Happy Medieval Monday! I'm delighted to celebrate today with Virginie Marconato, multi-published author of medieval romance. Virginie's writing is captivating, throbbing with passion and emotion as it immerses readers in another time and place. We'll talk about her latest book Shadows in the Mist, which just launched in February, but first let's get to know Virginie a little better. Welcome, Virginie!
1) What sort of books did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you have a favorite book or series?
Oh, I’ve always loved reading! The first books I remember rereading over and over again are Fantastic Mr Fox and White Fang, which everyone will know, and Pimprenelle and the Whimsical Leek, which no one will. The story of a leek with the powers to transform itself into anything. Very random but aged 7 or 8, I loved it.
And of course the series of the Six Compagnons, a band of friends very much in the style of The Famous Five, with their own dog, Kafi. I wore them thin, all 20 of them.
Of course, I read all this in French. I’m wondering now what the first whole book I read in English might be… Maybe Animal Farm, or 1984.
2) What sort of books do you enjoy reading nowadays?
No surprises there, romance! In all sorts of subgenre and level of spice, with the exception of clean. I feel cheated if I don’t get the natural conclusion of a love story. I also love Jasper Fforde, Mark Gatiss, Karen Maitland.
Or I read a lot of nonfiction about the Middle Ages for research and pleasure.
3) Around what age did you realize that you liked to write? And when did you know that you wanted to write books?
Hum… Aged 11 at school we started to do writing essays and I really loved that. I always had top marks, actually.
The idea that I could start writing books popped into my head when I was about 28. “Why couldn’t I write something? Other people do… Why not me?” I thought out of nowhere.
I tried poetry, contemporary romance but the results were not conclusive. And then one day (whilst swimming in my pool) I realised where I was going wrong. I was not writing about what I loved most! As soon as I started to write a story set in the midst of the Hundred Years War I knew I had found my path.
It’s like falling in love, I think. When you meet the right person it clicks, even if you don’t know exactly what it is about them that draws you to them.
This is such a beautiful explanation.
4) What’s the first thing you wrote that you remember being proud of?
One of those writing essays I just told you about probably. We had to imagine what came next in an Arsène Lupin scene. The teacher was so impressed with my work she read it out loud to the class. I could have cringed, but I was so chuffed!
Other than that my first historical romance scene where the hero feeds the heroine a juicy pear in an orchard. It was the first time I wrote something I thought was representative of my own style, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
5) Tell us about the creative force within you. What inspires you to write, to create?
No idea. I only know that I have all these ideas floating around. It’s not a case of finding inspiration for me, rather harnessing and organising the chaos and deciding what has potential or not.
Of course visiting ruined castles helps but it could be anything. Listening to a historical documentary, looking out over a beautiful landscape, listening to a piece of music, seeing an animal, anything can trigger an idea. Then generally I take a long walk to let it develop in my head. I suppose it’s a bit like picking a flower bud and then waiting for the petals to unfurl. Sometimes it takes longer than you would like but you have to be patient. It will open eventually.
Rhuddlan Castle, Wales
6) What’s your writing space like?
I don’t have one. I write anywhere and everywhere. At home it’s usually on the sofa but it could be at night in my bed, while I am queuing at the market, on public transport… I always have a notebook and pen in my bag with me so I can jot down ideas or even write whole scenes. Then I type it into my computer, padding it out as I go. Sometimes I find it hard to get going and cannot write more than a few lines at a time, sometimes the words come pouring out for hours on end, it really depends.
But once I start, I get into my bubble and I am no longer on a plane or in the kitchen but in a castle in the fifteenth century or galloping through the forest with brigands in hot pursuit. So the place doesn’t matter. As long as I’m comfortable physically.
7) Do you have a favorite time of day to write? Any habits or little rituals that put you in a writing mindset?
No favourite time, but definitely when they children aren’t around easiest. I always do other things like crochet at the same times, check on the quiche in the oven, get the washing out. I time these activities for when I can’t get a sentence right. By the time I come back to the computer, the knot had entangled itself.
For the mindset, it’s more a case of shaking myself out of my story. I will be shopping, chopping herbs, washing my hair and all the while thinking of my WIPs.
8) Time to talk about Shadows in the Mist (rubbing hands together)! But first, how did you come up with the idea for the series? Are there any interesting tidbits you’d care to share with us?
This particular one came after I read in one of my nonfiction books that widows whose husbands had fought on the wrong side of the war would have their allowances taken away from them. I could not stop thinking of the poor women innocent of any wrongdoing. I decided to give at least one of them, my heroine, Rose, a way out and a happy ending.
Her name, along with her hero Philip, comes from the couple in Sleeping Beauty, which my daughter was watching at the time, my favourite Disney. Philip and Aurora, who the fairies call Rose in the forest.
That's fascinating. Sweet, too, that your characters' names come from Sleeping Beauty and that you have a favorite Disney movie. :)
9) I comprehend that you’ve just recently published a book. Still, I can’t help but ask – do you have anything waiting in the wings?
Most definitely! My first Scottish romance Dark Highlander is coming out in June. I have a real soft spot for my hero Cormac, whom I enjoyed very much to write – and mentally picture!
I have other stories in the editing stages. Two should be out this year, I think.
I am so looking forward to a Scottish romance from you!
11) Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Oddly enough, I cannot write in my native language - French. I’ve tried, because my friends and family, who don’t read a word of English, pester me to, but I can’t! It sounds contrived, unnatural, insipid. I think I would even hate to read a translation of my books in French. Now, in Italian I would love it!
This, I find very surprising! But I'm not going to complain. I'm glad you write in English! :)
Thank you for sharing Medieval Monday with us today, Virginie. Congratulations on your latest release!
The woman Philip finds in his bed one night is not the one he thought would be there for a playful romp, a night’s entertainment. That’s all he wants to provide to the women who try to snare him as a husband. Yet he is more honorable than his stepbrother, the person this woman awaits.
A penniless widow, Rose has accepted a humiliating marriage offer in the hope of being reunited with her son, taken from her by his grandfather. But the fiery lover who comes to her in the dark and finds her in his bed is not the future husband she was expecting...
How can she overcome this setback in her plans and still keep her dignity and reputation?
Excerpt from Shadows in the Mist
“I came to give you this.”
With those words he handed her a piece of paper. With its big waxed seal, it looked official, as official and impressive as Philip himself. His tunic of dark velvet made him appear darker himself, and he was wearing a hat adorned with a brooch. She had never seen him in such magnificent apparel. He was dressed in a manner more suited to a visit to court than to an impoverished widow in the country.
“What is it?” she asked, looking at the paper. She could not quite bring herself to touch it.
“It is an ordinance from King Edward.” There was a pause. “Your pension has been restored to you. You do not need to wait for charity from Baron Maltravers or anyone else. From this day hence, you will be, if not exactly a rich woman, at least comfortable enough to get your son back.”
Rose’s mouth opened in shock. Get her son back? She had hoped to hear these exact words so many times, but now that she had…they didn’t seem real.
“Why… The king…” She was speechless. “Why would he do this for me? I never petitioned him. I do not know him.”
“No, but I do. I asked for an audience with him. That is why I left so abruptly the morning you left Wicklow Castle, something I did not even apologize for,” Philip said.
He gritted his teeth. How had he not thought she would be hurt by his apparent desertion? He’d had a good reason for leaving her at such an inopportune moment, but of course Rose had not known that. She would have thought him as callous as Gilbert, sending her away without so much as a goodbye.
“By chance I had heard the day before that he was on progress in a nearby town,” he explained. “The opportunity was too good to miss, and I had to leave without delay. I did not tell you at the time because I did not want to raise your hopes too much in case I could not gain access to him. But I did, and here is the result.”
“You went to the king to petition on my behalf and ask for my pension to be restored?” Rose wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly. But Philip nodded as if this was the most natural thing in the world.
“I fought for him in various battles and was made a lord for my services. He was kind enough to remember me and grant me this small favor. Our sovereign is a generous and forgiving man. I argued that a widow could not be made accountable for her husband’s unfortunate allegiances and promised that you would not use your influence to foment rebellion against him. I trust you not to make a fool out of me now and raise an army to bring him down.”
His lips quivered. They both knew that she had no influence and would never pose any threat to the king, but he enjoyed teasing her. She had a ready sense of humor and was not easily prone to offense. It was one of the things that had drawn him to her and what he had missed the most.
Rose understood Philip was teasing her, as was his wont, but she could not smile back. She was too dumbstruck, too touched that he would have taken the trouble to risk angering the king, all for her.
“Why would you do this for me?”
The brown eyes glittered. “Apart from an innate sense of justice, you mean? What happened to you is appalling. I do not see that an innocent woman should be punished and pay all her life for her husband’s decisions in such an extreme fashion, when we all know that more often than not she has no input in them and may not agree with them.”
“Yes, apart from that,” Rose whispered.
Though she could readily believe that Philip would be moved by such a situation, she had a feeling that he had meant to help because of who she was, not for a mere question of principle. His next words confirmed it.
“I think you will agree that I owed it to you. I was the one who, albeit unwittingly, denied you the solution you had found to your predicament. I still do not agree that you should have married Gilbert, so I cannot be too sorry about being the cause of his change of heart, but I can feel responsible for the consequences.” He pursed his lips like a man who had eaten an unripe fruit by accident and could not get the tart taste out of his mouth. “I could not in all conscience have left it at that, after hearing your story. This is for little Edward as much as for you.”
About the Author
I think I became a writer the day I decided to write a (very bad, shamefully close to the real story) version of White Fang when aged nine or ten! As for the Middle Ages I fell in love with it at school during a history lesson, then Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood put its final seal on it all. A girl of twelve then, I never recovered!
Coming soon, The Dark Highlander!
It's no secret that I prefer fat HEAs. Where better than in a beautiful romance?
From me to you with a smile.
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