Monday, April 20, 2009

Interview with Susan Higginbotham, author of The Traitor's Wife

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.

Check out Susan's website here.
Check out Susan's blog here.
Check out the Wars of the Roses Message Board here.


Serena said...

great interview! I really love hearing about how she was inspired to write this book....she really delves into her research.

bermudaonion said...

I'm in awe of writers who work full time jobs and write - it's like having 2 full time jobs!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks for the interview! I enjoyed doing it.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Susan - THANK YOU for your comments about accuracy in historical fiction! You're very right that many people get their only exposure to history through fiction and I admire you for working hard to keep things accurate. Your book was already on my TBR list but this interview has moved it up much closer to the top.

(Anna - great questions!)

Dawn said...

Loved this interview Anna! Hope you explore more of these awesome authors in the future. The characters are real, the stories are worth telling. That's why I read so many! ;O)

Blodeuedd said...

The book sounds great, congrats on it :D

I am a bit of a history accuracy fan too, but mostly when it comes to movies and tv. Things can be harder to notice in books.

Nise' said...

Very nice interview. I like knowing that she strives for historical accuracy! I have this book on my TBR list.

Missy B. said...

Hi Anna! Please visit my page, I have given you an award! :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

What a determined lady! I am amazed at how someone can hold down a full time job and write a book. I also admire her for her dedication to the historical facts. Great interview!

Unknown said...

Awesome interview! Ms. higginbotham is certainly a person who deserves all the recognition. Her book was wonderful and I also cannot wait for 'Hugh & Bess'.
I was excited that she liked 'manhunt', I listened to it on audio not that long ago and it was truly a fscinating read.

Ti said...

I admire her honesty about her writing space. I always envision these glorious spaces and in reality, it's WORK and work takes a functional, working space.

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

I loved the interview! I have been seeing this read around, and people seem to really be liking it.

Anna said...

Serena: Thanks! I think the best historical fiction novels are those that are well researched.

Bermudaonion: I can barely handle my day job and the family stuff, which is why I haven't finished my novel yet. I don't know how they do it, but I hope to follow in their footsteps.

Susan: I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for "chatting" with me, and thanks for stopping by my site!

Heather: Thanks!

Dawn: I definitely will be reading more books like this in the future. I can see why you enjoy them so much!

Blodeuedd: I'll admit that most times when I'm reading historical fiction, I don't know the fact from the fiction. That's okay with me, I just have a problem with people reading historical fiction and thinking everything in them is fact.

Nise': I hope you get a chance to read it!

Missy: Thanks so much!

Sandy: Thanks!

lilly: I can't wait to get my hands on Hugh and Bess. If it's as good as this one, I'm in for a real treat.

Ti: I really enjoy hearing about authors' writing spaces. Most are more glamorous than mine, which is either the bed or the couch...whichever is more comfortable and quieter at that moment. lol

Bethany: It's a great book, and I think you'd enjoy it.

Iliana said...

Great interview! I'm curious if she plans on picking up on the prequel she was writing before The Traitor's Wife. That would be cool. I've got this book on my list - sounds great!

Anna said...

Iliana: Thanks! I'm looking forward to reading more of her work. I hope you get a chance to read The Traitor's Wife, and if you do, let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts.