Interview with Author Susan Higginbotham

1. When did you first start working on your novel, The Traitor’s Wife?

Probably around mid-2003 or so. It took about two years to write and was first published in 2005.

2. How did you become interested in the medieval period and Edward II? What about Edward II fascinates you?

I came across an online version of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward the Second one day and began re-reading it—I’d first read it years before, in graduate school. This time, for some reason that’s difficult to put a finger on, the history behind it and the relationships involved intrigued me, and I began to read everything I could about Edward II and his reign.

It’s difficult to say what fascinates me about Edward II in particular. I think it’s more the whole story of his reign that fascinates me—the king himself with his odd hobbies and his stubborn devotion to his friends, his ambitious favorites, his vindictive queen and her lover, the inability of all involved to learn from their predecessors’ mistakes. It’s the human comedy, or tragedy if you will, played out over two decades.

3. Describe your daily writing routine. When do you feel you’re most productive?

I have a day job, and my writing nook, if one can dignify it by that name, is in the corner of our kitchen, so I do most of my writing between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. I get some of my best ideas while taking my morning shower, though.

4. What is the most rewarding part, in your opinion, of writing an historical fiction piece?

Having someone become interested in a period or person because of something I’ve written, or even better, seeing someone learn something new because of something I’ve written.

5. I haven’t run across too many medieval historical fiction novels about Edward II. Did you see an opportunity to fill a niche there when you chose Edward II, or have you always had a desire to research and write about him?

Once I began researching Edward II’s reign and came across Eleanor de Clare, I thought she had a great story that begged to be written about, and so I put aside another project I was working on and decided to write her story. If someone had told me a couple of months before I started writing The Traitor’s Wife that I would be writing a novel about Edward II’s reign, I would have said, “Yeah, right.” It was an idea that really just took hold of me.

6. What have you enjoyed the most about the process? The least?

There are so many things I’ve enjoyed—the actual writing, the great feeling of smelling that new-book scent when it’s your own novel, the people I’ve met along the way. Probably what I enjoyed least was trying to get the original self-published edition into brick-and-mortar bookstores—I knew it would be an uphill battle, and it was.

7. What all was involved in finding the right agent/publisher to represent your work?

I self-published The Traitor’s Wife originally. I’m in my forties, and I just didn’t have the patience to find an agent, then sit around and chew my nails while waiting to hear from a publisher. About the same time I finished the novel, I read a couple of articles about self-publishing, and I thought I would try it and see where it led to. It sold fairly well for a self-published book, and Sourcebooks contacted me back in 2008 and asked if I was interested in having them republish it.

8. What methods do you use to self-market and promote your novel? How much are you involved in marketing along with your publisher?

I have a website with a lot of information about Edward II and his reign, which draws potential readers in, and I post regularly at my blog, Medieval Woman. I’ve also used the Listmanias on Amazon, Search Inside the Book, Google ads, Squidoo, the social networking sites—you name it! I’ve recently begun Twittering.

9. What advice would you give to other aspiring novelists of historical fiction?

Find a period or a person you really enjoy reading about, and write about it. Don’t worry too much about market trends—if you’re passionate about your subject and can communicate that to the reader, there’s bound to be an audience for your book.

10. What other interests do you have besides the medieval historical period of Edward II?

I like reading about English history from the Plantagenets through the nineteenth century. I also enjoy traveling, wandering around old graveyards, and collecting Barbie dolls—mostly the vintage ones from the 1960’s.

11.  What projects are you planning to work on next?

I’m working on a novel set during the Wars of the Roses featuring Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and his wife, Katherine Woodville, youngest sister to Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Most recent novels dealing with this period have told the story through the point of view of Richard III or someone close to him, so this should be an interesting change for readers.

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