January 4, 2014

Author Interview + Giveaway: Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

Hey everyone! Viking is celebrating the paperback release of Patricia Bracewell's historical fiction novel, Shadow on the Crown, and I had the privilege of interviewing her for the blog! I read and reviewed the book when it came out in hardcover, and I really liked it. You can read my review HERE. Check out the details of the book, the interview with Patricia, and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!

Shadow on the Crown
Author: Patricia Bracewell
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: December 31, 2013 (paperback)
Publisher: Penguin


In the year 1002 A.D., 15-year-old Emma, the daughter of a powerful Norman Duke, crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older Æthelred, King of England. The marriage is part of an alliance forged to keep the Danish king, Swein Forkbeard, from raiding the defenseless English shore villages. But Emma finds herself at once Queen of England and trapped in a loveless marriage.

Alone in England, Emma—clever and adventurous—is a virtual prisoner, friendless and widely distrusted by her new court. Prime amongst her enemies is Lady Elgiva, the ravishing daughter of Ælfhelm, ealdorman of Northumbria and chief among his king’s supporters. Elgiva, prophesied to one day be queen, will stop at nothing to see her rival dethroned. At the same time, Emma finds herself harboring a dangerous secret: a growing affection for a man who is not her husband. 


Praise for Shadow of the Crown:

“Bracewell’s portrayal of Emma, from mere child to beloved queen, is a real tour de force. Not merely are the characters fully fleshed out, but the story moves ahead apace…   Frankly, I can’t wait until the second installment of Emma’s life is published. A five star debut!” —Historical Novel Society

“The familiar themes of political rivalry, court scandal, and disputed lineage so often explored in historical fiction get a new cast of schemers and scoundrels set in a less familiar but no less dramatic period of English history. Readers of historical sagas and romances will embrace this rich narrative.” —Library Journal

enthralling debutBracewell delivers a highly entertaining addition to the historical fiction genre.  —Publishers Weekly

“Who could have known that the court of Aethelred the Unready was as full of intrigue, passion, and danger as anything in Tudor times?  A well-wrought journey back to those little known times, this novel entertains while it educates.” —Margaret George

“Richly embroidered with medieval atmosphere, Patricia Bracewell's SHADOW ON THE CROWN is a tour-de-force of storytelling as she resurrects Emma of Normandy, a young girl who is shipped off to a foreign land to be wedded and bedded by a king far older than she -- a man grappling with a murderous secret.  On every tension-fraught page, Bracewell transports us to a court so steeped in rivalry that as the young queen's situation grows more perilous, we sometimes hesitate to breathe.  A stellar achievement.” —Adrienne McDonnell, author of The Doctor and The Diva

Patricia Bracewell's Emma of Normandy shines like a hoard of Viking golda heroine for the ages.  Never have I read a more vivid, fascinating account of the end of the Dark Ages.  We smell the smoke in the mead halls, hear the clash of swords, dread the winds that bring Viking raiders to English shores.  Bracewell illuminates a world wreathed in mystery, carrying us deep into a world of mystics, warriors and kings poised on the brink of changes so vast few can comprehend them.  Through the magic of Bracewell's pen and her passion for meticulous research, we are plunged into this fascinating, dangerous world where sixteen year old Emma of Normandy is cast to fate by her brother, becoming both a Queen and more secretly, a hostage in a land that mistrusts her.  Emma's courage, resilience and determination in a situation that would crush lesser women awed me.  You will weep with Emma, fear for her and applaud her triumphs.  A woman whose spirit will not be vanquished, Emma of Normandy will live in your heart long after you finish the last page.” —Ella March Chase

“Bloody portents in the sky, a blizzard burying villages ravaged by the Danes, with these chilling strokes Patricia Bracewell opens SHADOW ON THE CROWN, brilliantly mirroring the brutal landscape of the court into which young Emma of Normandy comes as Aethelred’s wife and queen. Bracewell skillfully shapes this tale of a young queen determined to establish her authority over her enemies as a thriller rich in complex, passionate characters and vividly realized settings. From the moment I picked up the book it captivated me, calling me back and back again until I abandoned everything to finish it in a breathless rush. Brava!” – Emma Campion, author of The King’s Mistress

SHADOW ON THE CROWN drew me in from the first page and held me in its grip. It is a vivid and compelling tale of the perilous world of eleventh century England, a time of beauty and brutality, superstition and sorcery; a world of stark danger, seething passion, and shifting alliances, when kings held onto their thrones with sword in hand and armed men at their backs and women—even queens—had to struggle to wield power even over their own lives.” —Gillian Bagwell, author of The Darling Strumpet, The September Queen (U.K. title The King’s Mistress), and Venus in Winter 

1. What was your inspiration for writing SHADOW ON THE CROWN?

The immediate inspiration for the book was Emma of Normandy’s marriage to King Aethelred. I was intrigued by the thought of a young woman having to leave the world that was familiar to her, to be sent away from her own land to marry a much older man whose sons would have been about her age. How would she have felt? How would her stepchildren feel about her, especially those sons?

2. What kind of research did you have to do for the book?

I began by reading general histories about the period, about the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons. Then I focused on the biographical information on Aethelred and Emma. I live within walking distance of UC Berkeley, so I spent a lot of time in the stacks reading journals, poring over maps, digging up details about everything from street names in 11th century Winchester to Anglo-Saxon burhs. I have books on Viking ships, on Anglo-Saxon food, Anglo-Saxon poetry and Old English. I took a summer course on Anglo-Saxon history at Cambridge, and I visited all the places associated with Emma and all the museums associated with those places. Rouen and Fecamp in Normandy. In England, Winchester, Canterbury, London, Exeter and lots of places in between. In the book Emma makes a journey from Winchester to Exeter, so I worked out every stop she would make along the way and I went to each one – I made the journey in one day that would take her weeks, and I discovered a number of things that I could not have learned from my desk at home.

3. What made you choose to write about Emma of Normandy?

Emma was a remarkable woman. She was the only woman to ever marry two kings of England; she was the mother of two kings of England. At the height of her power she was the wealthiest woman in the kingdom. She’s the only 11th century woman that I know of who commissioned a book to be written about the historical events that she participated in, yet today she is not very well known. I decided that she would make a brilliant central character in a historical novel, and that I wanted to write that book.

4. How did you become a writer? Was there a person or situation that prompted you to start writing?

From the time I was a little girl, reading was my favorite activity. My mother used to have to order me to put my book down and go outside to play. I was particularly enchanted with Jo March in LITTLE WOMEN at a very impressionable age. Jo March wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to be Jo March. In college I majored in English, and I knew that I could write well – which does not necessarily translate into a writing career! First I was an English teacher, and sharing my love of books, reading and writing with my students was enough, for a while. Eventually, when my children came along, I started to spend my spare time, of which there was little, writing. Over 20 years I took writing classes and wrote articles, essays, short stories and two novels. Some of my shorter pieces made it into print. The two novels did not, but in writing them I learned a very great deal about how to write fiction. When my children went off to college, I started work on SHADOW ON THE CROWN. I’m an overnight success that took a lifetime.

5. What tips do you have for aspiring writers?

The real writing happens in the re-writing. Grind out the first draft, then go back and play with it, mold it, re-work it. Don’t be afraid to use the scalpel when something isn’t working.

6. What's next for you? 

The sequel to SHADOW ON THE CROWN is on my editor’s desk. There is still a great deal of work to do before it’s print-ready, though so I’ll be spending the next few months working with my editor on that. I’m already thinking about the third book in the trilogy, and some of my research for that will take place next autumn in England where I will spend two weeks as writer-in-residence at Gladstone’s Library in Wales. I’m pretty excited about that and very grateful to the Library for awarding me such a wonderful opportunity. 

Thanks for stopping by the blog and answering some of my questions Patricia!
Patricia Bracewell grew up in Los Angeles where her love of stories led to college degrees in Literature, a career as a high school English teacher, and a yearning to write. A lifelong fascination with the history of Britain and a chance, on-line reference to an unfamiliar English queen led to years of research, a summer course in Anglo-Saxon history at Cambridge University, and the penning of her debut novel Shadow on the Crown. The book was hailed as a magnificent work of historical fiction by England’s Daily Mail and an enthralling debut by Publishers Weekly.

Patricia lives with her husband in Oakland where she is completing the second book in her trilogy about the extraordinary queen, Emma of Normandy. (Taken from Goodreads)
 The awesome people at Penguin are providing (1) paperback copy for my giveaway! Open to US entries only (No P.O. Boxes)!
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