9 September 2012

Patricia Bracewell ...

Today's HNS Conference Guest

Patricia Bracewell holds a lifelong fascination with British history and a chance, on-line reference to an unfamiliar English queen led to years of research and the penning of her debut novel Shadow on the Crown. 

I want to thank Helen for inviting me to take part in this celebration of the HNS 2012 Conference.
It’s quite possible that by the time anyone reads this I will already be in London, standing in front of a mirror in my rental flat, rehearsing my spiel for my September 30 conference presentation with Jenny Barden: Making the Breakthrough.

I will be speaking about my debut novel, Shadow on the Crown, scheduled for release in 2013. The book is about Emma of Normandy, a queen with whom Helen Hollick is intimately familiar.

Helen’s book about Emma, The Forever Queen (UK title is A Hollow Crown) was released in the U.S. in 2010 just when my manuscript of Shadow was bouncing around publishing houses in New York.

Imagine my response. 
No, wait, I’ll tell you: 

I. Was. Devastated. 
I thought, “Well, that’s it then. No publisher will take me on now.”

My agent, though, disagreed. She never gave up on the book or on me, and a year later we had two publishing offers to choose from. And as Helen has graciously commented, it’s wonderful that Emma of Normandy is getting more attention. 

So, how does a woman like me – born, raised and rooted in California – become a writer of historical fiction set in 11th century England? I think it must have started with the very first book that I read all by myself: Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. When I look back on my childhood, most of the books that I read and loved were set in a Britain that must have been imaginary, but was real to me. At about age ten I was given a picture book of Shakespeare’s plays, with fairies cavorting in the Forest of Arden and the witches from Macbeth brewing up trouble on the moor. Well, you can just imagine what that led to: a couple of university degrees in English Literature and all the required reading that went with it, from Beowulf to the Bront√ęs and beyond.

So for me England has always been a magical place of moors, ancient forests, and gothic castles; of Peter Pan, fairies and little girls named Alice; of kings, princesses and knights; of a past that never existed, yet somehow was part of the collective memory of the English speaking world. Of course I would want to write about it! I still think it is that magical place – perhaps because I do not live there and don’t have to slog through rain to get to Tesco or figure out how to drive on the left side of the road. Nevertheless, I have been a visitor to England many times, and I will always love it, both the real place and the imagined one. I can never return often enough, and I hope to be visiting again next year about the time that Shadow is released in the U.K.

Patricia at the annual Battle of Hastings re-enactment

Patricia's  Banquet Guests

Now, about that lovely dinner party:
I think it would have to be a hen party with lots of secret-sharing; and who has more secrets than royal women? So my royal guests would be :

Emma of Normandy (of course)

Eleanor of Aquitaine
(H.H. sorry I couldn't resist the
wonderful Katharine Hepburn
in her role as Eleanor )
Anne Boleyn

Elizabeth I

 and Princess Diana

 all of whom have secrets I would love to coax from them. 

My next four guests would be brilliant novelists whom I’ve chosen because I think they would be especially good at asking all the pertinent questions: 

Alison Weir

Margaret Atwood

Dorothy Dunnett 

Hilary Mantel

As for me, I would be dressed to the nines (beware my hat) 
and off to one side, furiously taking notes! 

Thank you, Patricia - and I am delighted that someone else is also writing about Queen Emma - she deserves to have many novels written about her! (I might change my mind when I discover that your book is much better than mine! LOL)

Read more about Patricia and her debut novel, Shadow on the Crown,
 at her  website


  1. I too feel that way about England! I love the Guests you chose I would have the same except switch out a couple of the Authors! Lovely Article...

  2. All women at your table. Charming! I imagine that would make a difference in the conversation and willingness to share more intimate details from their lives? I too enoyed your choices, Patricia.

  3. Fantastic post! You've captured my feelings about England too. Some places in the world just feel right, and for me, England is definitely one of them!

    1. It's not all that far from Norway, is it Julie?

  4. Thank you again, Helen! Love the photos, especially Ms. Hepburn as Eleanor.

  5. LOvely post, Patricia. I'd love to be a mouse in the corner for that dinner party! Fabulous photo of you.

    1. Thank you, Arletta. Any mouse would get lots of delightful crumbs, I'm thinking.

  6. I feel exactly the same way about England, Patricia, though I'm currently writing Third Crusade, Acre, 1191. I'd invite Queen Berengaria to your table! I'm looking forward to Shadow of the Crown--I'm not as familiar with that era but cannot wait to learn more!

    1. Thank you, Char. I'll have to learn more about Queen Berengaria!

  7. Stunning hat, gloves, and pearls! Will all the woman at the table please raise their glasses to Patricia. Well done my dear. Can't wait to get my hands on your breakthrought novel.

  8. I echo that Lorene! Thank you everyone who has taken the trouble to leave a comment - very much appreciated!


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