Look for my REVIEW, this coming Monday, September 10th.
Please welcome the very lovely, Sherry Jones!!
- Hello Sherry! Here at Enchanted by Josephine, we are all about strong women of the past and love to read books about them. What made you decide to write your novel on these 4 particular women of substance?
I just love books that transport me to another time and place, especially when it’s to the splendor and wit of a royal court in past times. The story of Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice of Provence transported me to four courts during the fascinating 13th century, a Renaissance period of its own with troubadour song, Gothic architecture, Arthurian legends, elegant new fashions, and advances, due to the Crusades, in medicine, science, and philosophy. Against this bejeweled backdrop, these four women reached the pinnacle of power – but found that, being women, they had to fight to claim it. Their stories entranced me: Marguerite’s rivalry in France with her jealous and possessive mother-in-law, the indifference of her religious-fanatic “saint” of a husband, and the love she finally found with a “Lancelot” of her own; the misogyny and xenophobia that tainted Eléonore’s reign in England; Sanchia’s unhappy life as queen instead of nun, married to a philandering husband who became bored with her; Beatrice’s ambition, matched in its ruthlessness only by that of her husband, and the generous heart she was forced to conceal. Not only are their individual lives fascinating, but their bonds of sisterhood shape the tale in a way I found delightful – slumber parties in the boudoir! – as well as heartbreaking, as their struggles for personal and professional power pitted sister against sister.
- Was there a preferred queen for you- one you loved writing about the most, and why?
I adored writing the love scenes between Marguerite and Sir Jean de Joinville, and also her devastating interactions with her bitchy mother-in-law, Blanche de Castille. But Beatrice was the most fun to write, because she’s got the snark, and snark can be thrillingly clever and funny. She reminds me of the cheeky Jewess Raihana in my first novel, “The Jewel of Medina”: a Greek chorus figure, in a way, who calls it as it is with the sharpest of tongues, and of wits.
- As the very acclaimed author of international best seller: Jewel of Medina, you have stirred a bit of controversy regarding this novel…How do you think Four Sisters All Queens compares in terms of your readers’ tastes, expectations and reactions?
“Four Sisters, All Queens” has a lot in common with “The Jewel of Medina.” Both feature women in positions of power – after all, A’isha, as the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad, was very much like a queen. And both have numerous women characters – 12 sister-wives in “The Jewel of Medina,” four sisters-queens in “Four Sisters, All Queens,” each of whom has a distinct personality. I just love bringing women together in a room and letting them talk! Both books have a number of these intimate, pillow-talk-type conversations, in which women speak from the heart, and connect and disconnect on a very personal level.
- What did you love most about writing this novel (for example in terms of writing process, or history, or characters…)?
I just loved creating these four women and giving each a distinct personality and style. Marguerite is so intelligent and patient, with such a quick wit; Eléonore is a fashion queen as well as Queen of England, bold and sure of herself, competitive and fanciful (she believes in the Arthurian legends), and fiercely protective of her children’s futures; Sanchia is sweet and gentle, shy and devout, and so unhappy (her Christian beliefs give her an anti-Semitic edge, as well, which makes her difficult to love sometimes but VERY typical of her time); and Beatrice is funny, shrewd, sexy, and spoiled, a real Daddy’s girl but also a vulnerable youngest sister who wants so badly to “belong” to the clan. I loved digging deep with these women, intertwining their stories, and helping each to find her place of personal power. I rely on them today when I feel insecure.
- Does your research and writing involve traveling as well?
Yes! I have traveled to Paris and London, and also went to Egypt to research this book. My next novel, which takes place in Paris, sent me to that beautiful city for my fourth visit!
- You have always been an avid reader and an exceptionally talented author, what is the most important advice you can give to aspiring writers?
Read, read, read – not just any work, but really good work. Write what you love to read. Revise, revise, revise, revise – that’s where the true magic happens, the real art, the beautiful shape arising from your additions and deletions and re-writings like the hidden figure in a lump of clay revealed by the sculptor’s tools. Keep revising until, when you pick up your manuscript and read it, you are never for a single moment pulled out of the “dream” that is your tale. Then, when you are finished, get a literary agent. Keep trying until you find one – query 10 at a time, not one at a time. I cannot overemphasize the importance of a literary agent. Even if you are going to self-publish, a good agent is your indispensable advocate and adviser, and will also make sure you get paid.
- We are interested in any future projects you may be working on…Any new books for us to look forward to?
Heloise and Abelard, famous 12th-century lovers who suffered enormous tragedy, are coming soon from Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books, Of course, my telling has a feminist twist – but it’s above all a love story, told erotically and passionately.
Thank you Sherry!
Please come back Monday for my review of: Four Sisters, All Queens