April 08, 2014

Interview with Anna Belfrage, author of Serpents in the Garden

Thank you for being our guest on Historical Fiction Connection today, Anna. We appreciate you answering our questions and look forward to your answers.

Hi, Michelle, thank you for allowing me to visit! Now, in Sweden we have this nice tradition called “knyte” where the guest brings something to the table, so let’s just pretend I’ve set down a plate of warm cardamom buns in front of you. If you have some tea to go with them, that would be nice ;)

HFC: As a matter of fact, I do have a nice pot of tea all ready to go. Perfect! Now, on to our first question, what inspired you to become a historical novelist? 

If we’re going to be quite honest, being a writer of historical fiction comes way behind my first choice, which was to time travel for real – something I quickly realized would never happen…Somewhat more seriously, I have always written, and everything I have written has been set in the past, from those rather clumsy attempts when I was in sixth grade and wrote about a Maya princess who was chosen as a sacrifice to the gods, through a horribly bad romance set in the 1640’s in England (I read it some years back. I cried. A lot. Mainly because it was so bad…) to a number of short stories depicting historical people I find interesting,

HFC: Your book, Serpents in the Garden, is the 5th book in the Graham saga. What is it about this saga and its characters that has kept you writing about them?

Matthew and Alex have sort of grown on me, two rather different people who complement each other and help each other to transcend their limitations and preconceived notions – which is what all successful partnerships are all about. I find it fascinating to allow myself to fall back to their time, to describe their lives and adventures, their relationship to each other and their children. Had they been in the “happily ever after” mode, there would not have been much point in writing more about them, but somehow they always seem to end up with yet another (overly) exciting challenge to handle.

When I started writing this series, I knew I wanted to write about a Presbyterian Scotsman who had to handle persecution in his homeland – this due to the fact that there’s a young man very far up my husband’s family tree who had to flee Scotland in 1624 for religious reasons. I also wanted there to be a time travelling angle to things (Alex had been rattling about in my head for some time when Matthew took shape. She set eyes on him and that was it; she wanted him and told me to fix it) because this allowed me to highlight not only the differences but alas the similarities between life then and now Ultimately, people are more or less the same no matter what period they live in…

Given the various historical events I wanted to comment on, my original plotline covered the period from 1658 to 1690. It still does.

HFC: When do you think the series will come to an end?

There are eight books in the series. The eighth book, To Catch a Falling Star, is planned for February 2015, at which point I will retire to cry my eyes out and generally indulge in separation angst.

HFC: You have always wanted to be an author, but according to your bio, life kind of got in the way. (I can relate) So, do you think it’s true that you’re never too old/it’s never too late to start? 

Absolutely! But I do think it helps if you’ve done some writing all along, or at least exercised your imagination. Just like any other part of you, your imagination can atrophy into something rather useless and humdrum unless you allow it to take flight now and then. I happen to be gifted with a vibrant Ms Inspiration, complete with sweeping skirts in garish colours, hair that stands like Medusa curls, and an extremely uncompromising take on things.

“I’m tired,” I’ll whine, not at all interested in exploring further that rather terrible scene when… (nope; can’t tell) “Tired? You tired? And me, hey? Me? You think not of me?” (Her English slips when she gets upset)

One thing to keep in mind is that there are no shortcuts to writing; unless you write – and write a lot – you will never improve, never learn to wield your keyboard with the elegance of a rapier (and doesn’t that make for the most confusing image?). To write is to take the time to read, read some more, read even more, and then it’s about honing and re-writing, about chasing elusive commas and excessive adjectives/adverbs.

HFC: For aspiring writers of historical fiction, what would be some pointers for them?

Know your period – be passionate about your period. Which is why I have used moss as toilet paper (not nice), plucked hens, hand-milked cows, picked nettles and made nettle-soup (delicious) and concluded that meadowsweet is great when you’re running a fever and elderberry cordial does help against cough. My knitting is still crap, though… A shortcut to all this may be to find other writers who write about the period and learn from them – but it is so much fun to experiment.

HFC: Are you currently reading any historical fiction? If so, which one(s)? 

I’m always reading Historical Fiction – how else to develop my own writing? Some writers I’ve enjoyed recently include Lori Crane Hess, Yael Politis, Kate Quinn, Judith Arnopp and Linda Root.

HFC: What is your favorite historical fiction book and/or who is your favorite historical author? 

My absolute favourite is Here be Dragons by Sharon K Penman. As to favourite authors, I have a couple that tie for first place, namely Sharon K Penman, Edith Pargeter and Pamela Belle.

HFC: Any plans for some new historical subjects in the future?

Oh yes! I have recently completed the first draft version of a book set in 14th  century England, I spend quite some time on my long-time WIP, set in 17th century Sweden, and I would love to write a book set in 15th century Seville. Plus I never know where the younger members of the Graham family may end up in the future (and Matthew has a very interesting ancestress that I may consider writing about).

Anna, thanks again for joining us today. We really enjoyed chatting with you and look forward to hosting you here at HFC again in the future. We wish you continued success with your Graham saga and any and all books in the future.

Why, thank you, Michelle! It’s been a pleasure to pop by.

About the book
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
SilverWood Books
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

After years of hard work, Matthew and Alex Graham have created a thriving home in the Colony of Maryland. About time, in Alex’s opinion, after far too many adventures she is really looking forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet.

A futile hope, as it turns out. Things start to heat up when Jacob, the third Graham son, absconds from his apprenticeship to see the world – especially as Jacob leaves behind a girl whom he has wed in a most irregular fashion.

Then there’s the infected matter of the fellow time traveller Alex feels obliged to help – no matter the risk. Worst of all, one day Philip Burley and his brothers resurface after years of absence. As determined as ever to make Matthew pay for every perceived wrong – starting with the death of their youngest brother – the Burleys play out a complicated cat and mouse game, and Alex is thrown back into an existence where her heart is constantly in her mouth, convinced as she is that one day the Burleys will achieve their purpose.

Will the Burleys succeed? And if they do, will the Graham family survive the exacted price?

Serpents in the Garden is the fifth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Graham Saga Titles
Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution (coming August 2014)
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest

Buy the Book
Amazon CA
Amazon US
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Book Depository
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About the Author
I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.
I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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1 comment:

  1. I love reading about what other authors are reading and their fave authors! This book is going on my TBR too.


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