Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Sarah Woodbury

I would like to introduce you to historical fiction writer Sarah Woodbury, the author of several fascinating novel with medieval settings, my favorite setting for novels. Thanks for dropping in, Sarah.

First, I'd like to ask when did you start writing? What was it you first wrote? 

Reading and writing are a part of my earliest memories of something that I liked to do. What I wrote most when I was younger was poetry (I’m sure very bad). Then, when I was about twelve, I began to focus more on schoolwork and almost forgot that I loved to write fiction and that I even had a creative side. Having children (and homeschooling them) encouraged my creativity again in my late twenties and thirties. A little over five years ago, at the age of thirty seven, I took the plunge and started my first novel. It was a straight-forward fantasy which will never see the light of day, though I’ve raided it since for characters and scenes.
I know you write medieval fiction. Would you explain why?
My books are all set in dark age and medieval Wales. It’s a crazy time period, in a way, because we know so little about that era. This gives more scope for fiction, which is an aspect I particularly enjoy. I fell in love with Wales when I lived in the UK during my college years. Plus, my family is historically Welsh, and I found learning about my own history fascinating.
What is your theory or belief on how historically accurate you need to be? How does that affect your story? For alternative history writers: how did you decide to change history? How do you reconcile it with “real” history?
I write historical fantasy, alternative history, and medieval mysteries, so I cover the whole gamut of types of novels where history needs to be more or less real. With my After Cilmeri series, which is time travel/alternative history, I very rigorously adhere to the culture of the day and the historical events that I don’t change. At the same time, my books take off on a trajectory that never happened, which eases some of these concerns.
For my historical fantasy books, I apply the same standard, in that the events are as historically accurate as I can make them, except when I add the fantastical element (in The Last Pendragon Saga, this would be the interplay between the Celtic gods and our world, and in Cold My Heart, it’s the use of the sight and that the book is about King Arthur, who may not have existed at all).
For The Good Knight, the first of my Gareth and Gwen medieval mysteries, the events related in the book really happened. I include no ‘fantasy’ elements, except for the existence of Gareth and Gwen, my two detectives. That and the specifics of the crimes they solve are the fiction part in my historical fiction.
What is the most surprising thing in the period you write about?

One of the continually surprising things to me about medieval Wales is how little we know about it. We don’t know birthdays. We don’t know the names of mothers. We don’t know the exact location of Garth Celyn (Aber), the seat in North Wales of the Welsh princes. Ignorance about the history of Wales is so rampant that there’s a story that one of the twentieth century owners of what might be Garth Celyn found ancient documents stuffed into a wall and burned them because they were in Latin and she couldn’t read them!
Do you run into common misperceptions? How do you deal with them in your fiction?
I think there is very few common understandings about Wales in the United States, because so few people know anything about it. At the same time, the country has been sidelined and the people ridiculed by the ruling power (England) for 700 years. I spoke with one Welsh person, living in the United States, who talks about his grandmother being ‘put out in the yard’ as a schoolgirl for speaking Welsh. The prejudice and misunderstandings between the English and Welsh are too numerous to mention.
Who would you most like to meet from one of your novels? Tell us about them.
I want to meet Prince Hywel. He is the second bastard son of Owain Gwynedd, a king of North Wales in the 12th century. He’s not the main character in The Good Knight, but he plays a central role. He’s smart and resourceful and always strives to stay one step ahead of everyone else.
What is your next project?

I am writing the second in the Gareth and Gwen medieval mystery series. The first draft is almost complete and I’m very excited about the book. I can’t wait to share it … I estimate it should come out in mid-2012.

Sarah, thanks again for telling us about your fascinating work. 

You can find The Good Knight on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You will also want to check out her other novels such as The Last Pendragon and Footsteps in Time.


J.A. Beard said...

Interesting. I'll have to check this one out.

Good interview.

Sarah Woodbury said...

Thanks so much for the interview! It was great fun ...

J. R. Tomlin said...

You're very welcome, Sarah. Any time. JA, I am particularly excited to take a look at Sarah's historical mystery. That's a sub-genre I love.

Ursula Grey said...

I recently read Daughter of Time ~ great book! I'm looking forward to the sequel and to reading more of your work:-) Great interview.

Sarah Woodbury said...

Thank you, Ursula! Glad you enjoyed the book!