22 March 2010

Guest Post: Susan Higginbotham on Traveling

The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham takes us to England in the latter half of the 1400s, during the reign of Edward IV. The night six-year-old Kate Woodville discovers the king has secretly married her widowed sister, the little girl thinks only of gold chains and castles and knights. When she herself becomes the child bride to young Harry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, she is instantly one of the highest-ranked females in the country, although it would be years before she understood her true position.

When the conflicts between the houses of Lancaster and York come to head, Harry and Kate find themselves caught in the middle of their divided families. With England's crown at stake, on which side will the young couple align themselves?

I am so excited to welcome author Susan Higginbotham to my blog today. I asked her tell us a little bit about what it's like to travel when doing research for her wonderful historical novels.

On the Road with History

I am geographically challenged, as my Loved Ones will gleefully tell you and support with examples. I was at a truly embarrassing age before I really sorted out the concepts of east and west (north and south I had down pretty well, being from the South), and if I had to do one of those psychological tests that entail drawing a map of the United States, I'd probably end up in a mental hospital. So it's been invaluable for me to travel across the Atlantic (see, I know my oceans now!) to see the places I've written about in my novels.

When I travel for research, I get to see the structures in which my characters dwelled and worshiped and the countryside through which they journeyed. I can get a sense of proportion, of texture, and of distance; I can get a feel for the climate. But for me, the most valuable part of travel, both as a writer and as a reader, is the spine-tingling feeling of standing in a place, knowing that the people you’re writing about once stood there too. That’s something you just can’t get from looking at a picture in the book or on the Internet.

Unfortunately, I can't get to all of the places I've written about, and even when I am able to visit a place, I still have to make the mental leap into the past. The ruined castle that I see in the twenty-first century was once someone’s home, bustling with servants and retainers and horses, its bare walls hung with tapestries, its kitchen humming with activity. The people who lived in that castle had much in common with me, but in countless ways, they were different, and I as an author of historical fiction have to remember that as well.

The past, as L. P. Hartley said, is a foreign country. Travel is just one means a novelist can use in her quest to get her readers there—but it’s by far one of the most pleasurable ways. Here’s to happy travels for all of us, whether we make our journey in person or through the pages of a book.
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I know just what you mean, Susan. Whether I'm in center city Philadelphia or within the walls of Brugge, I have had that indescribable feeling when thinking about the generations of people and families who stood there before me. Each individual had hopes and dreams but likely had no idea that he or she would have an effect on readers and writers in the twenty-first century.

Please come back tomorrow to read my review of The Stolen Crown.

The Stolen Crown at Powell's
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For more on Susan Higginbotham, please visit her website and her blog.

Susan Higginbotham's meticulously researched historical fiction brought to life by her heartfelt writing delights readers. Higginbotham runs her own historical fiction/history blog and is a contributor to the blog "Yesterday Revisited." She has worked as an editor and an attorney and lives in Apex, North Carolina, with her family.

10 comments:

Julie P. 3/22/10, 9:14 AM  

I have seen so many wonderful reviews of Ms. Higginbotham's novels. I'm going to have to give one a try.

Violet 3/22/10, 10:35 AM  

So true, I do the same thing, try and imagine what life must have been like in all those beautiful places.

I've heard of this book for the first time and it sounds really good.

Aarti 3/22/10, 10:46 AM  

I so agree with Susan! I don't write stories, but I love history exactly because of that feeling- standing in a building and imagining everyone that came before you.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 3/22/10, 1:28 PM  

Susan must really enjoy the research process for her novels!

I love the history a place can carry. I often think of that even locally ("if these trees could talk ...")

Meghan 3/22/10, 1:31 PM  

Standing in a place I've read about for the first time is seriously one of the most exciting feelings in the world. I wish I could go everywhere! Fantastic guest post!

Nymeth 3/22/10, 4:29 PM  

"But for me, the most valuable part of travel, both as a writer and as a reader, is the spine-tingling feeling of standing in a place, knowing that the people you’re writing about once stood there too."

Yes! As a reader, I love this feeling too :)

softdrink 3/22/10, 8:28 PM  

I love that feeling...of knowing that I've walked where Caesar once walked, or where Anne Boleyn was imprisoned. It's almost mind blowing to think about how much history has happened everywhere we go.

Veens 3/23/10, 12:29 AM  

I am geographically challenged too!

****But for me, the most valuable part of travel, both as a writer and as a reader, is the spine-tingling feeling of standing in a place, knowing that the people you’re writing about once stood there too. That’s something you just can’t get from looking at a picture in the book or on the Internet.****

- so true! That's so special!

Alice Teh 3/24/10, 2:21 AM  

I can't agree more with what the author had just said. I love traveling both physically and through books!

caite 3/24/10, 10:04 AM  

I can't read this because it has the dreaded half a head cover.

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