Sharon Kay Penman, author of Devil's Brood (August 10-21)
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Dear Ms. Penman,
What an honor to "meet" you.
You are one of a very select group of authors whose hardbacks I will by on sight! I own "The Devil's Brood," but it is the only one of yours I have not read yet, as I have been massively busy in my personal life.
Your "Here There Be Dragons" is on my personal "10 books I'd take to a desert island."
I too am a great fan and have read each of your books with a great deal of anticipation since I first read The Sunne in Splendor. Having lived in the UK for some time, I have vivid memories of places you write about. I hope we will have many more opportunities to read about Justin de Quincy.
Do you have any new major works churning around in your head that you could share with us?
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and time with your reading fans.
Dear Ms. Penman,
Oh, my! What can I possibly say to the woman who got me obsessed with medieval English and Welsh history? Llewellyn Fawr has been my hero ever since I read Here Be Dragons, which remains one of my all-time favorite books. The depth of detail that you put into your books, and the heart-breaking lives of these people, are deeply moving and endlessly fascinating. AND - you're excellent at moving the narrative along in letters and conversations, so that you can take us faster through time, without a lot of boring statements. Well done.
Thank you so much for your books!
Dear Ms. Penman,
I wanted to let you know that I always thoroughly enjoy your books. I started reading them in high school when my dad brought home The Sunne in Splendour and have loved every single one I've read since! My favorites are the Here be Dragons trilogy and the Justin de Quincy books. I re-read them often and look forward to whatever is next!
Hi, Kathy. That is a huge compliment; thank you. I hope you'll enjoy Devil's Brood. I think its theme is universal, since it deals with family dynamics and implosion from within.
PS If you get a chance, maybe you could tell us what other books you'd bring to a desert island?
The one drawback of writing is that it is such a solitary occupation. So that makes reader feedback worth its weight in gold.
I am working now on Lionheart, so it is a continuation of Devil's Brood--I found I just wasn't ready to let the Angevins go! The major characters will be Richard, Eleanor, John, their sister Joanna, Richard's queen Berengaria, and the French king Philippe Auguste, and it will cover Richard's ten year reign, the Third Crusade, and the first year of John's reign.
I have bad news about Justin. My publisher wants me to focus for now on the historicals, as they sell better than the mysteries. I have not given up on Justin, though, and hope to resurrect him in the future. So he is not dead yet, just on life-support!
PS Where do you live in the UK? I was lucky enough to live--all too briefly--in York and Gwynedd.
Hello Ms. Penman,
I have to admit I have never read your books before but my mom has and she loved your books. Lately I've been trying to remember all the books she loved and read and have been trying to get a hold of them. I want to read and see if I would enjoy them as much as she did. I am going to pick up When Christ and his Saints Slept and Time and Chance in order to read Devil's Brood I can't wait to see what mom loved so much about your works :) I love historical fiction myself.
So what is your next book about ?
I am several behind, I have them but haven't read them yet (Henry & Eleanor books).
Really love your writing.
I am trying to remember if I saw you once at a function in NH. Are you the one who lost your first manuscript in a cab ?
Thank you for the work you do--I really appreciate meticulous research, especially of the medieval period. I enjoyed When Christ and His Saints Slept, especially as Maude's reign, such as it was, throws some light on Henry VIII's view of female monarchs.
I also enjoyed The Queen's Man and plan to read more in the series (and more of the historicals, too); I'm sorry to hear he's on hold for the time being, though.
I wonder what authors have influenced you and particularly if you have read Edith Pargeter/Ellis Peters (her The Heaven Tree trilogy is a favorite of mine, also).
Hello Ms. Penman! Thanks for doing this!
I think it's safe to say I've read all your novels except The Sunne in Splendour, which is next on my TBR list. My favorites have by far been the Angevins, as you presented one of my favorite time periods in English History so well.
If you had a chance to interview one of the historical figures in your novels, who would you pick? And would you ever consider writing about the Restoration period (Charles II)? Thanks!
I'm so glad to hear you are taking up with Richard and John (and Eleanor as well)! I think those brothers are absolutely fascinating. My favorite of your works is The Sunne in Splendour, though I heard somewhere (and of course now can't remember where) that you said if you could re-write that one, you would do it differently and possibly not romanticize Richard III quite so much. Is this true? If so, what would you change and why?
And if not- have you ever wanted to go back and change books you've written, in more than minor ways?
Dear Ms. Penman,
I am mostly interested in other periods of history, but a friend of mine convinced me to try your work and I have thoroughly enjoyed it thus far. If I may ask, what types of books do you read? Do you read a lot of historical fiction? If so, what periods do you read about and what authors would you recommend?
Thanks, and keep up the good work!
Dear Ms. Penman,
I'm always interested to hear an author talk about her writing. Especially, I'd like to hear your thoughts on making medieval characters real medieval characters as far as possible rather than modern folks in costume..........
Dear Ms Penman, it's safe to say The Sunne in Splendour is one of my all time favorite books, though I love all your books, but Sunne was a tour de force! I'm due to read Devil's Brood shortly, it's almost at the top of my precarious TBR - looking so forward to it! I'm such an admirer of your writing and research and meticulous detail - it is always a pleasure to read one of your books!
I'm a huge fan, too! I have read almost all of your books, most several times. I really like the way you make the characters seem like real people. Even the "evil" ones are not one-dimensional, just as real people are not. Here Be Dragons is by far my favorite book and led me to an appreciation for the Welsh people. I even decided to run a marathon around Mount Snowdonia because, after reading your books and Edith Pargeter's books, I just had to see Wales for myself!
I am delighted to hear you are headed back to the Angevin family! While I am a strong believer that Richard III got the worst publicity in the history or the British Crown, I love the interplay between Richard and John. I have visited Fontevrault Abbey and seen the Plantagent family tombs there. I was lucky enough to stay in a B&B in France that was built by Henry II's grandfather in 1023.
I lived in High Wycombe (between London and Oxford) for three years and lived in a house built in 1624. I guess you could say I was steeped in English history while I lived there. I had the opportunity to spend lots of time visiting the smaller places many tourists don't see, and loved English village life.
I look forward to the day when Justin can come off life support and get back to being the Queen's Man.
Thank you for the response and the opportunity to "speak" with you about a fascinating topic.
Kurt S Laidlaw
I love your books! The Sunne in Splendour and Here Be Dragons are two of the very few books on my shelves that I will re-read every couple of years or so.
I would love to hear whether you have a personal favourite character from all those you have written?
And do you have any plans to write about other periods in British history, or do you feel as though other historical novelists are covering those just fine?
I'm another huge Here Be Dragons fan! I truly love the whole book--but my absolute favorite is the birth scene, where Joanna gives birth to her second child. One of the absolute most moving scenes I've ever read in any book anywhere. I was pregnant with my first daughter when I read it the first time--I remember crying gallons!
Thank you so much for that and for all the rest of your amazing body of work!
I have all your books!! Sunne in Splendour is the first one I read, years ago, and I wrote you a letter I was so impressed. And you wrote me back - or I should say you typed (on a typewriter) me a letter back telling me that my letter was one of the most moving fan letters you had ever gotten (at that point, of course - it was late 80's). Your letter is one of my most prized posessions, along of course, with the books.
Thank you so much for all the hours you've allowed me to spend in other worlds!
I too am a reader of your works. Sunne being a favorite but so large not a reread yet even though I first read it about 20 years ago. It changed my preception of Richard which i think was one of your intents. I followed this up with Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time and Paul Murray Kendall Richard the Third. Are there other books that you might recommend for our libraries that would enrich us with similar views as you have in Sunne?
I also like the fact that you will be doing more historicals. I too thoroughly enjoyed the Welsh novels and stories of Simon de Montfort.
Thank you, Erin, for such a wonderful message. I'll remember it on those days when I'm convinced I can't write a shopping list, much less a new novel.
I do have a question for you all, though. This is my first Librarythings chat. I'd responded to some of your questions earlier, but they don't seem to be posted anymore. Is this normal in author chats or am I being punished by the computer demons again?
Hi, Mira. As I confessed in an earlier post, Here Be Dragons is my own favorite of my books. I have some bad news about the Justin books, though. My publisher wants me to focus on the hstoricals for now, as they sell better than the mysteries. I am not abandoning Justin, though, and will get back to him as soon as I can. Luckily he is more patient than my Plantagenets!
Dear Sensitive Muse, My mother will be dead ten years in September and I still miss her very much. We loved sharing books that we enjoyed, and I miss being able to call her whenever I find a new author that I know she'd enjoy.
I hope you enjoy my books, too.
Hi, Ficus fan,
No, I've never been in NH. But I did lose my only copy of Sunne in Splendour; it was stolen from my car under mysterious circumstances and I was so traumaized by the loss that I was unable to write again for more than five years.
My next book has the working title Lionheart and will cover the reign of Eleanor and Henry's son Richard, the Third Crusade, and the first year of John's reign. So all the characters still alive at the end of Devil's Brood will be trooping onto centre stage in Lionheart.
I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about research, so it means a lot to me that there are so many readers who value it, too.
I don't think that any writers have influenced my writing; in fact, I've done what I could to avoid that influence! I deliberately did not read any novels about Richard III while I was writing Sunne for that very reason. Also, a weird sense of territorial instinct kicks in and I don't feel comfortable reading how another writer has treated historical figures I think of as "mine." So I have not read Edith Pargeter's novels about Llewelyn Fawr and Joanna or her Brothers of Gwynedd quartet, since I have this totally illogical feeling that she is poaching on my turf--even though she wrote her books 30 years before mine! But I am a big fan of the Brother Cadfael mysteries that she wrote as Ellis Peters.
Thanks for the reply. It was at the end of the 90s and in Chester I think. It must have been another lady who writes historical fiction and she told about losing her MS for her first book in a cab. I think I have your name in mind because she said you were one of her favorite writers, and of course mine too.
The new book sounds interesting. I read the mystery books too, though I prefer the historical fiction.
Glad to see you here on LT, hope you will hang around after your chat.
Hi, Catherine. What an interesting question. I'd love to interview all of the historical figures I've written about, but if I had to limit myself to just a few, I'd choose Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard III, Llewelyn Fawr and Joanna. But I'd feel so cheated that I couldn't interview Henry II and John and Simon de Montfort and...well, you see what I mean.
Actually, I've always been interested in the reign of Charles II. But I'd need nine lives like a cat in order to do the research I'd need for a new time period like that. For the same reason, I'm not likely to write about the American Revolution, which I see as our first civil war, because it would take years to feel as familiar with the 18th century as I am with the MA.
Hi, Aarti. I honestly don't think I romanticized Richard III in Sunne; he did send poor Hastings to the block without a trial, after all! But I know there are readers who feel my Richard was too good to be true. Reading, like writing, is very subjective, after all, and our reactions as readers sometimes say more about ourselves than the books we're reading. For example, I once had a letter from an Australian reader who said she'd loved Sunne but hadn't enjoyed Dragons because Llewelyn reminded her too much of an old boy friend!
No, I wouldn't change the characters in Sunne. But I would change the dialogue if I had the opportunity. This was my first book and so it was a learning experience in many ways. It also turned out to be the only one of my books in which my characters were all speaking English. I went back in time then when French was the language of the court. I think I'd probably simplify the language in Sunne if I'd written it now instead of trying to give it a medieval "flavor."
I might also want to make some minor changes to some of the secondary characters in Dragons. It was written more than 20 years ago and my opinion of Richard Coeur de Lion has changed over those years. We'll probably be discussing this on one of my upcoming blogs. I'd like to correct past mistakes, too, of course. No more time-traveling grey squirrel in Sunne. No more velvet in the 13th century. And I'd love to correct a truly bizarre error in The Reckoning, in which Roger de Mortimer tells Edward I that men could master the longbow more easily than the crossbow, when it was the other way around, of course.
I don't read a great deal of historical fiction, simply because it makes me feel guilty; a little voice in the back of my head reminds me that I ought to be working on my own book. There are some historical novelists I can highly recommend, though. Elizabeth Chadwick is one;she combines serious research with fine writing. I also enjoyed the six books by Colleen McCullough set in the twilight of the Roman Republic. Michelle Moran has written two interesting novels about ancient Egypt; her newest one is Cleopatra's Daughter. And I was very impressed by the first book in the Swedish writer Jan Guillou's trilogy, The Road to Jerusalem. C. W. Gortner has written a remarkable novel about Katherine of Aragon's elder sister called The Last Queen. And my all-time favorite book about the American West is Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. And for "historical fiction" that happens to be contemporary, you can't go wrong with Jane Austin, Leo Tolstoy, and the Bronte sisters. I am sure I am forgetting many writers I've enjoyed, but these are the first ones to come to mind.
PS I really enjoyed Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe series, set in Spain during the Peninsular War; his battle scenes are spot-on. And I don't want to ignore Anya Seton.
This is a cause dear to my heart; I talk about it very often during public appearances and write about it frequently on my blog. I don't think that human emotions have changed much over the centuries, but beliefs and attitudes and superstitions certainly have. If a novelist is writing of the MA, he or she owes it to the reader to reflect the mind-set of that time. It is fine to have strong-willed women in a medieval novel, but they cannot sound like 21st century feminists. Tolerance was not considered a virtue in the MA, so medieval characters are going to be very wary or even hostile toward those of other religious faiths. People could love their horses or dogs, but the idea of Animal Rights would be utterly allien to them. There was no upward mobility in the MA. Nor did people expect to marry for love.
These are just a few of the medieval beliefs that can offend modern sensibilities. I have a term for books that are set in the MA but reflect 21st century mores; I call them The Plantagenets in Pasadena. My friend Margaret Frazer, who writes two excellent mystery series set in 15th century England, has an even more pithy term for this failing; she calls books like this "Mary Jane visits the castle." We discuss this subject quite often on my blog, so you might be interested in some of these discussions.
Dear DKHiggin. Wow! Running a marathon around Snowdon is awesome. I never did more than take the little train up to the top of the summit. I wasn't exaggerating about the wonders of Wales, was I? I think Gwynedd is the most beautiful land this side of Eden.
Isn't Fontevrault an amazing place? There is now a hotel on the abbey grounds in what used to be the lazar house; I can't recommend it highly enough. While tourists are evicted when the abbey closes at 6 PM, hotel guests have the freedom of the grounds, and I got into the habit of popping into the church in the evening to say goodnight to Henry and Eleanor! It is an interesting sensation to be enclosed within the abby walls, with the world shut out.
PS Living in a house that dated back to 1624--that is so impressive. My English friends liked to tease me that they had trees older than my country.
Realistically, I don't think I'd ever be able to write about any period but the MA, for it would take such extensive research to do that to my satisfaction.
Since Dragons is my personal favorite of my books, it isn't surprising that I am very partial to Llewelyn and Joanna as characters. But I definitely have a soft spot for Henry and Eleanor, too. Actually, I am vert fond of those characters who are up to no good--like John or Elizabeth Woodville--for it is always more fun to write about the ones with some dark corners in their souls.
Dear Anna. Thank you for telling me how much you liked the childbirth scene in Dragons; that sort of reader feedback is invaluable to writers, and helps so much to get us through rough patches.
Writers love to hear from readers. It means a lot to know that a particular scene worked or readers have taken a character to their hearts. And my readers are so special, with great taste in books, too, of course!
Dear DWWilkin. I am sorry but I cannot recommend any books about the Yorkists. I have not been able to keep up with current research about Richard III, and as I explained in an earlier post, I prefer not to read other fictional accounts of "my" historical figures. If you are interested in reading about Richard III, I would suggest you visit the website for the Richard III Society. There you'll be able to find every book ever written about Richard, both fiction and non-fiction.
I wouldn''t put it past them, Kurt. Who knows, maybe there were even some vengeful Tudor ghosts hovering over New Jersey when my only copy of Sunne disappeared from my car.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses to all our questions, Sharon. I'm actually quite happy to know that you stand firm with your portrayal of Richard in Sunne in Splendour. I think he is a wonderfully realistic and flawed character, and one of my favorites in literature. So- glad you like him, too :-)
I think a big hefty about life in Charles II's court would be fascinating to read, but I can see why you don't want to stretch to that period with the research involved. Good thing the new project you're on sounds pretty great, too! I did not know you had a blog, so now I shall be sure to check it out soon :-)
Do you think, as an author, having a blog and LibraryThing chats and the like make you *too* accessible to your readers? Do you ever get people getting a bit too pushy or demanding about books or storylines or characters? Do you have certain rules you stick to when blogging or chatting with readers? (Are we allowed to know what they are?)
Wouldn't there also be a great love story with Charles I. He pretty much gave up his throne for his devotion to his wife I've always thought.
#43- Wow, really? I have never had that impression. But I admit I don't know much about that period. I'm more of a Hanoverian family follower myself ;-)
I always got the feeling that Charles 1 and his roman catholic wife were bucking a lot of advice on allowing her to stay RC and to even practice it since the Stuarts were supposed to be leading the CoE which was still very young. I think he was even told on several occasion to dump Henrietta Marie and her influence. Probably a great love and family story in there with a lot of drama with him being beheaded at the end...
Dear Ms. Penman,
I can't possibly add anything more than what's been said already by your many fans. I've read "When Christ and His Saints Slept" three times and love it every time I read it. The mantle over my fireplace is reserved for the books that have special meaning to me; in other words, books I absolutely love. "When Christ and His Saints Slept" and "The Sunne in Splendor" as well as "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" and "The Historian" (other favorites of mine) are prominently displayed on the mantle and cause quite a conversation when folks come to visit. And now you have been writing about my favorites-Henry, Eleanor, and their "brood". I love it. I also have the Welsh collection-The Reckoning, Here Be Dragons, and Falls the Shadow. My nephew just graduated from college and read this collection and loved it. He is going to China to teach for a year and will probably take a couple of your books to keep him company!
You are a wonderful writer and I look forward to your next book.
Hi, Aarti. What interesting questions. No, I don't feel that blogs and on-line chats make me "too accessible" to readers. I enjoy the interaction enormously. It helps that I have the world's greatest readers, of course. In more than 25 years of writing, I have received bizarre or stalker-like messages so rarely I can count them on one hand. Instead, they have been wonderfully supportive of my dad's battle with Alzheimer's or my own health problems over the years. The one drawback of this sort of inter-action is that it is so addictive! I could happily spend hours exchanging e-mails with readers, and that really vexes my Angevin roommates, who see me as a lowly scribe who is at their beck and call 24-7. Seriously, the challenge is to manage time so that the blogs and chats don't wreak havoc with my writing schedule.
If I could be guaranteed another 20 years of good health, I probably would give some serious thought to writing of Charles II's reign. I've always had a weakness for a man with a sense of humor. And his lady love, Nell Gwyn, has always been a favorite of mine. I love the story about her carriage being stopped by an angry mob, who thought she was Charles's Catholic mistress. Quite unfazed, she popped her head out the carriage window and called, "No, good people, I'm the Protestant whore!"
Would you mind posting the location of your blog here?
And, yes, Wales was absolutely gorgeous. I truly did not want to leave again. I had the pleasure of staying in an inn in Caernarvon that was built in 1322, right inside the old walls of the town, and I toured the castle built by Edward I. Just amazing to me! The sense of history there compared to here is beyond compare.
Hi, Susan. Thank you so much for letting me know that you enjoy my books. That means so much to authors. Not only is ours a solitary occupation, but we work in a vacuum, and even after a book is done, our editors don't always tell us what works--just what doesn't! So positive feedback like yours is very welcome.
PS I have the Edgar Sawtelle book on my To Read list, but since you give it such a recommendation, I'll move it up several spaces. I once saw a bumper sticker that summed up our dilemma succinctly. "So many books, so little time."
Hi, DK. You can find my blog by going to my website, www.sharonkaypenman.com. At the top, the various features are listed, and one of them is Sharon's Blog. If you click onto Author, you'll find my favorite authors, medieval mishaps, etc. And also a list of author blogs that I enjoy reading, like Elizabeth Chadwick's.
Good Afternoon from Australia Ms Penman,
I am thouroughly enjoying your series but I have yet to start Devil's Brood. After reading Time And Chance I watched 'The Lion In Winter' again (my all time favourite movie).
I was most impressed with the way you were able to adjust the names of major characters in a time when certain names were very popular - specifically in The Sunne in Splendour where Henry's son was distignuished from Edward fo York by using the French Spelling 'Edouard' - a very nice touch.
I really loved The Reckoning for its portrayal of a series of flawed characters and how in true to life form the loose ends did not tie up together at the end - no final confrontation between Edward and the DeMontforts in a Robin Hood Prince of Theives style showdown.
I look forward to adding more of your works to my collection and to enjoy reading them - hopefully passing the interest on to my daughters.
Dear Ms. Penman,
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.
I'm a huge fan as well. I just got the message that Devil's brood will arrive tomorrow (I just ordered the paperback). I can't wait to read more about my favorite historical person: Eleanor of Aquitaine. I have been interested in her for a long time, before I found out through my genealogical research that I'm actually a descendant of hers and her first husband Louis.
I've got a question for you. It is a well documented fact, both in your books and other literature, that the marriage between Eleanor and Louis got annulled because of their blood relationship. I've been trying to find the primary source for that information, and to find what their relationship was exactly. I have not been able to find a shared ancestor between them in the first 4 generations of their ancestors. Would you happen to know how they were related, or what primary sources mention their blood relationship?
Dear Ms Penman,
I just want to add my heartfelt thanks to your contribution to my reading pleasure! I love the period that you focus on (in my opinion the Tudor dynasty has been done and re-done!!) and how 'meaty' your books are. The level of detail is satisfying to a reader; I can properly be taken away on a flight of fancy when reading one of your books. Like so many other readers on this thread I own all of your books and I reread one of them at least once a year.
Hi, Macbeth. It is the bane of historical novelists that they had so little imagination in the MA and kept recycling the same family names. With half a dozen Edwards and Richards in Sunne, I was so grateful for the one and only Francis Lovell! I have had to use nicknames--Hal for Henry's son in DB. And I was forced to give Simon de Montfort's son and namesake a nickname, too--Bran--for I absolutely refused to write a scene in which I had Simon saying something to Simon. In DB and Lionheart, I have made use of foreign variations of the same name. For example, I called Richard's chancellor William Longchamps Guillaume; this distinguished him from the other Williams in the books and made sense since he spoke French and had nothing but distain for the English. Oh, another example was Saints, in which I called the empress Maude and Stephen's queen Matilda. This is the same name; Maude is the vernacular version, what she would have called herself,and Matilda is the Latinized form of the name.
Thanks for letting me know you enjoy my books, and I think it is wonderful that you are instilling a love of reading in your daughters at an early age.
I have to admit to disappointment when I read that you will be delaying work on the "Queen's man" books. I have really enjoyed them and have been scanning the bookstores to see if another is coming out. Best wishes with your next book.
Hi, Steve. I was very unhappy about it, although I did understand the logic, for publishing has been in a downward spiral for years. But I know Justin has fans out there; I heard from them on my book tour and I get e-mails quite often from people wanting to know when the new mystery will be out. So Justin is not dead, merely on life-support, and as soon as I can, I will do all in my power to resurrect him. Not only do I feel emotionally invested in Justin, I enjoy the greater freedom that writing the mysteries gives me. For example, I introduced the young Llewelyn ab Iorwerth from Dragons in one of Justin's adventures, Dragon's Lair, and it was so much fun to have him hanging around the house again after all those years!
Hi, Kiwiflowa. Thank you so much for letting me know you enjoy my books. Reader feedback like yours means so much, for not only is writing a solitary occupation, it is a very subjective one, too. So it helps when others let us know we're doing something right!
Hi, Ms. Kay ~ You are definitely doing something right. Actually, pretty much everything, from my perspective. I don't buy a lot of books, but with yours I never hesitate because I know that not only will they be well-written, well-researched and eminently readable, but I'll definitely want to read them over again and again!
I've enjoyed many of your historicals and all your mysteries, starting with Sunne in Splendour which I still can't think of without getting that tingly feeling one gets when recalling a very special book. (It's one of my top-10 desert-island favorites, even though I cried at the end, even though I knew what was coming.) I know that its portrayal of Richard III is controversial, but it makes a great deal of sense. Considering we'll never really know what happened, notwithstanding the almost vituperous disagreement of some "historians" who will remain nameless.
The Welsh trilogy is another favorite. Llewellyn = meltmeltmelt. I've not had a chance to read your Eleanor and Henry novels yet ~ they are next, and I'm really looking forward to it. What a fascinating relationship those two had, not to mention the family dynamics and struggles between church and state (the spark that really began the movement resulting in The Dissolution?) and between king and nobles.
Anyway, just wanted to tell you how very much I enjoy your novels. Thank you, and best wishes for many more years of great good health and prolific writing.
Hi, Storeetlir. Thank you so much for letting me know you enjoy my books. Writers put compliments like that in the bank to spend on those days when we think we're in danger of declaring bankruptcy. Here's a question for everyone. What would be the top ten books that you'd want to take to a desert island? And no fair counting one on how to build a boat!
How about the combined works of Sharon Kay Penman in a very large volume as one of them? Below is my reading list. I think it would take me enough time to get through them that i might actually get rescued before I finished.
1. Dr. Zhivago
3. Walden Pond
4. Les Misérables
5. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
6. The Call of the Wild
7. The Canterbury Tales
8. Castle by David Macaulay
9. Tales of the City
10. The Sunne in Splendour (if I am forced to take only one)
Hey, klaidlaw ~ How'd you know I was thinking of Sharon's trilogies when I asked about how trilogies "count?" ;b
My list extends the theme of expanding the count by "bundling":
1. King James Bible
2. Arden Complete Shakespeare
3. The Norton Book of Nature Writing
4. The Art of the Personal Essay
5. The Brothers Karamazov
6. The Canterbury Tales
7. The Henry II Trilogy - SKP
8. The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon (I do believe that comes out at 10 volumes)
9. Norstrilia - Cordwainer Smith
10. The Secret Garden
That should keep me reasonably busy for awhile. And I am middle aged enough that when I start all over, they should all be new to me again.
Hmmmm . . .
1. The Sunne in Splendor
2. The Heaven Tree Trilogy, Edith Pargeter
3. Complete Shakespeare
4. Complete Sherlock Holmes
5. Complete Georgette Heyer (okay, I don't know if such a volume exists, but if it did . . . I can re-read most of her books many, many times)
6. Complete Jane Austen
7. Foreigner series by C. J. Cherryh
8. Idylls of the King, Alfred, Lord Tennyson
9. Complete Dickens
10. All seven Harry Potter books
I'm really enjoying this author chat and reading everyone's comments!
I do find it interesting that most of Sharon's readers prefer Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (aka Llywelyn Fawr) to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, who (in my humble opinion) is much more fascinating, both as a historical figure and character.
Thank You for all your lovely books. They have given my mother and myself HOURS of reading pleasure, and re-reading pleasure! I want to say that I just finished "Devil's Brood" and I feel that you have made the characters come alive and have taken the "historic" out of the equation- the characters are some of the most alive, human characters I have even read about. Thanks for all your painstaking hours/years of research; I appreciate when I read one of your novels, I know that I will get more factual history as well as entertainment.
Because of your books, I have become enamored of Eleanor, and recently, Maud of Gloucester. (She really came into her own after widowhood!). I would like your recommendations on any further books about either of these two wonderful females, but especially Maud, as there does not seem to be much available via internet, except a lot of genealogy!
Please keep writing books, and until new ones come out, I will continue to re-read the others for the sheer pleasure of it!
PS- I also enjoy your blogs on your website, almost as fascinating as your novels! Keep it going!!!!
Hi, Ms. Penman! I just dropped by to say hello. The Sunne in Splendour is on my to-read pile and after reading these messages I think I'll move it to the top.
I do enjoy reading about other times and how people's lives were so different and I applaud your determination to keep their attitudes in their own time. It's interesting that the Crowner John stories are about 100 years later than the Brother Cadfael stories but much grimier.
Keep up the good work!
Hi Ms. Penman
Do you remember talking to your fans at Kent State Univ.'s E. Canton OH campus where their annual 3 day writer's festival. There were several writers, but you are the one I remember. You were just starting out, & you told us about your lost manuscript & we all sympathized - after all that work, we were all writers (few published) & knew the time, care & energy you had put into it. You told us about research in Britain, their libraries, how you had to request what you wanted. You were so assessable, answering all our questions, it was Sat. afternoon of the last day
& everyone was a bit overwrought - I think all of you writers who had come for the presentations were anxious to leave. It was mid-October--you stayed & very patiently explained the anwers to our questions. You were not so well known then, but I believe everyone who was in that room began to read all you had written and followed your career carefully & rejoyced when each new book was released. I worked in a library so i read library books instead of buying them, but now I'm retired & I've purchased When Christ and his Saints Slept & Time & Chance 2nd. hand & will soon (hopefully) purchase the 3rd. /when I finish reading a book, I donate it to "Ex Libris" the library we are trying to start here on the Marblehead peninsula, OH
My oldest daughter is also an historical fiction fan, she started with Jean Plaidy , but she lives in California, so it's hard for us to exchange books - we just talk about them instead.
Thank you for being so available! & writing such good books!
That's what I really like about your books! Your characters think and act like medieval people rather than modern people transported to the Middle Ages.
Hi, Cuffindell. The subjective nature of reading--and writing, too--is what makes it so much fun. I found both men to be a writer's delight, with rich histories to draw upon. A more controversial character is Llewelyn ap Gruffydd's brother Davydd. A lot of my readers hated him, but I heard from others who were drawn to his bad-boy appeal. I was very pleased by the reaction of readers to Devil's Brood, for they were quite sympathetic to Geoffrey, and I'd always found him to be the most interesting of the brothers, and the one most unfairly treated by history.
I am so glad you liked Maud. She is a good example of a character who got the bit between her teeth and became an accomplished scene stealer. Once she got on centre stage in Saints, she decided she liked the limelight and sne managed to stretch out her role into three books. Unfortunately she died in the summer of 1189 and I miss her quite a bit in Lionheart; she made a perfect foil for Eleanor. Unfortunately I do not know of any histories that deal with her lilfe. So often women fell through the cracks. The only thing that comes to mind is Volume 7 of the Haskins Society Journal, which has an article about the wives and widows of the Earls of Chester; she is mentioned there, but it is an ensemble cast and she is only one of several countesses. Her brother Roger was lucky enough to have a biography written about him, but the biographer doesn't even mention her.
With Eleanor, there is a wealth of information, of course. I would highly recommend Bonnie Wheeler's Eleanor of Aquitaine, Lord and Lady, a collection of excellent articles about her life. This is by far my favorite of the books written about Eleanor. I can also recommend the new biography about Eleanor by the British historian, Ralph Turner. Amy Kelly and Marian Meade have also written biographies that are so well written they read like novels. But they are both outdated when it comes to the Courts of Love; if you keep that in mind, they are still worth reading. The French historian Regine Pernoud also wrote a bio. of Eleanor. If you happen to read French, I have more I can recommend. If I haven't mentioned biographies that you are familiar with, that is because I have some reservations about them. You can e-mail me directly via my website if you want to discuss this further.
Thank you--all of you--for letting me know you enjoy my writing. That means so much to me!
I hope you enjoy Sunne. Because this was my first novel, it was a learning experience in some ways for me. I was asked recently if I'd do things differently if I could go back in time and rewrite any of my books. I'd probably make some changes in Sunne, reflecting what I've learned in the decades since its publication. Nothing drastic--I would make some changes to the dialogue, I think. And I might emphasize how their religious beliefs affected their lives on a daily basis.
I remember my visit to Kent State very well. I had a wonderful time, became friends with the woman in charge of the program, and I really enjoyed the interaction with other writers. Thank you for letting me know you remember it so fondly.
If I hadn't been able to actually make a living as a novelist, I think I'd have loved to work in a library. Do you miss it now that you're retired? I think it is fantastic that you're starting a library, especially when budget cuts have wreaked such havoc in the past year. Would you like me to donate one of my books to the library?
This is a subject I feel passionately about. I have a phrase for books about "modern people transported to the MA." I call them The Plantagenets in Pasadena. A friend, Margaret Frazer, who writes two wonderful medieval mystery series, calls such books "Mary Jane visits the castle." When I read of another time and place, I want to learn about life back then, and I feel very disappointed when I discover that the writer just uses the MA (or any other era) as background.
We had hoped to start a branch of the public library system, bur earlier budget cuts to the libraris made us decide to have a private library, supported by book sales, donations & most of all the willingness of local people (many of whom are retired) to do volunteer work. I worked in our county's main library, Ida Rupp Library in Port Clinton. Our peninsula library Ex Libris is 14 miles at the tip of the peninsula. We would LOVE a donation from you. During the summer (tourist) months we have had reading by local writers who have signed books. These have been very successful. But a book signed by a well-known writer, especially on a subject that is enjoying a popular revival would be wonderful.
My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
I wanted to thank you for the influence you've had on my academic life. "Here Be Dragons" was given to me when I was in high school and I loved it so much that I consumed all of your books.
Your books piqued my interest in Welsh history. I took this interest and studied in Aberystwyth, Wales for a year writing my thesis on the medieval Welsh law of women, particularly inheritance law. This all started with your books.
Your books allow readers to completely delve into another world and become immersed in the characters. The more I study, the more I recognize the extent of your research for your books. They bring real people to life in a way that few authors can.
Thank you for your impact.
Diolch yn fawr!
It really thrills me to find an author who cares about historical accuracy. Thank you so much for being one!
I am glad to hear that you still want to do more books about Justin; I enjoyed Queen's Man very much and have been looking for the others.
I have two of your non-mysteries at the top of my TBR pile - they were vociferously recommended by a friend who cares a lot about historical accuracy too.
Thank you for the lovely chat! I'm a huge fan of all your books, with Here Be Dragons being my favorite. I'm thrilled that you mention Elizabeth Chadwick's books. I love all her work as well but Greatest Knight and Scarlet Lion are fabulous companions to your Henry and Eleanor books. . . .
I'm so excited to hear that you are going to continue with Richard . . . I'm not sure his personal story has really been told yet . . .
Thank you for writing and best of good health to you!
I'll e-mail you and we can make the arrangements. I sure hope you're right about the MA enjoying a popular revival! I'm tired of the Tudors hogging all the limelight.
What a wonderful post. I think many historical novelists see our books as a way to open a door to the past. So I am delighted that Dragons sparked your interest in Welsh history.
This is a subject I feel passionately about, so it is always so heartening to find kindred spirits out there. I think it is very important to ground a novel in its own time. No Plantagenets in Pasadena; medieval characters ought to reflect the beliefs and mores of their own time. And if an author is going to write about actual historical figures, I think that author owes it to his or her readers to get the facts right. Do not defame the dead. If I had my way, that would be the 11th commandment for historical novelists!
Elizabeth Chadwick was kind enough to interview me on her blog to help promote Devil's Brood, which just came out in paperback in the UK. She posted the interview today, and one of the questions concerns Richard Lionheart and how my views of him have evolved since he appeared as a minor character in Here Be Dragons more than 20 years ago. Since you expressed interest in Richard, I thought you might like to check it out. If you haven't visited EC's website, you're in for a treat. She had a fascinating discussion about medieval sexuality on a recent blog.
PS For those of you who haven't read EC's The Greatest Knight, I am happy to report that Sourcebooks will be publishing it in the US on September 1st.
My husband and I are such big fans of your books that we took our vacation in the UK this year so we could spend time in Wales and England. We went to go see the statue of LLewelyn, and were surprised how small it was. It looks so big in the online pictures. :^)
We loved Wales! We wish we could have spent weeks there instead of days. We hope you might do a prequel to the Here Be Dragons Book.
We were also hoping you could write a book about what was going on in Scotland during Edward I's reign. We went to Scotland as well on this vacation, and kept on saying how cool it would be to read one of your books about Scottish history. You rock! Can't wait to read more about Richard. I'm especially interested in his life during the Crusade. Will that period be touched upon in your new book?
Also, when you write, do you just think of things as they come or do you have a good idea about the whole book(a plan) before you even begin? Just curious, because I think your absolutely brilliant.
Last question: What are the grounds like at Fontevrault. Now that I know there's a hotel there, it might just be our next vacation. Is there a lot of countryside there? Any beautiful landscape, paths, or fountains around? I don't know if it's possible for you to post a photo somewhere, but that would be so cool to see. I did a search for it, and saw pictures of the building inside and out, but not much of the grounds.
P.S. We love the maps that you include in your books as well as the cast of characters that you included in one of the books. That was very helpful. But most of all we love your notes at the end when you talk about what's real and historically accurate, and what you have taken literary license with. A million thanks for all you do!
I am glad that you got to see some of the places I wrote about in my Welsh trilogy. Isn't Wales beautiful? And the people are fantastic, so friendly.
I'm afraid I have no plans to do a prequel for Dragons or one about Scotland. Maybe if I were 20 years younger!
Yes, the Third Crusade will figure prominently in Lionheart, as it was the most significant event of Richard's life. I've been reporting on his progress in my blog, am happy to announce that his fleet has now sailed from Sicily, only to run into a savage Good Friday storm that scattered his fleet, including the ship carrying his sister Joanna and betrothed Berengaria. Two chroniclers accompanied Richard, so the sense of immediacy is amazing and their accounts often read like battlefield dispatches. For example, we even know the hour of the day when the storm struck!
I put together an outline before I begin writing, having chosen the episodes which I think must be dramatized. Of course I alter it as I go along. But because I am writing of people who actually lived, I always start out with a road map. The disadvantage is that the road map often takes me places I'd rather not go.
I cannot recommend the hotel at Fontevrault Abbey highly enough, Malina. It was a unique travel experience. The hotel has been built in the abbey's lazar house (leper hospital) and the restaurant overlooks the cloisters. In my current blog, I provide the website and contact information for the hotel, so do visit their website and judge for yourself. Hotel guests have free access to the grounds, so in the evening after the other tourists were kicked out, I got into the habit of popping into the church to say goodnight to Henry and Eleanor! The hotel does close in early November for the winter months, though, so bear that in mind. The abbey grounds are lovely for walks, too, with medieval gardens and an orchard, and of course there are a surprising number of abbey buildings to explore.
I am so glad you like my lengthy ANs. You might like to check on my blog, too, for I talk about past and future books and all matters medieval, and my readers are very knowledgeable about the MA, too, so their comments are often more interesting than the blogs themselves. We'd recently discussed Llewelyn Fawr's daughters and how many may have been Joanna's, too. As I explained in past blogs, I wrote Dragons more than 25 years ago, so there have been new discoveries since then. That is what is wonderful about history--that it is fluid, never static.
I just wanted to say that I saw The Greatest Knight in the store, and since you recommended Elizabeth Chadwick, I picked it up. I hope the book is as good as yours are.
Hi, Ficus Fan,
I have to admit I have not read EC's two novels about William Marshal, but that is only because they overlap the events in Devil's Brood and Lionheart. I try not to read another writer's treatment of "my" characters so as not to be influenced, even subconsciously. I also get very possessive of my people, so I don't read novels about Richard III, the Welsh princes, Henry and Eleanor, etc. But Will Marshal won't be a problem since he is not a major character in any of my books, and I'm looking forward to meeting EC's Will once Lionheart is done. I can highly recommend those books of hers that I've read. I loved The Falcons of Montabard, and really enjoyed A Place Beyond Courage, Shadows and Strongholds, and The Conquest.
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