Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blog Tour Q&A: By Love Divided by Elizabeth St. John

Please join me in welcoming my dear friend Elizabeth St. John to Let Them Read Books! Liz is touring the blogosphere with her second historical novel, By Love Divided, sequel to her critically acclaimed debut, The Lady of the Tower. I had the privilege of offering Liz some editorial assistance on both books, and I designed the covers. I recently had a chance to ask Liz some questions about the ancestors that inspired this series and the joys and challenges of writing historical fiction. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of By Love Divided!

Royalist Sir Allen Apsley thinks his choice is clear, but when his mother embraces the Puritan cause, and his beloved sister Luce falls in love with John Hutchinson, a Roundhead soldier, his loyalties are tested. Is it family first? Is it country first? As England falls into bloody civil war, Allen must fight for king and country, while Luce embraces Parliament’s radical views and confronts the very core of the family’s beliefs. And when their influential Villiers cousins raise the stakes, Allen and Luce face a devastating challenge. Will war unite or divide them? In the dawn of rebellion, love is the final battleground.

Based on surviving memoirs, court papers and letters of Elizabeth St.John’s family, By Love Divided continues the story of Lucy St.John, The Lady of the Tower. This powerfully emotional novel tells of England’s great divide, and the heart-wrenching choices one family faces.

Hi Elizabeth! Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today!

The Lydiard Chronicles are based on the true stories of your ancestors, the St. Johns. How did you discover these fascinating people in your ancestry, and what inspired you to write about them?

Hi Jenny! Thanks so much and it’s a pleasure to be here. My writing is inspired by own family stories, and I am very fortunate that we have a rich, well-documented history. Growing up in England, where the weather promotes reading and the countryside is full of castles and ancient churches, I spent much of my childhood buried in books, family papers and walking around ruins. My parents loved history and passed that gene on to me. Our favorite days were spent “St.John-hunting” where we would follow some thread in a family tree and end up in a forgotten churchyard or country house, face-to-face with an ancestor. As I started to think about turning the stories into a novel, it was a natural that I would name the books after Lydiard House, our ancestral home and my “magic place.”

What kind of research did you do to bring this time period to life? Did you discover anything in your research that surprised you?

Once on the serious research trail, I started delving into the existing documents and diaries to draw on for my novels. When I came to write The Lady of the Tower, I felt I knew the characters intimately because of my deep acquaintance with them, and that so many of their portraits are preserved at their country home of Lydiard House. I was also granted unique access to the Tower of London, and was able to spend time in my heroine Lucy St.John’s home. That was an extraordinary experience. And, of course, there are so many records now available online from the National Archives, county offices and foundations. Digging through warrants, contracts, deeds and wills can turn up some exciting finds. So although pretty much all my records are accessible to the general public, it can take a lot of detective work to find them.

I think the joy of research is in the surprises, and there were many occasions where I would be left breathless or jumping for joy when a particular trail yielded results. So often, it’s the connections that delight – as an author, you spend time “linking the probable” – who was in a certain place, or who knew who. Those interactions and coincidences are often what drive plot. When I was writing The Lady of the Tower, I had to fictionalize a strategic relationship based on coincidence and a “writer’s hunch” that they interacted. When I was about three quarters through the writing, I discovered evidence that proved that not only did the characters know each other, they had a deep relationship. Needless to say, that was one of those leap up from the desk and run around the room moments!

I know you have visited Lydiard many times. Have you visited other locations in your novels, and if so, which is your favorite?

Lydiard will always be my favorite, for it is a house that has endured through the centuries. People have lived on the site since the Roman days, and the foundations of the present house date back to the eleventh century. Lydiard is a fascinating blend of medieval and eighteenth-century architecture. The walled garden, the parkland, the lake – all are places where I can think of my ancestors spending time. I've been fortunate to visit other locations where my family lived, including Fonmon Castle in Wales, Nottingham Castle and the Tower of London. Each has its own magic for me.

Do you have a favorite scene in By Love Divided?

Oh, that's like picking your favorite child! There are so many I enjoyed writing, so not a favorite. But a couple of scenes I am proud of are Luce's wedding and Allen's battle at Newbury. Oh and Edward's... 😉

If you could sit down with one of your St. John ancestors, which one would it be and what would you ask them?

It would have to be Lucy St.John, the heroine of The Lady of the Tower, and my inspiration to start writing. I would like to ask her how she coped with all the different challenges that she lived through – a broken love affair, losing children in childbirth, terribly difficult financial circumstances – and living in the Tower of London for thirteen years.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing historical fiction?

I think the challenging and rewarding go hand in hand. It's holding a standard of truth and authenticity that delivers a compelling, immersive experience without boring the reader with too many historical facts. When you've done all the research and then throw it into the background to support but not drive the fiction, I think the true stories start to emerge. And bringing the characters alive in their own time and place is extremely rewarding.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently in research mode for the next in the series, continuing By Love Divided’s story. I’ll be introducing some fascinating new St.John women, including Anne St.John, mother of John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester. Her husband accompanied Charles II on his flight after the Battle of Worcester. She was an extraordinarily clever woman who managed to maintain and keep her family fortune through the Civil War. How she does so, while manipulating both her Parliamentarian and Royalist families, is a compelling story.

Thanks so much, Liz! Can't wait to read it!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


About the Author:

Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England and lives in California. To inform her writing, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park and Castle Fonmon to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it’s hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth’s family still occupies them – in the form of portraits, memoirs and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that’s a different story…

By Love Divided, Elizabeth’s sequel to The Lady of the Tower, follows the fortunes of the St.John family during the English Civil War, and is out now.

For more information, please visit Elizabeth St. John’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.


By Love Divided is on a blog tour!


GIVEAWAY!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of By Love Divided to one lucky winner! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & UK residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
By Love Divided #2

8 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for hosting Elizabeth's Blog Tour & for this excellent interview!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

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  2. Love the interview. What fascinating ancestors and having documents to read. I'm going to get both books so I can read them together. I love finding new Authors. Thank you for the giveaway chance.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 at aol dot com

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  3. Thanks for having me, Jenny! Always fun chatting with you.

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  4. Great interview, especially as it involves 2 of my favourite people.

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