Mastodon The Writing Desk: Guest Interview With Kelcey Wilson-Lee, Author of Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Children of Edward I

23 April 2019

Guest Interview With Kelcey Wilson-Lee, Author of Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Children of Edward I

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome Kelcey Wilson-Lee to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Daughters of Chivalry tells the forgotten life stories of the five daughters of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile - Eleanora, Joanna, Margaret, Mary, and Elizabeth. These women travelled extensively and independently from early ages, managed large estates and commanded castle garrisons, undertook diplomatic and trade missions, and promoted England's cultural and military might throughout Europe. They were utterly unlike the powerless princesses familiar from fairy tales, and their lives help to shatter many of the myths that continue to surround understandings of the opportunities open to and constraints upon medieval noblewomen.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I work full-time (as a major gifts fundraiser at the University of Cambridge), and also have two small children, so I research, plan and write whenever I can. Because it's hard to find consecutive hours to really sit down and write, I sketch the narrative progression of each chapter extensively, bundling together the notes and key sources I'll use along with any major interpretive angle I want to feature. This means that by the time I am writing you can pretty much plow through a first draft even on those days when the words aren't flowing smoothly - which is a necessity when you have little time to write and a fixed deadline!

What advice do you have for new writers?

Find a story that you believe in, one that you feel needs to be told, and be creative in thinking about how to make that story as accessible as possible. If the first idea doesn't work, ask why and then come up with a second idea that better addresses the market.

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

Many underestimate the value of word-of-mouth recommendations - one reader who likes the book and mentions it to friends can set in chain dozens of book purchases that really add up. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads can also do wonders to give potential readers an idea of what a book is really like.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

Given Eleanor of Castile's own exceptional learning, it was not unexpected that her daughters would learn to read (and even to write) in their native Anglo-Norman, and perhaps also in Latin. But much rarer was the tutor who taught some of her grandchildren - including her granddaughter, Margaret de Bohun - to read Greek, a truly exceptional skill for a secular woman in early fourteenth-century England.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

A little over halfway through Daughters of Chivalry, the eldest of the five sisters, Eleanora, dies. We can piece together quite a lot about her from surviving sources: she was a dutiful student of diplomacy, a strong advocate for her father's imperial ambitions, a patient sister and a formidable wife, as well as a lover of almonds with a penchant for dresses with bling. But her death is barely acknowledged in the sources, and no cause is given. It was exceedingly frustrating to have to write such a rounded person being essentially snuffed out without being able to offer any more sense of what her final days were like.

What are you planning to write next?

I am presently sketching an idea for a biography - of only one person this time rather than five! Like Daughters of Chivalry, it will be influenced by art, artefact, spaces, and literature, as well as strict documentary history.

Kelcey Wilson-Lee

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About the Author

Kelcey Wilson-Lee is a historian of medieval Britain, its art and architecture. Following completion of her doctoral research on late-medieval tombs, she has written and lectured on this subject, as well as topics including the development of the country house and the representation of medieval women in positions of power. She is a keen advocate for the preservation and enjoyment of Britain's outstanding surviving heritage. Originally from America, she has lived in the UK since 2003, mostly in Cambridge, where she resides with her husband and two sons. Find out more at Kelcey's website https:/å/ and find her on Twitter @kwilsonlee

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