all the best gossip.
Well, she’s probably quite fun to talk to. I spend a lot of time as it is talking to Adam and Kit, so I actually think I’d like to spend some time with Mortimer himself. He would drink tons of wine, I’d sip my tea and bombard him with questions and not-so-subtle hints about how much smarter it would be for him to NOT take over the ruling of England in the name of Edward III but rather step away from it all and retire to his lands. Oh, right: that would be manipulating history, and one is not allowed to do that…

Actor Rufus Sewell
Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of In the Shadow of the Storm, who would you hire? 
Kit: Eleanor Tomlinson 
Adam: Charlie Hunnam 
Roger Mortimer: Michael Fassbender 
Hugh Despenser: Rufus Sewell. 
Mabel: Lesley Nicol (the lady who plays the cook in Downton Abbey). 
Rufus Sewell is one of my favorite actors! And no, my appreciation has nothing to do with his portrayal of Crown Prince Leopold (a would-be Rudolf) in The Illusionist. 

Finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works?

Well, I’m presently writing the fourth book in The King’s Greatest Enemy, and then I have another trilogy ready to go – not historical fiction, so I have butterflies in my belly about it – plus I have a date with Matthew and Alex, there are matters to sort re Jacob’s little daughter in London, their straight-laced minister son Daniel, and the noose that is presently hanging over Father Carlos. Plus Samuel…no; too sad. 
Well you heard it here first folks. We have it on record! More Matthew and Alex on the horizon!

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PRAISE FOR IN THE SHADOW OF THE STORM

I enjoyed this piece a great deal. Belfrage's writing is chock full of personality and humor and I love the quality and charm her tone brought the fabric of the narrative. - Erin Davies, Flashlight Commentary

This book does a nice job of depicting the effects rebellion by a country's nobles has on their followers and the common folk and does not shy away from portraying the harshness of the times, particularly for women. I'm looking forward to going back and reading Ms. Belfrage's earlier series, The Graham Saga, and seeing what's in store for Kit and Adam as this series progresses. - Jenny Q, Let Them Read Books

Ms. Belfrage took an incredibly tumultuous period in history, mixed in a passionate romance and the result was an incredible story. - Denise, So Many Books, So Little Time

In The Shadow Of The Storm is a character drive story. The strength and focus of the story is on the two lovers, Adam and Kit, and their plight during this history in England. Their baron is Roger Mortimer, a contemptible man. I already knew the history of his relationship with Isabella, who was Edward II's queen. In The Shadow Of The Storm told me of his days as a baronial opponent. I loved this story from start to finish, and I'm looking forward to reading further books in the series about Adam and Kit. - Annette, Impressions in Ink

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Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, will be published in the autumn of 2015.

Website ❧  Blog ❧  Facebook ❧  Twitter ❧  Goodreads


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Format: Print & eBook
Publication Date: October 28, 2015
Released by: SilverWood Books
ISBN-13: 978-1781324332
Length: 396 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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