Susan Higginbotham Interview

April 8, 2009 interviews
the author of The Traitor's Wife

author Susan HigginbothamSusan Higginbotham's novel The Traitor's Wife, about Eleanor de Clare, a niece of the ill-fated fourteenth-century monarch Edward II, was published by Sourcebooks on April 1, 2009. We were fortunate to be able to present an interview with her on April 8.

So many fascinating personalities surrounded Edward II. What made you choose Eleanor de Clare as the focus of The Traitor's Wife?

I didn't consciously choose her as my heroine; she more or less chose me. A few years back, I became interested in the reign of Edward II and began researching it, and in the course of my research, I came across Eleanor. Her life intrigued me, and before long I realized that I wanted to write a novel about her. I never considered having anyone else as my main character.

I did, however, make a choice to tell the story from the points of view of others as well, because I wanted the reader to witness events like the death of Edward II, which would have been impossible had Eleanor been the only viewpoint character.

Besides Eleanor, who was your favorite character to write about?

People who have enjoyed the book have commented that I'm very fond of all of my characters, and they're right. Piers Gaveston was one of my favorites, and I was very gloomy for a few days after he left the novel. But I'd say after Eleanor, my favorites were Edward II and Hugh the younger. They were deeply flawed people, which made them all the more interesting to write about.

Your description of Tewkesbury Abbey late in the novel is especially vivid. Were you able to visit the Abbey as part of your research?

Yes, and I don't think my children, who got dragged along, will ever forgive me. I managed it, actually, just the day before or the day after the anniversary of the death of Hugh le Despenser the younger--I hadn't planned it that way, but because we traveled over Thanksgiving week, that's how it worked out. I couldn't get into the choir to get a good glimpse of the stained-glass windows that Eleanor donated, but I did get to see all of the Despenser family tombs.

When I was standing near Hugh the younger's tomb, I heard this tremendously loud thump, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. It turned out to be a couple of church workers moving some items, but for a minute there I thought I'd really annoyed Hugh.

Review of The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham

See listing for The Traitor's Wife at Powell's Books

See listing for The Traitor's Wife at

See our interview with Susan Higginbotham about Hugh and Bess, the sequel to The Traitor's Wife

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