28 October 2013

Meet Our Contributors: Blythe Gifford

As a long-time contributor to the Unusual Historicals blog, I’m pleased that it 
RWA Conference 2013
continues to thrive.  Here’s a little get-to-know-me Q&A.

You write historical romance, a pretty conventional genre.  What makes your historicals unusual?

First, I select unusual time periods.  The English Regency (think Jane Austen) is the most popular period for historical romance.  I write primarily in the medieval period.  And even there, the most popular part of the medieval period tends to be the earlier periods, the 1100s and 1200s.  Although I have written primarily Fourteenth Century settings, I’ve also written books set in the Sixteenth and now Seventeenth Centuries. 

And although England is a popular setting, I’ve traveled afield from the norm.  When I slipped across the border to write a Scottish setting, I chose the Borders, not the more popular Highlands.  And I believe, though I cannot prove, that I am the only author of historical romance to ever set a book in Flanders.

Another thing that is unusual about my books for romance, though not for straight historical fiction, is that I tend to include real history, and often real historical characters in my books.  English kings Edward III and Richard II and James V of Scotland are among those who have played a part in my stories. 

What draws you to a particular setting?

I tend to be interested in periods that fall through the cracks and haven’t been fully explored (or overdone!).  Time and time again, I’ll find myself needing a particular fact about a specific two year period that just isn’t covered in detail in the history books.  When I decided to do a Scottish Borders trilogy, for example, I did not set it during the era of Mary, Queen of Scots, but in the reign of her father.  James V was a Scottish king so relatively obscure that there was only one full-length biography of him! 

Any time periods you haven’t written that you would like to explore?

One of the challenges of the time periods I write is that my female characters have such limited options. Society was extremely stratified, both for men and women. As I grapple with the heroine’s journey, I ultimately have three options: marriage, the church, or prostitution. And only one of those constitutes a happy ending!  I’ve several ideas for American settings (talk about unusual in romance!), particularly late 19th century and early 20th century, but nothing on the drawing board at the moment. 

So what’s new?

I’m about to release my first self-published book, THE WITCH FINDER.  (Any day now!)  While it remains a romance, it is darker and more historically focused than my work for Harlequin.  The story takes place on the Scottish Borders, right after the Restoration of a king to the throne after a period of political and religious conflict that devastated the country for years.  Amidst all this uncertainty, Scotland had its worst witch hunting, particularly along the Borders.  The story is of a witch finder and a woman suspected of being a witch.  That’s about the biggest conflict between hero and heroine I’ve ever had to overcome!

What’s next?

My next books for Harlequin will return to the English court of the Fourteenth Century.  The Royal Wedding stories center on the real weddings of the king’s two oldest children, both of whom married for love.  My couples are caught up in the events surrounding them.  SECRETS AT COURT will be out in March of 2014 and WHISPERS AT COURT later that year.

You’ll be hearing more about all these as I blog here! 

Booklist:  Because I’m with a crowd that loves history, I’m giving you my booklist in historical chronological order, not in the order the books were written.

Fourteenth Century
Stand alone stories.  King Edward III appears in those marked s
INNOCENCE UNVEILED – 1327 s (Flanders)
HIS BORDER BRIDE 1356 s (Scottish Borders)
THE KNAVE AND THE MAIDEN – 1357 (Southwest England)
SECRETS AT COURT – 1361 s (Coming in 2014)
WHISPERS AT COURT – 1363 s (Coming in 2014)
The Weston Daughters (King Richard II appears in both books.)
THE HARLOT’S DAUGHTER – 1386 (England)
IN THE MASTER’S BED – 1388 (Cambridge, England) 

Sixteenth Century – 1528-29 The Brunson Clan Trilogy - Scottish Borders (James V appears in Books Two and Three)

Seventeenth Century – 1661-62

After many years in public relations, advertising and marketing, Blythe Gifford started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold her first book to the Harlequin Historical line.  Since then, she has published eight romances set in England and on the Scottish Borders, many featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket.  THE WITCH FINDER will be released in the fall of 2013. For more information, visit www.blythegifford.com 

Author photo Jennifer Girard