Medieval FAQ

Q: How did you come up with the heroine for Out of the Dark?

The heroine for the novel comes from personal experience. In the 1980’s, I worked with a blind woman who ran the department for disabled students at a local community college. I admired how much she could accomplish in a day. While my heroine has limited sight. I wanted to challenge of writing about that experience.

Q: How did you choose the setting for Out of the Dark?

Ainsworth is an Anglo-Saxon name originating in the 900’s, having its own coat of arms with the motto “Courage Without Fear”.

My choice of a novel highlighting medieval Britain derived from the roots of the Ainsworth family in 900 A.D. The name is Anglo-Saxon, meaning the property of Ains.

I needed a time period when women had a certain amount of freedom to choose their husbands. After research, I learned that 900 A.D. would not work. The first generation after the Norman Conquest gave me the right blend of social conflict with the diminishing of Saxon laws, religion and healing practices while the Norman culture was gaining a toehold—but with relative political calm and no war.

Q: Can you draw any comparisons between your fictional historical characters and contemporary times?

Over the years I’ve learned that people are the same throughout the ages. Only our outside environments change. For example, ancient Egyptians lamented children who skipped school and didn’t do their homework. Romans kept lists of budgeted household expenses. Tutors and one-room schoolhouses answered the need of parents to see their children lead a better life that today’s university campuses serve.

When I researched the time period for my medieval novels, I read letters from the Anglo-Saxon queen to her bishop. Her insights into human nature were as accurate as those of licensed psychologists.

Q: What’s different about your medieval romances?

I write stories about ordinary folk faced with extraordinary circumstances. A reviewer for Paranormal Romance says about MATILDA’S SONG: “One thing I really liked about this story is the fact it isn’t about lords and ladies, instead it tells a tale of a common born woman.”

Q: What is unusual about your medieval romantic suspense, OUT OF THE DARK?

A reader review on Barnes & Noble says: “Having a blind relative, I especially appreciated reading a story in which the leading lady is blind.”

The heroine for the novel comes from personal experience. I worked with a blind woman who ran the department for disabled students at a local community college. I admired how much she could accomplish in a day with only one reader to help her. While my heroine is not totally blind, I wanted the challenge of writing about a limited-sight experience.

Besides my critique partners, I had Lynne Laird, a retired instructor for the California School for the Blind, read the OUT OF THE DARK manuscript. Like my heroine, Lynne is sight-impaired. I had to print the manuscript in 16 point Courier for her. It took almost a ream of paper. It must have pushed her eyes to the limit, but when she was done I was confident I had a heroine who was acting within the abilities and limitations of her sight.

Q: How do you write so realistically? Your descriptions are so great, I feel I can reach out and touch objects as I read.

A reviewer for Affaire de Coeur says I write “vivid descriptions of time and place.”

I write vividly of medieval times because personal experiences bring realism. When I carried wood as a pre-teen so my Great Aunt Martha could stoke up the iron stove to prepare dinner, I wasn’t thinking, “I could use this in a novel someday.” Yet, the skills I learned from my horse-and-buggy ancestors translate into backdrops for my historical romance novels.

Growing up with these experiences provided me with a sense of everyday life before labor-saving devices: an out house, a great aunt who had a root cellar, hand-pumping water, an ice box, wash boards, home-made lye soap, canning, growing our own food, feeding chickens, plucking feathers, reading and embroidering by candlelight, and Saturday night baths in a metal tub with water heated on the kitchen stove (with wash basins for sponge baths during the week). While technological change happens rapidly these days, changes were slow centuries ago. My youthful experiences weren’t that far away from those daily household chores needed to add realism to my historical settings.

It was hard work, but we didn’t know better at the time. To us, we lived in “modern” times.

Take lye soap, for instance. It’s caustic. It sears your lungs and burns your skin if you don’t handle and mix it just right. Once it’s made, you still have to shred it into detergent flakes by scraping the bar of soap across a metal slicer. When the soap bar gets small, there’s a good chance you’ll shave your fingers.

Then there is plucking chicken feathers. The headless chicken is dunked in scalding water to loosen the feathers. The bigger feathers are easier to pull. But the little ones! Besides being hot to the touch, the pin feathers just didn’t seem to want to come out. If you leave them, they become part of your dinner.

Beating dust out of rugs was fun. Grandpa would hang the rugs over the clothesline on a spring or fall housecleaning day. We kids grabbed the wooden handle of a woven-wire tool with a head about as wide as a shovel blade and beat the hell out of the rug. Dust would go everywhere. Being outdoors, it blew away. One catch—we didn’t have dust masks in those days.

These early childhood experiences make the “vivid descriptions” in my novels.

Q: What other lessons do your characters learn in the course of their stories?

In MATILDA’S SONG, my heroine and hero learn to sacrifice for love. They are from different social strata. The easy road would be to stay within their own cultural bounds.

In OUT OF THE DARK, my heroine learns to see herself as a whole human being and not as a sight-impaired woman. She has to believe she will find the resources to keep her children and husband safe. The hero has to learn he is a man who deserves a family and love despite being illegitimate.