Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Author Interview: Susan Higginbotham

Listen to the interview here!

Tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I’ve been writing for years, off and on, but I never tried writing historical fiction until I re-read Christopher Marlowe’s play Edward the Second online and became fascinated by the historical background to the play. I began researching the reign of Edward II, and when I stumbled across the story of his niece, Eleanor de Clare, I knew I had to tell her story. Her story became my novel, The Traitor’s Wife, and her eldest son’s story became my second novel, Hugh and Bess: A Love Story. I’m now working on a novel set during the Wars of the Roses.

Tell me about the story that you've created a soundtrack/playlist for.
The Traitor’s Wife, set in fourteenth-century England, follows the dramatic changes in fortune of Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of the ill-fated Edward II and the wife of Hugh le Despenser, who’s believed by many to have been Edward II’s lover. Eleanor at various times in her life was a lady in waiting to Edward II’s queen, the wife of the most powerful (and most hated) man in England, a prisoner in the Tower of London, an accused thief, and the subject of litigation between two men who each claimed to be her husband.

What is your playlist?
Bedrich Smetana, “The Moldau,” from Ma Vlast. This piece is a musical depiction of a river, and it reminds me of Eleanor’s uncle Edward II, who enjoyed rowing and swimming at a time when both pastimes were considered far beneath the nobility.

Carl Orff's “Oh, Fortuna,” from Carmina Burana. The terrible scene where Eleanor’s first husband is executed always takes place to this piece in my head.

Edward William Elgar, Enigma Variation No.9: Adagio (Nimrod). A lovely piece of music that I associate with my novel, though I can’t really explain why.

Bruce Springsteen, “Rosalita” —for the scene where Eleanor elopes with her second husband.

Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing in the Dark.” This was a long novel, and I love the line in this song: “I’m sick of sitting 'round here trying to write this book.”

There are others, but I would have to hear them on the radio to remember them. I should steal my daughter’s iPod.

What does music mean to you? To your writing?
I enjoy music a great deal, from rock to classical to truly awful pop, though I can’t say it has had a profound effect on me or my writing. It’s just something I like to have with me and that I would miss terribly if it wasn’t around.

What kind of music do you like to write to?
I don’t listen to music when I write fiction—I find that it negatively affects my concentration. Strangely, my day job with a legal publisher involves writing too, but there’s no creativity involved, so I don’t find the classical music I have in the background distracting. But with fiction, the only sound is my computer keys tapping.

If this story was made into a movie, who would you want to do the soundtrack?
That’s a very hard question for me to answer, because with the exception of Marie Antoinette, most of the movies I’ve seen in the last few years have been comedies. Adrian Johnston did the soundtrack for the BBC miniseries “Our Mutual Friend” about a decade ago, which I really liked, and Patrick Doyle has done the soundtrack for a number of films I’ve enjoyed. But I had to go to the Internet Movie Database to get their names—I’m not at all au courant on these matters.

To learn more about Susan, visit her website.

Next week, I interview author Jason Erik Lundberg.

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