Thursday, February 7, 2008

Interview with Sandra Worth, author of LADY OF THE ROSES

I am honored to welcome Sandra Worth, author of the recently published LADY OF THE ROSES. Sandra has won ten awards for her Rose of York trilogy, including the First Place Prize in the 2003 Francis Ford Coppola-sponsored New Century Writers Award. Her work has been translated for publication in Spain and Russia and she recently signed a two-book deal with Berkeley (Penguin.) A dedicated researcher and writer who brilliantly evokes the complexity of Plantagenet England, she lives in Texas with her husband and their new German Shepard puppy.
1. Congratulations on the publication of LADY OF THE ROSES. It's a delight to have you with us. Set in 15th century England during the terrible years of the Wars of the Roses, LADY OF THE ROSES is a vividly dramatic and romantic account of the lifelong love affair between Isobel Ingoldesthorpe and Sir John Neville, brother of the famous Yorkist leader Warwick, the Kingmaker. Though this period in history is amply covered in fiction, these characters have not been, and the intensity of their relationship offers a compelling contrast with the violence raging around them. You yourself have written about the later years of the Wars in your Rose of York trilogy. What inspires you about this era and why did you choose to write about these characters?

Thank you. It's my pleasure to be your guest. You are correct. I began my career by writing about the later period of the Wars of the Roses. This story takes place earlier, in 1456, six years before the setting of my debut novel, Rose of York: Love & War. It is, in a way, a sort of "prologue." The reason I chose to go to go back in time for this book is that I received quite a few inquiries about John, Lord Montagu, after my debut novel came out. It seems he had touched my readers' hearts and they wanted to know if I was going to do a book on him. At the time, I had no plans since I was occupied with moving forward in the period. However, when the trilogy was completed, I decided to tell John and Isobel's fabulous, untold love story.
2. LADY OF THE ROSES offers meticulous attention to detail, including the daily household management of a manor, as well as a complex series of alliances. What challenges did you encounter while researching this book? What surprising or interesting facts did you discover about your characters and their place in history?
My greatest challenge was unearthing information about John and Isobel. Though he was the greatest military figure of his time and played an enormous role in the events that changed history, he has never been the subject of a biography. As for Isobel, there is even less information about her, simply because women were not really noted by contemporary chroniclers unless they were queens or princesses and played a significant role in politics. I had to creatively fill in the blanks in order to connect the complex historical events that took place. The most surprising-- and hopefully interesting-- fact I uncovered was that John and Isobel are the medieval ancestors of both President FDR and Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill! When you consider they were from the enemy camps of York and Lancaster, it seems a miracle that they were able to wed. It gives me pause to consider the terrible possibilities if FDR and Churchill hadn't been here to defeat Hitler. Our modern world might be a very different, and perhaps quite terrifying place. But Destiny seems to be have worked on our behalf.
3. An interesting storyline within the novel is Isobel’s relationship with Marguerite of Anjou, the Lancastrian queen who became a byword for evil. Is there any evidence to support Isobel's relationship with the queen and why do you think Marguerite of Anjou has been judged so harshly by history?

There is no evidence to support the relationship between Isobel and Marguerite d'Anjou because virtually nothing is known about Isobel. This has been my creative invention. As to why Marguerite d'Anjou has been judged so harshy by history, we merely need to look at her actions. As they say "Actions speak louder than words" even across the chasm of centuries.

5. LADY OF THE ROSES is unique in that your lovers are not star-crossed, but rather often the only anchor in each other's lives during severe tumult and the loss of family members and loved ones. Yet you admit in your afterword that almost nothing is known about Isobel, in particular. Why do you think she has been largely ignored by history?

It's not that Isobel was ignored in particular-- just that women were ignored in general during this time frame of history. Unless they were princesses or queens, and had some impact on policy, no one really bothered to record much about them. Other records that migh illuminate Isobel over the divide of centuries, like letters she wrote, or the will she left, have not survived. Even her tomb is lost.

6. Can you tell us about any methods that you employ to give your characters authenticity?

Research, and more research! What they did, what they said, all these throw light on their character. When such information is missing, as in Isobel's case, I take the events of the period and try to view them from the standpoint of the person I'm writing about and the situation they find themselves in at that moment in time.

7. How do you think your novel speaks to today’s reader or how do the events you evoke resonate for today’s world?

Interesting question! A reviewer wrote that Isobel's story has a contemporary feel. With your indulgence, I quote: "Readers will relate to the highs and lows of the relationship between John and Isobel, the forces beyond their control that act to determine their destinies, and their everyday struggles (including money problems and long periods of single parenthood) in a world divided between Lancaster and York."

8. Please tell us about your next project.
My next novel is entitled THE KING'S DAUGHTER: A NOVEL OF THE FIRST TUDOR QUEEN, coming December 2008 on Elizabeth of York. A remarkable women who was the daughter, sister, niece, wife, and mother of English kings, she led a dramatic life that took her through four reigns. As Richard III's niece, she witnessed the disappearance of her brothers, the Princes in the Tower, and as Henry VII's queen, she was privy to the possible re-emergence of her younger brother in the Pretender. Did she, or didn't she believe the Pretender to be her brother, Richard, Duke of York? And if she believed he was, how did she deal with his execution by her husband, Henry VII? It's quite a tale. I hope you'll read more about her on my website
Thank you, Sandra. We're looking forward to reading your next book!


Daphne said...

I enjoyed your interview very much and am looking forward to reading Worth's books.

C.W. Gortner said...

Thanks, Daphne!