════════════════════════════ ❧ ════════════════════════════Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Sam. To start things off, why don't you tell us a little bit about The Harlot's Tale.
The Harlot’s Tale is the sequel to my first novel The Midwife’s Tale. It is set in the English city of York in the midst of the Puritan Revolution, when the godly overthrew and executed King Charles I and established the English Republic.
In addition to bringing back my narrator Bridget Hodgson, I’ve included most of the supporting characters from the first book, including Martha, Tree, and Will. I’ve also included more than a few plot twists along the way, just to keep readers guessing!
What inspired this chapter of Bridget's story and how does this book differ from its predecessor?
One of the things that makes Bridget a good character for a series is that she’s living in a time of enormous – and in some cases truly revolutionary – change, so I’m never in any danger of recycling my plots. The Midwife’s Tale was set during the siege of York by Parliament’s armies. The Harlot’s Tale takes place after the city has fallen into Puritan hands and the godly have tried to impose their moral code on the city as a whole.
What research went into writing The Harlot's Tale?
The most significant reading I did was about prostitution in medieval and early modern England. I wanted to make sure that I had a solid understanding of the business – for it was a business – and the experience of the women who fell into that life, whether as a bawd or a prostitute.
Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make unexpected sacrifices. Was there a character or element of The Harlot's Tale you wished you could have spent more time with?
That’s a good question. Those who have read The Midwife’s Tale might remember Bridget Hodgson’s nemesis, Rebecca Hooke. When I started The Harlot’s Tale, I had intended to include a pretty significant role for Rebecca, but as I wrote and revised, her scenes started falling out of the book. In the end, she wound up with a cameo, but that’s about it!
That said, I can promise that she will be back with a vengeance in the third book in the series, due out in 2015.
You probably have several favorite moments, but was there a scene in this novel that was particularly fun for you to write?
Without a doubt my favorite scenes are the ones that take place in the delivery room. Historians don’t know much about what went on there – except that it could be quite raucous! – so I was really able to use my imagination to fill in the gaps. It was one of the few places where women were in charge, and gave rise to all sorts of inappropriate conversation and behavior!
Was there a scene that challenged you as an author?
There are a few, but they are all at the end, and I don’t want to give anything away!
Being a man, did you find it difficult to get into Bridget's head and write from a female point of view?
Honestly, I think that the important difference is not male vs. female, but 17th Century vs. 21st Century. Modern men and women may have their differences, but they tend to agree that the Pope is not the Anti-Christ, that witchcraft is not real (and witches ought not be burned), and that the Irish are not barbarians.
Bridget believed all of these things, not because she was a woman, but because she lived a long time ago. I just have to make sure that she is someone that the reader can relate to without making her too modern.
Assuming you could sit down and talk things over with one of your characters, maybe go out for drinks or a bite to eat, who would you invite and why?
Well, it would have to be Bridget! Since she is based on a real midwife who practiced in York (you can learn more about “Historical Bridget Hodgson” on my website), I would love to find out what I got right about her, and what I got wrong.
What do you hope readers take away after reading The Harlot's Tale?
I think I’m just trying to tell a story that – even if it’s fiction – is true to the time. If readers come away with an appreciation for the past, then I’m thrilled!
And finally, what's next for you? Any new projects waiting in the wings?
Bridget has been keeping me very busy. There’s a third book in the series, called The Witch-Hunter’s Tale, due out in early 2015, and a fourth book (maybe called The Assassin’s Tale) the year after that. I’m also in the early stages of writing a stand-alone novel set in colonial New England in the aftermath of King Philip’s War.
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About the Book: It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, whipping is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution. Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city. To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction.
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