I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Anna Belfrage. Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.
Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.
When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This series is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.
Anna, thank you for visiting with me again and for the opportunity to chat about your book, To Catch a Falling Star. Please tell your audience about your book and which place does this book fall into your series.
Hi Stephanie, it is very nice to be back – and I must say I love the promising smell coming from your kitchen. Cake?
Of course! As always with a spot of tea too.
Anyway, back To Catch a Falling Star, the eighth and supposedly the last of The Graham Saga – except that it no longer isn’t, as my nights are constantly being disturbed by Alex Graham. “Your fault,” she tells me. “You think I’m going to let you STOP writing about us when Samuel is with the Indians and Adam and David are on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean? Forget it!” She glares at me. “I have to know what happens next.”
Logically, one could argue she should know – she’s the one living the life back there in the 17th century – but I suppose being an invented character sort of leaves you in limbo if the author doesn’t tie up all the threads.
“Too right,” Alex mutters, hands smoothing at her dirty apron. She brushes a strand of greyish hair back behind her ear.
“All threads don’t get tied up,” I tell her as gently as I can. After all, that’s what life is like, isn’t it? But the expression in her face, coupled with her determined nagging and the fact I love my Alex and Matthew to bits has made me promise her there’ll be at least one more book, tentatively named No Man is an Island.
Back to To Catch a Falling Star: this is a book about homecomings, about revisiting places you once belonged in, and find that you no longer do. It is about loss, about love, and it is also about the consequences of having a kingdom torn in two between those who support the king, albeit that he is Catholic, and those who want to oust James II in favour of his son-in-law and nephew, soon-to-be William III. And yes, as it is part of the Graham Saga, all these events are seen through the eyes of Matthew and Alex, who happen to be in Scotland for a visit (as per Alex – she has her home in Maryland, with her family) or to stay (as per a hopeful Matthew).
I am also incredibly proud to have been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion for this book. This means all books in The Graham Saga are recipients of this award, and you can imagine just how tall that makes me feel.
Will you please give a little history of William of Orange.
Hmm. I’m probably grossly unfair on the poor man, but I have never liked him. I find him staid and boring and I find it quite tasteless to up and steal your father-in-law’s crown like that, so don’t get me started on William’s wife, Mary, who was James II’s daughter.
However, if I take a deep breath and step out of my own personal biases, one must accord William credit for handling a tricky situation – he was invited by seven Protestant peers to claim the throne together with his wife. Why he accepted we don’t really know – William was a man who mostly kept his own counsel. But I’d guess he did it so as to fulfil his lifelong ambition to halt France’s expansion, especially into his own territories.
Initially, his countrymen weren’t that interested when William tried to make them realize France had to be stopped – they were keener on maintaining good trading relationships with France – and William as Stadtholder of the United Provinces did not have the funds to do more and watch as the French annexed one piece after the other of his country. Until, that is Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, thereby triggering a free-for-all on all Protestants remaining in France.
Horrified Dutch Protestants opened their homes to the refugees from Louis XIV’s France. They listened to stories of bloodshed, to being forced to leave all their wealth behind (with which the wealthy Dutch traders could more than relate), to being beaten and whipped, murdered even, by angry Catholic mobs. Which is when William coughed and said “ahem”. Now he was given funds – plenty of funds. Even more fortuitously, the Holy Roman Emperor beat off the Turks and was more than happy to join the coalition against France. Only England, ruled by Louis XIVs cousin, remained loyal to France. The invitation from the seven grandees therefore came at an opportune time. By invading, William hoped to strong-arm his father-in-law into supporting his efforts to contain France.
William landed in Torbay on November 5, 1688. William was hailed as a liberator. James dithered, uncertain as to what to do – William was family, and James was more than aware of how much his eldest daughter loved her husband. Besides, he definitely did not want to be the one who started a new Civil War – he was as beset by spectres as his peers.
On November 23, James took the decision to retire to London rather than meet William on the field. A capable military leader, James could probably have held his own – and his was the larger force. So why did he retreat? Why did he attempt to flee to France rather than defend his crown? We will never know – but chances are that had he stayed and fought, he would have carried the day, thereby rewriting history as we know it. But then, history is full of ‘what if’s’, isn’t it? Instead, in 1689, William and Mary were confirmed by Parliament as the new king and queen.
When Matthew and Alex return to Scotland, what is one of the first encounters they have?
Well, first of all, they meet Luke, Matthew’s estranged brother. And then Alex literally bumps into James Graham, known to history as Viscount Dundee. He is something of an anomaly, a Protestant peer who remains loyal to James II to his death.
I have to say when reading about Alex confronting an unresolved issue with Luke Graham, I was not expecting the way she handled it. Was there ever a time leading up to this conflict that you might have written it differently?
Ha, well, I’m not sure which confrontation you mean, but in general, no, the scenes between Alex and Luke were pretty self-evident. Alex has little love for her brother-in-law, whom she holds responsible for a lot of the suffering her husband has been subjected to. Luke, on the other hand, feels he’s the injured party, seeing as Matthew swiped off his nose one time very long ago. They’ll never see eyes to eye on this, and so theirs is an infected relationship, even more so as Alex so resembles Luke’s beloved (and dead) wife.
Oh, dear I guess I can’t mention which confrontation, now can I? Unless we reveal a spoiler and we don’t want that! On a side note, I can see why Luke would be sore with his brother for-ahem-swiping his nose off. Not to say Luke didn’t have it coming to him.
Well, I guess we should talk about the slimy, Richard Campbell next.
Every book needs a worm, right? Richard Campbell is my particular worm, a man who hides his narrow-mindedness and generally misogynist approach to life behind the trappings of a Presbyterian Minister. He detests Alex – a feeling returned in full – since she humiliated him several years ago in an incident involving a soup ladle. He is intolerant of all faiths but his own, consider Catholics to be the slime of the Earth (and therefore eagerly argues for either ousting them or killing them). He believes in witchcraft and is convinced Alex is a witch, and guess where he’ll be in 1692? Yup, in Salem, Massachusetts …Unfortunately, he doesn’t stay there.
I have to ask, how do you keep up with all the conflicts in your stories and have you learned anything from writing about them?
The conflicts just sort of happen.
They sure do with the Grahams!
My intention is to depict life as it might have been back then, viewed through the eyes of my time-travelling protagonist, Alex. (Well; time-travelling is an exaggeration. She fell through time once and has no desire to ever repeat that awful experience)
As to what I learn, I learn all the time: about herbs and food, how to make lye soap and how to dye homespun. I learn about the political complexities, about the strained relationship between settlers and Native Americans, about the constant conflict between Protestants and Catholics – and between Protestants and Protestants. Presbyterians weren’t all that fond of Anglicans, putting it mildly.
That is putting it mildly. *laughing* For those who have not started your series yet, will you give a little back ground of the Grahams?
It all starts in 1658, when Matthew Graham is making his way back home to his Scottish manor after having escaped from an unjust imprisonment thanks to treacherous brother Luke. He is somewhere midway through the Southern Uplands when he finds a woman sprawled on the moor. A very strange woman, dressed in tight light blue breeches and with short, curly hair. She is concussed and singed, holds out a small rectangular thing and says she has to “phone home.” Well, that doesn’t work out too well for poor Alex, who to her shock realizes that somehow the sheer veils of time have ripped apart and jettisoned her into a new time and a new place. The only compensation is this tall and unkempt man with magical hazel eyes.
How much time did you spend on writing this story and were there any profound moments in the story that made an impact on you as a storyteller?
On me as a storyteller? Not so much. However, writing The Graham Saga has obliged me to consider my own beliefs as to God and afterlife, and I think I emerge from this process as a stronger person. And as to how long it takes, I’d say I write a book in 3 months, give or take. After that, it takes another 6 – 8 months to have it ready to go.
Where can readers purchase your stories?
As per my excellent publisher, Silverwood Books, wherever good books are sold. Somewhat more seriously, you can find my books on Amazon, on B&N, on Kobo and iBooks. Plus, they’re also available as paperbacks.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Anna Belfrage who is the author of, To Catch A Falling Star, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, To Catch a falling Star, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money
indieBRAG Interview Team Leader