An Interview with Anne Easter Smith

Please welcome Anne Easter Smith, author of the upcoming historical novel ROYAL MISTRESS (Touchstone, May 2013)

Anne is an award-winning historical novelist whose research and writing concentrates on England in the 15th century.  Meticulous historical research, rich period detail, and compelling female protagonists combine to provide the reader with a sweeping portrait of England in the time of the Wars of the Roses.  Her critically acclaimed first book, A Rose for the Crown, debuted in 2006, and her third, The King’s Grace, was the recipient of a Romantic Times Review Best Biography award in 2009.  A Queen by Right has been nominated by Romantic TImes Review for the Best Historical Fiction award, 2011.

13E03 Royal Mistress Cover

Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows King Edward will find her irresistible.

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as those of Jane and Will Hastings, hangs in the balance. Jane must rely on her talents to survive as the new monarch, Richard III, bent on reforming his brother’s licentious court, ascends the throne.

This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for five hundred years, and, as told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today’s historical fiction lovers as well.

Anne is a fellow member of the Historical Novel Society and a fellow speaker at the upcoming Historical Novel Society conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’m thrilled that she could join me today for an interview so close to next week’s release!

And now, on with the questions!

Where did you grow up? Will you share a favorite story from your childhood?

I was born in England, spent three years in Germany and then went to Egypt at age 6. Although I had many, many interesting experiences in Egypt, my favorite memory is of a shipwreck my family and other friends had in the Red Sea. We were on an ancient fishing boat, captained by an Egyptian, that had a wheelhouse but no cabin per se. About two hours after leaving Suez, we hit a coral reef and listed horribly to one side. The men in the group all got into the water and tried to right it and float it off the coral but no luck. Imagine the heat (over 100F) on an exposed deck, only enough water for the dozen Brits having a morning’s joy ride to do some snorkeling, fishing and picnicking, and younger kids than I whimpering about wanting to go home. Finally, after sending up some flares to passing Egyptian felucca’s who waved gaily back, two of the guys took the rowboat and went to shore. Miles down in the desert with nothing on the shore. They said there was a road along the Red Sea there, so they’d hike back to … who knows where. Dark came and now all of us kids were scared and whiney, which didn’t help our parents. We tried to sleep at a 45 degree angle, but it wasn’t easy! Finally, at dawn we saw help arrive in the form of a launch from one of the many shipping companies in Suez. The two guys in the row boat had managed to find a tiny village several miles back up the road and phoned for help. I was never more glad to get back on dry land–and I am an avid sailor!

What inspired you to start writing?

A strong urge to tell Richard III’s real story after studying him for more than 40 years, and a rudimentary knowledge of how to write from 10 years as a newspaper editor. My best friend in England finally kicked me in the pants and said: Write it!!

If you could go back in time and share one writing lesson with “new writer you” before starting your first manuscript … what would that be?

Learn the basics of structuring a book: themes, scene-writing and where your climax will come. I had no idea and did it from the gut. It would have been so helpful to have started with a structure!

Your new novel, ROYAL MISTRESS, tells the story of Jane Shore, “the Rose of London” and famous mistress of England’s King Edward IV. What prompted you to choose to tell Jane’s story?

The one important member of the York family who I had only written about as a peripheral character to the main ones in my first four books was King Edward IV. I felt he needed fleshing out. After all, Edward became the first Yorkist king at 19 after some thrilling victories in battle, like Towton and Tewkesbury. I had dealt with his early years as king in A ROSE FOR THE CROWN and DAUGHTER OF YORK, as seen through the eyes of his brother, Richard of Gloucester in the first book and his sister, Margaret, in the second. As I have consistently told the York story during the Wars of the Roses through a different woman’s eyes in each book, I searched for a compelling protagonist to focus on Edward’s character and chose his favorite and final mistress, Jane Shore, whose story had inspired poets, playwrights and balladeers down through the centuries.

Do you have a favorite author, book, or genre? If so, who (or what) is it, and why?

I confess to reading mostly historical fiction–usually not in my own period, and I love Edward Rutherfurd’s long and beautifully detailed novels; I am about to dive into his “Paris” as you read this!

Do you have a favorite scene from ROYAL MISTRESS? If so (and if you can tell us about it without revealing any spoilers!), what makes that scene stand out for you?

Probably the scene where Jane is summoned to the palace by King Edward for the first time. I love Jane’s guilty pleasure in allowing herself, as a married woman, to be seduced by the gorgeous young king. There is a lot of humor in it, too, which I would say always makes a scene more fun to write for me.

What is the last book you read, and why did you choose to read it?

I read so many books for my own writing, or to give a quote for a jacket, or because (in April) I needed to moderate a panel and read the panelists’ work, that I rarely have time to choose something just for fun. “New York” by Edward Rutherfurd is probably the last one I read for fun.

How did you push yourself to get past difficult moments in writing and editing ROYAL MISTRESS? Do you have a favorite place to write or to edit your work?

The best thing I did for my writing was move out of the house and rent a room in someone else’s! It’s my sanctuary where I have no phone and no distractions of the housekeeping kind! It’s light and bright and best of all, quiet.

Do you have any upcoming signings or readings? If so, where?

For more details, please see:

And now, the speed round:

Plotter or pantser?

A bit of both!

Coffee, tea, or bourbon?

Coffee in the morning, tea at 4 o’clock, and wine in the evening.

Socks or no socks?

Always socks in closed shoes; no socks in sandals.

Cats, dogs, or reptiles?

Most exclusively dogs.

For dinner: Italian, Mexican, Burgers or Thai?

All of the above with equal relish.

Thank you, Anne, for joining us here at Spann of Time today. I know you’re busy with the upcoming release, and I appreciate you stopping by to share a little about yourself and ROYAL MISTRESS!

If you’d like more information about Anne or her books, you can find her at her website or on Facebook. ROYAL MISTRESS releases May 7, 2013 in hardback, e-book, and audiobook editions, available online and at bookstores everywhere!