Elizabeth Chadwick Interview
September 25, 2009
the author of The Greatest Knight
Elizabeth Chadwick's novel The Greatest Knight, long available in the U.K., finally appeared in the U.S. and Canada in September 2009. It's about William Marshall, the extraordinary twelfth-century knight who served Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their hot-tempered sons. We were fortunate to have author Elizabeth Chadwick HistoricalNovels.info in her blog tour.
The medieval atmosphere and level of detail in The Greatest Knight is impressive. How long did it take you to research this novel?
I mostly researched it as I wrote, so it was ongoing. About a year I'd say. However, I have been researching the 11th through 13th centuries in detail for almost 40 years, so that helps a lot! I find that being a re-enactor is also invaluable for giving a feel to the times. It's so much more immediate than researching via text books alone. When you've cooked a medieval meal using the pots and utensils of the time, spun fleece using a distaff and spindle, and gazed at the landscape through the eye-slits of a 'cheese-grater' helm, it makes all the difference to your work.
On your website, you talk about working with a consultant who tunes into the imprint of past events on the Akashic record, a fascinating and unusual research method! How often and at what stage of your work on a novel do you consult her?
These days we meet for a two hour session about once a fortnight. Like the research mentioned in question 1, it is ongoing as I write the novel, although I will usually embark on some background and 'test' sessions before I start writing to find out if I really want to travel with my main players. Sometimes I don't. Fortunately, William Marshal lives up to his great reputation on all fronts.
Has information ever come up in your research that you chose not to use because you felt modern readers would not understand it?
A writer always has to pick his or her way through the resources available and choose which to use or emphasize to tell the story. I do think that dealing with mindsets and attitudes of the period can be difficult for the author. How do you present the medieval belief that a husband was within his rights to beat his wife, or that her property belonged to him when she made her vows, without alienating a modern audience? It's a challenge, not an impossibility, but it does take some careful thought and crafting to achieve that balance.
Review of The Greatest Knight
See listing for The Greatest Knight at Powell's Books
See listing for The Greatest Knight at Amazon.com
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