11 November 2007

Guest Author: Susan Flanders

Our guest author today is Susan Flanders, a royal historian who has specialized as a "writer of queens." A contributor to The Royalist and member of the Historical Novel Society, the Beau Monde chapter of RWA, and the American Christian Fiction Writers, Susan also maintains a blog and a MySpace page devoted to her love of royal history. As of yet unpublished, Susan has a manuscript under consideration with Highland Press. She's stopping by today to discuss her favorite subject!

Is all this royalty stuff really in your head?
The answer is yes, most of it is, and I compose the blog while I sit on my bed and occasionally refer to one or two books to check a date or quote--so I don't look like an idiot. But, after 23 years of research, I just had to do something with the knowledge I had in my head.

Writer of Queens
How do you find all these tidbits?
Once there is a subject I am interested in, I'll sit with every book I have and open them all up and spend days reading everything about the time frame I am interested in. That's how I put the puzzle together. One book will leave you with a question and then another book answers another piece of the puzzle. Sometimes I do this just to amuse myself, and at other times I do it because I'm seriously researching. Also, after you've read the same story over and over again twenty times---well, some it starts to sink in.

How many books do you have?
Probably 200 books on the royal families of the world, queens, princesses, memoirs of servants, letters, picture books. When I get interested in a queen or princess, I'm not content to read one or two books; I want to read them all. I'll read anywhere between four to eight biographies. Then I keep them for future reference. On some of the royals, there are no biographies or only one---that's where the tricky part comes in.

Writer of Queens
When did you feel you were on to something unusual and different?
When someone read a scene I wrote about the death of a queen's husband, and said I had written it as if I had been in the room with the queen and had observed it all personally. That hit me like a ton of bricks. In my own mind I feel like I had been there.

Why did you start a blog on queens?
Everybody kept saying "Why are you keeping all this to yourself? Why don't you start a blog or a site on queens? There aren't any!" And I thought...if I am interested in what really went on behind those palace walls, perhaps others would be too. The blog isn't too intellectual or historical. I just try to relate some the more interesting facts of their personal lives, their pain and their joy. Just because they lived in opulence and had servants at their beck and call, that did not make things easy or perfect for them. Many of the queens and princesses really lived dreadful, agonizing and tortured lives.

Writer of Queens
Ultimately, what would you like to do with all this royal knowledge?
First and foremost I want to enjoy it. I think that the love I have for it shows and maybe that's why it's so...well, original. At least that's what people tell me. And I seriously want to get to the royal archives in England for a couple of months, but it will take a few bucks to do that and a plane ticket! But that's what I'm aiming for. And I'm creating novels set inside real palaces where the reader becomes intimately involved with the royal subject, seeing how they lived and what they did and how hard it really was to survive in the royal court. Remember, they couldn't be intimate or too familiar with anyone. It was a hard and difficult place to survive in. Some queens managed to create their own unique courts and mastered them with an iron hand. Other royal courts were treacherous and filled with so much jealousy and evil that it swallowed up the queen entirely, sucking the life out of her. As is all things, only the strongest survive.

What are you working on now?
Right now I'm writing about the young Queen Victoria as she braces herself for her accession to the throne of England and tries to free herself from that tangled web. She was much stronger than most people think, and at a young age took control of her own life and pushed away her domineering mother. That in itself saved her and the Kingdom. It's really amazing that the young Queen---Alexandrina Victoria---did as well as she did and even survived! The novel is titled ROYAL ENTANGLEMENTS.

Writer of Queens
I'm also trying to find a nourishing home--whether it be with a group of writers, just to have fun--or the right publisher or agent who loves the royals as I do and believes in this. I really want to leave a legacy behind or create something of interest for others to enjoy. But I'm not pushing it. It will work out when it's meant to. In the meantime I get to be with my queens and enjoy them. Ha! Notice I called them my queens? Well, I guess they have to be mine a little longer, and then they can be yours to read about. I'll take out all the boring parts for you.

Do you have any questions for Susan? What favorite queen intrigues you?

Good luck with all your endeavors, Susan, and thanks for stopping by.