Today, I am pleased to have author Anna Belfrage on my blog. Anna is the award-winning author of a number of historical fiction novels ranging from the 12th to the 17th century. She just announced that her most recent novel in her The King's Greatest Enemy series, The Cold Light of Dawn, hits shelves tomorrow. Welcome Anna!
Like me, you had a “career” before becoming an author. What did you do as a pre-writing profession? At what point did you realize you wanted to write for a living? At what point did you decide make your break into full time writing? And do you ever second-guess your choice? (I know - it’s many questions all tied up in one).
If we’re going to be correct, I still have that career—I am the CFO of a Forestry group with a turnover of 2.5 billion dollars or so. So I do not write for a living—yet. I write because to not write is not an option, seeing as I have so many stories thronging my head it would probably explode if I didn’t let off some steam via my writing.
What is a little know detail about yourself that readers might not know or that is not mentioned on your website?
That I have a bicoloured eye—although that’s not really all that interesting, is it? I sing a lot. I sing as I walk the corridors at work, I sing while I am in the shower, while I’m cooking, while I’m out walking (not too loud. Don’t want people to think I’m off my rocker). Now and then I add a couple of dance steps as well. Drives my kids crazy.
You have series set in the 1300s, the 1700s, in current time, and a new story from the 13th century. How do you land on the time periods? Are there particular characteristics you are looking for?
Well, my 17th century timeslip series The Graham Saga is the product of a fascination with the Early Modern era and the religious upheaval that characterised the period. And that, in turn, is a product of the fact that my husband’s ancestor was obliged to flee Scotland due to religious persecution. I started reading up on the period, ended up quite stuck in it and as I read a certain Matthew Graham began to take shape—one of those devout and principled peeps that can become very rigid unless one shakes them up a bit. Which is why I gave him time traveller Alex Lind as his wife to broaden his horizon. Best thing that happened to either of them, IMO. They agree, but pretend they don’t.
My 14th century series The King’s Greatest Enemy is very much inspired by the rise and fall of Roger Mortimer, a historical person I’ve crushed on since I was thirteen or so. These days, being older and wiser, I recognise Mortimer is a complicated and power-hungry person who probably walked over a body or two to reach his target. But he had qualities as well and I am not entirely sure he deserved the vilification heaped on his head.
I’d say it is more the people and the opportunities to create conflict than the era itself that draws me in. Having said that, my main historical interest is 12th to 17th century with a parenthesis around the 16th century as the Tudors don’t do it for me. At all.
Several of your books involve time travel. What about time travel excites you?
Only The Graham Saga involves time series. I have a very rough draft of a new WIP that also involves time travel, and I suppose the reason I am drawn to using time travel as a mechanism is that I would very much like to travel back in time myself (for a short visit). I have therefore spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to end up in the past and writing about it allows me to explore that further. I imagine it would be terribly frightening—and extremely confusing.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? If not, are there certain characteristics in your characters you have the most fun writing about?
I am rather fond of all my characters—and the nice thing about fictionalised protagonists is that I can endow them with the characteristics I want. This means they’re all people of high integrity and strong convictions. I also like it if there’s a bit of whimsey in them, whether it be sneaking off to skinny-dip in a nearby stream or a propensity to sing disco music to the 17th century hubby while making Travolta moves. Matthew Graham is an enthusiastic supporter of these impromptu shows, by the way, driving Alex crazy with how fast he learns both lyrics and tune.
What would you say set your books apart from others?
What a difficult question! That they’re written by me and therefore reflect my preferences when it comes to stories, settings and characters? I expend a lot of time on researching my periods and the defining events and I do think I have a distinctive “voice”, but do either of these qualify as a distinguishing characteristic? Hmm…*scrunches up brows and thinks—hard* I suppose my books reflect my own beliefs in the power of love. Not only love between partners, but also love between friends, between siblings, between parent and child. One of my former colleagues once said to a room full of colleagues that “Anna is all about love. In fact, she’s a sucker for it.” Didn’t do my reputation as a hard-nosed CFO much good, but he is right: I am a sucker for it.
If you could live in one century, which would it be and why?
The one we’re in, thank you very much. I may have a passion about the past and I would love to pop by and visit in the various eras I am so interested in, but from there to live in a time without modern appliances, without electricity or running water—no, I don’t think so. A life without tea and chocolate would be dismal indeed…
When you’re not at your desk writing, where are you most likely to be found (e.g. in the library researching, on the couch with a good book, traveling, etc)?
At work or out walking.
Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
Long, long list: I have a contemporary trilogy ready for publication, I’m halfway through my WIP set in the 13th century, I have done a very rough draft of a tenth book in The Graham Saga (but I’m probably going to call it #1 in a new series), I am considering a follow-on series for my 14th century series tentatively called “The lion and the lily”, I have this WIP involving time travel and then I have a WIP set in 17th century Sweden which has sort of crashed into a blank wall of non-inspiration so it must be totally re-engineered. Plus I have a new contemporary thingy brewing and a number of potential novellas. Sheesh. I look at that list and feel somewhat exhausted—and exhilarated, weird person that I am!
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit, Eric—and for asking such interesting questions. Now, do you have some tea and a biscuit for me so that I can recuperate from the effort?
About the author
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.
Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The fourth book in the series, The Cold Light of Dawn, will be published in February 2018
When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This series is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him. A ninth instalment has recently been published, despite Anna having thought eight books were enough. Turns out her 17th century dreamboat and his time travelling wife didn’t agree…