Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Interview with Mary Sharratt Author of Daughters of the Witching Hill

Author Mary Sharratt gave me an interview a few days ago.

She' the author of the featured novel of the month at B&N.com General Fiction Book club

join us for the conversation here


Here's the interview

Debbie - I know your bio says that you’re an American Writer living in England, can you tell us what took you to England in the first place and what keeps you there.

Mary - My husband and I were living in California when he husband accepted a job offer based in Greater Manchester, so that's what brought us over. We ended up living in the countryside and are now both self-employed. The landscape here is very beautiful, magical, and inspiring, so that's a big part of what keeps us here. We also put down roots by buying a house and acquiring a horse.

When you write historically accurate fiction does it sometimes feel like you’re writing non-fiction and do you feel that to write historical fiction that it’s necessary to make it accurate.

M-I believe that all good historical fiction draws on extensive research into historical fact. The reader should be able to trust that the author has done all the right research and is telling them the truth about history, insomuch as the fictional format allows one to. If I do take liberties, I say so in the Afterword. I spent about a year researching and trying to understand the story in history before I started writing the novel. The research involved reading, traveling to all the places mentioned in the historical trial, and doing university courses on late medieval belief and superstition, the Reformation, and how resistance to religious reform impacted social history in Northern England.

D-From looking at your previous work it looks as though you prefer writing historical fiction, is this true and if so what draws you to this genre.

M- I love historical fiction because it deals with big issues that still impact us today. I personally find a lot of contemporary fiction too self-referential and lightweight.

When you were growing up did you always aspire to be a writer or was there some particular episode in your life that pulled you in this direction.

M- I was writing stories for as long as I could remember, but I only took myself seriously as an aspiring writer when I was in my mid-twenties and started writing what would become my first novel in my stolen moments after work. I didn't own a television because I preferred writing in my spare time!

Can you tell us what you’re working on now, is it another historical novel?

M-I'm working on a novel tentatively titled KNOW THE WAYS, which will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Spring 2012. The novel tells the true story of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), Benedictine abbess and polymath, who composed an entire corpus of music and wrote books on subjects as diverse as theology, natural science, medicine and human sexuality—a prodigious intellectual outpouring that put most of her male contemporaries to shame. A mystic and visionary, her prophecies earned her the title Sibyl of the Rhine. She is a very inspiring women whose insights on natural medicine, the healing power of nature and of music, and on the feminine aspects of divinity can still teach us a lot today.
Her story arc is unforgettable. Her parents offered her as a tithe to the Church at the age of eight and she became an enclosed anchorite--she was literally bricked into a cell with another girl. She was supposed to have stayed there forever, silent and submissive, but instead, in midlife, she broke out of her prison and went on to become the greatest voice of her age.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.

M- At the age of 39, I started to taking riding lessons and that started a serious horsey addiction. Two years ago, I bought a beautiful Welsh mare who changed my life. I'm like a horse-crazy teenager, except I'm old enough to be a teenager's mom. My horse and I went on the Mary Towneley Loop, a 48 mile, three day trek this August, over rugged old packhorse trails in the Pennines. It's fun to be a late bloomer.

Check out her other work and more about her at her website here


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