And yes, there is a giftcard giveaway at the bottom of the post!
FJRT: First, congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Shadows of Valor!
EP: Thanks so much for having my as a guest on your blog, Fiona! I’m honored and grateful to be here!
FJRT: Shadows of Valor takes place in a medieval setting. What kind of research did you do to prepare? Did you learn anything interesting and unexpected?
EP: I spent weeks at a time researching the history, monarchy, wars, old maps, weather, clothing, weapons, castles, towns, speech, food, politics, armor, tournaments, knights, medieval terms, feudal titles, names, customs and basic beliefs of England in 1300 A.D. My father’s library of historical books was indispensable as I cross referenced those books with internet sites to make sure I was getting accurate information. Lots of books, lots of time and lots of notes.
An interesting thing that I learned was that during King Edward I’s reign, he outlawed the use of sharp weapons during tournaments. Previous to this, there had been too many fatalities during the “practice” combats, and Edward thought it idiotic to be killing off his army of warriors on the practice field. So he ordered an edict that only blunted weapons could be used in tournaments, thus reducing the number of knights and warriors killed. I incorporated this information into my story during a particular tournament.
FJRT: What’s the most challenging part of writing a story set in the medieval period?
EP: All the time spent researching and then finding a happy medium between illustrating the flavor for the time, yet keeping it modern enough to hold the interest of the contemporary reader. I hope I’ve succeeded in a good balance.
FJRT: What’s the best part?
EP: I love writing about times past, but putting modern day perspectives into it to appeal to the contemporary reader. I like writing about issues we have today, but in a wonderful, historical setting, making it kind of magical in a way. Most people, then and now, all wish to be a better person than they were the day before.
FJRT: The drama between Elsbeth, Sir Calan, and his alter-ego as The Shadow is often reminiscent of the comic book superhero genre. Are you a comic book fan? Is there any element of characters with secret identities that particularly appeals to you, or that you wanted to depart from in Shadows of Valor?
EP: I’m really not a fan of comic books, though I enjoy a good Batman, Spiderman, Superman, movie and the like. When my husband read Shadows of Valor, he compared it to Batman, but I didn’t have Batman in mind when I wrote the novel. I just had the idea that spies, in general, need to keep a duel identity. I was hoping for a fresh new character that was like no other in a way, but I suppose there will always be another character that's comparable.
FJRT: Tell us about the process of shaping Shadows of Valor from an idea to a finished novel. Are there any parts that practically wrote themselves, or parts that went through extra difficult rounds of revision? Any cool deleted scenes lost due to pacing or other practical reasons?
EP: After leaving some high-danger jobs behind to be a stay-at-home mother, though I LOVE being a mom and wouldn’t trade it for anything, I got antsy to do something for myself again while I changed diapers, ran errands, cleaned house, etc. I’ve made up short stories since I could write coherently in grade-school and, always a fan of a good action-packed, fantasy, romance movie or novel, I had ideas in my head of what I thought would make good scenes (especially if I didn’t like the way one was played out in a book or movie - LOL), so acting on a whim, I jotted them down. The thought of a full length novel was daunting to me, so I started out with only these few scattered scenes, typing them out in no particular order. I then pieced them together with a tentative plot. Then I put in a few more scenes here and there, and then a few more. Little by little, the story grew in pages and before I knew it, I had a full-length novel on my hands.
Coming up with the dialogues were fun and easy for me. They wrote themselves as I pictured how the conversations between my characters would be on a movie screen, and then described them as I saw them in my mind. I had difficulty describing scenes in my story, however. I wanted to be historically accurate in my descriptions, so I took lots of breaks from my typing to research how rooms and chambers looked, banquet halls, articles of clothing, weapons, etc. I didn’t want to just rely on movies I’d seen, because movies aren’t always accurate in what they portray. Lots of medieval books sat open on my computer desk and took up a ton of precious writing time.
I had a lot more detail in Shadows of Valor about home structures and food and such, but it slowed the story a bit in parts, so the editors took some of it out. I hope that what remains allows the reader to effectively picture the medieval world as I had wanted to describe it.
FJRT: What can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
EP: I’m working on another story that takes place several years after Shadows of Valor. I’ve taken a minor character from Shadows of Valor and weaved a story around him. The story takes place in England again, but ventures into Scotland as well, drawing on the historical happenings and battles that took place between the countries at that time. You don’t need to read Shadows of Valor to read my next book. Though they share a common character, it’s not a sequel. It’s a separate story. I will, of course, compose a song for it (probably not three like I did for Shadows of Valor) and it will be another PG-rated romantic adventure.
FJRT: Finally, in the pursuit of your writing career, what question have you most fantasized about being asked by an interviewer, and what’s the answer?
EP: Interviewer: “So how are you handling all the fame from being the current best selling historical fiction writer in the world?” (Okay, I think every author dreams of hearing this question *smile*)
My answer: “I’m taking the fame in stride. I feel honored, grateful and humbled by my many fans who have fallen in love with my story and characters. And, yes, I’m elated that director Peter Jackson has taken an interest in making my book into a movie and using my musical compositions as part of the score *BIG GRIN*.”
FJRT: That would be a dream match.
EP: Thanks again for your great questions, Fiona, and for having me as a guest! I’ve had a blast being here!
About Shadows of Valor
As much a figure of fear to the unruly as legend to the innocent, The Shadow is an enforcer of justice and aid to the King. Due to an outrageous export tax set by King Edward, smuggling has tainted the kingdom, so The Shadow is sent to hunt the smugglers down. Contrary to legend, The Shadow is simply a man known as Sir Calan who, although talented and just, struggles to keep his dark thoughts of revenge from becoming ruthless action.
Due to sheer coincidence, The Shadow learns of a deadly plot against Lord Shaufton on a journey to Graywall. Now, he must enter a pseudo courtship with Lord Shaufton’s daughter under his original guise of Sir Calan, all while old emotions are stirred by the lovely Elsbeth, Lord Shaufton’s niece. Elsbeth, it seems, is the only woman who can heal his troubled soul, but she has a story of her own. What transpires is a glorious tale full of deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and most of all—love.
About Elsie Park
You can find Elsie Park on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter!