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Interview with author Patricia Bracewell

Today I'd like to welcome Patricia Bracewell, author of the debut novel Shadow on the Crown, which is being released on Thursday, February 7th.

Who or what inspired you to become an author?
I’ve wanted to be a writer from the time that I was a girl and first read Little Women. There was something terribly thrilling about the scene where Jo March sells her first story. I decided that I wanted to do that some day, so I’d have to credit Louisa May Alcott for inspiring me to write.

Can you tell me a little about your debut novel, Shadow on the Crown?
The novel covers three years in the life of a little known 11th century queen of England, Emma of Normandy. 15-year-old Emma is sent to marry the English king, Aethelred II, as a pledge of friendship between the two realms. She finds that, as a foreign bride, she is mistrusted by her much older husband and threatened by the schemes of a jealous rival who covets her crown. It’s a tale of treachery played out against the backdrop of ongoing Viking raids that stir up fear and suspicion within the English court. Duty, honor and desperate yearning are just a few of the themes in this novel about a woman who is faced with hard choices that will shape the future of England.

How did you come up with the idea for that book?
When I stumbled upon the historical Queen Emma, who was a force within the English court for about forty years, I was drawn to the part of her story about which very little is known – the early years of her marriage to King Aethelred. I wondered what kinds of difficulties she would have faced as the young bride of a ruthless king who already had seven sons and really did not need – and might not have even wanted – a second family. I wondered how she would have felt about her husband and her step-children, and what her role at court might have been. And as I began to answer these questions for myself, the book began to take shape.

What are you working on now?
Because Shadow on the Crown is the first book of a trilogy, I’m currently working on the sequel. It picks up about a year after the conclusion of Shadow, and it covers seven very horrendous years in England’s history. The book starts and ends with a death, and I’m sorry to tell you that there are a great many more deaths in between. It’s not that I’m a bloodthirsty writer, but it was a harsh, brutal time.

What are your strategies for making characters seem real so the reader connects with them?
Every character that I create, whether based on a historical figure or whether he or she has been invented from thin air, has been given a rap sheet. This includes not just physical information, but how the character thinks, an entire family background, relationships, emotional needs, motivations and goals. I try to stay true to that, and it gives each character, I hope, a specific personality.

What sorts of relationships and experiences do you most like to explore in your writing?
Before I began to write this novel I wrote short stories, personal essays, and two unpublished romance novels. Thinking back on them, it occurs to me that almost all of them dealt with family: daughters and mothers, daughters and fathers, sibling relationships, mothers and sons. Although this novel is much bigger and broader than anything I’ve attempted before, at its heart much of it is about family bonds and tensions.

What genres and authors do you most enjoy reading?
I like historical fiction, of course, but also mysteries, fantasy, science fiction and contemporary literature, too. Some of my favorites: Bernard Cornwell, Iain Pears, Laurie King, Sarah Dunant, Diana Gabaldon, George R.R.Martin – the list goes on forever!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not reading?
To my frustration I have very little time these days for doing almost anything except writing and writing related activities. My husband and I enjoy travelling, and we’ll be doing quite a bit of that this year in connection with the book release. I used to play the folk guitar and sing, but there’s no time to practice now. I enjoy gardening when I can, and I actually make it on to a tennis court about once a week – although nowadays I’m usually trying to solve a plot problem even as I’m standing at the net anticipating the next shot. It’s dangerous!

Thank you so much for stopping by My Book Retreat!

Visit Patricia Bracewell's website


  1. Currently reading Shadow on The Crown, and enjoying it very much! So glad to see it is first in a trilogy, I had no idea about that part!
    LMA inspired me also as a child, she was a fantastic writer for young girls to read.


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