Author Interview: Barbara Bettis
Sir Roark will do anything to gain land, even beguile an unwilling lady into marriage. He knows she's much better off with a man to take control of her besieged castle, to say nothing of her desirable person. But it isn't long before he discovers that, although her eyes sparkle like sunlight on sea waves, her stubbornness alone could have defeated Saladin.
Lady Alyss is determined to hold her family's castle, protect her people, and preserve her freedom— until her brother's dying wish binds her to a stranger. Still, she'll allow no rugged, over-confident, appealing knight to usurp her authority, even if she must wed him. Especially since he thinks a lady's duties begin and end with directing servants. Alyss has a few surprises for her new all-too-tempting lord.
But when a common enemy threatens everything, Roark and Alyss face a startling revelation: Without love, neither land nor freedom matters.
Wow. Such a great book.
Hi, Barbara. Thanks so much for joining us today. I just finished reading For This Knight Only and absolutely loved it. The characters are wonderful, especially the heroine and hero, and that siege! I have to ask, have you personally experienced one? I felt like I was right there with Lady Alyss and Sir Roark! Can you tell us about writing this story? Did you have to do a lot of extra research or were you already familiar with the history of medieval warfare?
Hi Anastasia. I’m so glad you like the book! To answer your question, because I love history and had read a good deal about the Middle Ages in my college studies, I did know something about the era. However, I wanted to be sure everything was as accurate as possible, so I did a lot of research—on Richard I, life in the 12th century, on castle design and construction of chain mail, the armor of that period, food, etc. (Did you know cinnamon once was used as a seasoning for meat?) Like a lot of history researchers, I found that differing sources often contain differing accounts of the same event or incident, so I tried to find at least two sources in agreement. Except in the area of Richard’s release from captivity and return to England. Roger of Hoveden’s (Howden) description of Richard’s daily itinerary, which I followed. As far as I know, though, the attack I described didn’t take place. Oh, my, I’m wandering on and on about research. Which just goes to show how much I really like it!!
Sir Roark and Lady Alyss are both likeable from the beginning, but the way in which the depth of their personalities is revealed is beautiful. It’s gradual, natural, like a door slowly opening to reveal what’s inside. Lady Alyss’ determination and sheer stubbornness are impressive. But like Sir Roark, it took me a while to comprehend the strength of her character, the rightness of it. Books with strong heroines aren’t unusual, but I’ve read plenty of medieval romances featuring damsels in distress. Certainly, there are always exceptions to the rule, but in your opinion, what’s the more accurate depiction of a medieval lady of the manor? Will you tell us more about Lady Alyss?
That’s a challenging question. Let me roll the two into one. I don’t know if Lady Alyss is an absolutely accurate portrayal of a 12th C. lady of the manor. But she could very well be awfully close. Damsels in distress are reasonable because high born women (in England) at that time were very protected, faced stringent rules from the church, had very few rights, were not expected to have much strength, and often were exchanged in marriage for land, financial or other political power. However, ladies who were wed or who managed their households for fathers/brothers/etc., had many responsibilities. Unless there was someone else in charge, the lady was responsible for all the household duties including for weaving cloth, for providing garments for the household, arranging meals, and the like Ladies also were often left at home while their men were off fighting and although many castles had stewards, in many others, the women held everything down, so to speak. There are historical examples of ladies who held castles from invaders while their men were off fighting somewhere else. I like to think Alyss was an example of this last kind of lady.
I love Sir Roark. He’s strong, caring, and more open-minded than even he realized. I couldn’t help but feel for him. At first, I was a little shocked by his plan to take the castle, but it was understandable under the circumstances. And then I found myself laughing because Lady Alyss kept surprising him. Did you laugh while you were writing? How do you feel about Sir Roark?
I love Sir Roark too! He was my very first hero—and I’ll always have a soft spot for him. In fact, I did laugh while I was writing the story.
Barbara, I really enjoyed For This Knight Only, which is part of your Knights of Destiny series. Is there anything you’d like to tell us about this series? Will there be another book to follow? Are the stories connected?
The series grew from my speculation on the problems faced by landless knights who were forced to find creative ways to gain position—and land—in that time. So far, all four books are connected through Alyss’s family and friends. So is my Christmas novella, which focuses on one of Roark’s friends who followed him to Chauvere. I plan to do more of them.
Thank you for spending some time with us.
Thank you for the lovely review comments about Alyss, Roark, and the book in general. And thank you for having me today. It’s been such fun answering your questions.
Also, I just wanted to compliment you on the creative format of your interview questions!
An excerpt from For This Knight Only and links follow.
“Pardon?” Alyss’s voice came in a whisper, but he seemed to hear well enough.
“I said your brother wished us to wed.”
The sound of a million crickets chirruped in her ears. His lips continued to move, but she heard nothing. Of a sudden, her bottom hit stone as she collapsed onto a step, but her eyes saw only him.
He loomed over her, hands propped on hips, dark hair brushing those broad shoulders. She
raised her brows in a level gaze—and inhaled sharply. Hazel eyes, sprinkled with green and gold
chips, gleamed back. With effort, she recalled his recent words and her thoughts focused.
She shot to her feet. “You must be mad. I have no intention of wedding a stranger who appears at my gate with some imaginary story of my brother’s last commands. I remind you, sir, you are a guest. In fact, I must ask you to leave. Your behavior is intolerable.”
His big hands closed around her shoulders. They were warm. Firm but gentle. She shook them off. He leaned in.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, my lady,” he murmured.
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Award-winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math. Through careers as a newspaper reporter and editor, then a college journalism and English professor, she’s retained her fascination with history. Give her a research book and a pot of tea, and she’s happy for hours. But what really makes her smile is working on a new story. Now retired, she lives in Missouri where she spins tales of heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.
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A Little of This, a Little of That
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran
From me to you with a smile.
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