Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Susan Higginbotham, author of The Traitor's Wife, to Diary of an Eccentric. I'd like to thank Susan for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions and for helping broaden my horizons when it comes to reading historical fiction. If you haven't already, please read my review of The Traitor's Wife, where you can learn more about this amazing book and find links to other reviews.
Welcome, Susan! What inspired you to write The Traitor's Wife?
One evening I was surfing through the Internet, and I lit upon an online version of Christopher Marlowe's Edward the Second. I had read it in graduate school and had enjoyed it, but upon re-reading it, I became fascinated by the historical background and began reading everything I could about Edward II and his reign. Along the way, I discovered Eleanor de Clare and her fascinating life, and I felt compelled to write her story. I had another novel in progress at the time--a sort of prequel to Romeo and Juliet--and this project completely shoved the other one aside.
How long did it take to write the book?
About two years. I work full-time, so I did most of my writing in the evening, and most of that between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.
Do you have a special place where you write?
I wouldn't call it a special place, because it's not at all what Virginia Woolf envisioned when she said that every woman should have a room of one's own! We have a small house, so I write in a corner of the kitchen where my PC is set up. It's not a pretty sight.
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what songs help get the creative juices flowing?
I find that listening to music distracts me when I'm writing fiction, so I don't have any music on. I do, however, find that listening to music when I'm not actually writing can get me pumped up about writing later. There are certain songs that I associate with different characters or different episodes in my books--some classical, some pop, some rock and roll. They'll get me thinking about my story when I'm driving--though sometimes Driving While Imagining can be hazardous.
What's the best book you read recently?
I'd say that was Manhunt by James Swanson, a nonfiction book about the search for John Wilkes Booth following Lincoln's assassination. Swanson did an excellent job of building suspense and of bringing all of the historical figures involved to life.
There's been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about historical accuracy in historical fiction. What are your thoughts on this?
I'm for it! Seriously, I think it's very important that a writer strive to be as historically accurate as possible. Everyone, including me, is going to make mistakes--even historians make errors in their published works--but writers should try as hard as possible to get things right. For some readers, historical fiction is the only way they'll ever become acquainted with a given subject or person, so I think a writer should have a respect for the past and for its people.
I'm not the sort of reader who will go berserk if I see a character wearing, say, slashed sleeves twenty years before they came into fashion, but I do get very ticked off when a writer deliberately smears a historical figure's reputation just to make another character look better or to prove a pet theory--especially when the character is a lesser known one and the facts can't readily be checked. At the very least, the author should have the decency to come clean about it in an author's note.
Are you working on another book? If so, any hints as to what it's about?
I'm close to finishing the first draft of a novel, set during the Wars of the Roses, about Henry, Duke of Buckingham, and his wife, Katherine Woodville, sister to Edward IV's queen. Henry is best known for helping Richard III to the throne and then for abruptly turning against him, and he's also one of the prime suspects in the murder of the Princes in the Tower. Katherine and other members of the Woodville family have been much maligned by historical novelists in the last few decades, and I think it's high time for a novel that shows the events of the Wars of the Roses from their perspective.
With regard to writing, what's the best piece of advice you've received?
This is a hard question to answer, for some reason. I've absorbed so much advice over the years that I really can't single out one statement, but if I had to give one piece of advice myself, it would be to keep writing, no matter what. Even if all you can manage at this point in your life is sending out updates on Twitter, at least you're writing something. Don't give up.
Thanks so much, Susan! I can't wait for the release of Hugh and Bess. I'll definitely be reading that one.
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