Today we are delighted to welcome Emma Campion, author of the newly released A Triple Knot--a novel of the mysterious and dazzling medieval beauty, Joan of Kent--and its previous companion novel, The King's Mistress. As some of you may already know, Emma also writes medieval mysteries as Candace Robb.
Candace, who would become Emma in 2008, was born in the 20th century in North Carolina to parents who had just recently moved from New York City. From a very early age she had a sense of really belonging nowhere, so she could choose. An auspicious beginning for a writer. She grew up through ambitions to be a tap dancer, a singer, a ballerina, a journalist covering the Viet Nam War, a professor of medieval and Anglo-Saxon literature, the author of fantasy and science fiction novels, the author of historical novels, the author of historical crime novels—and that’s how she came to write The Apothecary Rose, the first Owen Archer mystery, which eventually led to changing her name, changing her mind about Alice Perrers, and writing, as Emma Campion, The King’s Mistress. That book, as well as the 10th Owen Archer mystery, A Vigil of Spies, led to the current novel about Joan of Kent, A Triple Knot (originally titled The Hero’s Wife, then Rebel Pawn). Breathlessly, that’s Emma’s story.
A Triple Knot is garnering lots of lovely praise. Joan of Kent, ward of her cousin King Edward III, is destined for a politically strategic marriage. Betrothed to the heir of a powerful family, Joan is haunted by her father's execution and distrusts her royal kin--and so she pledges herself to one of the king’s own knights. Furious, the king forces Joan into another politically auspicious marriage--one that she and her beloved will struggle a decade to dissolve.
“A Triple Knot is a brilliant, tender portrait of a passionate woman in dangerous times,” says Chris Nickson, author of the Richard Nottingham novels. And Diane Haeger, author of The Secret Bride, says: “With a deft eye for detail and a wonderfully authentic evocation of time and place, Campion has delivered what is certain to become a classic.”
I was fortunate to read an advanced copy of A Triple Knot, and loved it. Campion's 14th century is vivid and authentic, with characters that are as convincing as the setting--and Joan, sometimes glossed over in the hstory books as the Fair Maid of Kent and little more, is complex yet sympathetic. It's an exciting, compelling read.
And after reading it, I quickly invited Emma/Candace to visit the blog! Here's her interview:
Susan: Emma, welcome to Word Wenches! I loved A Triple Knot, and appreciated how very well you combined your love and knowledge of English medieval history with a gift for storytelling to explore the story of Joan of Kent, first cousin to Edward III. Writing about “the fair maid of Kent” (a later moniker but possibly founded in truth, with the story of Joan's garter slipping down, the king's comment to save her embarrassment--Honi soit qui mal y pense, essentially "shame to him who thinks badly of it" --and the subsequent Order of the Garter) -- must have been a real challenge. Joan's life combined fairytale with soap opera – but not a lot is known about the circumstances and motivations in her life.
How did you approach the historical facts to create such strong, detailed historical fiction?
Emma: I began with the facts that went right to the heart of the matter (I’ll mention only one of the three, so as not to spoil the story for those who don’t know it): Joan of Kent chose to be buried beside Thomas Holland rather than Edward, the Black Prince. I collected all I could find about Joan, Will Montagu, Thomas Holland, and Edward of Woodstock, and began to move them around in my head against the backdrop of what I knew about King Edward III, the queens Isabella and Philippa, the Montagu and Holland families, the years leading up to the Hundred Years War, the foundation of the Order of the Garter, the Black Death, etc., trying to connect the dots by considering motivations and who was where when—essentially, sleuthing.
The biggest challenge, once I was convinced that Thomas and Joan were telling the truth about their betrothal when she was so young, was finding a motivation for their decision to foil King Edward’s plan for her marriage into a Gascon family with the influence and the military might to turn the tide in Gascony. Joan was so very young and Thomas so dependent on the king’s favor, I knew they acted out of desperation, a sense of imminent danger. Discovering the record of a planned betrothal that is never mentioned again was just what I needed. Then it all began to come together. My test was always, how did they feel about this? I let their hearts lead me.