Blatant Promotional Spotlight Presents….
An exclusive interview with Edith Felber!
“Felber (aka Edith Layton) easily moves from Regency romance to historical fiction with this book about Isabella, the wife of Edward II– a woman as fascinating, complex, and passionate as the era. With a deep understanding of Isabella’s motivation, Felber brings humanity to a woman whose actions changed the course of history in a vibrant, colorful, intelligent work of fiction."
In fourteenth-century England, Wales has been brutally crushed, while Scotland’s brave hearts remain rebellious. With treason everywhere, England’s beautiful Queen Isabella–humiliated for years by her weak, unfaithful husband King Edward II–is emerging from the shadows to take her revenge. But there is another–equally forceful and cunning–who pretends to be what she is not so that she may avenge the blood of Wales. Isabella–with the help of her secret noble lover, an enemy of her husband imprisoned in the Tower–plots to take control. And so two women, the unlikeliest of allies, set out to change the course of history….
WW: QUEEN OF SHADOWS, your first mainstream historical novel in trade paperback, has a fascinating medieval subject. What drew you to this powerful and complex fictionalized biography after writing so many Regency-set historicals? Was it a project you’ve long wanted to do, or an interest that developed later?
EF: Long, long desired! I’ve always loved to read historical novels, but for years had been told that no one else was reading or buying them much. There was no publisher interest. Even so, I wrote an ‘almost’ historical in THE CRIMSON CROWN, years ago, and as soon as I heard there was interest in them again, I leapt in and wrote QUEEN OF SHADOWS.
WW: How did you approach the in-depth research required of a mainstream historical? Did you find it helpful to have a historical and chronological plot already in place, or did you find that it complicated the storytelling challenges?
EF: I have always done tons of research for my regencies and historicals set in the regency. But it’s like an iceberg.. all under the surface. I just happen to like reading and researching about History (although I never did in school. Well, but school was all about dates and numbers and History is people.)
As for the chronological plot, it fascinates me to have a story line that I could weave fiction in and out of. But truth to tell, when you go back so far in history that you find your sources disagreeing, you realize that you’re dealing with a kind of fiction anyway. History is truth, with embellishments, lies, rumor and judgements added by time and distance. Fiction IS all that. And History also tends to be written by the winners, so the absolute truth of it is variable. it must be approached carefully. Still there’s lots of room for creativity – thus: fiction – because History is already half that.
WW: One of your earlier novels, THE CRIMSON CROWN, was based on the mystery of the princes in the tower. How would you compare the experiences of writing medieval fiction, fictionalized biography, and historical romance?
EF: Ah yes, the aforementioned CROWN. It was Romantic Historial Fiction and Medievel Fiction, and Historical Supposition, heavy on the research, with a side of sexual tension.
I guess the biggest difference is that when you write "straight" Historical Fiction, you don’t have to have a happy ending. That doesn’t mean that you can’t. It just means that you don’t have to.
WW: Isabella and Edward lived in a complex time in British history, and were despised by many of their contemporaries. They’re viewed by historians as everything from manipulative and evil to pawns and victims. How did you approach the challenge of creating characters who remain true to the historical accounts, yet sympathetic enough for the modern reader?
EF: I firmly believe that though times change, people don’t. And people are so multi-faceted that there’s always a way to understand their hearts, whenever they lived. Those were difficult times… but these are difficult times too. So the issues that are brought up are as pertinent to us today as they were then: love, intrigue, loyalty, ambiton and danger. In short: Life.
WW: In your Regency romances especially, it’s not unusual for your books to have canine characters. Are they based on dogs you’ve known? Do you feel that pets are a creative and emotional aid to the writing life?
EF: I purely love dogs. Its only natural that they’d find a way into my stories. The dogs I write about are like the people I write about: largely fictionalized. Mind, I love cats too, and I used to have cats as well. But I became wildly allergic to them. I like the company of birds and fish too.
Writers need pets. But then, I think everyone does! As for writers: Pets can help you when you get stuck in a story, both by giving their advice (dogs are excellent book doctors. They’ll tear them apart! *g*) and helping you get out of a tight plot spot by taking you out for a walk, or a bit of play when you’re stuck.
(Actually, my dogs have all been past presidents of the Anti-Literacy Society. They don’t care much for books – if I’m reading or writing them, and will do all they can to divert me.)
WW: What do you love most about being a writer, and what do you find most challenging?
EF: I love to get into a story and live in it for a while. The most challenging thing? When I realize the utter chutzpah it takes to look at a blank screen and type: "Chapter One".
WW: What current trends do you find interesting in historical fiction and historical romance?
EF: I don’t go with current trends, because by the time you figure them out, they’re stale. I go for a good story in an interesting setting, whatever the genre.
WW: What’s next from Edith Layton and Edith Felber? Will you be writing more mainstream historical fiction, more historical romance, or both?
EF: Both, oh, I hope both! And more and more, and a few surprises along the way as well.
WW: How is that darling grandson of yours?
EF: Hugo Norbert Holland is without doubt the hope of the world.
He is brilliant and beautiful and I just know his first word will be incisive. And so will his first tooth. *g* What more can I say? I adore him. Seriously, seeing your grandchild is a great blessing, and one I wish for everyone. Vive le bebe!
WW: Thank you, Edith — and best of luck with QUEEN OF SHADOWS!