Good day!! I got to know Mercedes while reading and reviewing her book "Godwine Kingmaker." I have enjoyed getting to know her as we message back and forth! I hope that you will enjoy getting to know her a bit more and check out some of her works!
Hi Mercedes, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Good morning, Rebecca. Actually, I was a late-bloomer in the history department, having avoided the subject in my college years while I pursued the 19th century English Novel. Once I discovered Living History groups, I suddenly "got it", and my first novel was a blend of Shakespeare's Macbeth and 11th century history. I didn't recognize Historical Fiction as a genre until much later! In my twenties I moved from St. Louis to New York to be near the center of the publishing world, but success evaded me and I put my writing career on hold until a few years ago. Was I in for a big surprise!
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I hope to help expand the new sub-genre called Historical Faction, where history is more important to the story than the love interest, or the imaginative plot that just happens to take place within a certain historical background. All too often the real history comes to us in something like "sound bites" without any depth. I want to make these people real; I want to take the pain out of learning history. I doubt whether I'll get rich in this endeavor, but that's where my muse is taking me.
Which writers inspire you?
My biggest inspiration was Alexandre Dumas; I loved The Three Musketeers so much I even learned French so I could read it in the original language. Even then, I didn't recognize it as Historical Fiction. Then I fell in love with Arthur Conan Doyle and his Historical Fiction novels—Sir Nigel and the indomitable Brigadier Gerard. More recently I enjoy Sharon Penman; she has always been the definitive source for me on the Wars of the Roses. And Colleen McCullough has opened up Ancient Rome to me in a way no one else has been able to touch.
What have you written?
(*Include books, novellas, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.)
So far I have written four novels on 11th century Britain. My first, HEIR TO A PROPHECY, I call a sequal to Macbeth, because I always wondered what happened to Banquo's son Fleance. Researching this book sent me backwards to the beginning of the century, as I became fascinated with Earl Godwine of Wessex, the father of Harold Godwineson who lost his crown at the Battle of Hastings. This turned into a trilogy, THE LAST GREAT SAXON EARLS; first I wrote about Godwine (GODWINE KINGMAKER)—who rose to power in the reign of Canute—and his family. Then I went on to explore the sibling rivalry between Godwine's sons (THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY). I always felt that Tostig has been unfairly branded as a traitor, and I wanted to learn what drove him to fight against Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. I do not doubt that their rivalry brought England to its knees in the events leading up to the Norman Conquest. But nothing is as simple as it sounds.
What are you working on at the minute?
I have jumped forward 300 years to Richard II. Once again I was inspired by Shakespeare, whose play about Richard struck a chord with me. I had no idea how complicated his reign was.
What’s it about?
My current project promises to be three or four books. Richard II, who came to the throne at the tender age of 10, spent the first ten years of his reign in conflict with the great nobles who did everything they could to control him and hang on to their own power. Richard finally got the upper hand and proceeded to wreak revenge on his enemies, though in the end he went too far and lost his crown to Henry of Bolingbroke. Richard is going to take two books! Then I will continue with Henry IV and his resentful son Henry V.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I sell real estate for a living, which is seasonal work and my schedule changes every day. I get a lot of writing done in the winter when nobody wants to look at houses!
Where do the ideas come from?
In other words, which historical figures/eras inspire me? I wish I could answer that question! There's no doubt that I love almost everything about the Middle Ages. That'll keep my busy for a while! I think in the end I like to investigate stories that haven't already been done to death. Although everyone loves the Tudors, how many more books about Anne Boleyn or Queen Elizabeth do we really need? On the other hand, choosing more "obscure" subjects means fewer sales (unless I get lucky). So I might as well write about what moves me, and that is kind of like being thunderstruck. One day a scene in a Shakespeare play (like Richard II's soliloquy) or even in a documentary strikes me. If I can't shake it loose it goes on my list of future novels. I've been thinking about Richard II for thirty years. (I can't get James Shapiro's "Shakespeare: The King's Man" out of my mind. I feel a James I/Shakespearean Gunpowder Plot novel brewing in the back of my head.)
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I am weak at plotting a novel from thin air, so I am quite grateful that the histories give me direction. I am strong at weaving together a narrative, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle made from pieces of histories. How and why did we get from point A to point B? The more research I do, the more the story writes itself—with lots of extrapolation from yours truly. As they say, fact is stranger than fiction and I am a firm believer in that. The hardest part is deciding what to leave out. Sometimes, an important fact is just not exciting and I have to figure out how to introduce it without derailing the narrative.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Getting started each day. I resist firm routines, so standing up at my writing computer has to fit into my day somewhere; I admit it—sometimes I miss a day or two. In my previous writing session I like to stop in the middle of a sentence; this serves to jump-start the next day's composition. I usually go back a page or two, do a little editing, and by the time I get to the half-sentence I can just keep on going.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Having finished! OK, that's too easy. I like the revision phase because for me, the hard work is in the first draft. I struggle to get all the facts down which usually means keeping four or five history books open and agonizing about which interpretation fits my narrative best. I go back and forth between them ad nauseum before I commit myself. In the revision phase I get to add in the creative stuff: the imagery, the transitions between scenes. This is difficult in its own way, but it's more satisfying.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mercedes-Rochelle/e/B001KMG5P6
HEIR TO A PROPHECY: http://a.co/cXA0IJz
GODWINE KINGMAKER: http://a.co/jcHU0r2
THE SONS OF GODWINE: http://a.co/9rvqtyV
FATAL RIVALRY: http://a.co/51LhYU6