Award winning author Philippa Gregory is best known for her entrancing historical fiction novels that take readers from the Tudor period in England through the 17th century, and beyond. This year, Gregory has the fourth in the Cousins' War releasing, however, fans will be thrilled to learn that the author is also embarking on a new adventure by publishing her debut Young Adult novel in May. Gregory's upcoming novel is a medieval-set story of adventure and romance. Today the author gives RT BOOK REVIEWS an exclusive look inside the story, introduces us to a few of the key characters and shares what it was like to write her first novel for a younger audience.
So the obvious first question is, when will your Young Adult series be set?
What made this story a good fit for the YA market (as opposed to adult historical fiction/fiction)?
I wanted to write something that was not anchored to a real historical character in which a fictional character could experience adventures in the medieval period without having to follow a biography. This allowed me to go into the dreams and fears of the medieval period in a very exciting and lively way that is suitable, I think for young adult readers, and released me from the detailed work on the historical record, which I usually do. To my surprise, this was hugely liberating, and the book has been great fun to write.
Why will modern readers empathize with your heroine?
I think modern readers will love her courage and her independence. She loses her father in the first book of the series and is robbed of her inheritance so she has to go out into the world to find someone to help her, and to make her own fortune. She's very loyal and very honourable and she has to cope with a world that is dangerous and threatening.
Who is a secondary character you are interested in exploring further?
I started the novel with a clear hero and heroine and then I found myself increasingly drawn to the two companions, a young man and a young woman. The young woman is regarded as a heretic in this medieval world — she 's a Moor and many people think she is a slave but in fact she is a free woman, and serves the heroine for affection and loyalty. She has studied the Arabic skills of medicine, she can fight, she can fire a bow, she’s an herbalist and an original thinker. I really like her more and more and she emerges through the story. The other companion is the hero's assistant who appears to be an unlearned, very prosaic character but who has great insight and a great gift of a love for animals. Throughout the story I have come to like him more and more and he really shines in the second part of the book.
What is something interesting that you learned while doing research for this story?
This has been a fascinating period to research. I know more about werewolves than I ever knew before, I am learning about herbs, I am really struck by the impact of the fall of Constantinople on the medieval world. There has been much that has been a real revelation.
What inspired the project?
I was really inspired by a talk with a television producer who was asking me to write something about the supernatural world. That started me thinking and after a long process of imagining, writing and revising, I have come up with this new book.
What is an aspect of writing YA that is a challenge?
I am conscious that handling sex and violence is something that has to be done with subtlety. It's got to be realistic enough to be persuasive to a young adult audience and, at the same time, not so explicit that I am taking young readers into an area that I wouldn't want them to approach. Also I am very conscious that young women read novels and use the heroines as role models, I am very keen that my novels send the message that women are competent independent beings who can live a worthwhile life on their own terms — they don't have to have a boyfriend to make their lives worth while! And that the adventures of a woman are equally as interesting as those of boys. This is going to be a worthwhile read for girls and they will have their ambitions and their dreams validated, not diminished.
Did you have a favorite historical fiction novel when you were a teen?
When I was a teen I read Georgette Heyer almost non-stop. I loved the straight romances but I really enjoyed the more historical novels like The Infamous Army. I think a good historical novel can tell the reader a tremendous amount about a society without sacrificing the fun and delight of good fiction.
You can expect this novel to hit shelves in May. In the meantime, for more great YA reads check out our Everything Young Adult Page. And for the latest romance news and coverage you can visit our Everything Romance Page!