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Reader Questions for Sharon Penman

sharon
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Post by sharon » Sun October 19th, 2008, 4:37 pm

[quote=""Misfit""]I assume then you're going to have your hands full with John in Lionheart?

I loved how well you developed all the characters in Devil's Brood, along with the dialogue -- especially Richard. How do you as a writer gather information from the historical texts, etc. and then breath such life into it?[/quote]

Yes, John is always a handful. I enjoyed writing about him in Here Be Dragons, for I wanted to show his human side, while not whitewashing him in any way. He seems to have been the most damaged of Henry and Eleanor's four sons. And I am afraid Henry must bear a lot of the blame for that. As Eleanor said to Henry in The Lion in Winter, "Oh, no, you are not blaming me for John. He is your doing!"
I'd had a one-dimensional view of Richard until I started seriously researching his life for DB. I saw him as the flashy battle commander, the man who saw a certain glory in war, as I have him say in DB. But he was actually a competent king, unfairly criticized by the 19th century British historians as an absentee landlord. The fact was that England was only part of his domains, and he spent so little time there because he was needed to put out fires on the continent. In the last five years of his life, after he'd regained his freedom, he was constantly at war with the French king.
I also discovered that Richard had inherited his parents' sardonic sense of humor and sense of irony. One of my favorite stories about Richard involved the capture of his enemy, the Bishop of Beauvais, a very warlike prelate who'd been caught raiding Richard's domains. When the Pope criticized Richard for holding prisoner a "good son of the Church," Richard sent him the bishop's bloodied chainmail hauberk with a laconic, "Here is your son's shirt."
Thanks for the kind words about dialogue and humor. Medieval humor is tricky at best. But in DB I found the dialogue often seemed to write itself, especially in scenes between Henry and Eleanor or between their squabbling sons.

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ellenjane
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Post by ellenjane » Sun October 19th, 2008, 4:40 pm

Like Misfit, I've really been enjoying the dialogue in Devil's Brood - I have about 100 pages left to go. I think a lot of the readers on the board have really appreciated Geoffrey and Constance, and I concur!

On another note, I've always enjoyed the dyrehunds in your novels. How did you decide to introduce that sort of personal note into your writing, and how has it been received? (I'm assuming they come from your own affection for the breed.) And does Ranulf still have that breeding pair? :p

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sun October 19th, 2008, 4:48 pm

I'm very much looking forward to Lionheart and how you will continue with Richard's character. Are you going to focus a great deal on Richard's crusade and marriage to Berengeria?

sharon
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Post by sharon » Sun October 19th, 2008, 4:49 pm

[quote=""EC2""]Hi Sharon and welcome,
How did you originally come across Llewelyn and Joanna's story?
Here Be Dragons is one of my favourite's of yours!
I am delighted to hear also that Justin will be making a re-appearance. I have particulary enjoyed his last two outings![/quote]

I don't know if we should admit that we have favorite books. It is a bit like a mother confessing, "I love Johnny so much more than little Susie." But Here Be Dragons is my own favorite of my books. After spending twelve years on Sunne, it was lovely to have people left alive at the end of the book! And it really was a powerful and true love story.Do you have any favorites among your own books?
I'd orignally meant Dragons to be the story of John and his daughter. I'd found myself wondering how it would be for a grown woman to discover that the father she'd always adored was a moral monster. At that point, all I knew about Llewelyn was that he was the Welsh prince Joanna married. Then I moved to Wales to research the book and it took Llewelyn less than three weeks to snatch the book right out from under John's nose. He literally leapt off the page. And then when I discovered that Joanna had been unfaithful--with the grandson of the woman John had starved to death--and Llewelyn had forgiven her, I knew I'd struck gold.

sharon
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Post by sharon » Sun October 19th, 2008, 5:00 pm

[quote=""Misfit""]I'm very much looking forward to Lionheart and how you will continue with Richard's character. Are you going to focus a great deal on Richard's crusade and marriage to Berengeria?[/quote]

First of all, thank you for that wonderful review of DB you posted on the Amazon mother ship. You really made my day! Yes, Berengaria will be a major character in Lionheart, and a good portion of the book will be set in the Holy Land. It is not surprising that Richard and Berengaria's marriage showed such strain, for it could not have gotten off to a more sressful start. Here she was, sent all the way to Italy to marry a man who was still offically betrothed to the French king's sister. And then, after a "quickie" marriage in Cyprus, she and Richard's sister Joanna followed him on the Crusade. This was an experience filled with danger and discomfort and uncertainty. Berengaria really saw very little of Richard, as he was off leading raids and killing Saracens and she and Joanna were left to occupy themselves behind the walls of Acre. Richard also had serious health problems while on Crusade, and his emotions were often raw, for he'd soon realized that it would be impossible to recapture Jerusalem. After he'd struck a realistic but reluctant peace with Saladin, he sent Joanna and Berengaria on ahead of him. And then, of course, he was captured on his own way home, and Berengaria did not see him for a year and a half. No, being a highborn princess of a royal house was not always all it cracked up to be in the MA. Wait till you all read about the extraordinary fate of Agnes, the French king Philippe's little sister, who'd been sent off to wed the heir to Byzantium at the age of eight. Her story is something no fiction writer could make up, and I do mention it in Lionheart.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Sun October 19th, 2008, 5:01 pm

[quote=""Misfit""]I'm very much looking forward to Lionheart and how you will continue with Richard's character. Are you going to focus a great deal on Richard's crusade and marriage to Berengeria?[/quote]

Berengaria has always seemed to me a shadowy figure. She's there in the history but always sort of tucked away in the background without a voice. I'm looking forward to your take on her Sharon.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sun October 19th, 2008, 5:09 pm

[quote=""EC2""]Berengaria has always seemed to me a shadowy figure. She's there in the history but always sort of tucked away in the background without a voice. I'm looking forward to your take on her Sharon.[/quote]

I'm looking forward to it as well. I guessing Sharon can tell her story better than some of the others I've read (and skipped through). Boy, now you've got my curiosity up about Agnes. I recall reading The Reckoning and the struggles Llewellyn and Eleanore went through and rolling my eyes thinking this can't be (I mean a pirate ship????), and then went on the internet and yes it was all true.

You're very much welcome about the review, and thank you for writing such awesome books.

sharon
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Post by sharon » Sun October 19th, 2008, 5:14 pm

[quote=""ellenjane""]Like Misfit, I've really been enjoying the dialogue in Devil's Brood - I have about 100 pages left to go. I think a lot of the readers on the board have really appreciated Geoffrey and Constance, and I concur!

On another note, I've always enjoyed the dyrehunds in your novels. How did you decide to introduce that sort of personal note into your writing, and how has it been received? (I'm assuming they come from your own affection for the breed.) And does Ranulf still have that breeding pair? :p [/quote]

Thank you so much. It has been so heartening to receive so many compliments on the dialogue. As I said earlier, sometimes these scenes literally seemed to write themselves. I especially liked Henry and Eleanor's spirited give and take. One of my favorite scenes is the one I called their Medieval version of Truth or Dare, where she challenges him to answer truthfully and they soon get themselves into deep water.
I really enjoyed writing about Geoffrey and Constance; their wedding scene is another one of my favorites. As I explained in my AN, I was so lucky to have a wonderful book to draw upon, Brittany Under the Angevins, which--for the first time--analyzes Geoffrey's actions, not as a disgruntled son but as the Duke of Brittany. Seen in this context, his behavior may not always be admirable, but it is understandable. And for so long, historians dismissed Geoffrey's actions as "mindless malice." Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
I lost my own "dyrehund" Kristin in 2001, to cancer. I adopted a German shepherd after I lost her, Cody, the Johnny Depp of Dogdom who is shown on my website. But I loved being able to work the dyrehunds into the plot of Saints. For those who have not read it, I used a dyrehund to reveal adultery. And of course Ranulf continues to have dyrehunds in his quiet retirement in Wales with Rhiannon. Anyone who reads my books knows that I love animals. I do try to keep things in the medieval context, though. For example, when I mention cats, I always also mention that they were not normally kept as pets. And I have a scene in my first mystery, The Queen's Man, where Justin rescues a young dog that was deliberately thrown into the Fleet River to drown. I took pains to show the various attitudes of the bystanders, most being indifferent to the dog's fate. There were always people like Justin in the MA, people who loved dogs. But this was a time when people believed that Man had Dominion over all the earth and all the creatures in it, and the idea of animal rights would have been an utterly alien one to them. We have to remember, too, that when daily life was so hard for the average man and woman, they would naturally have less pity to spare for animals in peril.

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LCW
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Post by LCW » Sun October 19th, 2008, 5:24 pm

Hi Sharon! Thanks so much for stopping by. I've read six of your novels and just love them. Here Be Dragon's is one of my favorite books of all time and Devil's Brood follow's close behind. I'm anxiously awaiting your next one.

I had a question about the relationship between Henry and Eleanor while she was his prisoner. I was surprised the in Devil's Brood she never just came out and demanded or asked Henry to release her, esp. during those years where they were getting along fairly well and her stature had improved somewhat. Was that just way beneath Eleanor or did she know that Henry would never have agreed and so didn't bother to debase herself like that?

I also had a question about Constance from Devil's Brood. The scene where she finds out Geoffrey has died was just heartbreaking! They were two of my favorite characters and I'm so looking forward to reading more about her. Will she play a major role in Lionheart? And what was it about her that attracted you to her initially?
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

sharon
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Post by sharon » Sun October 19th, 2008, 5:29 pm

[quote=""boswellbaxter""]Per Marg, as most readers know, you've had some health issues lately. Has that affected your motivation to write?[/quote]

I have run into a problem. I typed up a response to the last query, and cannot get the computer to send it. I keep getting a cryptic message saying the message is too short and I need at least ten more characters???? I tried adding another sentence, but it still won't send it. I am not even sure this one will come through. If it does, I'll then answer your question. Any one have any ideas how I can get the blocked message to go?

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