Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Interview with Anne Clinard Barnhill, author of Queen Elizabeth's Daughter

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Anne Clinard Barnhill to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her newest release, Queen Elizabeth's Daughter.

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Anne. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter.      
I’m very excited to be here.  Thanks so much for having me.  Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter is about one of my ancestors, Mary (Shelton) Scudamore, who served at Elizabeth I’s court.  She was younger than Elizabeth by about 20 years, just the right age to have been her daughter.  When Mary is orphaned at 4, she becomes a royal ward and lives at court.  A mother/daughter bond forms between Mary and the queen.  As Mary grows up, she discovers loving and being loved by Elizabeth Tudor can be dangerous and tragic.

What inspired you to write this story? 
I’ve been doing research on the Shelton family for many years because I’m descended from them.  When I read about Mary’s claim to fame—that when she married a Catholic without the queen’s permission, Elizabeth broke Mary’s finger—I began to wonder…what would cause such a violent response?  It seemed more than mere disobedience, though that was dangerous enough.  There seemed to me more involved…that’s what the novel investigates.

What research went into Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter and did you discover anything particularly surprising while investigating the background material for you book?  
As I said, I’ve been researching the Sheltons for years.  I also made use of many sources—Elizabeth I by Anne Sommerset, The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir.  I was lucky enough to find an entire paper on the Scudamores online—we know right much about Mary because she left more letters than the usual person at court.  I was surprised to learn Mary Shelton had been orphaned, her parents dying within a couple weeks of each other. I’d written her as an orphan, just playing around with the idea.  And then, discovered she was, indeed.  That happens a lot—I write something, then research and find it to be true—a bit eerie.

What drew you to this particular time period? 
I’ve always loved the Tudor era.  I think if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I was probably alive at that time.  I have such an affinity for it.  The language, the liveliness of the times, the various struggles—religious, political, and personal—fascinate me.  And, I must admit, I admire Elizabeth I and her mother, Anne Boleyn, for being brave, intelligent, strong women in a time when women were viewed as lesser beings.

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
I must confess I loved writing the love scene that begins with the lovers rolling down a grassy hillside.  When I was a teen, my boyfriend and I rolled down a hill together, one of those spur of the moment things.  It was a steep hill and we flew down—it was great fun using those memories in that scene…of course, not ALL of that scene happened in real life!

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author?
At the end of the book, when Mary must beg the queen to spare her husband, I wanted to strike just the right tone. I struggled to find the right mix of love, hope, humility, cruelty--I hope I did.

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? 
Well, I tossed away the first third of the book, which was all about Mary and Elizabeth and their growing relationship.  I loved writing it, but it wasn’t all that interesting and really didn’t move the story along.  So, it had to go!

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter and if so, what did you alter and why? 
Yes, I changed Mary’s age when she was orphaned.  She really was around 7 or 8 but I made her 4.  I thought 4 was just the age to bring out the maternal instincts in Elizabeth.  And it was not so very far from when Elizabeth lost her own mother.  Elizabeth was younger but still, this would be close enough to bring back those memories of loss.

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?
Elizabeth, of course!  She remains for me one of the most interesting people of all time—such intelligence, such self-control.  Yet, she loved and felt as we all do.  She is amazing to me.

What do you hope readers come away with after reading your work?
I hope readers feel satisfied and feel that yes, perhaps it could have been like this, perhaps Elizabeth and Mary might have truly loved one another.

Authors are famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, for writing their own experiences, friends and acquaintances into their narratives. Is there anything in Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter that sprung directly from your personal history? 
As I said earlier, there is the rolling down the hill scene.  I think that’s about it for this book.

Okay, we've talked a lot about your book. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about you. How would describe your writing process? 
Sporadic.  Let’s just say life often gets in the way of my writing.  Ideally, I would write in the morning and do other things in the afternoon.  That’s my favorite way to operate.

Two words: writer's block. How do you deal with it? 
Interesting you should ask!  I rarely have writer’s block but in the last three months, I’ve been quite stymied.  For me, the cure is always to write.  So, I’ve finally begun a new project.

Who are your favorite authors? 
So many from which to choose.  Fred Chappell, Elizabeth Berg, Kathleen Norris, Marilyn Robinson, Dorothy Sayers, Robert Morgan…the list can go on and on.

What are you currently reading? 
Just finished The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace and now am reading Marrying the Mistress by Joanna Trollop.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies? 
Oh yes!  I love to walk.  I take voice lessons and sing in the church choir.  I love to play bridge, but have a hard time finding other folks to play.  I love to go dancing.

Where do you stand on the coffee or tea debate? 
Hmmm, tea to drink, but coffee ice cream—it’s my favorite flavor!

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? Planning a vacation? Anything exciting and/or noteworthy?
I’m working on a new book set in West Virginia in 1960.  It’s a bit darker story—about a girl who is won in a poker game and what happens to her.  I’m very excited about it but it’s taken me forever to write it…and I’m not finished yet!  I hope to take a trip at some point to England.  I’d love to see the things about which I write!

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Anne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published articles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like growing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants. Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. 

Besides writing, Barnhill also enjoys teaching, conducting writing workshops, and facilitating seminars to enhance creativity. She loves spending time with her three grown sons and their families. For fun, she and her husband of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance.

Website ❧ Twitter ❧ Facebook

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Format: Paperback
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Released by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Length: 320 pages
ISBN-10: 0312662122
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check out all the stops on Anne Clinard Barnhill's Queen Elizabeth's Daughter Virtual Book Tour

Monday, March 10
Review at Words and Peace
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, March 12
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, March 13
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Friday, March 14
Review at The Lit Bitch
Monday, March 17
Review at The True Book Addict
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, March 18
Spotlight & Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, March 19
Review at One Book at a Time
Thursday, March 20
Review at Book-alicious Mama
Friday, March 21
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, March 24
Review at Scandalous Women
Review at She is Too Fond of Books
Tuesday, March 25
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, March 26
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Thursday, March 27
Review at Book of Secrets
Friday, March 28
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Monday, March 31
Review at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?
Tuesday, April 1
Interview at HF Book Muse – News
Thursday, April 3
Review at Books in the Burbs
Friday, April 4
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Monday, April 7
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Tuesday, April 8
Review at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, April 9
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, April 10
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Friday, April 11
Review at Silver’s Reviews

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