Tuesday, October 19, 2010
N. Gemini Sasson Author Interview
1. Welcome to the Historical Novel Review. Can you tell us a little about your novel?
Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer, is the story of Isabella, who sought revenge on her husband Edward II, and her lover Roger Mortimer, who masterminded the invasion that accomplished it. In 1308, Isabella of France was married to the new King of England, Edward II. Although they had a harmonious stage earlier in their marriage, during which Isabella gave birth to four healthy children, eventually Edward’s intimate relationship with Lord Hugh Despenser drove an irreparable wedge between them. When her lands were taken from her, her income reduced and her access to her own children severely limited, Isabella turned to her brother, King Charles of France, for help.
There is a lot of conjecture about when and how Roger Mortimer and Isabella became involved, but likely she visited him at some point while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for leading a rebellion against King Edward. Meanwhile, Mortimer’s wife and all of his twelve children were being held under guard at various places throughout England. With help, Mortimer escaped from the Tower and fled to France, where he began to form alliances and gather support, with every intention of returning to England to set matters straight.
Later, Isabella was permitted to journey to France to help negotiate a peace treaty between the two countries. There, she and Mortimer became romantically involved and plans to invade England and place her oldest son, also named Edward, on the throne were set in place.
2. What inspired you to write a novel about a woman in this period of history?
While researching The Bruce Trilogy, which takes place during the same time period, I kept running across Isabella’s name. Parts of those stories are from Edward II’s perspective, so my initial impression of her was quite different from what it is now. Older resources often referred to her as the ‘She-Wolf of France’ and painted her as a scheming adulteress. But the more I learned about her, the more sympathetic I became with her situation. In time, I came upon more recent works of non-fiction, namely Alison Weir’s Isabella and Ian Mortimer’s The Greatest Traitor, which gave me an entirely different view about her plight.
3. What hardships did women face in this particular century and what lessons can today's woman learn from it?
We have to realize that women then often didn’t have a voice. Marriage counseling didn’t exist and divorce wasn’t an option in most cases. Even though I believe she and Edward tried to make their marriage work – and in a sense they did by producing four children – in the end they simply weren’t suited to each other. If anything, we today should be grateful that communication and compromise are such important factors in marriage . . . and in the event that two people aren’t compatible, they can go their separate ways.
4. What inspired you about your heroine? Why did you choose her?
It surprises me that her story hasn’t been told more often, as fascinating as it is. What I found most intriguing was that Isabella defied her husband in an age when women were condemned for such actions. She did so at great personal cost, knowing that her children were still under Edward and Despenser’s control. But I really think that she chose to separate herself from Edward and take action against him as a last resort. It took a lot of bravery for her to do what she did.
Her involvement with Mortimer was another matter. I truly believe she loved him, and visa versa. Had they not been so drawn to each other, I’m not sure they would have gone to the extent that they did for one another.
5. Can you describe a typical writing day?
I’ve been fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom – although that really doesn’t convey the busy and full life I’ve had. Normally, I write for a couple of hours in the morning, after the coffee kicks in and e-mails are answered, and again after lunch when the chores are finished (we live on what some would call a mini-farm and breed Australian Shepherds, so there’s always something that needs to be done). When kids and spouse come home, I limit myself to spurts of editing, because it’s hard for me to get ‘into the zone’ when I’m constantly being interrupted with, “What’s for dinner?” or “Have you seen my new shirt?” With my youngest child now in his last year of high school, I’ll be going back to school soon myself to renew my teaching certificate. The writing schedule will have to shift then, but I’ll figure it out.
6. Can you tell us briefly about your other novels and any new novels in the works?
The first book in The Bruce Trilogy, The Crown in the Heather, was published earlier this year. It covers the early years of Robert the Bruce, his struggles against Longshanks (King Edward I) and how his love for Elizabeth de Burgh determined his path to kingship. If I can stay on schedule, I’ll have the second in that series, Worth Dying For, available as an e-book by December of 2010, later to be followed by the paperback. It covers the years from 1306 to the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. A third Bruce book is roughed in and awaiting revisions. Somewhere on my computer, there’s a sequel to Isabeau about half written.
Thank you so much, Mirella, for this opportunity to share about my book. I’m just thrilled people are getting a chance to read it now.