Author of The Beggar Queen
I am so happy to chat with historical fiction author Kelly Evans, today. I’ve read Kelly’s gothic horror novella The Strange Tale of Miss Victoria Frank and you can find my review here, but today we are talking about Kelly’s latest novel The Beggar Queen which released on August 6th. Welcome Kelly. Let’s start with you introducing your latest novel.
Kelly: My current novel is The Beggar Queen, recently released! It takes place in Seventh Century France and tells the story of Bathilde, kidnapped from England and sold into slavery to a powerful mayor. She thinks her life is over but when the king notices her, everything changes. He marries her but when, in the fashion of Merovingian kings, he dies early, she rules on behalf of her young son. By the end of her life Bathilde had changed the face of France forever.
Helen: This sounds really interesting, sometimes real history is more exciting than fiction! What can you tell us about the cover? I am assuming this Bathilde?
Kelly:The cover for The Beggar Queen shows the main character, Bathilde, in the chemise she chose to wear when she retired to a monastery. The chemise is based on her actual clothing, still kept in the monastery she founded in Chelles, France. When she gave up the riches of her life, she had a jewelled cross embroidered on the front to remind her of the life she once led.
Helen: She sounds like an extraordinary woman who lived an extradorinary life. What made you choose to write her story?
Kelly: I like bringing little known women in history out of the footnotes of the (mostly) men and telling their stories. There are so many amazing women whose stories need to be told, it’s difficult to chose. Bathilde’s story is my third about obscure women. The first is about Aelfgifu, the first wife of Canute the Great. The second is about Edith of Wessex, the wife of Edward the Confessor.
Helen: They all sound equally amazing. As they say, ‘behind every successful man is a strong woman’, I think they didn’t have any choice but to be strong. There was never anyone standing behind them. Which genre to write? This is Historical fiction, isn’t it?
Kelly: Historical fiction (with a side in historical horror!). I’ve always been interested in history; my first degree is in English Lit and History. When I moved to England there was no way NOT to be fascinated, particularly the medieval period, with so many still-standing buildings to visit. Re the horror, I’ve been a horror fan from childhood, I used to watch old monster movies with my dad on Sunday afternoons. It made sense for me to combine history and horror, so I wrote a book that takes place during the black death and added a little undead goodness. As much research went into that book (and the second one in the series) as my straight up historical fiction.
Helen: I would imagine there is a lot of research, as you have to get your historical facts spot on when writing about real people, even if you are putting your own spin on it. How much research did you have to do?
Kelly: I’m a huge proponent of being as accurate as I can in my novels. It can sometimes take months of research before I even start writing, and then I’ll do additional research as I go along. My job is to make scenes in my novels as realistic and immersive as possible without sounding like a high school history paper. I extend this idea to the free articles on my website, including the series of articles I’ve written by the fictional medieval manor owner, Lady Matilda. She offers advice about everything from running your manor to beauty tips to entertaining during the black death. Despite the tongue-in-cheek delivery, the same amount of research goes into those articles as any book I write.
Helen: Sounds like there is as much work, if not more in the resarch than in the book. I am glad you get other uses out of the information you learn. It must be fascinating. Lady Matilda sounds like she knows a thing or too! What made you start writing?
Kelly: This is kind of a cop out answer but I don’t really know. In high school I used to write a short story (as part of a series) in my last class of the day and leave it in my friend’s locker for her to read the next morning. She began reading them to her homeroom class and, after a while, I discovered I had a bit of a following. It was fun so I guess that’s where I really ‘caught’ the writing bug. I’ve been writing both fiction and non-fiction ever since.
Helen: As you have to do so much research do you plan your novels, or do you still find that you are a bit of a panster?
Kelly: Absolutely a planner! It’s difficult to be a pantser when you write historical fiction, you really need to stick to the historical timeline accurately. I also find being a planner means there’s less major editing to do once the story is done because you’ve already worked out all the major plot lines and issues. I also worked as a project manager for trade software platforms before I retired to write full time so my brain kind of works in that logical manner anyway.
Helen: You are fortunate to be able to write full time, I am so jealous! Do you have a set space set up for writing?
Kelly: I have an office in my back room with a window facing the deck and yard. Every so often I’ll look up and just stare out the window for a moment to give my eyes a break. I also have everything I need to hand, including three shelves full of history books!
Helen: Tell us about your current work in progress; who are you writing about?
Kelly: I’m currently researching Seventeenth Century Bologna and Baroque art for my, as yet unnamed, novel about the artist Elisabetta Sirani. She trained under her father and when he fell ill was responsible for looking after her entire family with her art. She started her own art school for women and her art was desired in Bologna by the rich and famous. Sadly, she died young due to the stress of supporting her family.
Helen: With so much research needed for your own books, do you ever have time to read novels for pleasure?
Kelly: I’m currently reading The Conjurer by Luanne G Smith. It’s the third part of a trilogy about a vine witch and the further stories of her two associates. I love the idea of a winery having a dedicated vine witch to help the grapes (the first book), and the follow-on tales of her friends are an easy, entertaining, supernatural read. Perfect at the end of a day of heavy research.
Helen: I loved the Vine Witch, and I have the second book on my kindle tbr pile. I will get to it soon! Tell us something random, or anecdotal about yourself.
Kelly: I’m able to play music by ear ie I can pick up any instrument and, after a few minutes, play it. I took clarinet in school and still actively play tenor recorder (the big, deep-sounding one – I play mostly medieval music), oboe, guitar, and I recently took up the ukulele.
I’ve led a somewhat charmed life. I’ve been inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, been on Austrian television, flown an airplane, worked in one of the world’s greatest museums, and so much more. I try to try as much as I can!
Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, Kelly. It’s been lovely meeting you. It is so interesting to find out more about these hidden women of history. I am glad you are bringing them out into light. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out.
Kelly: Try to write every day, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t – life gets in the way and you have to be flexible. Be wary of adjectives (and adverbs too!). Never stop trying to perfect your craft – you’re never too good or too experienced to stop learning.
About the Author:
Born in Canada of Scottish extraction, Kelly Evans graduated in History and English from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. After graduation, she moved to the UK where she worked in the financial sector. While in London Kelly continued her studies in history, focussing on Medieval England.
Kelly is now back in Ontario with her husband Max and two rescue cats. Her books include The Confessor’s Wife, The Northern Queen, The Mortecarni, and Revelation (all set in Medieval Europe), Elizabeth: Path to the Throne (Tudor England), and The Strange Tale of Miss Victoria Frank (gothic novella).
When not writing, Kelly loves reading, music (she plays a pretty mean ukulele and some wicked medieval recorder), and watching really bad old horror and science fiction movies. Preferably ones with large insects or lizards. And with a LOT of popcorn. Really a lot.
You can find more about Kelly via:
You can purchase Kelly’s books from Amazon:
The Beggar Queen
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