I’d like to warmly welcome back author and professor Livi Michael for Part II of her interview on the blog today. Ms. Michael is the author of the newly published “Succession”, a story of Margaret Beaufort and Margaret of Anjou from a distinctly unique perspective. If you would like to ask Ms. Michael any questions, please do so in the comments section below.
1) You quoted many snippets of text from the historical record throughout the book. I don’t think I’ve come across another book that incorporates contemporary accounts at length like you did. It adds other, authentic voices to the narrative. What prompted you to include them in your novel?
I loved reading them, and I felt they captured the voice and spirit of the time better than I could ever do. In some ways the chronicles are opposite to the novel in that they concentrate purely on narrating the events and action of the period, which left me free to incorporate more personal and intimate moments. I hoped that the two together would complement each other.
2) What is your favorite aspect of writing historical fiction?
History is full of amazing stories – you couldn’t make it up! If you take the House of York, for instance – one brother, Edward IV, has another brother executed, then his younger brother, Richard III usurps the throne and is accused of murdering his brother’s children. If that was the plot of a novel the writer would be told to tone it down.The main challenge is to do justice to the real story so that it is communicable to the present-day reader. I find that an endlessly fascinating problem!
3) I see you’ve written books for everyone from young children to adults. How do you switch gears between the two? What’s the biggest difference between writing for children and writing for adults?
When writing for children I concentrate more on the child’s voice, slightly less on the context, and I would probably not provide an ending that is wholly without hope!
4) You’re also a professor. How has teaching creative writing shaped your own experience as a writer?
I’m a lecturer, which takes up a lot of time so I’ve really had to try to create and keep to a writing routine. Also I’m constantly reading students’ work which teaches me to focus on what works for the reader.
5) As an aspiring novelist, I’m always curious about authors’ writing routines. How do you identify the topic for your next book? Do you rely on outlines or do you prefer to go wherever the story takes you? Do you write every day or only when the mood strikes?
I never wait for the mood to strike – it would strike when I absolutely couldn’t write e.g. at a departmental meeting. So I aim to write every day except when I have a really long day teaching. I think the topic chooses you – you can’t choose what will grip you enough to propel you through the long process of writing a novel. I don’t work strictly to plan but one of the good things about writing the historical novel is that there is a chronological framework to write to.
6) If you could be a character from your favorite historical novel, who would it be?
I think I would like to be Shakespeare, but I can’t at the moment think of a novel about him – there is bound to be one. Aphra Behn also – very interesting woman, dramatist and spy. And of course, Margaret Beaufort!
A special thanks goes out to Ms. Michael for joining me on the blog! If you have any questions for her, please enter them into the comments section below.
Livi Michael is the author of 11 novels for children and 5 for adults. Many of her novels are set in the past since she finds it difficult to believe in the present. She teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.