- Castles are very cool. I’ve been fortunate to visit assorted castles in England and Wales, including the castle where my AT HIS COMMAND heroine lives (Castle Rising). You can tell from the ruins how vast some of them were. Climbing spiral staircases in a tower or walking on narrow castle walls with amazing views of the surrounding area helped me imagine what living there hundreds of years ago was like. I even had the opportunity to stay in two castles (Thornbury and Amberley). Both were amazing in different ways.
- Real kings, queens and dukes figure into the plot, which happen to be more interesting to me than, say, books featuring presidents or first ladies. I’m fascinated by the historical events and lifestyles of late medieval England, from fashions to food. My interest sparked when I was in a production of Richard III in college and wondered how much of what Shakespeare wrote was true.
- The opportunity to figure out what happened when there are gaps in actual history. When, in a reliable source or sources, I see something like, “No one knows what happened in this meeting,” or “Scholars disagree on this or that,” I get to play, “What if?” and make up what will best enhance my characters and/or plot. When I learned about King Henry IV’s strange illness (scholars still debate what he suffered from), ideas started popping into my head, such as how the different people in his life would handle the situation on a day to day basis.
- So many interesting character options. Characters can be nobles, peasants, soldiers or merchants. They can live in castles, towns or cities. Heros can be knights in shining or cobbled together armor. Heroines can take on more roles in medieval times than many assume, or they can face societal restrictions most women today do not.
- Research and non-fiction books. And more non-fiction books. I’ve written a couple of contemporaries set in my hometown of Chicago. While it was definitely easier to, say, have the characters go for dinner at a Chinese restaurant similar to one in my neighborhood or walk downtown streets I already know well, I had more fun planning medieval meals and learning about who might eat what when, and figuring out how long it would take to travel from one place to another. One of my favorite books is English Medieval Industries, because it gives so many details most of which aren’t available on the Internet) about a variety of occupations.
- They say, “Write what you love to read,” vs. writing to market trends. My favorites when I started reading romance novels included Kathleen Woodiwiss’s THE WOLF AND THE DOVE, Roberta Gellis’s Roselynde series, and Julie Garwood’s and Madeline Hunter’s medievals. So when I decided to write, I wanted to write medievals.
- Life or death plots. From the plague to battles, from medical knowledge at the time to weapons and armor, from schemes to overthrow the king to arranged marriages, the medieval period yields high stakes plots. It’s easier for me to make the most of the available technology, or lack thereof, during the Battle of Castillon (featured in AT HIS COMMAND) than if I chose to place my characters, say, in a current war. Also, TV shows such as Homeland and Scandal do such a great job portraying modern warfare and politics. I don’t know if I could do as well or better.
- Escape and/or fantasy. Many of us read romance novels to experience times, lives and places different from our own. Immersing ourselves in the characters’ world can be more interesting if we’re not as familiar with it. For example, I have a law degree and spent 13 years working with attorneys. I’d rather spend my time off reading about other professions than the law. If I do read a novel about a lawyer, it’s easier for me to get pulled out of the story if something a character does doesn’t resonate with my knowledge.
- Upending readers’ assumptions. Many readers lump the medieval era in with the dark ages, aren’t aware of how long the medieval period actually was or what was invented when, or how much life changed over the course of several hundred years. (Don’t get me started on the scholarly debate about correct terminology and the beginning and end of eras, such as “middle ages,” “early medieval,” etc.) That’d be like assuming very little changed in the 19th and 20th centuries, when we know each decade brought many changes.
- Gowns, veiled headdresses and armor. My favorite costume book, John Peacocks Costume 1066-1990s, does a wonderful job of depicting clothing worn during each monarch’s reign. The headdresses popular in mid-15th century England don’t look very comfortable, but are interesting and so different from even the stunning Edwardian chapeaus on this season of Downton Abbey I can’t help but wonder what it was like to wear them. And who doesn’t love a knight in shining armor? Or chain mail, even. Toss in a manly sword, and you’ve got a swoon worthy hero.
Why do you love medievals? If you don’t, why not?
Blurb:Could she defy her king for love?
England 1453: King Henry VI sends Sir Nicholas Gray to protect the recently widowed Lady Amice Winfield from undesirable suitors. Though Nicholas intrigues her, she yearns to run Castle Rising without a man’s control.
Nicholas has no interest in marriage, but can’t deny he’s attracted to Amice. He’s surprised to finally find in Castle Rising a place he feels at home. A kiss sparks desire neither can ignore, yet serving opposing factions seeking to govern England threatens to pull them apart.
At court, the king and queen reject Amice’s pleas and choose a new husband for her, a highly-ranked lord who’ll provide connections and coin for the king’s depleted coffers that Nicholas cannot. How can she follow the king’s command when she’s a scribe for his rival? How can she marry another man when she’s falling in love with Nicholas?
Praise for AT HIS COMMAND-Historical Romance Version: A wonderful debut sure to please lovers of romance!
—NYT & USA Today bestselling author Madeline Hunter
With a bold knight and a strong-willed lady, Kaufman’s story is positively medieval.
— NYT & USA Today bestselling author Tracy Anne Warren
Ruth Kaufman is a Chicago author, speaker and on-camera and voiceover talent with a J.D. and a Master’s in Radio/TV. Her writing accolades include Romance Writers of America® 2011 Golden Heart® winner and RT Book Reviews’ national American Title II contest runner up. Her true, short story, “The Scrinch” is in the St. Martin’s Press anthology The Spirit of Christmas, foreword by Debbie Macomber. Learn more at www.ruthkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com.