I’m Candace Robb, a writer/historian engaged in creating fiction about the late middle ages with a large cast of characters with whom I enjoy spending my days. Two series, the Owen Archer mysteries and the Kate Clifford mysteries, are set in late medieval York. The Margaret Kerr trilogy is set in early 14th century Scotland, at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. Two standalone novels (published under pseudonym Emma Campion) expand on the lives of two women in the court of King Edward III who have fascinated me ever since I first encountered them in history and fiction.
I am a dreamer. Writing, gardening, walking, dancing, reading, being with friends—there’s always a dreaming element.
From an early age I loved conjuring characters and imagining their stories. While my mother sewed or ironed I would walk circles on the checkerboard tiles in her sewing room and weave stories for her. Later I added the guitar and folk songs, which she seemed to enjoy more than my stories. No accounting for taste. One of her mantras was a warning—One of these days you’re going to get in trouble for telling stories. Once I was published (she loved my books) she denied having ever said that. Moms, right?
I was educated by Catholic nuns until university. Explain a lot? Some were fond of me and encouraged me, but the encouragement mostly came from the lay teachers who filled out the curriculum, especially literature and journalism. Mostly the sisters disliked my questions. I was born questioning everything. In my penultimate year at Mother of Mercy High School my American lit teacher, Carole Kirstein (who wrote to congratulate me soon after I was published—she’d remembered me!) encouraged me to just go mad in the journal we were to keep, writing a little each day. She would collect them once a quarter without any intention of reading them, simply for the purpose of motivating us to write. My dramatics teacher, Sister Mary Carlos, who’d been on stage before taking vows, drilled me in being the emotion my character was experiencing. I loved the sense of disappearing into a character. That’s it! she exclaimed, pressing her hands to her heart. Perhaps more than anything else, her tutoring prepared me for writing fiction.
While working on a PhD in English literature I began to focus on the literature and history and as much cultural information as I could find about the people who wrote in Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, Old Norse and Icelandic. To specialize in one era was frowned upon, but I didn’t care, I felt I’d found my time.
For various reasons I left without adding a PhD to my MA, essentially an ABD in English Lit. I spent a decade as a technical writer and editor of scientific publications while finding my voice as a writer, and then, one day, while celebrating Christmas in York, my agent called with an offer for The Apothecary Rose. But they want assurance you’ll write more Owen Archer titles. Dear Reader, you know how I responded.
I was born in Taylorsville, NC, raised in Cincinnati, OH, and have lived my post-graduate life in the Pacific NW, with fairly frequent trips to the UK.
An aside: Who Is Emma Campion?
Once upon a time the marketing department of my publisher, fearing my readers would be alarmed by a book that was not part of a crime series, insisted that I find a pseudonym for my stand alone historicals. I had far more confidence in the intelligence of my readers, but I acquiesced and came up with a name that appears on The King’s Mistress (about Alice Perrers) and A Triple Knot (Joan of Kent)—Emma Campion.
I thought of Emma as a twin sister who peered over my shoulder as I wrote. Every now and then she poked me. Whoa, slow down, Candace. What do you think is behind that attitude? I shooed her away. I don’t have time to wonder. I have crimes to solve. One day she decided to go off and write her own books in which she explored the history behind the secondary characters in my crime novels, the ones based on actual historical figures, the ones whom she felt I’d dealt with unfairly. At first I was irked. She was taking bows for my work. But as she wrote she unearthed a fresh stream of ideas for my crime novels. Most people couldn’t tell us apart, and, of course, you’re all so much smarter than the marketing department expected. Didn’t take long for you to figure it out.
Emma is now “retired”, but her two wonderful books are available in English and Italian—oh, but wait, the Italian versions carry my name—Candace Robb! I love my Italian publisher.