Mastodon The Writing Desk: Guest Interview with Candace Robb, author of The Margaret Kerr series #HFVBT

12 October 2015

Guest Interview with Candace Robb, author of The Margaret Kerr series #HFVBT

Available on Amazon

The Margaret Kerr series chronicles one woman’s search for the truth amidst the Scottish struggle for independence against the tyranny of the English crown. 

In A TRUST BETRAYED, Margaret searches for her missing husband after his disappearance in Edinburgh, but finds that the simmering rebellion has turned the ruined city into a web of lies and hidden motives that threaten anyone who digs too deep for the truth. 

In THE FIRE IN THE FLINT, Margaret and her family become the target of a series of violent raids, but what the raiders are looking for remains a mystery. As Margaret becomes more deeply involved in the rebellion, attention turns to her mother, a seer who has had visions of the “true king of Scotland.” 

In A CRUEL COURTSHIP, Margaret heads to Stirling Castle on a mission to discover the fate of a young spy for the rebellion. As her travels bring her closer to the castle, however, she begins to have dreams—or are they visions?—of impending danger. The historic battle of Stirling Bridge is nearing, and the fate of Scotland rides on the outcome… 

Together, these stories offer a richly detailed and beautifully written account of medieval Scotland and a young woman’s awakening.

Here is my intrerview with Candace, one of the most prolific historical fiction authors I know:

Please tell us about your latest novel?

I’ve just received my editor’s notes on the first Kate Clifford mystery, The Service of the Dead (Pegasus Books, May 2016). In this new series, set in York slightly later than the Owen Archer series, the conflict between King Richard II and Henry of Lancaster/ Henry IV provides an edgy political climate in which York became deeply, and tragically, involved. But the focus is on Kate Clifford, a young widow with a background that has prepared her for trouble. She’s handy with knife, axe, and bow. And she’s found a rather unorthodox way to pay off her late husband’s debt—running what might be considered a high-end brothel. Most recently published under my non-mystery pseudonym, Emma Campion, is A Triple Knot (Broadway Books 2014). It’s a novel about Joan of Kent, famous as the fair maid of Kent, who married her cousin Edward, the Black Prince. But before that marriage, her marital state was, well, a triple knot. 

What has been your favourite part of the book publishing journey?
  • The moment I held my first book in my hands. 
  • When a docent at the Treasurer’s House in York burst into tears upon learning my name and why I was asking her so many questions: she was a huge fan of the Owen Archer mysteries. 
  • The bookseller in Edinburgh who grinned when I exclaimed over the stack of A Trust Betrayed that awaited my signature: “You’re a Robb, you’re one of us. Of course we’re supporting you.” Same thing happened in Glasgow with Margaret Kerr’s debut. 
  • That moment when I read through a draft and I know I have a book—it needs work, but it’s all there
  • When a publisher offers me a contract—they believe in my book! 
  • The creative, talented people I get to work with—writers, publishers, agents, scholars in medieval studies across the disciplines.
What inspires you?

I can never predict what’s going to inspire me. My interest in Scotland in the late 13th century (for the Margaret Kerr series) was sparked by research for the 7th Owen Archer novel, A Spy for the Redeemer. It involved some back-story for Owen’s wife’s aunt. As I played with ideas, I was caught by the haunting images in the news of ordinary people trying to go about their lives in the midst of war. And about that time I was contacted by someone doing research on the buried drain on the site of the great Hospital of the Trinity that was built atop Soutra Hill in Lothian—he was curious about the cures I included in The Riddle of St. Leonard’s. I was fascinated with the large drain they had excavated, discovering a great quantity of blood and bits of herbs and roots. All of this added texture to Maggie’s story.

I also love to know how things work, how they’re assembled. How buildings were constructed in the middle ages, how locks worked, how merchants financed their trading, how coins were minted—all of these avenues of research have provided interesting bits of detail and even plot points for my books. The coins are significant in The Fire in the Flint; Maggie’s ability to pick locks plays a part in A Trust Betrayed.

I think of reading primary and secondary sources in medieval studies as priming the pump.  I jot down bits and pieces of information as I read.

I’m fascinated by the creative process. For me, getting quiet and clearing my mind works as an invitation to my subconscious.  It seems the moment I settle on my meditation cushion or take off on a long walk my mind begins to play with the material swimming around in my mind, teasing out connections I’d not noticed. It can be maddening when I meant to escape from work, but these insights are invaluable. I don’t squander them. So I’m a squirmy meditator and a distracted hiking companion.

What is your favourite book?

I can’t imagine having one favorite book. For a long while I would just say, JRR Tolkien. Or Wuthering Heights (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it). Then it was Anne Sexton’s Transformations. But really, it depends on my mood, the season, what I just read, what I’m writing…. My favorite discovery this past year has been the fantasy of Robin Hobb. I devoured the Farseer Trilogy and now I’m disciplining myself—no more Robin Hobb until after The Service of the Dead is completely finished, copyedited, proofed, finished.  And then there are plays! My favorite play is Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (and the film). Close seconds are Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade, and James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter (and the film).

Who is your favourite author?

See my answer to the previous question for why I would never even try to pin this down!  Some of my perennial favorites—Ursula K LeGuin, Chris Nickson, Donna Leon, Henning Mankell, the Brontës (I know they’re dead, I know), Zoketsu Norman Fischer (his poetry and his dharma writing), CJ Cherryh (her science fiction), Mary Oliver, George Elliot, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, William Blake. Historians Chris Given-Wilson and W. Mark Ormrod. 

What is your advice for other writers?

Stay actively curious. Never think you know all there is to know about anything. Delve. People love to talk about their passions—ask! Listen! Follow your curiosity. Write to satisfy your curiosity. And write write write. 

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About the Author

Growing up, Candace Robb wanted to be a ballerina, tap dancer, folk singer, journalist—but on the day that she walked into Liz Armstrong’s undergraduate class on Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, that all changed. A gifted teacher, lively, witty, always laughing even when cringing at a lazy response, Dr. Armstrong launched into the opening stanzas, and within a few lines Candace’s ears adjusted to the middle English—and she was hooked. Chaucer’s psychological study of the two lovers was a revelation to her. The next quarter was The Canterbury Tales. That clinched it. Candace went on to graduate work in medieval history and literature, and ever since she’s been engaged in bringing to life the rich culture of the period, from the arts to the politics. She is the internationally acclaimed author of thirteen crime novels featuring the sexy, brooding, clever Owen Archer, who solves crimes for John Thoresby, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England, and the young Margaret Kerr, searching for her missing husband and her role in a Scotland overrun by English soldiers. Candace is currently under contract with Pegasus Books for a new crime series set in 15th century York, the Kate Clifford mysteries, which will debut in 2016. Writing as Emma Campion, Candace has published two historical novels about the women of the English court in the 14th century, A Triple Knot and The King’s Mistress. Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Candace grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has lived most of her adult life in Seattle, Washington, which she loves for its combination of culture, natural beauty, and brooding weather so like Yorkshire, Wales, and Scotland, which she visits as often as possible. She has taught the art of writing the crime novel in the University of Washington’s certificate program, and offers workshops in writing the historical novel and in creating and plotting the crime series. Find our more at Candace's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @CandaceMRobb.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, October 12 Interview here at The Writing Desk

Tuesday, October 13 Review at Worth Getting In Bed For (A Trust Betrayed) Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, October 14 Review at Book Nerd (A Cruel Courtship) Spotlight at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Thursday, October 15 Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf (A Trust Betrayed) Spotlight at Buried Under Books
Friday, October 16 Review at Worth Getting in Bed For (The Fire in the Flint)
Monday, October 19 Review at A Book Geek (A Trust Betrayed) Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews Review & Interview at Singing Librarian Books (A Trust Betrayed)
Tuesday, October 20 Review at Singing Librarian Books (The Fire in the Flint) Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, October 21 Review at Singing Librarian Books (A Cruel Courtship) Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Thursday, October 22 Review at Worth Getting in Bed For (The Fire in the Flint) Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Friday, October 23 Review at A Chick Who Reads (A Trust Betrayed) Review at History From a Woman's Perspective (A Trust Betrayed) Spotlight at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf


To win one of three (3) Sets of A TRUST BETRAYED and THE FIRE IN THE FLINT in eBook, enter using the Rafflecopter Widget below. Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open internationally. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

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