Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Blog Tour Interview + Giveaway: Queen By Right by Anne Easter Smith

Today, I am pleased to welcome Anne Easter Smith
to Let Them Read Books!

Queen By Right: A NovelAnne's newly-released fourth novel, Queen by Right, depicts the life of Cecily Neville, a fascinating woman and mother to two of my favorite kings: Edward IV and Richard III. I first met Cecily in Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour, (one of my favorite books), and when I saw Anne was giving Cecily an entire book of her very own, I couldn't wait to read it! When Amy from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours invited me to participate in this tour, I jumped at the chance! Today I'm sharing my recent interview with Anne, and next week I'll be posting my review of Queen by Right!

Hi Anne, welcome, and thanks for being here today! What led you to decide to write a novel about Cecily Neville?

First of all, thanks for having me on your blog, Jenny! Queen By Right came about because as I wrote my other books--all in the late 15th century about the York family --I was intrigued by Cecily Neville every time her name came up. And if I had been smart when I started thinking about writing the first book, A Rose for the Crown and no so obsessed with telling her son Richard III’s story, I would have begun the series with this book! Even though she was never mentioned in that book, her influence over her children--Richard and Edward--was palpable and everyone seemed very much in awe of her. In Daughter of York, she was quite a prominent character as Margaret’s role model, before Margaret left home to become Duchess of Burgundy. The other part of the decision was practical: I was given a two-book contract when I suggested The King’s Grace to my editor, so I had to come up with a fourth book! Cecily was a natural.

Can you explain the meaning behind the title, Queen by Right?

I’ll try, Jenny! It’s complicated. Richard, duke of York and Cecily’s husband, was the descendant by a female line of the second son of Edward III--the great king from the previous century who is usually used as the anchor of the genealogy charts from the 1300s down and thus had a claim to the throne. Richard’s father was the son of Edmund, duke of York, the fourth son of Edward. In between them was John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, whose son Henry IV (Bolingbroke) usurped the crown from Richard II (for good reason, I may add!) and had passed over the descendants of the dead Lionel (the aforementioned “second son”) because Lionel only had a daughter for an heir. Henry was the first Lancastrian king, and he begat Henry V, who begat Henry VI and now we are into the beginning of Queen by Right.

From all the research I did on Richard of York, it appeared that he never tried to assert that right until he was pushed too far by the greedy councilors who were advising a weak king. But later on when he felt King Henry was being ill advised by greedy councilors, he tried to get closer to the king but was pushed away time and time again until he snapped and the Wars of the Roses erupted. This was the civil war between the Yorkists and the Lancastrian royal armies, now known as the Wars of the Roses or the Cousins War. Richard came oh, so close to winning the crown, but he was killed at the Battle of Wakefield a mere three months before his son, Edward, won a decisive victory at Towton in Yorkshire and went on to be crowned in June 1461. During Edward’s reign, Cecily, who would have been queen if Richard had lived, styled herself: “Cecily, the king’s mother, and late wife unto Richard, by right king of England and of France and lord of Ireland.” In other words, Queen by Right. Sorry about the long-winded explanation, but, folks, I told you it was complicated!

Can you describe the extent of your research for Queen by Right?

As well as the usual book research I do, studying the contemporary chroniclers and using the internet, I like to walk all the paths my characters would have walked, which meant in Cecily’s case going to Richard of York’s main residences, like Ludlow, to Anglesey in Wales where the couple set sail for Ireland, to Dublin Castle, to Rouen in Normandy and of course talking to historians at those locations and delving into their archives (with previous appointments, of course!). I spent a whole day reading the transcripts of Joan of Arc’s trial, because Cecily and Richard were in Rouen at the time of her trial and burning. I am never NOT researching, even when writing--there are always questions that pop up about the life and culture and costumes that need to be right before I am happy with my day’s writing.

The War of the Roses has always been a popular subject in historical fiction. Do you read other authors' novels set in the time period you're writing about?

Let me say that I HAVE read books about the time period before I started writing my own. Sharon Kay Penman’s Sunne in Splendor is a favorite as are Rosemary Hawley Jarman’s two set at Edward and Richard’s courts. But I find it too conflicting to read other people’s take on the time, because we all see things differently and I don’t want to be influenced by them--and I am terribly easily influenced ;-)

I borrowed this question from the conversation printed at the end of the book, because I thought it was excellent:  If you were able to have a conversation with Cecily Neville today, what would you ask her?

Who would you like to see play you in the movie? Seriously, I would like to ask her how, after giving birth to thirteen children without benefit of 21st century hygiene and medical knowledge, her body held up until she was 80. I think that I’d like to compare motherhood in her time with our time. What was it like to give birth in such primitive surroundings (compared with today’s), how could she bear to keep producing children knowing some of them wouldn’t survive past five? I'd also like to thank her for living such an incredibly dramatic and rich life that lent itself so perfectly to an historical novel.

What do you like to read for fun? Who are your favorite authors?

I’ve just read a charming book called Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and I swear I know every one of those English characters from my childhood in England! I have Ken Follett’s Ends of the Earth, Edward Rutherfurd’s Princes of Ireland and New York, and Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud on my to-read pile. But my favorite authors are Charles Dickens and Anya Seton--two great storytellers.

What are you working on next?

“Mistress Shore” is about Jane Shore, Edward IV’s last and “merriest” mistress, and I am loving her so far. She had quite a dramatic life from the moment William Hastings, Edward’s chamberlain and best friend, spotted her and brought her to Edward’s attention.

Thanks a lot for so generously lending me space, today. I enjoyed our interview and I hope your readers will try Queen By Right now that it is published.

Thanks, Anne! I am looking forward to a novel about Jane Shore!

Queen By Right: A NovelAnd now for the Giveaway!

Anne's got a copy of her brand new novel for one lucky U.S. fan. Want it? Leave a comment with your email address by 11:59pm on Wednesday, May 25th. Winner will be selected at random and must have a U.S mailing address.

This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been chosen.
Congratulations Linda!

Queen By Right is on a blog tour! View the schedule featuring more interviews, reviews, and giveaways from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours.


  1. Having read two previous novels by Ms. Smith, I'm anxious to read about Cecily. I'm a big Lancaster fan. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. I've been waiting for this book for years! Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. I'm excited to read Queen By Right. I really enjoyed The Kings Grace, which was my first Anne Easter Smith book.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. This sounds like a really good book and I would love to win a copy. Thank you so much for the giveaway and I do live in the US.

    GFC follower: June M.
    manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

  5. I would love to read a book from a new-to-me author. 13 children.... My joints are a-creakin' with just 2.
    tiredwkids at live dot com

  6. I would love to read Queen By Right :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!

  7. Please enter me! This book sounds wonderful!

  8. Just read your review on Queen by Right and would love to be entered in the giveaway...:)

    kopsahl48 AT gmail DOT com

  9. I just love getting lost in British history. Thanks so much for the lovely and informative interview. And thanks, too, for the chance to win a copy of Ms. Smith's new novel.

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  10. I love the Plantagenets and the Tudors, but I don't know very much about Cecily Neville. I would love to learn more! Thanks for the giveaway!

  11. I would love to read Queen by Right! Enjoyed your interview. Please enter me to win this book.


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