Sunday, July 6, 2008
With the pending release of Sharon Kay Penmen's Devil's Brood, the third book in her trilogy (after When Christ and His Saints Slept and Time & Chance) about Henry II of England and his family, I thought that it would be interesting to share an interview that I did with Sharon Kay Penmen for another website two years ago.
I have been a fan of Penmen's, having originally discovered her trilogy of thirteenth-century England, France, and Wales that included Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning which I finished the day before visiting the Tower of London which made the reading all that more enjoyable. "A Welsh prince died while trying to escape from that window in 1244!" I said to my unenthusiastic friend.
Stay tuned for the latest news about Penman's new book! And just as a note, the book covers featured here are part of a new release of Sharon's previous books with matching covers due this August.
Kelly Hewitt: You appear to have a very loyal fan base. A quick search of your name brings up numerous praises from your readers -- calling you a legend, a master storyteller, and mesmerizing. Was there are particular point when you realized that you had really struck a cord with those who read your books? Is there a particular aspect of your writing that you think encourages this support
Sharon Kay Penman: From the publication of my first book, I received the most amazing letters from readers, and in fact, I've formed several very close friendships with readers over the years. I honestly don't know why we seem to have established such a rapport, can only be grateful for it. My readers have been so supportive over the years, patiently waiting as Devil's Brood was delayed again and again by illness, my own and my dad's. I've made no secret of the fact that I've suffered from chronic mono for the past seven years, and readers have written to commiserate, sharing stories of their own health problems. I feel blessed in so many ways, but above all, in my readers!
KH: I read somewhere that your first book, which was about Richard III and later became The Sunne in Splendour, was stolen from your car in a parking lot. Did the manuscript ever reappear? And if not, do you ever check E-bay to see if it's being offered as some sort of ultimate Sharon Kay Penman collectors item?
SKP: No, the manuscript was never found, and its loss was so traumatic that I was unable to write again for almost six years. For six months after the theft, I would periodically ransack my apartment, unable to believe it wasn't there somewhere, tucked away in a forgotten corner or closet. This was in the days before computers,
much less E-Bay.
KH: Here Be Dragons and the two novels that follow are rich in their detail about the Welsh countryside. Did you spend time there in order to gain such an expansive knowledge of Wales? If so, what one place did you find the most inspiring?
SKP: I lived in North Wales for several months in order to research Here Be Dragons, and thus began my lifelong love affair with Wales, the most beautiful country this side of Eden. I subsequently spent part of each year in Wales, always leaving with great regret. My favorite place is Dolwyddelan Castle, the birthplace of Llewelyn Fawr. When I first visited it, I had to borrow the key from the farm house, then dodge the sheep as I made my way up the hill to the keep. Gradually changes began to occur, evidence that more and more tourists were finding it. In a few years, the farmer had put up an entrance booth. In time, a large parking lot--or car park, as they would say--was built below the castle, and now there is a cafe, as well. Dolwyddelan may have lost some of its solitary grandeur, but I find it heartening that so many more people are now able to visit it and look out over the river valley as Llewelyn and Joanna once did.
KH: Your books are centered on royal historical figures. How old were you when you first found that you were interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard III, and all of the other interesting people from the past you've written about? What do you think sparked that interest?
SKP: I cannot remember a time when I wasn't interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine. My interest in Richard III dates back to my sophomore year of college, when I stumbled upon a "revisionist" history of the Wars of the Roses. It stirred my curiosity and the more I discovered about Richard, the more I realized his was a story I wanted to write. I have always loved history, am sorry that some people have never fallen under its spell.
KH: What books, movies, or music might one find on the shelf of Sharon Kay Penman?
SKP: I have thousands of books on medieval history--quite literally. I also have a good selection of history books about the Revolutionary War and some on Ancient Rome. I read mysteries for pleasure, am a fan of Margaret Frazer, Sharan Newman, Priscilla Royal, Janet Evanovich, James Lee Burke, Stephen Saylor, John Maddox Roberts, Sue Henry, Dana Stabenow, Elizabeth Peters, and so many others. The last book that made a great impression upon me was the brillilant, haunting "The Kite Runner." As for DVDs, I have virtually every film ever made by Johnny Depp; same for George Clooney. My all-time favorite films are The Lion in Winter--no surprise, that--and All That Jazz.