I’d like to welcome back award winning author Susan Appleyard today. Susan was born in England, which is where she learned her love of history and writing. She has applied these two loves ever since in writing historical fiction. Her first two book were published traditionally and she also has five ebooks with another to be published soon after Christmas. Susan is fortunate enough to spend half the year in Ontario with kids and grandkids, and the other half in Mexico with sun and sea and Margaritas on the beach. (No prizes for guessing which months are spent where!)
Hi, Susan! Thank you for visiting with me today to talk about your award winning book, In a Gilded Cage. Please tell me the premise of your story and the era your story takes place.
Hello, Stephanie, as an avid follower of your blog, I’m delighted to be here. My novel is set in the mid-nineteenth century in Austria, Germany and Hungary. It is something of a fairytale gone wrong. Having had a carefree and somewhat undisciplined youth in the hills of Bavaria, Sisi is married to Franz Josef at the age of sixteen, not against her will, but certainly against her instincts. Surrounded by luxury, she feels her independence slipping away under a barrage of court protocol.
What is one of the struggles Sisi faces in her new life as Empress of Austria besides being often ill and anorexic?
One of the struggles that I believe many can relate to is her natural wish to have a voice in the way her children were to be raised. They are taken from her at birth and her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, has complete charge of them, even insisting Sisi make an appointment when she wished to see them to avoid disrupting their schedule. This, naturally, had the effect of increasing Sisi’s feelings of inadequacy.
What are some of the strict protocols she endured?
I think for her the worst would have been the restrictions on her privacy. She couldn’t even walk through the palace without attendants following her and of course it was a jealously guarded privilege. Many of these undoubtedly spied for her mother-in-law. When she went riding she was accompanied by guards, although she was such an excellent horsewoman that sometimes she was able to leave them behind. Whenever she and Franz Josef were outside the palace, even in their gardens, they were watched by policemen. Somewhat like the Secret Service of today, I suppose. She was also obliged to wear gloves while eating dinner and couldn’t wear shoes more than six times.
Who is patriot, Count Andrassy?
In 1848 revolution swept Europe as the masses demanded a voice in government. Count Andrassy fought for Hungary against Austrian repression and fled to France to avoid the reprisals. He was sentenced to death in his absence and hanged in effigy. Sisi felt a special affinity for Hungary, for its tragic and romantic past and its yearning for freedom. When she and Andrassy met they found they had much in common. Undoubtedly, they loved each other. Whether they had an affair is debatable.
How are your other characters influenced by their setting?
Although related to the Bavarian royals, Sisi’s family are very provincial and easy-going. All her life, Sisi loved the outdoors, riding, hiking, even mountain climbing. These were the kinds of activities frowned upon by the Viennese court. Franz Josef was raised in the court and finds it quite impossible to break out of the iron-bound rituals of his ancestors in order to give Sisi the kind of love she needs and the support that would help her through the difficulties presented by her new life. Above all, Count Andrassy is shaped by Hungary and its past. He is fiery revolutionary or resolute politician as needed. As he says: Scratch a Magyar, and you will find a fierce horseman from the Steppes underneath.
What are some of the political themes in your story?
The revolutions of 1848 influenced the events of those times in ways that form a thread through my story from beginning to end. I have also been able to bring out how the fluctuating relationship between Austria and Prussia impacted the rest of Europe and led to three wars within the space of ten years.
Did you have any changing emotions while writing this story?
O.K. I will admit it. Without being deliberately dishonest, I have portrayed Sisi’s mother-in-law in an unsympathetic light. However, I found toward the end that I began to understand her better and to admire her.
What are your personal motivations in story-telling?
The truth is I haven’t any. It’s a compulsion. Years ago I decided to give up trying to get published after being let down by my publisher and agent. But I was never able to give up writing. Every now and then the urge would come over me and I had to write something – anything, not to any purpose, just to get it out of my system.
What are you currently working on?
A novel about Edward II and Isabella of France. I just finished the first draft recently and I’m taking a break until after Christmas.
Where can reader buy your book?
Thank you, Susan!
Thank you, Stephanie, for the interesting questions.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Susan Appleyard who is the author of, IN A GILDED CAGE, 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, IN A GILDED CAGE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.