An editor sent me the following questions for an event that didn’t happen. But as I took the time away from writing Owen Archer 13 to answer them, I can’t let them go to waste. Enjoy!
Q: Your new book, A CHOIR OF CROWS is set in 1374, when the Plantagenet King Edward III was on the English throne, and England was in the midst of the Hundred Years war against France. Why do you choose to set your novels in the past, and what attracted you to this particular period?
A: The present is too much with me. I much prefer to spend my days imagining what it is like elsewhen. In graduate school I discovered the richness of Chaucer’s description of medieval England and thought it would be fabulous to spend my life teaching his works. But as I continued to research his century I found myself imagining my own tales. I’ve been happily writing about the period ever since.
Q: Candace – you are American, based in Seattle, Washington state. What inspired you to set your series in the northern English city of York?
A: A trip to York while in graduate school piqued my interest. In researching the city in the 14th century, learning of its importance in the church, the realm, and economically I was surprised so little fiction was set there. It begged for an author. I obliged.
Q: In your novels, you depict real historical characters who co-exist and interact with your fictional cast. For example, the action in your new novel, A CHOIR OF CROWS, kicks off with the all-powerful nobleman Alexander Neville – a real historical character – having been appointed Archbishop of York, and the city in a state of high alert at his imminent arrival. He is a character to be feared in the novel, a real Machiavellian schemer. Is this a purely imaginary portrayal of the man, or have you or have you found any historical evidence to back up your theory as to his character?
A: I have found no historical record regarding Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York, that describes his as anything but an ambitious, spiteful man wholly unworthy of his high appointment. His vindictiveness results in battles with many religious houses in his archdiocese, and his eventual banishment from the realm. He is a gift to a writer. But the real power behind Alexander is his brother Sir John Neville, Lord of Raby, admiral of the North, and the king’s steward. He is every bit the Machiavellian I portray. Delicious!
Q: Without giving away any spoilers, A CHOIR OF CROWS poses an intriguing theory as to the cause of the untimely death of Edward III’s son, the Black Prince – who was supposed to have died of dysentery. Do you have any evidence to suggest that he was, in fact, murdered?
A: I came up with the theory based on many historians’ conclusions that dyssentery just isn’t a satisfying diagnosis. I was reading about the poisonous effects of a particular chemical element (as crime writers do) and realized how well it fit his symptoms. He might have done this to himself over time, but considering who he was and the politics of the times, someone administering it to him for a long while seemed highly plausible. I’ve tried it out on a few historians who encouraged me to run with it.
Q: Which author has most inspired you in your own writing – and why?
A: Ursula LeGuin, not only because she encouraged me to stick with the European middle ages in my writing, but also because of her lean, emotionally clear writing and fearlessness.
Q: If a TV series or feature film were to be made of your book, who would you see playing your protagonist, Owen Archer?
A: A popular question! My answer changes as time goes by. My current choice would be Aidan Turner (Poldark).