Special Guest Interview with Author Mercedes Rochelle
Fatal Rivalry is the third part of The Last Great Saxon Earls trilogy, told in first person by the sons of Godwine. The sibling rivalry between Harold and Tostig brought England to its knees, for if Harold wasn’t forced to fight his brother at Stamford Bridge, things might have gone differently when Duke William landed at Pevensey. The real trouble started during the 1065 Northumbrian rebellion; Tostig and King Edward expected Harold to intercede for them but things didn’t work out that way. The rebels were uncompromising—not to mention ruthless—and Harold had little choice but to accept their terms. Tostig was exiled and began his long and arduous attempt to regain his earldom. No one was entirely blameless, and after the Battle of Hastings the surviving brother Wulfnoth, still an exile in Normandy, tried to makes sense of the sad fate of his once powerful family.
What is your preferred writing routine?
I have two computers side-by-side: one is for sitting and one is for standing. When it’s time to write, I prefer to stand for it seems I think better on my feet! Alas, because I’m self-employed I can’t get into a routine, but when I find time to write I always go back a page or two and fine-tune what I’ve written the day before. When I get to the end of what I wrote last—which is usually in the middle of a sentence—with luck I’ve gained enough momentum to continue. During my first draft, I am surrounded by history books, for I feel that I have to get the “facts” straight—not easy in the eleventh century—before I work on the plot. In many ways it’s like putting together a puzzle, for often a piece here and a quote there are the best ways to tie the story together. The more I research, the more the story writes itself. In the second draft I connect the dots, and in the third draft I embellish.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Work on your “platform” before you finish the book. Get active with social media and post items of interest to your potential readers. You will have to work hard when marketing your book, and you’ll need a head start when publication day comes. If you get matched up with a publisher, don’t expect them to do your marketing for you. Once you have a following, or at least a support group, the encouragement you receive will go a long way.
What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?
I enjoy writing a blog that goes into detail about the background of my novels—the stuff you just can’t put into a plot. These get posted on my social media sites. But overall, I seem to get the best response when I advertise; it’s hard to get away from that! Kindle Unlimited permits you to do five days of free promotion, and this, combined with advertising, will generate activity. If you’re really lucky you might get a review or two from that giveaway; at least it gives you the opportunity to post more on Twitter (don’t overdo it).
Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research
Many years ago when I was researching my first book, Heir To A Prophecy, I learned from an old 17th century source that my antagonist Walter went to Brittany and ended up marrying the daughter of Count Alain le Rouge. He accompanied Alain to the Battle of Hastings and fought at his side for the Normans; Alain commanded the Breton contingent in the battle and was later made the first Lord of Richmond. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later I put two-and-two together and discovered that my self-effacing Count Alain was destined to become one of the wealthiest men in history! Because of William the Conqueror’s generosity, he was said to been valued at 81.3 billion pounds (in today’s money) at his death. His unnamed daughter who married my hero did not see a shilling.
What was the hardest scene you remember writing?
At Christmas court in 1064, Queen Editha is said to have commanded the murder of Thane Cospatric (or Gospatric) at the behest of her brother Tostig. I found this to be most disconcerting! First of all, the whole accusation seems to be based on innuendo. If Edith was blamed for having a Thane murdered, why was she not openly accused? If the whole thing was done in secret, how did the word slip out? Why would she do it in the first place? Where was Tostig at the time? How was he so threatened that his sister was willing to take such a risk? I had a hard time piecing this one together, but it was too juicy to neglect. I had to go way back and plant the seeds of this conflict so that the end result was believable. I hope.
What are you planning to write next?
I’m moving forward 300 years to the reign of Richard II. I’m inundated with research right now, and the more I read the more I see just how pivotal his reign was. My working title for volume one is A King Under Siege, for Richard had three major crises in his reign: the Peasants Revolt, the revolution of the Lords Appellant and the usurpation of Henry of Bolingbroke. I see this turning into another trilogy, for I believe Henry IV was plagued by guilt throughout his own reign (and also the knowledge that someone could do to him what he did to Richard). Then it seems that the future Henry V resented his father for the usurpation and sought to expiate his guilt when inheriting the throne (remember his eve-of-Agincourt soliloquy in Shakespeare?). Yes, just like my first book, I was inspired by Shakespeare for this next batch. I’ve been carrying it around with me for over 30 years.
About the Author
website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter