*In your novel THE FIRST VIAL, your protagonist, Lady Katherine, must try to survive not only the Black Death - which has devastated her village - but the machinations of a power-hungry priest who covets her lands. What drew you to this tumultuous period in history?
In high school I had a superb history teacher who stimulated my interest in the past. I belonged to a book club, from time to time ordered nonfiction books on history, and bought a fascinating book called Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph & Frances Gies. After a visit to Victoria, B.C. which included a tour of a replica of Anne Hathaway's cottage, I was hooked on the period. Gruesome but riveting contemporary drawings further enhanced my interest, giving a tremendous sense of the plague's impact on the people of the medieval period.
*In what ways is Lady Katherine typical of women in the 14th century.
Marriages were typically arranged by one's family. Katherine's marriage was no different. Paraded before prospective husbands she had but little choice in the matter. A considerable number of women owned property, in general it is thought, because men were frequently absent for war and other purposes. For Katherine to retain ownership in her dead husband's lands would be a fairly normal practice.
*How much of your novel is based on fact and how much is fiction?
The onset, virulence and results of the plague are based on fact. The actions of Edward III are based on fact. Victor's description of the battle of Crecy is based on fact. My characters and their story are fiction as are the village and castles in which they lived.
*Tell me something surprising about women in 14th century England.
There are rebels in every age and the 14th century had its share. Sometimes these rebels were women. Spectacular tournaments were arranged to celebrate the king's foundation of the Order of the Garter. (An account of the event that prompted the king to form the order is found in The First Vial). In almost every place where the tournaments were held, "a band of women would come as if to share the sport, dressed in divers and marvellous dresses of men – sometimes to the number of forty or fifty ladies, of the fairest and comeliest (though I say not, of the best) among the whole kingdom. Thither they came in party-coloured tunics, one colour or pattern on the right side and another on the left, with short hoods that had pendants like ropes wound round their necks, and belts thickly studded with gold or silver-nay, they even wore, in pouches slung across their bodies, those knives which are called daggers in the vulgar tongue; and thus they rode on choice war-horses or other splendid steeds to the place of tournament." – quoted from The Black Death by George Deaux. Apparently they caused quite a stir and there were rumors some women even went so far as to appear bare-breasted.
*How did you research THE FIRST VIAL?
My research came from a variety of sources – the public library, my book club, book stores and flea markets. Anywhere I found anything pertaining to the medieval period I snatched it up. I picked up costume books, books on building castles, books on knights, armor and jousting. I even found a terrific picture of the cross section of a castle, showing usual room layouts. Most of the descriptions of the plague were drawn from The Black Death by George Deaux. The battle scene was based on what I read in The Hundred Years War by Desmond Seward. The Three Edwards by Thomas B. Costain added information about Edward III. Frances & Joseph Gies' excellent books, Life in a Medieval Castle, Life in a Medieval Village, Women in the Middle Ages and Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages, rounded out the balance of my research material.
Thank you Linnea! And feel free to visit Linnea Heinrichs online for more information about her latest novel The First Vial.