Welcome to Part II of our interview with new Severn House author Jeri Westerson.
What drew you to the medieval period, and the reign of Richard II in particular? Why did you want to set Crispin there?
Take a pin and stick it into ANY part of the thousand year medieval period and it’s all interesting, full of intrigue and battles and all manner of fascinating history. But Richard’s troubled reign seemed a good backdrop for my fiction. I like that I can leave the court politics in the misty distance in some novels and in others I can bring it to the fore to get involved in my storylines.
But I came to my interest in all things medieval at an early age, from my parents’ love of the medieval period and English history in particular. Our shelves groaned from books of historical fiction as well as non-fiction and I took happily to what was on offer. Dinner table conversation often consisted of points of English history and one had to keep up! I could certainly name more English monarchs – in order – than I ever could American presidents. And I was probably the only five-year-old in any Los Angeles city school who could recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales…in Middle English! It’s a period full of colour and pomp, of dastardly deeds and great tales of valour. What’s not to like?
How did you go about researching the period?
The old-fashioned way, in libraries and archives. It’s wonderful to have the internet in order to reach the archives in the UK and email the archivists for the material I need. I find those folks to be extremely helpful and friendly. A lot of material these days is scanned and posted online, certainly making my life even easier. I utilize maps from the period to make my way around fourteenth century London and also technology like Google Earth to help me navigate and make sense of distances. The medieval London of Crispin’s day no longer exists, of course, but there are fragments; churches, other places that yield the feel of the era, and though I am unable to travel to England as much as I’d like, I can cull a great deal from pictures and some virtual tours off the internet.
But I find I still must go to university libraries for the majority of my studies. I get advice from the oldest online listserve made up of medieval scholars, historians, and professors of medieval history from all over the world. Mostly I ask for the best books on the subject, what to look for and what to steer clear of.
Don’t miss Jeri’s virtual book launch for The Silence of Stones on 30th October – click on the image for details: