14 December 2017

Special Guest Interview with Author Kyra Kramer

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Fans of Jane Austen will recognise the players and the setting - Mansfield Park has been telling the story of Fanny Price and her happily ever after for more than 200 years. But behind the scenes of Mansfield Park, there's another story to be told.

Today I would like to welcome author Kyra Kramer:

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is actually my first work of fiction. You would think it would be a historical novel set in the Tudor era, or anthropological fiction, since those are my fields of expertise, but no -- it is a retelling of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park from the point of view of the antagonist, Mary Crawford. I titled it Mansfield Parsonage, since that is locale of MY heroine for the story, in contrast to saintly Fanny Price at the Park. I had been an Austen fan since secondary school, and it has always bugged me that Mary Crawford was treated so badly by the protagonists of Mansfield Park for the "crime" of wanting to save the hero's sister from ruin. The indignation over such injustice apparently stewed in the back of my brain until my frontal lobes had no choice but to write a retelling and defend Mary Crawford. 

What is your preferred writing routine?

What is this "routine" of which you speak?  In all seriousness, I am a mother with three daughters ages 12, 10, and 7 so I write when I can, in between the duties of adulthood and parenting. I am just grateful that my husband is the primary breadwinner, or I'd get no writing done at all. The uncertainty of my writing schedule is perhaps why nonfiction is my go-to type of composition; it is easier to jump back into the flow of facts. 

Added to that, I have Asperger's syndrome and simply adore facts in general. They are a delight to me, in most cases. I also like to find patterns, or connections, between non-related fields. For example, I often look at history through the lens of medical anthropology, and think things like, "But why did the Henry's doctors feed him rhubarb to treat his constipation rather than prunes?" Then I go down a research rabbit hole regarding the use of rhubarb as a laxative in 16th century England.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Join the military and learn to defuse bombs instead; it pays better and is less stressful. However, you probably still won't be able to escape becoming a writer. Like any other form of art, it will make you its addict and devotee without care for your peace of mind or other plans.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

With Asperger's syndrome, I am the worst marketer in the history of the world. The best thing for me so far has been the kindness (nay, mercy!) of my fellow authors who invited me onto their blogs and have reviewed my books and given me advice and helped me understand how to market my work. It was other authors who coaxed me onto Twitter and other forms of social media to help me spread the good word about my books, both fiction and nonfiction. I really should get an agent to help me, but the same Asperger's that makes me a pitiful promoter also makes me an abysmally bad pitch writer so I live in dread and fear of having to compose a query letter. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The oddest, most unexpected thing for me has been the strange correlations between modern medical research and humoural medical theory. The medical theory du jour, right up until the revolution of the germ theory in the Victorian era, was that everything was made up of four elements: air, earth, water, fire. Each of those elements made a different type of humour, or fluid, in the body. 

Air made blood, earth made black bile, water madephlegm, and fire made yellow bile. You tried to keep those humours in perfect balance to stay healthy, and they could be balanced by the things did as well as the things you consumed. Prone to depression? Well, eat some gingerbread or spicy foods and listen to some jokes and walk in the sunshine to get dry up that melancholy with things rich in the element of fire! Too hot tempered? Eat some fish and pray and calm yourself with the stuff that increased the cold and watery humour in your body. 

Nowadays, we're discovering that although the theory was wrong the practice was smart in many cases. The microbiotia in the human gut controls not only general health, but mental states and moods as well, so food often IS the best medicine. Things thought to provoke heat, like ginger or cinnamon, actually do work as vasodilators that warm your extremities. Sunshine produces vitamin D, which is crucial for producing serotonin in the brain to prevent depression, as well as keeping your immune system working. The oily fish you were supposed to eat during lent, during the dark and the cold? Best source of vitamin D you couldn't get through week northern sunlight in late winter or early spring. Oranges help to fight a cold? Why, yes they do! 

To me, finding a connection between medical practices past and present and possibly future is fascinating.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The scene that took the most emotional toil was when I wrote Mary Crawford's reaction to EdmundBertram's condemnation of her. Mary had been very naughty -- she had come up with a way to save Edmund sister from being ruined forever. How very dare she! Edmund was aghast that Mary didn't understand that his sister, vile sinner that she was, needed to be punished and ostracised for her transgressions. He let Mary know her plans to try to save his sister were a sign of her OWN moral failings.  Mary didn't take this rebuke from her love well. 

I had to pull up all the anguish and confusion I thought Mary would experience, and the bewilderment, and the hurt, and then finally the rage that he would speak to her like SHE was a trollop just because she offered to help his soon-to-be-divorced sister. Trying to explain all those emotions in a way that allowed the reader to feel them, and to evoke how upsetting a break up can be so the reader could empathise with Mary, was the mental and authorial equivalent of being dragged backwards through a hawthorn hedge. I was raw at the end of it. It is, however, the scene that has gotten the most literary praise, so it was worth it.

What are you planning to write next?

Ideally, it would be the sequel to Mansfield Parsonage. I want Mary to go on and get her happily ever after now. I know the general plot outline, but writing the story is stymied by life at the moment. Too much to do and not enough time to do it in! I need a chunk of uninterrupted writing time to get into the groove of my narrative, and my day is broken into pieces right now because there are lots of grownup things I must also accomplish. I need someone to adult for me. Preferably an adultier adult than I am.

Kyra Kramer

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About the Author

Kyra Cornelius Kramer is an American anthropologist living in south Wales best known for her work on Tudor history. Her first historical novel, Mansfield Parsonage, a retelling of Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park from the point of view of Mary Crawford, was released earlier this year. You can read her blog at kyrackramer.com, follow her on Twitter @KyraKramer, or like her Facebook author page.

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