indieBRAG Blog

Montfort – Katherine Ashe

Author Interview: Katherine Ashe I would like to introduce Author Katherine Ashe the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion for her novel, Montfort.Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Katherine, please tell us about your novel, Montfort the Founder of Parliament the Early Years. Montfort The Early Years is the first of four novels, all now in print, on the life of Simon de Montfort. The book begins with his arrival in England from France as a near penniless youth in the winter of 1229, and it follows his rise as he becomes the closest friend of King Henry III, the son of the notorious King John. 

Few people have experienced the "spin of fate's wheel" as dramatically as Simon, and this first book follows him from hapless petitioner to favored courtier, to exile, to candidate for Viceroy, to hapless petitioner again, to military hero and ultimately back to high favor with King Henry III. All this in fourteen years.

 This is not a fictional character. Simon was very real and these things, beyond question, really happened to him. Why his fate during this period was so tumultuous has been a matter of speculation from his lifetime onward. I offer a theory,…

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Montfort The Founder of Parliament – Of Journey and Research

Author Katherine Ashe's four book series depicting Simon de Montfort was completed in print in September of 2011 when Montfort The Angel with the Sword was made available for purchase. This concluded 34 years of research, writing, and travelling to the locales where Simon once lived. The series was written under the "aegis of fiction" owing to gaps and rampant bias in the historical record, but the conclusions Ashe reached follow a logical and well-reasoned strand, making her research take on the flavor of an investigation. Thirty-four years of investigative efforts are extraordinary, and result in some extraordinary and unconventional points of view in her novels. For many years it was considered a hanging offense in England to utter Simon de Montfort's name; thus what accounts there were of him were chiefly negative, which explains why modern authors often condemn him. What drew Ashe's curiosity to Montfort was the fact that he was acknowledged as pivotal in founding modern democratic government, but little about his life was general public knowledge and most of what was written cast him in a traitorous light. Concerning a man at the crux of something so revolutionary and as early as the 13th century, there had to be a reason for why he was so marginalized and maligned. This mystery piqued Ashe's interest. Her investigations began in 1977 as she read through every volume on Montfort available in New York City's public libraries. But these books, with historian after historian contradicting each other, spurred her to dig further, leading her to seek out the actual, original source material at the British Library and the Public Record Office in London and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. In 1978 at the Bibliotheque Nationale the request slip given to the clerk brought forth the Montfort Archive, a boxed volume of original early charters, trial notes of Simon's trial for treason in 1262 and a brief autobiography written by Simon himself in connection with the trial. At the London Public Record Office, the 13th century scrolls used by royal clerks for the purpose of tracking royal expenditures was offered, along with a pair of velvet-covered bricks so the reader, unrolling the scroll from one side and letting it roll up again on the other could brace the opened part, keeping the document from coiling itself shut. In the neat and orderly Latin of the Chancery script Ashe found items that provided new insights. A Pipe Roll entry in November 1238 concerned a payment to a physician who guaranteed that if the Queen and King drank an herbal tisane and prayed at the tomb of Saint Edward the queen's barrenness would be cured. Ashe knew that seven months later the Queen was reported (by Matthew Paris) to have given birth to a remarkably strapping infant, clearly not puny and premature. Christened Edward for the saint who worked this miraculous birth, that child would reign as Edward I, King of England. What was happening concerning this sequence of events? Where was the Queen nine months before the birth? The Royal Charters showed the King and Queen were at Kenilworth, the home of Simon de Montfort -- the same friend who, at the Queen's Churching -- six weeks after the birth and on the occasion of the Queen's first confession since her pregnancy -- would be accused by a distraught King Henry of being a seducer. The breach of friendship with King Henry was so sharp that Simon fled for his life and was in exile for four years. Following that incident, Henry would vacillate between cajoling Simon into serving him militarily and attempting to send him to death for treason. Henry needed a male heir far too much to be able to repudiate Edward, but once he had another son, his behavior toward Edward became treacherous as well, as evidenced by his sending the boy into perilous situations; Henry bestowed the rebellious province of Gascony upon him when he was only fifteen -- the same province where the King's brother Richard, as overlord, had narrowly escaped being murdered. Beginning with the payment to the physician, Ashe pursued a line of investigation that has lead to her highly controversial speculation that Simon de Montfort was the natural father of Edward I. Framing her work as an historical novel, she explores the question, and how and why it could have come about. But the issue of Edward's paternity comprises but a small fraction of the whole of the Montfort series. There are other speculations as well: for example, was Montfort the link between the Emperor Frederic II's use of a cannon at his siege of Milan -- the first known use of the weapon in Europe -- and the description of a cannon in the works of Roger Bacon? Additionally there is a crucial issue, mentioned twice by the thirteenth century chronicler Matthew Paris but ignored by every modern historian. After creating the Provisions of Oxford, which are in effect the constitution that defines the two houses of Parliament, the barons who had done this work abandoned the project. Going off in pursuit of the King's fleeing brothers, they lay siege to the brothers at Winchester, and there they were poisoned, many of them dying, others never recovering their health. The issue here is that Montfort did not go with the barons but stayed behind at Oxford, evidently thinking it was strategically more important to put the Provisions into effect. The logical thread indicates he did not seize power as he is accused, but stepped into the power vacuum resulting from the illness of virtually all of the other active barons. He was not a tyrant seizing power, but a military commander who had a clearer idea of priorities than his fellow lords had. This gives a very different view of Montfort than the power-hungry despot his detractors portray. Again, Ashe's tenacious research has led to an unconventional conclusion as she followed the trails of logic. Eventually Ashe's research was carried on at the Astor Tilden Lenox Library in New York where 19th century reprints of a broad range of 13th century documents widened her understanding of the period, and the prejudices of Montfort's contemporaries both for and against him. In addition to the J.A. Giles translation of Matthew Paris's Chronica Majora, on extended loan to her through the kindness of the librarian at The New York Society Library, she was able to obtain two Stewart era reprints of the work in the original Latin. The Monumenta Franciscana opened for her a view of Simon's friendships, chiefly with his mentor Bishop Robert Grosseteste and Grosseteste's followers, Bishop Walter Cantaloup, Geoffrey de Boscellis and Adam Marsh, all of whom were of the Franciscan order. Not only did she read his friends' letters pertaining to public marital harmony, but, from covering letters that accompanied loaned books, she also discovered Simon's reading list -- as much as was available. Chiefly these were religious tracts such as Saint Gregory's Commentaries on the Book of Job -- which no doubt Simon must have found very heartening during his years of travail as Viceroy in Gascony. Concerning his faith, from the writings of his friends and even his enemies it was clear to Ashe that Simon was a deeply religious, yet a flawed man who found that harsh penance could scarcely atone for his sins. Ashe gives readers an informed look into his spiritual condition which helps explain why his mentor Grosseteste played such a major role in his life. Reading the same books, religious tracts, and biblical commentaries Simon read, afforded Ashe a deeper than usual view into Montfort's spiritual and psychological makeup. In her books Grosseteste's admonitions and encouraging words to Simon, some quoted, some literary invention (which she always grounded on the spirit of Grosseteste's own writings) contain practical, biblical wisdom and underscore why Simon read such spiritual works as the Commentaries with special interest. The Book of Job concerns a timeless message of spiritual resolve during harsh trials – a man alone amid his enemies is symbolized by the lily among the tares (choking weeds.) This is a vivid metaphor that mirrors Montfort's need for endurance during his time in rebel Gascony. And it makes clear why he changed his shield's blazon from his accustomed fork-tailed red lion rampant to a lily. In her second volume, The Viceroy, Ashe uses this research detail in this exchange between Simon and his son Henry: "When we reach La Reole I must have a new shield made," Simon mused. "I'll have it painted with a lily. In white on an azure ground." "Not our red lion?" Henry asked, dismayed. Simon shook his head. "I want the lily that Saint Gregory writes of—that grew among the tares, like Job who lived among the wicked folk of Uz but kept his faith." Scouring the same books Simon read not only enabled bright detail, but it helped explain Simon's transformation from a man given solely to harsh penance into a figure who begins to apply the years of practical wisdom from his mentor Grosseteste. This is not a lapse or an unwonted character swing; it is Ashe's intimate knowledge of de Montfort and his maturation. She has captured the subtle changes in Simon's personal beliefs and passions, based on the books he read and the clues he left behind. Her knowledge and appreciation of de Montfort's reading matter gives readers an unbiased and intimate look into the religious transformations that were slowly growing across Europe during this period, and how individuals such as Simon were drawing upon those changes. There was the entire world in which Montfort lived that needed to be understood. Ashe threaded her way not only through the period's religious views, agriculture, economics, armor and architecture (palatial, military and vernacular.) In her words, "My research has been done almost entirely the old fashioned way -- going to the original sources as much as possible, and reading, and reading, and reading." However, her practical research brought her as far as taking sword lessons and renewing her riding skills. One of the most persistent questions she found, in writing about a time before modern transportation and communications, was how long did it take, normally or at top speed, to get from one place to another? The beginning of her first book describes a joust between a young Simon and a seasoned challenger. By interviewing jousters, she was able to capture Simon's well-schooled, but yet, untried skills and merge those with his documented nearsightedness. However, as with her riding instructors, she found that each jouster had his own style and few agreed with one another. Conversely, replica distributors and manufacturers have now recreated the armor and the high saddles of the period; however, the heavy breeds of horses, though deft and swift, have not yet been recreated. There is only so far that research can go before speculation must fill in the gaps. Ashe visited Simon's manors, not only Leicester and Kenilworth, but Chawton, Hinkley, Asheby de la Zouche, and his wife's castle at Odiham. Other sites, including the battlefield of Evesham, and places relevant to Simon in Paris, Normandy, Poitou and Gascony helped her craft the vivid scenes in the series. In addition, Ashe walked where Simon, his peers and enemies walked, even retracing King Henry's tour of Paris with King Louis. She visited La Reole, Simon's stronghold in Gascony with its grand tower room, the towns where he held court as Viceroy, each of the cities he conquered in England, and the spring that formed at Evesham where he died. The use of primary sources coupled with practical application enabled Ashe to have a keen understanding of the cultural and physical world in which Montfort lived. She took no detail for granted. To further illustrate how Ashe's practical approach buttressed her research: she drew upon her time spent in theater as a playwright, director, and actor. In a stage play everything written must be do-able and there must be continuity. If an actor is instructed to pick something up, he must be told when and where to put it down. Every detail must be very clear in the playwright's, or the director's, mind. Every scene requires to be played out in a logical and well-informed fashion. Historical fiction authors can gain much from Ashe's method of investigation, and readers will appreciate the tenor of her novels. Not a little space is left at the end of each novel where she details the flow of her logic, providing the phrase in question, the source, cultural milieu, and oftentimes the direct reference in her source. Many historical fiction authors devote a page or two devoted to source information or perhaps a paragraph that states that the novel is a fictional work. Ashe clarifies from the outset in her novels that Montfort is written "under the aegis of fiction" because of the gaps in the historical record. She does take liberties that would not be allowed a historian, which is why she novelized this account of Simon de Montfort and calls it "informed speculation." However, the evidence and passages where she used conjecture, which she provides in the notes section illuminates her logic and reasoning when she fills in the historical gaps. Some might call her evidences circumstantial, or say that her cause and effect approach lacks validity. But no historian of so distant a time in the past works with complete evidence. All must speculate, and many repeat others' earlier speculations, making them appear, by repetition, to be "facts." Ashe makes her cases on each point with conviction. Montfort is not a dry work of research, but a fast-paced story of adventure where Ashe's 34 years of investigative research have resulted in sweeping, life-like scenes. She shares with readers the delight she experienced during her journey in a way that connects with her audience. She has critics, but her answers parallel the reasoned approach she takes in her novels; she answers with a dexterity, grace, and polish that few authors could replicate. Many would ask why she would spend 34 years researching such an ambiguous individual and novelizing his life. But her reasons are quite simple: "My intent is not to write a definitive biography, but to rouse public interest in a man whose life truly changed the world — who has affected all of our lives up to the present, and will into the future as long as governments seek their authenticity through people's elected representatives." vist Katherine Ashe at her author's page on amazon.com to experience Simon de Montfort's 13th century world and visit her blog to learn more about Simon de Montfort. Scott Higginbotham

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My Temporary Life – Martin Crosbie

Author Interview: Martin Crosbie I would like to introduce Author Martin Crosbie, the winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion.Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Please tell us about your book, My Temporary Life. Thanks, Stephanie, I'd love to, and thanks for the opportunity to do this, too, I really appreciate it. My Temporary Life is a story told in two parts. The first section is a coming of age story about young lad who never has anything permanent in his life. He's shipped between his parents, his father who lives in Scotland and his mother who lives in Canada. Throughout his childhood, he's faced with not only two very different cultures but also bullying and poverty. The second part of the book picks up twenty years later where the boy, now a young man, is stuck in a major life rut. He meets a girl who had her own traumatic childhood, and through a series of circumstances, the most important being that he falls in love with her, he's given the opportunity to help her recapture something from her childhood. It's been called a coming of age/suspense/romance, and I know that sounds confusing, but hopefully it sounds intriguing too. Was there…

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Saint Maggie – Janet Stafford

  Author Interview: Janet Stafford I would like to introduce Author Janet Stafford, the winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion.Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Janet please tell us about your book, Saint Maggie. Saint Maggie tells the story of a widow, Maggie Blaine, who has two teenaged daughters and runs a boarding house on the square of a NJ small town in the year 1860. Maggie's collection of boarders is eclectic, ranging from an undertaker's apprentice, an unsuccessful writer, an aspiring lawyer, and an elderly indigent Irishman. What really upsets town folk, though, is the fact that she also lives with her two closest friends, Nate and Emily, who are African-American. To make matters worse, Maggie begins to court Elijah Smith, the free-thinking, abolitionist editor of the town's newspaper. (It's a good thing the town doesn't know that Emily, Nate, Eli and Maggie manage a stop on the Underground Railroad.) Enter Jeremiah Madison, the new Methodist minister. Maggie is asked to provide him with a room because there is nowhere else for him to lodge. Both Maggie and her church have high hopes for Jeremiah – and he appears to fulfill them: he is charming, respectable, and an inspiring pastor.…

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Roswell Redemption – Cindi Crane

Author Interview: Cindi Crane It is my pleasure to introduce Author Cindi Crane winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion. Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Cindi please tell us about your book, Roswell Redemption. 

Roswell Redemption is a story of two women whose stories come together in Greyson Manor, a plantation home in Roswell, Georgia.
In 1838, Jade Hawkins is the thirteen year old daughter of a prominent Cherokee family who own one of the most successful plantations in the Cherokee Nation. But the Hawkins plantation is taken over by force as a result of the Georgia Land Lottery and Andrew Jackson’s insistence on the Cherokee removal to the west. Jade's family is destroyed and she is forced to stay with the new white owner. Her strength and sacrifices change the history of several families for many years to come.
In 2010, Carolyn Kane searches for a property where she can open a restaurant and event facility in Roswell, Georgia. Carolyn finds Greyson Manor, one of the only original plantations remaining. The owners are unwilling to renovate or sell. As Carolyn strives to persuade the Greyson clan, she uncovers the story of an Indian girl that will change the town of Roswell forever.…

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Print or Digital?

There is a debate among self-published authors right now as to whether it is worth producing a print book when eBooks are outselling print. Cost considerations are often cited as the reason to only offer an eBook. An SP author obviously needs to sell quite a few books to recoup the outlay of expenses associated with a print book. BUT, there is a problem for the author that he or she may not realize, specifically in rural America. Very few if any people living in rural areas have access to high-speed internet. Yes there are satellite internet providers but for those of you who have never dealt with them, this service is not cheap and it is not dependable. The equipment charges and monthly fees put it out of reach for many rural dwellers. Moreover, snow, rain and clouds can interrupt service (and frequently do!). Some social thought leaders believe that rural America is falling behind in the information revolution for just this reason. The New York Times stated that this, in effect, is a blow against equal opportunity. Whether true or not, it certainly affects eBooks and digital publishing. This invariably makes frequent shopping on sites like amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com a rare experience for those in rural communities. How does this affect us as self-publishers? Well, there is no question that eBooks are outselling print books―the statistics don't lie. But there is still an audience out there for print books. There are those who can't take advantage of the digital explosion and those that don't care to; readers who like the feel and smell of a book and want to line their shelves with their beloved books. The brutal fact is that authors who only publish in an eBook format are simply not taking advantage of this group of consumers, even if it is an ever shrinking group! Here are my thoughts on this – First, if you can only do one, print or eBook, always have an eBook version of your book. Authors who choose to only publish a print book are out-of-step with the times.

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Too Many Witches – Scott Nicholson

Author Interview: Scott Nicholson I would like to introduce Author Scott Nicholson the winner of the IndieBRAG Medallion. Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Scott, please tell us about your book, Too Many Witches. I'd did IF I WERE YOUR MONSTER with Lee Davis and really liked his art, so I kicked around for another "monster" type of book. What inspired you to write this story? I liked the idea of "too many cooks spoil the kitchen," so I wondered what would happen if little witches tried to out-do each other on a wicked potion. Is there a message in your story you want young readers to grasp? It's a story about friendship and working together, but also inspiring children to be creative. Who or what inspired you to become an author? All the great books, art, and music I've been lucky enough to find have inspired me to be creative. Ever since I was young, I have always been making up stories, songs, and pictures. Dr. Seuss was probably one of my strongest early influences.

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The Mill River Recluse – Darcie Chan

Author Interview: Darcie Chan I would like to introduce Author Darcie Chan the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion. Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Darcie, please tell us about your book, The Mill River Recluse. The Mill River Recluse is the story of Mary McAllister, a woman who has suffered from severe social anxiety disorder her entire life. As a result of certain events that occur in her youth, Mary’s condition worsens until she becomes a virtual prisoner in her marble mansion that overlooks the tiny town of Mill River, Vermont. The townspeople are completely unaware that she keeps a secret, one which will change all of their lives. Were there any challenges you faced writing this story? I wrote The Mill River Recluse in the evenings, after work, and it took more than two years to finish. The hardest thing for me, other than the fact that it was my first novel and I was learning a lot writing-wise through trial and error, was just finding the time to write at all. My day job at the time was very demanding and often required substantial overtime. What is the most surprising thing you learned while creating your book and…

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In Search of the Fuller Brush Man – Douglas Carlyle

Author Interview: Douglas Carlyle I would like to introduce Douglas Carlyle, the winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion.Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Douglas please tell us about your book, In Search of the Fuller Brush Man. The novel is highly biographical, yet “fictionalized.” It has very little to do with the Fuller Brush Man per se. My mother died of cancer in 1987. She kept a journal while she was dying. Her last written words were “Fuller Brush Man”. The plot centers around Sean Marcum who searches for the meaning of his mother’s last words. She used to teach him all of life’s lessons via riddles, and he is certain this is her swan song she intended for him to decipher. There is a problem. Sean is lousy at riddles and puzzles. His search turns into an obsession that leads him year after year from one dead end to the next. Add to this Sean’s mid-life crisis, then the death of his first true love, Kim, and Sean is in real trouble. But wait! Kim and Sean remained close all their adult lives, and it turns out she never let go of him. In fact, she penned a novel about…

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The Fuller Brush Man- who is he?

The Fuller Brush Man (1946) MGM knew it had a valuable property in Red Skelton, but the studio never really knew how to handle his unique talents -- until he was loaned out to Columbia for the hilarious, money-spinning slapstick comedy The Fuller Brush Man. The star plays Red Jones, a born screw-up who can't seem to hold down a job. With the help of his ever-loving girlfriend Ann Elliot (Janet Blair), Red gets a job as a Fuller Brush salesman, intending to take the business world by storm with his can't-fail sales techniques. Unfortunately, when Red isn't messing up on his own, he's being sabotaged by his supervisor Keenan Wallick (Don McGuire) -- who also happens to be sweet on Ann. While trying to make a sale at the home of Commissioner Trist (Nicholas Joy), poor Red finds himself the Number One Suspect when Trist is murdered. With Ann's help, Red eventually stumbles onto the identity of the actual killer, and the chase is on. And what a chase! Pursued by a battalion of thugs (played by several of Hollywood's top stunt men), Red and Ann hotfoot it through a well-stocked war surplus warehouse, wherein all the props -- rubber rafts, prefabricated houses, camouflage tents, flare guns -- are utilized to their utmost comic potential. A riot from beginning to end, The Fuller Brush Man may well be Skelton's funniest film. It was successful enough in 1948 to spawn a series of imitations -- The Good Humor Man, The Fuller Brush Girl, The Yellow Cab Man, Kill the Umpire - -all of which, like Fuller Brush Man, were co-scripted by the inexhaustibly inventive Frank Tashlin.  Read more about this film and review. Fiction: In Search of the Fuller Brush Man    

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