Questions for the Author:
Q: When did you first start writing?
A: Ever since I was a little girl, I've always had one or two half-finished stories in the works. When I was around eleven years old, I presented my version of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" fable to our homeschool group. It was renamed "The Ant Who Cried Wolf," and I had rewritten the characters as ants, aphids, and ladybugs. The story was well-received, and one of the ladies there said it would be a shame if I didn't turn out to be a writer when I grew up. It wasn't until I went to college that I knew I wanted to write about history. Mr. Chris Schlect, my history professor, inspired me with a love of historical research and primary sources. During my senior year, I wrote a hundred page thesis entitled: The Life and Death of Saint Thomas Becket: Type of Paul, Type of Peter, Type of Christ. While my fellow classmates groaned and agonized over their theses, I found (to my surprise) that writing mine was a lot of fun! I savored my sources, raced through my writing, and even derived a mysterious satisfaction from formulating footnotes. Loving to write stories and loving historical research turns out to be a great combination for writing historical fiction.
Q: How long did it take you to write I Serve?
A: I first became interested in the Black Prince in December of 2006. My Christmas list that year was full of biographies and chronicles from the 14th century. After lots of reading, I came to the conclusion that the Black Prince's life and the events surrounding it were so exciting that someone ought to make it into a novel. I decided to try my hand at it. I spent nearly a year researching before I mastered the historical context and devised a compelling plot. After several false starts, I scribbled out the middle, the beginning, and the end of the book. Then, all I had to do was fill in the in-between chapters. The more I wrote, the faster it went. The manuscript (with all major revisions) was finished in February of 2009.
Q: Are you planning to write another historical novel?
A: I am currently almost finished writing another novel, this one set during the First Crusade in the eleventh century. It's called Road from the West and will hopefully be finished in the summer of 2011.The story follows Tancred, a Norman from Southern Italy, as he journeys to the Holy Land. This book is the first volume in a projected trilogy entitled The Chronicles of Tancred. The next two books, Flower of the Desert and Prince of the East, will chronicle the capture of Jerusalem and Tancred's rise to power in the East.
Q: What other authors have influenced you the most in your own writing?
A: In earlier days, my three favorite historical fiction writers were Howard Pyle, Rosemary Sutcliff, and Edith Pargeter (AKA Ellis Peters). All three of these authors deal with the medieval period, and I find myself going back to them for ideas on how to render the atmosphere and setting for my books. More recent favorites of mine include Patrick O'Brian and Umberto Eco. I have tried to learn a few things from O'Brian's character sketches and Eco's attention to scholarly detail. The last author I would give credit to is J. R. R. Tolkien. Although fantasy is a different creature than historical fiction, it is still medieval in flavor, and Tolkien's use of Christian themes and typology is very helpful to me in devising plots.