Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Catherine Clover, Author of Queen of Heaven (Maid of Gascony Book 2)

3 January 2022

Special Guest Interview with Catherine Clover, Author of Queen of Heaven (Maid of Gascony Book 2)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The White Tower. A terrible vision. Her home invaded and precious documents stolen.

Lady Isabelle must flee her pursuers, posing as a young male scholar in the New College of St Mary in Oxford. But when she learns she is with child it won’t be long until she is discovered amongst their ranks. Can she bring herself to love an infant conceived in evil? And will she ever be reunited with her beloved Richard, or will Sir Henry Lormont’s dagger find him first?

I'm pleased to welcome author Catherine Clover to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Queen of Heaven is the second book in The Maid of Gascony Series. The story spans the years 1453 - 1457, and takes the reader on a series of adventures as the main character, Lady Isabelle - also known as Isa to her companions - travels across England to sail for Calais and take up the via Francigena en route to Rome. Upon her return to England by ship, she encounters historical figures who will later become known historically as members of the House of Tudor. Throughout the story readers will be reminded of characters and situations that arose in book one, The Templar’s Garden, but Queen of Heaven is written in a style that allows it to also be a stand-alone read.

The main character, Isabelle, is a mystic. She has the power of divine sight that alerts her to people and situations that can be perilous and destructive. In book one, her visions from God assure her that her love - not a physical, bodice-ripping love, but rather an attentive, Christ-like love or caritas - is necessary to help her chaplain survive his ever-deepening mental health illness, today what we would term the onset of bi-polar disorder. But in the Middle Ages it would have been known as a form of madness and it would have certainly caused him to lose his position in the Church and possibly be put to death.

In Queen of Heaven the reader will meet Isa as a young woman. She is no longer an adolescent as she was in The Templar’s Garden. Her voice and character have matured to be those of one who talks and behaves in a more serious and stoic manner. Her petulance and immaturity previously revealed in her statements about love and attraction have been replaced by her articulate, fearless and independent nature. This was not unheard of in this period; one only has to look at women such as Margery Kempe, Christine de Pisan and Joan of Arc for historical examples of women whose characteristics mirror those of Lady Isabelle.

The Templar’s Garden featured a soundtrack called Like as the Hart that I produced and that was recorded by the Choir of New College, Oxford. Queen of Heaven, too, has a soundtrack to accompany the text. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the recording of How Sweet the Rose in April 2020 had to be put on hold. I am hopeful that the recording will be made in the future so readers will have another way of further immersing themselves in the Marian themes that are found throughout the second book.

What is your preferred writing routine?

In non-pandemic times I would find myself carving out large chunks of time to do research which would help to focus my mind on the medieval period while listening to the recordings of the Choir of New College. I like to travel throughout England, Wales and the Continent to visit all the places I talk about in my stories. I find that pattern to be hugely inspiring and helpful. Doing so has then led to writing sessions where I incorporate what I have read and seen into the narrative (and sometimes even people I have met become characters!).

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

My strongest advice is to follow your passion and keep writing as often as you can. But don’t get bogged down in the details. A good editor will help you to iron out your manuscript ahead of publication. And remember, just because you are thinking of something in your mind when writing a scene doesn’t mean your reader will understand it. Be clear. Don’t be afraid of how it will sound to others. It is better to put it down on the page than keep it in the safety of your imagination. As one of my favourite editors, Sally O-J, once advised me when I was shy about the material I was writing and it wasn’t clear to her what I was trying to express, “Get it out of your head and onto the page!” I still live by that mantra today.

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

Queen of Heaven had a blog tour, and I am grateful to those who read and reviewed it. I would love to have the opportunity to engage more with readers by doing virtual and in-person book events. I have a presence across all the socials and love meeting and connecting with other readers and authors on those platforms.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

In Queen of Heaven the reader learns that Margaret Beaufort gives birth to Henry VII at the very young age of 13, having become pregnant at age 12. While this may not be surprising to historical fiction readers given that it was common practice, especially for those of noble birth, it nevertheless sickened me, especially as at the time of writing Queen of Heaven my daughter was the same age as Lady Margaret in my story. I was constantly thinking of the #metoo movement and how wrong I feel it is to pardon these sexual predators from history simply for the sake of the circumstances being historical.

In my research what struck me was how physically tiny Margaret was. In fact, I was disgusted thinking about what Edmund Tudor did to her. Though it is not historically proven, it is possible that a reason she couldn’t conceive (or didn’t want to later) was because of what sexual intercourse with Edmund did to her mentally and physically, as well as what can only be assumed would have been an incredibly painful and risky birthing process. It made me loathe Edmund as a character, much of which came out in the scenes that involve him and his attitude towards Margaret.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

There were several parts of Queen of Heaven that were hard to write, but one of the early scenes that comes to mind is where Lady Isabelle is stripped naked by an angry mob in Lausanne and accused of sorcery. I wrote the entire book as I was faced with personal circumstances that were absolutely horrific. This influenced the nature of the dialogue in that scene, as well as the way in which I described Isa as she managed to keep her wits about her and not let the mob’s abuse destroy her psychologically. Above all, Isa’s faith carried her through the scene. This is one of many situations in Queen of Heaven where Isabelle’s belief in God helps elevate her to a point where she can withstand what is being carried out by others against and around her.

What are you planning to write next?

I have started writing book three in the series called The King’s Treasure. I have two other historical fiction works also in progress. One is set in 20th century Bangkok and involves a famous American silk merchant who mysteriously disappears, his remains never to be discovered and the circumstances of his disappearance thought to be tied to covert espionage, and the other is set in 19th century France and involves the life and loves of a highly successful female artist who worked alongside some of the most famous painters of the Realism movement. She was incredibly avant-garde in her day, never marrying and causing great speculation as she instead took up residence with her best friend, a woman whom she had known since childhood and whose wealth provided them both with financial stability. Their affection for one another helped create the nurturing circumstances for this artist to live and work in the unconventional manner as she did.

Catherine Clover

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About the Author

Catherine’s interest in medieval history began at the age of eight when she was given her first book on medieval knights and castles. From that young age, she was keen to learn more about medieval buildings and the lives of those who lived in and around them. This passion led her to complete her doctoral degree from Trinity College, Oxford, on the fortifications of English Gascony at the end of the Hundred Years War, and subsequently gave root to the creation of The Maid of Gascony series of which The Templar’s Garden and Queen of Heaven are the first two books in the series. Catherine's stories are infused with theology and Divine love, offering readers a rare glimpse of medieval life through the eyes and experiences of a young female mystic. Catherine is also producing a series of choral music albums to feature as the soundtracks to her stories. Like as the Hart, recorded by the Choir of New College, Oxford, under the direction of Robert Quinney, was her first album and it remained in the specialist classical music charts in the UK for 13 weeks after its release. Catherine loves to engage with her readers across the socials. Find out more at Catherine's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @catherinealette

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