Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing one of my friends in the blogging world, Arleigh from Historical-Fiction.com. She is a really wonderful person who always has interesting books that she has reviewed as well as other great events on her blog. And she has quite a Plaidy collection - what could be wrong with that. So without further adieu...
1. How long have you been blogging for and what got you started with blogging?
I’ve been blogging since 2004, but did not start a book blog until 2007. My previous blogs were personal blogs and I honestly can’t remember what I had to talk about, except being a young wife and mother or thoughts on graphics and web design. I was really into designing graphics with Paint Shop Pro and making websites for about 5 years, but when I began reading historical fiction and became somewhat obsessive about it, I decided to start a blog. At the time I didn’t even know there was an entire world of book blogs out there. Sadly I didn’t get very many visitors until this year, really. I think the book blogging culture has really expanded recently, plus I have made some amazing friends who send many visitors my way.
2. What was the first book that opened your eyes to the historical fiction genre?
I’ve probably written a dozen times on different articles – Philippa Gregory’s The Queen’s Fool is the book that caused my obsession. I was working at Borders Books and kept admiring the beautiful cover and that is what initially caused me to pick up the book. I was greatly intrigued because what I remembered of Queen Mary from childhood is that old tale that if you look in a mirror at midnight and say ‘Mary, Bloody Mary’ three times, she will appear. The Mary in this novel is so endearing and courageous; I felt I had to do some research to find out how much of the history was true. Seeing the events that were fact come together to make a really good story really enthralled me and I wanted more. I read the rest of Gregory’s Tudor novels, then moved on to Robin Maxwell, and finally my favorite author, Jean Plaidy. I’ve read many authors since, but Jean Plaidy remains my favorite due to her accuracy, characterization and writing style.
3. What are some of the best things/favorite things about blogging?
Connecting with others if definitely the highlight of blogging. Sometimes I post things that are mediocre to me, but other’s find useful or entertaining. You never know who is reading your blog, and I have been surprised by an author visiting many times.
4. Is there a particular area of historical fiction that you enjoy reading about the most?
I was really into the Tudors for a long time, but I’ve been burned out lately. Right now I’m enjoying early medieval fiction, Stuart England, French Revolution and Regency. I’m reading Jean Plaidy’s Plantagenet sage right now and I’m having a hard time putting the books down! I am on book 3, The Heart of the Lion. These are eras that I’ve not read too much about, so I am really enjoying learning about the early kings and queens of England.
5. What is one thing that you are looking forward to/want to do on your blog before the end of the year?
I would love to have more guest posts and author interviews. Those are the most exciting posts to me, because it is bringing professionals into my little hobby and it excites me to no end.
Thanks Arleigh for those great answers to my questions. Now here is her guest post on Eleanor of Aquitaine!
Eleanor of Aquitaine: Mother of a Dynasty
I’ve been reading quite a bit about this lady lately and, as her life was filled with much drama and excitement, she makes the perfect character for historical fiction. Eleanor was the eldest daughter of Duke William X of Aquitaine, who died on pilgrimage to a shrine for the sole reason of expiating his sins and being blessed with a male heir. He did not want to displace Eleanor, but felt it was necessary because he believed, strong-willed though she was, only a man could hold Aquitaine. How wrong he was! He passed away when she was only 15 years old, and as arranged before her father’s death, she married the King of France’s son, Louis the Younger.
Coming from the ‘Courts of Love’ where poetry and song were deeply revered, Eleanor found the French court coarse and none to her liking. Her father-in-law the King, Louis the Fat, died soon after her marriage and she became the Queen of France. She tried to make the courts like those of her duchy, but became bored soon enough. She was a woman of sexual appetites and Louis, who had been destined for the church before his older brother died, did not satisfy her needs. However, while she enjoyed poetry and songs of love, she did realize the need to get an heir for France, and did not stray from her husband’s bed. There were many childless years before their first child, a daughter, came along. By this time Eleanor had grown very domineering and had led her husband to wars he did not want to fight, one of which occasioned the burning of a church with many innocent people inside. He therefore felt a great need to take the cross and go on crusade to Jerusalem, which basically wiped out all past sins.
Eleanor treated the crusade like a great adventure. She brought many ladies and their gowns, jewels and comforts, which slowed the party down considerably. There were many mishaps on the way, and once they made it as far as Antioch, they decided to take respite with Eleanor’s uncle Raymond, who was the Prince of Antioch through his marriage.
Eleanor scandalously found herself smitten with her uncle and started an affair. She also allegedly had a fling with the Muslim Saladin, who visited Raymond’s court on a temporary truce. This was known to Louis, and though he was very disappointed, he loved her still and forced her to move on to their goal of Jerusalem. After they finally made it to Jerusalem, and stayed yet another year, they were ready to head home. Eleanor was very distant from Louis, nursing the wounds of being taken away from her lovers. They were to take ships home, and Eleanor would not travel on the same one as Louis. They both had a troublesome time; Eleanor’s ship was tossed and turned and landed at the wrong port, while Louis was captured and released. They both finally met in Italy where the Pope had a talk with them and actually put them in the marriage bed together, that they might make an heir to the throne of France. Soon after they got home Eleanor gave birth to another girl.
It is around this time that she met Henry, 11 years her junior, and was overwhelmed by his powerful personality. Though he was only Duke of Normandy at the time, he had his eyes on England, with a strong claim, as his mother was the old King’s only legitimate heir. King
Stephen, who took her crown, was a cousin. The Pope was afraid to offend a man with so much power, and so the next time he was approached by Eleanor for a divorce he allowed it. After avoiding more than one abduction attempt Eleanor made it back to Aquitaine and summoned Henry. They married and were very happy – for a while.
Over the next 15 years Eleanor gave birth to eight children, five boys and three girls (though once source says there was another son named Philip). Henry was openly promiscuous and this caused many stormy fights between the couple. He kept one affair secret, because he was in love with her – his fair Rosamund. He wanted to protect her from Eleanor’s wrath, so he hid her in a bower in the center of a hedge maze near one of his castles. Eleanor did discover her, however, and this was the breaking point in their marriage. She removed herself to Aquitaine, taking their son Richard, who would become its Duke. She spent the next few years fueling the hate her sons all had for their father. Once open rebellion broke out, Eleanor was captured by Henry and sent to exile in one of his fortress castles in England. There she remained for the next 16 years, until Henry’s death.
Though she was at this time in her late sixties, there was much more to Eleanor’s life. She helped Richard rule, collected his bride from Navarre, and on a separate mission she crossed the mountains to Castile to deliver one of her granddaughters to the French Daphin for marriage. When Richard passed away, she supported her son John over her grandson Arthur, and as a result the castle she was occupying was besieged by Arthur. John came to her rescue and she then retired to Fontevraud Abbey, where she died 4 years later. She was 82 years old.
You can find an amazing giveaway – A signed copy of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, a copy of The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives, and an Anne Boleyn hand mirror over at Arleigh’s blog – hurry though, it ends September 18th!
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