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Monday, September 11, 2017

Interview with Mercedes Rochelle

Good morning everyone!  I have the pleasure of welcoming BRAG Medallion recipient, author Mercedes Rochelle, to the blog today.  Her book, The Sons of Godwine, is a novel set in the years of Saxon England leading up to the Norman Conquest.  I can’t wait to share about this book with you.

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Heather: Hi Mercedes! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court.  Can we get started today by first telling me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Mercedes Rochelle: Hi Heather. Thanks so much for having me! I kept seeing the IndieBRAG medallion gracing the cover of my favorite books on social media. Once I investigated further, I saw how invaluable the service was to indie authors like myself.

H: Could you give our readers an idea of what your book is about?

MR: Although most history buffs know who Harold the last Anglo-Saxon king was (the good guy versus the bad guy William the Bastard), little is known about the rest of his family. The sons of Godwine don't understand their father all that well, and at times they don't really understand each other. The younger sons are mostly in awe of their big brother, but not Tostig. Harold would have been surprised by Tostig's resentment, if he had ever given his brother a second thought. And that was the problem. I'm telling their stories in first person, for I think an insider's perspective is the best way to understand just why things started to go so wrong.

H: Ah, an insider’s view! That can be an enjoyable change of pace in a story oftentimes.

The Sons of Godwine is book 2 in a series about the Godwine family, The Last Great Saxon Earls. What can you tell us about this series?

MR: Godwine Kingmaker, the first book in my trilogy (The Last Great Saxon Earls) is about the rise and fall of Earl Godwine, without whom there would be no King Harold II. But for books two and three, I had another purpose: historically, Queen Editha originally commissioned a work to memorialize the deeds of her family. But historians tell us that after the Conquest she abandoned this project and changed it to a life of Edward the Confessor. In The Sons of Godwine and Fatal Rivalry, I am telling the chronicle as it might have survived had she collected and passed on the memoirs of her tragic brothers. Book two takes us up to 1064, and we watch Godwine's sons come of age. We see the emergence of Tostig's love/hate relationship with his brother that would eventuallly destroy everything they worked for, leaving the country open to foreign conquest. Book three covers the last two disastrous years before 1066; but that's not all. There's one son left: Wulfnoth, hostage in Normandy, who finishes the compilation and tells us what happened—with his limited knowledge—after William invaded England. After all, Wulfnoth lived until 1094. Their story didn't end at the Battle of Hastings!

H: Your last statement is so true! Many tend to end their stories at the start of or just after the invasion and don’t tell what happened next, although that is quite fascinating too.

The part of English history focusing on the Saxons and the subsequent Norman invasion is one of my FAVORITE time periods to read about and in my opinion it is a period underserved by novels! What is it that drew you to this period to write about?

MR: Ironically, it was Shakespeare's Macbeth that sparked my interest. I called my first novel, Heir to a Prophecy, a sequel to Macbeth; for Banquo's grandson Walter participated in all the major events surrounding the Norman invasion before fulfilling his destiny at the court of Malcolm III. Once I unlocked that door, I had to know more!

H: Macbeth is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays so I love that it started out your inspiration for your series.

Did you do a lot of research before writing your Godwine series?  What type of research?

MR: I took a 20-year hiatus between my research and publication of my first novel—mostly because I was too thin-skinned to deal with a bad experience I had with an agent. So my most intense research took place before the internet, when I could only use the books I could find in my local library. What a huge difference between those days and now! It's one of the reasons I moved from St. Louis to New York: access to the New York Public Library (and the most fun I ever had). Once I stumbled across Edward A. Freeman and his exhaustive "History of the Norman Conquest of England" I knew I had found what I needed (I purchased a set in England). Fast forward to today, and even the internet can't supplant his incredible research, although newer sources certainly call some of his assumptions into question.

H: I think I actually read a portion of Freeman’s work for a research project while working on my Masters degree. It is quite extensive!

There is always something fun that you spend time researching, but for whatever reason doesn’t make the cut into the book. Do you have such an example you would like to share with us?

MR: In The Sons of Godwine I found it interesting to cast Edith Swanneck as a rich widow (rather than a rich daughter), but she had to wait for one year after her husband's death before she could marry. This came from the most amazing set of laws written by Canute. The ordinance in question referred to Heriot (kind of a death tax): "And let every widow continue husbandless a twelvementh...and if she, within the space of a year, choose a husband, then let her forfeit her 'morgengyfu (morning-gift) and all the possessions which she had through the first husband." This is just one intriguing law in this famous code, but I just couldn't work it into the novels.

H: I can see why it certainly would have been beneficial to someone wealthy to wait out that 12 months!

You mentioned in our discussion before this interview, that the first book in the series, Godwine Kingmaker, was traditionally published in the UK and then you chose independent publishing from that point. Can you tell us what led to that choice? Have you found anything more easy or difficult in terms of independent publishing?

MR: My UK publisher is one of those new breeds known as a hybrid publisher, kind of a cross between traditional and cooperative publishing. The more lucrative an author, the more they are willing to take on the whole expense. I fell somewhere in the middle, but I felt like I was doing the lion's share of the marketing anyway, and I had absolutely no control of pricing, discounts, or promotions (forget about giveaways). My publisher tells me they have no control over Amazon's pricing structure, and I believe their higher prices have hindered sales in this competitive market. So I decided to go indie. I have good computer skills (a must for indies, I think) so I'm very hands-on with my own book production. Create Space has been easy to work with and they put out a good product. What I love is the ability to manage my own promotions. I'm not sitting back hopelessly and waiting for something to happen.

H: I can imagine that the ability to have more control over your work is something I would find beneficial too.

Let’s get to know you a little bit here with these next questions. When you are not reading for research, what type of books or what authors do you enjoy reading?

MR: I hate to admit it, but I rarely venture out of the historical fiction field. I attempt to review every book I can finish, and these seem to be the only books I find interesting all the way to the end. I like to read for information, so romances and fantasies all start to look the same to me.

H: Your answer almost sounds like it could have come out of my mouth!

What type of things do you like to do for leisure?

MR: I love gardening. Between that, my writing and my day work, I don't have much time for anything else!

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Born and raised in St. Louis MO, Mercedes Rochelle graduated with a BA in Literature from University of Missouri. She learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation.  She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

Find Mercedes Rochelle: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

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Book Blurb:

Emerging from the long shadow cast by his formidable father, Harold Godwineson showed himself to be a worthy successor to the Earldom of Wessex. In the following twelve years, he became the King's most trusted advisor, practically taking the reins of government into his own hands. And on Edward the Confessor's death, Harold Godwineson mounted the throne—the first king of England not of royal blood. Yet Harold was only a man, and his rise in fortune was not blameless. Like any person aspiring to power, he made choices he wasn't particularly proud of. Unfortunately, those closest to him sometimes paid the price of his fame.

This is a story of Godwine's family as told from the viewpoint of Harold and his younger brothers. Queen Editha, known for her Vita Ædwardi Regis, originally commissioned a work to memorialize the deeds of her family, but after the Conquest historians tell us she abandoned this project and concentrated on her husband, the less dangerous subject. In THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY, I am telling the story as it might have survived had she collected and passed on the memoirs of her tragic brothers.

This book is part two of The Last Great Saxon Earls series. Book one, GODWINE KINGMAKER, depicted the rise and fall of the first Earl of Wessex who came to power under Canute and rose to preeminence at the beginning of Edward the Confessor's reign. Unfortunately, Godwine's misguided efforts to champion his eldest son Swegn recoiled on the whole family, contributing to their outlawry and Queen Editha's disgrace. Their exile only lasted one year and they returned victorious to London, though it was obvious that Harold's career was just beginning as his father's journey was coming to an end.

Harold's siblings were all overshadowed by their famous brother; in their memoirs we see remarks tinged sometimes with admiration, sometimes with skepticism, and in Tostig's case, with jealousy. We see a Harold who is ambitious, self-assured, sometimes egocentric, imperfect, yet heroic. His own story is all about Harold, but his brothers see things a little differently. Throughout, their observations are purely subjective, and witnessing events through their eyes gives us an insider’s perspective.

Harold was his mother's favorite, confident enough to rise above petty sibling rivalry but Tostig, next in line, was not so lucky. Harold would have been surprised by Tostig's vindictiveness, if he had ever given his brother a second thought. And that was the problem. Tostig's love/hate relationship with Harold would eventually destroy everything they worked for, leaving the country open to foreign conquest. This subplot comes to a crisis in book three of the series, FATAL RIVALRY.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia


A Message from IndieBRAG:

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We are delighted that Heather has chosen to interview Mercedes Rochelle. who is the author of, The Sons of Godwine, 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, The Sons of Godwine, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

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