Good morning everyone! It is not often that I have the opportunity to interview an author for a second time, but I had the pleasure of doing just that with Nicole Evelina. I had previously hosted her as part of a blog tour for her novel Madame Presidentess, a novel of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States (you can read that interview here). Today I have the opportunity to welcome her back as part of my interview of authors whose works have been awarded a BRAG Medallion for her book, Camelot’s Queen. I hope you enjoy the interview and check out the series; I find Camelot extremely exciting!
Heather: Good morning Nicole! Thank you for stopping by The Maiden’s Court again. It was a pleasure to have you here in 2016 for your release of Madame Presidentess (which won a BRAG Medallion) and this time for Camelot’s Queen. Can you tell me how you discovered IndieBRAG?
Nicole Evelina: I don’t remember for sure. I know I came across it when I was planning the marketing plan for my debut novel, Daughter of Destiny. I may have found it through a Google search for opportunities for indie authors, or it may have come through following Helen Hollick and Anna Belfrage on Twitter. Both have been huge advocates for IndieBRAG for quite some time.
H: What drew you to writing about the world of Camelot? It is a very different world from 19th century United States!
NE: Camelot and its king and queen have been with me since I was little. Guinevere was one of my heroes growing up, just like Cinderella and Snow White are to many girls. I read The Mists of Avalon when I was a freshman in college and though it was fantastic – it changed my life in many ways – I hated Marion Zimmer Bradley’s portrayal of Guinevere. That made me seek out everything about Guinevere that I could. But no matter how much I read, I couldn’t find the Guinevere that I imagined; so I wrote her. In 1999, it started as a hobby, but obviously it’s grown into more since then.
H: I think a lot of us have that same sort of idea, that a character doesn’t always fit our need or expectation. It’s wonderful that you took that opportunity to craft her as you see her in your mind.
Camelot’s Queen is book 2 in the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy. What can you tell us about this series?
NE: The Guinevere’s Tale series is Guinevere telling her life story. She knows that history has painted her a harlot who brought down a kingdom; this is her attempt to set the record straight. As she says in the prologue to Daughter of Destiny: “I deserve to be able to bear witness before being condemned by men who never saw my face. Grieve with me, grieve for me, but do not believe the lies which time would sell. All I ask is that mankind listen to my words, and then judge me on their merit.”
The first book, Daughter of Destiny, takes on her early life before she’s married to Arthur. My Guinevere is a warrior and a priestess of Avalon who has the sight. Her age-old rivalry with Morgan begins in Avalon, long before the king enters their lives. Young Guinevere is in love with someone else (not Lancelot) and has no thought of ever being queen. Little does she know what fate has in store…
The second book, Camelot’s Queen, sees Guinevere dealing with a fate she neither anticipated nor desired, one that involves the betrayal of many relationships she established early on in life. As the tagline says, “history remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first.” The nature of his transgression here is slightly different than in other versions of the story, and it is the catalyst that leads to Guinevere’s infamous affair and its tragic aftermath.
The final book, Mistress of Legend (which is due out by the end of this year) covers the fall of Camelot and Guinevere’s life after Arthur’s death. She does not end her days in a convent in this version of the story. Rather, Guinevere heads north into her mother’s homeland (in what is today southern Scotland), only to discover how hard it is to escape her political life. The country is changing, and before she knows it, she’s swept up in the clash between the old world and the new as the balance of power changes and history declares a new victor who will rule Britain for the next 600 years.
H: That sounds like an awesome story arc. I have only read a little bit about Camelot and never made it toward the end so that would be all new material to me!
Guinevere has been written from many different angles; what is the woman like that you present in this series?
NE: Guinevere is a strong, intelligent, self-sufficient woman who can not only run a country, but lead her people in battle as well. I chose to portray her this way for a few reasons. First, the Celts were known for their liberated views on women; women had the most rights in their society than in any other of the time, being allowed to own and inherit land, sue in court, and obtain a divorce, among other things. Their women were also known to fight in battle, though perhaps not quite as late in time as I have portrayed. I wanted my Guinevere to benefit from all those rights, even though the world which granted them was on the verge of extinction by the time she would have lived. I solved that problem by making her mother a member of one of the tribes that lived between the Picts of northern Scotland and the sub-Roman Britons in England, in a world that still remembered and revered the old ways. Because of this, Guinevere’s mother passes down the Celtic belief that women are equal to men even though she lives in a time that mostly followed the Roman idea of female inferiority.
Second, I realized that the character of Guinevere has evolved to meet the needs of the people reading about her. Modern women need strong role models to look up to and that is what I wanted Guinevere to be. She’s Arthur’s equal in all things – advising him on diplomacy and in domestic rulings, as well as on battle strategy. She was raised to be a queen; she just didn’t anticipate being named High Queen. Between her intelligence, training and gift of second sight, she is everything Arthur could have ever asked for, only she isn’t who he imagined spending his life with either. Therein lies the crux of their issues.
I made Guinevere a priestess – something most other authors only do with Morgan – as a spiritual expression of her power. If you look at the history of Arthurian legend, there is absolutely no reason why Guinevere can’t be a priestess as well, outside of her not being in this role traditionally. Priestesses (also cast as witches in literature) are traditionally independent, which is one of the reasons why they are also a threat. Even with an open-minded king, Guinevere will come to see that not everyone in her world is comfortable with a woman who can do things they cannot, and that will have dire consequences, especially because she lives in an age in which the old religion of the Druids is quickly being overtaken by Christianity.
H: Guinevere sounds very multi-faceted here. I have always found the interplay of pagan/local religions clashing against Christianity to be such a fascinating subject because there is just so much story there.
We discussed previously the amount of research that went into Madame Presidentess, which was extensive. The mythos of Camelot doesn’t offer the same type of sources to draw from. What sort of research did you put into Guinevere’s Tale?
NE: About 15 years and 100 books worth. We may not have the same types of detailed sources as we do for later time periods, but there is still a wealth of information to study. I looked at the history of the legend in literature, especially as it pertains to Guinevere (a subject I am currently writing a non-fiction book about), and the history and culture of the pre- and post-Roman Celts, including their religion, law, food, politics, etc. A complete listing of sources for the each book can be found on my website: https://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/guineveres-tale/daughter-of-destiny-book-1/guinevere-trilogy/. To me, the time period and the people are fascinating.
In addition to book research, I took two trips to England – one an Arthurian Legends tour – to see the places in my books. On the tour, I had the good fortune to be able to speak at length with historian and Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ashe and Glastonbury/Avalon expert Jaime George, both of whom helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon. In addition to giving me their opinions on the legend and what could possibly have historically happened, it was beneficial to hear how they had advised Mrs. Bradley and what she didn’t listen to them on.
H: Oh that Arthurian tour sounds fascinating and it’s so awesome that you had access to such wonderful resource people!
What drew you to the choice of independent publishing? Has there been anything more or less challenging than you anticipated?
NE: It began as a matter of timing. I had just parted ways (amicably) with my agent when I finished what would become my fourth book, Madame Presidentess. Because it is biographical historical fiction about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman who ran for president of the United States (in 1872), I wanted to make sure it was published before the 2016 election. It wasn’t certain yet that Hillary Clinton would get the nomination, but I had a feeling she would. I was running out of time to get it published traditionally, so I decided to do it on my own because I knew I could do it faster. While I was at it, I published the other three books I had sitting on the shelf as well, two of which were the first two Guinevere novels.
As I learned more, I found I liked the control indie publishing gives me over all aspects of my career, from my book cover and marketing to setting my own publication schedule. The hardest thing has been marketing and discoverability. With thousands of books being published every day, it’s difficult to stand out from the pack, especially when you don’t have the backing of a major publishing house. It’s also expensive and marketing can take time away from writing. But I still think this was the right way for me to go. I am certainly not opposed to possibly publishing traditionally in the future, but being an indie has made me very happy so far.
Nicole Evelina is a multi-award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Madame Presidentess, a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female Presidential candidate, was awarded the prestigious B.R.A.G Medallion and was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Reader’s Favorite Awards, and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Its sequel, Camelot’s Queen, was awarded the prestigious B.R.A.G Medallion and is currently a finalist in the Ozma Awards for mythological fantasy. Been Searching for You, her contemporary romantic comedy, won the 2016 Colorado Independent Publishers Association Award for Romance, the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests, was a finalist in the chick-lit category of the Readers Favorite Awards and is currently a finalist in the Chatelaine Awards for romantic fiction.
She’s currently working on her first non-fiction book, which traces the evolution of the character of Guinevere in Arthurian legend from her Celtic roots to the present day. After that, she will be working on Mistress of Legend, the final book in her Guinevere’s Tale trilogy.
History remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first.
Forced into a marriage she neither anticipated nor desired, Guinevere finds herself High Queen, ruling and fighting alongside Arthur as they try to subdue the Saxons, Irish and Picts who threaten Britain from every direction. Though her heart still longs for her lost love, Guinevere slowly grows to care for her husband as they join together to defeat their enemies.
Meanwhile, within the walls of Camelot their closest allies plot against them. One schemes to make Guinevere his own, another seeks revenge for past transgressions, while a third fixes her eyes on the throne. When the unthinkable happens and Guinevere is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections toward her, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and eventually driving her into the arms of her champion.
Amid this tension a new challenge arises for the king and queen of Camelot: finding the Holy Grail, a sacred relic that promises lasting unity. But peace, as they will soon learn, can be just as dangerous as war. As the court begins to turn on itself, it becomes clear that the quest that was to be Arthur’s lasting legacy may end in the burning fires of condemnation.
This highly anticipated sequel to Daughter of Destiny proves there is much more to Guinevere’s story than her marriage and an affair. See the legend you think you know through her eyes and live the adventure of Camelot’s golden days yourself – but prepared to suffer its downfall as well.
A Message from IndieBRAG:
We are delighted that Heather has chosen to interview Nicole Evelina. who is the author of, Camelot’s Queen, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Camelot’s Queen, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.