Author Interview: Pamela Taylor author of The Second Son Chronicles
It must be Tuesday! Here's another great author interview with Pamela Taylor. Pamela is published by Black Rose Writing. Like me she is a lover of history and historical fiction. She here to talk about writing, history and her three book series. First a little bit about her book, Pestilence.
Published: July 2018
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Available: Paperback, ebook, audiobook
My Father, My King Second Son Chronicles, Volume 2
Published: August 2019
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Published: June 2020
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy
Available: paperback, ebook
JMR- Hi Pamela, tell us who you are, where you live and what you do for fun. What does the perfect day look like in your world?
PT- Home is the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, in a neighborhood with a nice hike-and-bike path down to a park where there’s a pretty, rocky creek. So when it’s not 110-in-the-shade in the middle of a Texas summer, the girls and I have a favorite walk down into the park and circling back up through a different set of streets. “The girls” are my two Pembroke Welsh Corgis, who keep me from spending all of my time writing or editing or reading :-) They’re good companions and a lot of fun – and I really enjoy baking treats for them that have yummy, healthy ingredients like pumpkin, bananas, butternut squash, spinach, and oatmeal.
JMR- Hey, a fellow Texan! Ah, corgis are so cute.
JMR- You’re into photography, piano and piloting,( I sense an alphabetical theme going on here), how do you find time to fit it all in? How do your hobbies contribute/hinder your writing?
PT- LOL – the alphabetical thing’s just blind luck :-) But maybe we can keep it going. Before Covid-19, I was learning to play the pipe organ, so does “pipe” count as another “p”? Unfortunately that’s on hold for the moment. In truth, there’s never really time for all of it. I tend to be pretty opportunistic, letting the hobbies and the research and the writing intertwine. The variety and learning new things is such a wonderful way to stay mentally sharp and excited about what you’re going to do next. And I’ve actually found a way to use some of my photographs in promotions for my books.
JMR- You were a history major in college, what is your favorite historical era? It seems the preponderance of historical books focus on the British Isles, is this true for you as well? Do you think the Tudors are overdone?
PT- My focus in college was on 18th- and 19th-century Europe, but I’m writing stories from the 14th century. Not sure I can really stake a claim to a favorite era, because my interests span from the Roman Republic to World War II.
There certainly are a lot of historical novels set in the British Isles, but there’s a wealth of other books to choose from. There are a lot of stories about the American Civil War that delve into the realities of that period and not the Confederate myth – even Bernard Cornwell has a 4-book series. Quite a number of authors focus on the Roman Empire. World War II – both the European and Asian theaters. The Crusades and the Templars. James Clavell wrote an entire series of books focused on Japan and Hong Kong. I’d love to spend time browsing the shelves of a “Historical Fiction Library.”
Are the Tudors overdone? Well, just when you think so, along comes Wolf Hall (and its two sequels) with a focus on an entirely different character that, I suspect, most people knew little about. Any period with larger-than-life players on the world stage tends to appeal to both writers and readers. But the other side of the coin for such periods is finding or creating the lesser characters and weaving their stories against the backdrop of the grand historical drama.
JMR- I'm a huge fan of Hillary Mantel and her Wolf Hall series. The writing was fantasic and what a great story! I also admit to being a Tudor junkie.
JMR- Who is your favorite historical female? Why?
PT- Truth be told, I can’t single out just one. But I’d start with Eleanor of Aquitaine – her story tends to get boiled down to being held prisoner by Henry II, but she’s so much more than that. She was educated, she participated actively in political events (including going on one of the Crusades), she wielded great power, even in her battles with Henry, and she succeeded in getting her favorite son on the throne despite Henry’s plans otherwise. She knew what she wanted in life and she wasn’t afraid to go after it – after all, she divorced the king of France in order to marry Henry at a time when such a thing was unheard of.
Isabella of Castile was truly a co-ruler with her husband Ferdinand and was willing to invest in exploration before it became popular. Abigail Adams may have been a strict disciplinarian with her children, but she was a strong advocate for women’s education and women’s rights, an equally strong opponent of slavery, and an active participant in the political careers of both her husband and her son.
And there are so many more.
JMR- I love Eleanor of Aquitaine. She is my personal favorite. She really understood power and how to use it.
JMR- Who is your favorite author? Why?
PT- Once again, too many to name. And perhaps that’s because I enjoy multiple genres. But here’s a list of some that I truly enjoy and admire – for very different reasons: Ken Follett, P.D. James, Bernard Cornwell, John Le Carré, Jack Whyte, Colleen McCullough, Agatha Christie, Daniel Silva, Dick Francis, Alison Weir, Jane Austen, Tom Clancy, the Brontë sisters, Daphne DuMaurier. See what I mean? :-)
JMR- Great list of authors. I see that you like thrillers and spy novels. I've read all of Daniel Silva's books. Also P.D. James and John Le Carre. I sense we have a similar taste in reading. Daphne DuMaurier is one of my all time favorite authors. I read Frenchman's Creek as a teenage and fell in love with her. When I was in England, I may a day trip to see the actual creek!
Is there a style you try to emulate? Who would you like to be compared to?
PT- I’ve never set out to emulate any particular author or style. I’ve always felt each author should find their own voice and be true to it. In fact, if an author writes more than one genre, they likely have multiple voices.
Compare me to any best-selling author in my genre, and I’d be doing a little happy dance.
JMR- You love to travel, how has that influenced your writing? Is there any particular setting that makes its way into your books? Corona virus has restricted our movements, where is your first destination when this is over.
PT- Travel has had an enormous influence on my writing. There’s nothing quite like going to an old place – doesn’t matter if it’s a ruin or well-preserved – and absorbing the atmosphere, imagining the people who lived there, what they wore, how they lived, what they ate, who they loved. It gives you such a multi-dimensional experience of time and place that you can’t help but weave it into your narrative.
I actually had a trip planned for this past March to visit Avignon, in France, to do some research for what I hope will be a next book after I finish the Second Son Chronicles. Corona virus put paid to that for now, but it’s top of the list as soon as it’s safe to travel again.
JMR- Your books are described as historical fantasy. Can you explain what that means and how it differs from historical fiction.
PT- To quote Wikipedia: “An essential element of historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the depicted period.” My novels are true to these requirements. The minute someone uses the word “fantasy” in describing a book, it conjures up images of dragons, magic swords, sorcerers, immortal Highlanders, and the like – and, in fact, the definition of historical fantasy is that it includes speculative elements. There’s none of that in my books. Equally, my stories aren’t alternate history, because they don’t revolve around rewriting history as, for example, imagining what might have happened if Wellington had lost at Waterloo.
One reason why someone might be tempted to describe my books as historical fantasy is that the setting and the characters are imagined and there are no actual historical figures in the tale. (BTW, having actual historical figures in the tale isn’t a requirement of historical fiction – though it’s often an attribute.) The fully fictional nature of my tales is a conscious decision on my part because I explicitly didn’t want to write alternate history, but I had a story to tell and themes to explore.
In point of fact, I’m less concerned by what you call my books than that you read them and enjoy them. Interestingly, a recent review described Pestilence as a suspense/thriller. From what was in the review, it was clear they had read the book but chose a different label than I would have :-)
JMR- Describe the process of creating a new world for your characters. Was it harder that researching and writing about ‘real’ people? Is your world based on a specific place or is it more an amalgamation of places?
PT- Readers will recognize my setting as being very comparable to northern Europe, except that it doesn’t use the factual names of the countries that we know. Is everything precisely like Britain or France or the Low Countries in the 14th century? I’ve taken some small liberties, but they’re still true to the history of the time period. So the world-building for this novel was a matter of conveying as accurately as possible what the real world of the early 14th century was like. Yes, my characters are all fictional, but they behave and have experiences that are appropriate for the period. The research and the world-building were really no different than if I’d written explicitly about Edward III of England or Charles IV of France or Pope John XXII.
JMR- Tell us about your new book, Pestilence. What’s it about and how is it different from other historical fantasy?
PT- Pestilence is the third volume of the Second Son Chronicles. Like every book in the Chronicles, it has its own complete story arc within the overall arc of the series. Each book can stand alone, but you may find it most rewarding to meet Alfred at the beginning of his story.
So let’s start with the series: At the dawn of the Renaissance, Alfred – the eponymous second son – comes of age in his grandfather’s enlightened court, convinced that his life will be spent in mundane service to king and kingdom. His grandfather, however, foresees for him a special destiny, though what that destiny might be remains shrouded in mystery. The Chronicles follow Alfred’s journey to discover and fulfill that destiny at a time when peace and stability are tenuous and threats can arise from unexpected quarters.
In Pestilence, the unthinkable has happened: Alfred’s brother has become king. And it isn’t long before everyone’s worst fears are realized. Traditional allegiances are shattered under a style of rule unknown in over two hundred years. These will be the most dangerous years of Alfred’s life, forcing him to re-examine his duty to personal honor and to the kingdom and to make increasingly difficult choices to try to protect the things he holds most dear.
JMR- How can the reader find you on the web? Social media contacts?
PT-Visit my author website at https://pamela-taylor.com There’s a link there to the website for the Chronicles and you can sign up for my mailing list or contact me with your thoughts or questions.
Or you can go directly to the Chronicles website at https://www.SecondSonChronicles.com There you can read excerpts from the first three books, check out the editorial reviews, read some short articles on topics related to the events and activities portrayed in the novels, and view a gallery of images related to the stories.
Follow the Chronicles on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheSecondSonChronicles/
And follow me on Twitter (@PJTAuthor) and Instagram (PJTAuthor)
JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?
PT- Can’t think of one, but thanks for asking. So I’ll use this question to drop a hint for readers. Two of Alfred’s horses have very special cameo roles as characters in Pestilence – but no spoilers here – you’ll just have to read the book to find out.
JMR- Thank you Pamela for a great and informative interview. Readers if you like to buy her books on Amazon, just click any of the book covers or the Amazon button above. Also, don't miss out on a single interview or book review. Subscribe to my blog and you'll never miss a post.
Photo of Avignon:By OT Avignon - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49812169