February 2008


Yesterday, I reviewed Sandra Worth’s newest novel, Lady of The Roses. Today, she’s gracious enough to answer a few questions:

DE: What is it that you find particularly fascinating about this time in history? You’ve written Lady of the Roses and the Rose of York Series (which I now can’t wait to read). Why this period of history rather than any other? Was the portrait of Richard III in the National Portrait Gallery the start of it all?

SW: He really was the start of it all! Like Josephine Tey’s detective in Daughter of Time, I was fascinated by the portrait of the handsome young man with the troubled, sorrowful eyes. He didn’t look like a killer to me, and sure enough, he was maligned by the Tudors. The more I read, the angrier I got at the enormity of the injustice that had been done. There was only one very lengthy fictional treatment of the real Richard III available at the time, but it was too wordy and I couldn’t get into it. Eventually, I wrote my own book. One thing led to another, and Lady of the Roses was born. This novel is a sort of prequel to my first book, The Rose of York: Love & War about Richard of Gloucester, and gives the Neville perspective. It’s something that has never been done before, either in fiction or non-fiction. Novelists left this period alone because it was so murky and chaotic.

You ask what is so fascinating about this period of history—why this rather than another, and what’s so special about England’s 15th century Wars of the Roses? The answer is that it’s simply extraordinary –a time of great danger and tumult, reversals of fortune and violent death when the passions of a few determined the course of history. And it’s filled with surprises! The Wars of the Roses so fascinated Shakespeare that he set most of his plays in this era. Living in this period seems to have brought out the best, and the worst in people. Some became larger than life; others exhibited an evil unmatched in the civilized world.

DE: I’m more familiar with the Percies than the Nevilles, albeit earlier than this period. One of the things I especially enjoyed in Lady of the Roses was Isobel’s affection for Alnwick and, especially, Warkworth. I’ve spent time wandering around both and love them. Did you go back and spend time in those locations during the writing of the book? Or had you previously spent enough time there to do it all from memory and research? Do you take lots of notes and photographs when you research? What is your process?

SW: I live in Texas, so unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of taking a weekend trip to places I’m writing about while I’m writing. Everything has to be planned beforehand. I visited both these exquisite castles, as well as Bamborough, another of my favorites, before I began the book. As you suggested, I took copious notes and photographs while I was there. Then of course, my mind “photographed” so much that the camera couldn’t – the evocative landscape, the emotion and feel of the place. Bamborough and Warkworth are the two that “spoke” to me most vividly, even though only the armory at Bamborough dates from John Neville’s time. Yet, standing at the window there looking out at the windswept North Sea, I knew John had done exactly the same himself, many times, long ago, and I found it somehow touching.

DE: One of the interesting episodes in the book is when Isobel states to Queen Marguerite that she would “have as husband a man of my choice” and Marguerite agrees that the law is on her side. One of the assumptions most people make is that women were only moved about as chattel to gain money and power at that time. Would you talk a bit about this law, when it came into effect, how it was honored or ignored?

SW: Since the eleventh century women have had this right. It was given them by the Church which believed that for a marriage to be legal, both parties had to be willing. That was the theory, but of course, there were a thousand ways to get around that. Women were virtually powerless, dependent on men for their survival – first their fathers, then their husbands, and a young girl could be turned out into the street if she disobeyed.

DE: Somerset’s complexity and growth is also interesting. At the beginning, one wants to hate him; yet by his death, he’s far too interesting to hate, and we understand Isobel’s mixed feelings for him. Is most of that complexity (not in relation to Isobel, but in his general dealings) based on historical documentation or were you able to take more liberties in his creation than in some of the other figures?

SW: That was my creative invention. Somerset is known to history as a rash and reckless trouble-maker but as I pondered his many angry and violent confrontations with John Neville, and the fact that he had never married, I began to get a sense of what these arguments were about. John and Isobel came from enemy sides in a civil war, and Isobel was an orphan, a ward of the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou who hated the Nevilles. John, a Yorkist, was made to pay a jaw-dropping bride-price for Isobel’s hand when he fell madly in love with her. That suggested to me that Isobel was a great beauty, and an admirable young woman, and here she was at court with Queen Margaret, and with Somerset. He was around the same age as John Neville, and evidently good-looking. Was Somerset in love with Isobel? Was that the source of his conflict with John? Margaret of Anjou was said to have been in love with Somerset herself, so she might have looked favorably on getting Isobel out of the way. A marriage to Somerset’s rival would have been a good punishment on her wayward lover, too. After all, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…”

DE: What’s next on your writing agenda (if you’re at a stage where you can discuss it)? Do you plan to stay in this era, move backwards, move forwards?

SW: I’ve got another novel with Penguin coming December 2008 on Elizabeth of York, entitled The King’s Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen. Elizabeth of York was a remarkable woman who lived an incredibly dramatic life. Some of the things that happened to her are so unbelievable, you couldn’t make it up! Penguin’s book description is posted on my website, and I think it conveys a good idea of the story. As for a book past Elizabeth, I haven’t decided yet. I’m taking a hiatus right now, just resting and pondering what direction I’m going to go in the future. History is full of the most fascinating and inspiring stories. It’ll be hard to decide.

DE: Thank you, Sandra!

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Bio:
Sandra Worth holds an honours B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Toronto. She is a frequent lecturer on the Wars of the Roses and has been published by The Ricardian Register, the quarterly publication of the U.S. Richard III Society and by Blanc Sanglier, the publication of the Yorkshire, England, branch of the Richard III Society.

She has won ten awards her Rose of York trilogy, including the First Place Prize in the 2003 Francis Ford Coppola-sponsored New Century Writers Award. Her work has been translated for publication in Spain and is forthcoming in Russia Visit her website, www.sandraworth.com.

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Lady of The Roses
By Sandra Worth. New York: Berkley Books. 2008 $14.00 paper.

Sandra Worth, known for her beautiful Rose of York novels, has written a gorgeous, passionate novel about Isobel Neville. Isobel was a ward of Lancastrian Queen Marguerite, wife of the ailing Henry VI. But she falls in love with Yorkist John Neville, who is equally enamored of her. Fending off the advances of the Queen’s lover, Somerset, Isobel is determined to find a way to be with John, and John is determined to make her his wife. The writing is beautiful, drawing in the reader. The first person lets us experience the tumult through Isobel’s eyes, and live her always brave, sometimes frightening choices with her. The historical detail is meticulous and fascinating, the court machinations both mesmerizing and horrifying. The detailed research never gets in the way of the epic story; instead, it shores up the gravity and the despair of the ever-changing loyalties. This was an exceptionally painful period in English history, both in terms of political and personal costs. Set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses, this lush, exquisite novel shows how love survives in war. Most people only know a smidgen of the history and chaos of this period via Shakespeare’s history plays; here, one gets a glimpse of the individuals involved.

Bio:
Sandra Worth holds an honours B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Toronto. She is a frequent lecturer on the Wars of the Roses and has been published by The Ricardian Register, the quarterly publication of the U.S. Richard III Society and by Blanc Sanglier, the publication of the Yorkshire, England, branch of the Richard III Society.

She has won ten awards her Rose of York trilogy, including the First Place Prize in the 2003 Francis Ford Coppola-sponsored New Century Writers Award. Her work has been translated for publication in Spain and is forthcoming in Russia

Her website is www.sandraworth.com.

Yesterday, I reviewed Darkling, Yasmine Galenorn’s latest book in her Otherworld (Sisters of the Moon) series. Today, she’s generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions.

DE: The books are all written in first person, the “first” being whichever sister is the focus of that book. Because of your intense schedule, where you’re usually writing one and in edits or galleys for another, do you ever find that sometimes the voice of one “bleeds” (no pun intended) into one of the other stories? Or does one of the sisters sometimes jump into a different sister’s book and want to say something from her perspective? How do you handle that?

YG: Actually, I’m very good at narrowing my focus and multi-tasking, so this hasn’t been the problem I thought it would be. The only time it was a problem was when I started Changeling, because I hadn’t realized my publisher wanted me to write the books from different POVs—I had planned that it would all be from Camille’s perspective. I tossed 200 pages when I figured out that I was writing Delilah the way Camille saw her, not the way she saw herself. Once it dawned on me that each sister sees herself differently than her other sisters see her, I was able to make the leap. I like the round robin approach because we get to see how Camille, Delilah, and Menolly view each other—and then how they view themselves, and the differing perspectives don’t always match up.

When I start a new book, it’s like I “jump out” of one skin, into the next, and settle in. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Camille wouldn’t do it this way” or “Oh man, Menolly would react a totally different way” but I don’t think bleed-through ever presents a serious obstacle for me.

DE: Each of the sisters is involved in at least a triangulated relationship, if not a more complex web. The relationships show genuine love and growing trust in a way that is unique. That a protagonist can successfully have more than one lover is fairly new ground in traditional publishing. Laurell K. Hamilton deals with this in her books, but, in my opinion, it’s a means to a different end. Even many of the erotica publishers insist that once the protagonist and her “hero” have sex, neither character can have sex/make love with anyone else. Did you meet any initial or do you meet any ongoing resistance to that from your editor or publisher? Was that a discussion that happened early in the series, or have they simply trusted you enough to follow your vision?

YG: My editor(s) seem quite happy with the direction in which I’ve taken my sisters. I started out with a different editor for Witchling and Changeling. Christine Zika was also with me through all my mysteries—let me take this new series where I needed to take it. Then she was hired by a different house and I started working with Kate Seaver, my current editor, who is as wonderful—and innovative—as Christine was.

At first, the publishers weren’t even sure what the series was—and to be honest—neither was I. The story arc has evolved as I’ve written the books. And the sisters and their relationships have evolved organically through the writing. I think what helps it work in my Alterverse is that I haven’t tried to foist anything on the characters from the outside. Multiple pairings seem to be their natural bent, so the situations ‘feel’ natural in the writing.

The same with the bisexual and gay characters—I don’t have any agenda with regards to the sexual bent of my characters. They are who they are. My current editor did discuss the same-sex scene with me—the one Menolly has in Darkling. In no way did she ask me to remove it, but she gently reminded me, some readers might be uncomfortable with a F/F sex scene. I thought about it, but it had to stay. Menolly is bisexual, and with the background she has—with what Dredge did to her—she is leery of men. I refuse to tiptoe around the issue. She will—on occasion—have women lovers. Actually, all the sisters have the possibility, but for Menolly it seems to play out more. If it pushes a few buttons, well, then it will have to push a few buttons. The worlds I create aren’t sanitized—they aren’t nice and pat and tied up with a pretty bow.

For one thing, I’m openly bisexual (although I resist labels—I happened to fall in love with a man; it could have been a woman depending on who I met). Actually, when you look at human nature, monogamy is a social construct, for the most part. Now, I’m monogamous in practice, but I can understand the natural instincts to gravitate toward different partners. It can cause a lot of havoc, but it also opens up whole new avenues for plot and character development.

I also think that since I’m writing urban fantasy instead of romance (regardless of what you see on the spine of the book), there’s less resistance to the multiple pairings. I’m not focused on relationships or sex, they just happen to be part of the story—they aren’t the whole plot.

DE: Have you made any changes in your own spiritual practice as you explore the worlds and the practices of the sisters more deeply?

YG: No. The Otherworld Series—and the Chintz ‘n China Series, for that matter—while they have a background in folklore, and while actual magical practices can’t help but creep in, they’re both fantasy. Fiction.

My spiritual/magical practice is grounded in…what…at this point…28 years of magical practice I have as an eclectic shamanic witch. I do work with dragon energy and I’ve always worked with Faerie magic, but I consider my spirituality and my writing two separate parts of my life. I am a witch. I am a writer. I’m not writing metaphysical nonfiction wrapped up in the guise of fiction—I already wrote nonfiction books on the subject. While my spirituality guides the way I approach life, and being a writer guides the way I perceive life, they don’t necessarily overlap all the time.

DE: Have you created an overview for the whole series, with a specific ending in site, or does that shift from book to book? Is the series growing organically, or do you make sure to hit certain touchstones in each book?

YG: No—no specific ending. There will be an end to the spirit seal story arc eventually, but another story arc is opening up in Dragon Wytch (book 4, which will be out July 1st 2008) and there will be others. The series is evolving organically. Although, I have to say, by this point—I’m about to start book six—I have an extensive research notebook detailing story threads, subplots, characters, aspects of Earthside/Otherworld, etc.

DE: One of the things I love about the series is the strength of the love and the sense of hope between the sisters and those close to them, even when things are at their darkest. They’re active, and they use love as a catalyst rather than a reason to hide or not act out of fear of loss. It seems that so many decisions nowadays are made out of fear instead of out of love, hope, or integrity. Is that something rooted in your own belief?

YG: No, actually. I’m not an optimist by nature, and I don’t hold much hope for humanity’s future with the way things are going. But we can’t give up. In my opinion, we simply have no other option but to continue the fight, to do what we can, and cross our fingers that maybe, just maybe, it’s enough.

I make my decisions by looking at what needs to be done. What is my part in the scheme of life? I try to act out of a sense of honor. I’d defend my loved ones to the death, because nobody hurts those I protect/call family. I suppose, for me, a sense of honor with heart is a strong motivator. I do recognize, though, that some people confuse honor and pride—and that brings tragedy.

The sisters were raised to be the daughters of a Guardsman, they were raised to be courageous, to stand up for those in need, to follow through on promises made. However, each sister is a little different in the way she approaches danger and action.

As I said, Camille feels a strong sense of duty/honor to her family, to her father, to those she’s bound to by oath or by heart. Camille is the one who would go rushing willy-nilly into battle, screaming, “Do you want to live forever?”

Delilah, well Delilah’s trying to find her courage. She’s trying to grow past her fear. You’ll see—in Death Maiden—how she is evolving out of the ‘Scaredy Cat” into a courageous young woman/feline, ready to stand her ground.

And Menolly, oh yes, for Menolly it’s all about the underdog. She does what she needs to, even when it’s uncomfortable or ugly, because she’s unwilling to let the sadists and the perverts of the world win. She’s been to hell and back, and she’s determined to prevent others from falling to the same fate.

All in all, the Otherworld series is really about the underdogs of the world. The heroes who get thrust into the journey rather than the ones who go looking for it—the people who are scared out of their minds but they know they have to fight and so they somehow find the courage to face their demons. Really, my Alterverse is all about the misfits who band together to save what they can, to help where they can, and to have one hell of a party doing it. And by gods, if they’re going to fall to the enemy—they’re determined to take the bad guys with them! ~grins~

(And no, do not read anything into that—I’m not killing off the Sisters. Or Maggie. I promise you this: Maggie may be in danger at times, but Maggie the Gargoyle will never be tortured or killed).

DE: Thank you, Yasmine!

Bio:
USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes the bestselling urban fantasy Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon Series for Berkley (Witchling, Changeling, Darkling, etc.). She also wrote the paranormal Chintz ‘n China Mystery Series, and the Bath & Beauty Mystery Series (the latter written as India Ink) and eight nonfiction metaphysical books. She’s been in the Craft for over 25 years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos. She lives in Bellevue WA with her husband Samwise and their four cats. Yasmine can be reached via her website at www.galenorn.com and via MySpace: www.myspace.com/yasminegalenorn.

Darkling
Yasmine Galenorn. New York: Berkley Books. 2008. Paperback. $7.99

Darkling is the third book in Yasmine Galenorn’s riveting Otherworld (Sisters of the Moon) series. Camille, Delilah, and Menolly D’Artigo are half-human, half-fae, sisters and members of the now-crumbling Otherworld Intelligence Agency. As war and political intrigue escalate in Otherworld, they are increasingly cut off from their home and family, and left to face an ever-growing assortment of dangers on Earth as more and more preternaturals enter the plane through portals with their own agendas for the future of both human and fae.

Each book is told in the first person from the point of view of one of the sisters. Darkling is told through Menolly’s eyes. During an OIA mission gone wrong, Menolly was captured by the Elwing Blood Clan, tortured and turned into a vampire by a sadist named Dredge. She and her family have learned to live with her needs and functions, but it’s a daily struggle for her to balance her hungers, her desires, and her inability to trust anyone outside of her immediate family.

A series of brash and brutal murders hits Seattle, with some of the murdered turning up as newly-turned, vicious vampires, put both human and vampire communities at risk. Menolly and her sisters suspect the Elwing Blood Clan, and, specifically, Dredge, are behind it. When the psychopathic floraed, Wisteria, escapes from her prison and joins them, the sisters know it’s only going to get worse. Queen Asteria sends the incubus turned bounty hunter Rozuriel in for added muscle and skill. Roz has his own axe to grind with Dredge, who destroyed Roz’s family. Menolly must risk her life to return to the Otherworld in search of the seer Jareth, who can break Dredge’s bonds, but at a cost. In addition to facing down Dredge one last time, Menolly must also make a gut-wrenching choice that will change her life and the life of a friend forever.

As usual, Galenorn spins an intriguing, fast-paced, breath-taking tale of magic, power, mystery, love, lust, family, betrayal, and the need to fight for one’s family (and the greater family) in the face of incredible odds. She creates complex, fascinating characters who can’t get away with making the easy choices. Their emotions, and the sometimes surprising ways they connect and interconnect with each other, trying to balance love, lust, duty, and their places in the bigger picture make all of the Otherworld books both a treat and an addiction.

The earlier books in the Otherworld (Sisters of the Moon) series are Witchling (from Camille’s point of view) and Changeling (from Delilah’s point of view. Darkling is available now, and Dragon Wytch, again through Camille’s eyes, will be available in July of 2008.

Come back tomorrow to read an interview with Yasmine Galenorn!

Bio:
USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes the bestselling urban fantasy Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon Series for Berkley (Witchling, Changeling, Darkling, etc.). She also wrote the paranormal Chintz ‘n China Mystery Series, and the Bath & Beauty Mystery Series (the latter written as India Ink) and eight nonfiction metaphysical books. She’s been in the Craft for over 25 years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos. She lives in Bellevue WA with her husband Samwise and their four cats. Yasmine can be reached via her website at www.galenorn.com and via MySpace: www.myspace.com/yasminegalenorn.