Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interview with Historical Novelist J.R. Tomlin

I'm pleased to host an interview with historical novelist J.R. Tomlin today.  J.R. is the author of the recently released, A King Ensnared, and is currently touring the blogosphere to promote it.  Check out the tour page on Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours to visits J.R. Tomlin's other blog stops.  Also, be sure to check back here tomorrow for my review of A King Ensnared

(1) Scotland, while a popular setting for historical romance novels, is not a particularly common setting in mainstream historical fiction.   What is it about Scotland that draws you to writing novels about its history?
It is partially that because I spent much of my childhood in Edinburgh, I have a particular love for the nation. Also, Scotland simply has a fascinating history. Scotland has spent much of its history struggling against attempted conquests by a larger neighbor. A struggle like that makes for a cast of characters that is a pleasure to write about. And people seem to have acquired this very romanticized picture of Scotland, so I try to write about something a little closer to the reality.

(2) Your latest novel, A King Ensnared, is about James Stewart, Scottish King Robert III's heir.  During the course of researching for the book, what was the most interesting or surprising thing you discovered about James or the time period in which he lived?

I was surprised at the way James grew on me. Obviously, I knew what he did and what happened to him in the course of the story. What I didn't know was the extent to which I would grow to respect the struggle he put up to regain his freedom and protect the right of Scotland to its independence.

(3) Have you always wanted to be a writer?  Was historical fiction always the genre you wanted to write in?

My first love was poetry. I wrote my first poem, the first that I remember anyway, when I was eight years old and I've written ever since, happily not poetry since I'm quite bad at poetry. I was distressed to discover that fact because I do love poetry. Just not my own.

I grew up reading historical fiction, so I suppose I did always want to write it. I started a novel with the characters in my Black Douglas Trilogy when I was in high school (back in the dark ages). It took more twenty-five years to get back to it and write the first book.

(4) As an author of historical fiction that takes place in a less common setting, what other historical figures or time periods do you wish received more attention from writers?

Medieval Italy is a great location for stories. The Medicis and the Borgias immediately come to mind of course, but there was a huge range of people from fanatics like Savonarola to the many great artists. I'd love to read about the Hundred Years War from the French side rather than the English, as well.

(5) Who are your favourite writers?  What is it about their work that you most admire? 

Nigel Tranter is one of my favorite historical fiction authors, but I love the classics authors such as Alexandre Dumas, père, and Victor Hugo. They all draw you into their world which is the first thing an author has to do. Drawing the reader into a historical setting so that they feel like they are there is what I look for and try to emulate in my own writing.

(6) Have you started work on your next novel?  If so, can you tell us a little about it?

I am working on the sequel to A King Ensnared.  It takes up just after the death of England's Henry V as King James maneuvers politically to return to rule Scotland with his new bride and outmaneuvers, at least for a while, his many enemies at home.

(7) If you could invite three historical figures to dinner, who would you invite and why?

There is no question at all I would invite the main characters in my own novels. I would love to actually meet them and find out how close I came or if I totally missed. Sir James Douglas, King Robert the Bruce, and King James I of Scotland.  That would make for some great dinnertime conversation.

Many thanks to J.R. Tomlin for taking the time to answer my questions!


J. R. Tomlin is the author of five historical novels: A King Ensnared, Freedom’s Sword, A Kingdom’s Cost, Countenance of War, and Not for Glory. She has also co-authored several fantasies with C. R. Daems: Blood Duty, Talon of the Unnamed Goddess, The Shadow Ryana, The Shadow Gypsy, and Women of Power.

She has close ties with Scotland since her father was a native Scot, and she spent substantial time in Edinburgh whilst growing up. Her historical novels are set in Scotland. You can trace her love of that nation to the stories of the Bruce and the Good Sir James her grandmother read her when she was small and to her hillwalking through the Cairngorms where the granite hills have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun. Later, her writing was influenced by the work of authors such as Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo and of G.R.R. Tolkien.

For more information visit J.R. Tomlin’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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