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Author Interview with Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon at the Louvre,
photo by Dr. John Phillips


Interview with Sharon Kay Penman by Jerelyn (I-F-Letty)


I have done several interviews for the PBS blog.  All of them were with authors I liked, revered or loved.  But there is one author that to me is a master of her craft, and of her genre.  Sharon Kay Penman is loved by readers and revered by authors, and educators alike.  Her scholarship of the medieval period and Angevin dynasty is evident in her work, but her true mastery is in the written word.  I become so engrossed in her books, I often find myself stopping and shaking my head, and telling myself this is how a fly on the wall would feel.   She is able to bring her characters and time period to life like few others can.  She takes complicated medieval time period, very complicated historical figures, the culture, the politics, the brutality; it’s very tangled family trees, and makes it understandable and un-put-downable!  As you have probably gathered Sharon Penman is my favorite author.  Not just current favorite, but favorite of all time.

I am more than honored that Ms. Penman has agreed to this interview.


Jerelyn: You just returned from a tour you lead to France to visit the places that had particular significance to Eleanor of Aquitaine.  How was it traveling with your fans?

Sharon:  It was a wonderful experience, Jerelyn—traveling with 36 kindred spirits, all of whom shared my passion for the past and my fascination with Eleanor.  Probably because of our shared interests, we bonded from Day One.  Visiting the places that mattered the most to Eleanor and Henry, with good company, delicious meals, and French wine—it does not get any better than that!


Jerelyn: What was the highlight of your trip?

Sharon: I think for me it was our visit to the chapel of Sainte Radegonde in the hills above Chinon Castle.  In 1965 a wall mural was discovered that is believed to depict Eleanor and family members; there is no agreement as to whom those family members are, and one of my favorite memories is of some of our tour gazing up at the mural and arguing about the identities of those other riders.  We were definitely not your typical tourist group!  Other highlights were our visits to Fontevrault Abbey, Chinon, Mont St Michel, Le Mans….Well, every castle, cathedral, and city had its own special magic.


Jerelyn: Do you have a particular favorite place in France, and what makes it your favorite?

Sharon: Paris, of course, one of the world’s most beautiful cities.  I also love Fontevrault Abbey, for Eleanor’s presence is palpable there.  Mont St Michel’s abbey is surely one of the most spectacular sites; it looks like a castle carved from the very rocks of the isle, crowned by clouds and besieged by the waves of the bay.  And I fell in love with Carcassonne; walking the streets of the walled town at night after the other tourists have gone is the closest we can come to time-travel.


Jerelyn: Your books deal with the Angevin/Plantagenet are between 12th to 15th centuries.  You love this highly dysfunctional family, why is this?

Sharon: Because they are so very dysfunctional!  Writers love high drama and the Angevins provide drama from dawn till dusk.  Henry, Eleanor, and their Devil’s Brood—it is almost as if they lived their lives for the benefit of historical novelists centuries later.  I find the Plantagenets much more interesting—and likeable—than those ubiquitous Tudors.

Jerelyn: Your new book due out October 4, 2011, is Lionheart.   Why did you want to further explore Richard, after all he was a prominent figure in Devil’s Brood?

Sharon: I thought Devil’s Brood would be my last book about the Angevins, but Eleanor and Richard were not ready to leave centre stage just yet.  I realized, too, that I’d never read a novel about Richard’s reign.  And readers will find a different Richard than they encountered in Devil’s Brood, for there he was usually angry or defiant, confronting his father or his brothers, seeking to gain his mother’s freedom and stave off attacks upon Aquitaine.  In Lionheart, they will get to see Richard laughing as well as cursing, playful as well as resolute, with both virtues and vices on full display.  And of course, by writing of Richard, I had the opportunity to write, too, of his remarkable mother Eleanor, his untrustworthy but always interesting brother John, and his favorite sister, Joanna, the daughter most like Eleanor.


In doing your research for Lionheart what surprises did your Angevin’s have for you?

Sharon: Richard was by far the biggest surprise.  I’d not had a favorable impression of him, seeing him as the ultimate warrior-king, drunk on blood and glory.  The real Richard turned out to be much more complex than the Richard of legend, and therefore, much more interesting.  I always do long Author’s Notes, but the one in Lionheart set a record, 11 pages, and it is all Richard’s fault! But I’d never before discovered such a great gap between the man and the myth, not since I’d written of another Richard in The Sunne in Splendour.


Jerelyn: If you could dispel any misconceptions about Richard what would they be?

Sharon: Where to begin?  Yes, he was a brilliant battle commander and almost invincible in hand-to-hand combat, and yes, he was arrogant, quick-tempered, insanely reckless, and ruthless when need be.  But he was also intelligent, very well-educated, imaginative, pragmatic, and capable of magnanimity.  As careless as he was with his own life, he was careful with the lives of his men.  Because he’d been the first prince to take the cross, I’d assumed he was a religious zealot.  He was not; his attitude during the Third Crusade was that of a soldier, not a crusader. From the outset, he was interested in a negotiated settlement with Saladin, and he formed unlikely friendships with Saladin’s brother and some of his emirs.  He even knighted several of them—in the midst of a holy war!


Jerelyn: Richard’s Queen, Berengaria has not been portrayed in other novels I have read as a whole person.  A little bird told me your Berengaria is different from the boring one dimensional milquetoast we’ve seen in other novels.  Will you tell us about your Berengaria?

Sharon: We know surprisingly little about the real Berengaria.  We do not know her birth date, what she looked like, how she felt about marrying Richard and accompanying him to the Holy Land, surely the only royal bride to spend her honeymoon in an army encampment.   We do know that she was very pious; she would found an abbey during her long widowhood.  We know she came from a close-knit, loving family—the anti-Angevins.  And we know she had considerable courage, for going on crusade was not like a Club Med holiday, after all.   She endured hardship and danger and if she ever complained, it did not find its way into any of the chronicles.  She would later show her courage again by fighting her brother-in-law John for her dower rights; John treated her rather shabbily, but she refused to back down.  Her courage, though, was the quiet kind.  She made no scenes, certainly not in public, and probably not in private, either.  She was not a royal rebel like her formidable mother-in-law, and she seems to have been damned for that in the court of public opinion.  It has been her fate to be judged and found wanting—for not being able to hold her husband’s interest, for staying in the shadows, above all, for not being another Eleanor of Aquitaine.  And that is not fair.  Women in the Middle Ages did not have the power that we wish they had, and even Eleanor paid a great price for her refusal to accept the constrictions placed upon her sex by society and the Church.  I see Berengaria as a young woman who was dealt a bad hand and played it as best and bravely as she could.


Jerelyn: I don’t know if you want to answer this and it is okay if you don’t.  But why do you think that Richard and Berengaria’s relationship suffered so much after he was ransomed?  I ask this because it has more to do with the next book.

Sharon: Since we know that Richard and Berengaria’s marriage was rocky in the latter years, I’d assumed that they’d been incompatible from the first.  I was surprised to find that the marriage seems to have gotten off to a good start, if we judge by the fact that he went to some trouble to have her with him in the Holy Land, bringing her from Acre to Jaffa, for example, when it would have been easier and safer for her to have remained in Acre. So it makes sense to conclude that what went wrong between them occurred after his return from German captivity.  And that is all I am going to say now, for I want people to read A King’s Ransom, after all!


Jerelyn: What do you think has kept people so interested in the Plantagenet’s for over 850 years?

Sharon: Just think of all the high drama and sorrow in their lives and reigns.  Henry, Eleanor and the Devil’s Brood.  The Yorkist Kings, Edward IV and Richard III.   With them all, reality was always more vivid, powerful, thrilling, surprising, terrible, wonderful, and tragic than anything a novelist could invent.


Jerelyn: Why did Lionheart have to be split in to two parts, and when will the second book A King’s Ransom be released?

Sharon: I was always given three years to write one of my historical sagas, but I only had two years to do Lionheart, and that simply was not enough time.  I was still bogged down in the Holy Land with Richard, in full panic-mode at the looming deadline.  Then a dear friend came up with a brilliant idea—why not tell Richard’s story in two parts?  I’d done this with my other books, after all, my Welsh trilogy, my Angevin trilogy.  And the idea made perfect sense, as Richard’s life neatly breaks down into a Before and an After, for the Third Crusade was the defining experience of his life.  I can’t say for certain when A King’s Ransom will be published; that will depend upon how well the writing goes.  But we hope to have it published in 2013.


Jerelyn: I have favorites among your books.  Here Be Dragons and The Sunne In Splendour, which is a Ricardian’s view of the War of the Roses. I bring this up because this was your first published work, but it very well might not have been published, can you tell us what happened to your original manuscript?

Sharon: It was stolen from my car under bizarre circumstances, and it was my only copy.  I had transferred from the University Of Arizona School Of Law to Rutgers School of Law and I was moving to a new apartment.  The manuscript was in my car, which we left unlocked as we brought my belongings into the building.  I had the typical college student’s possessions, including a small television, record player, camera, etc.  But the only thing taken was the manuscript.  I could only conclude that one of the children playing on the lawn wandered over to the car and, on impulse, snatched the manuscript, which was in a bright pink notebook binder with an eye-catching peace sign.  My best guess is that the child then dumped the contents and went off to school with a new notebook.  It is either that or vengeful Tudor spirits, and I find it hard to imagine them hovering over Camden, New Jersey.


Jerelyn: I am certain that it took a great deal of strength to start again, what made you start all over again?

Sharon: I was unable to write again for almost six years.  I wanted to, but it was as if the well had gone dry.  Basically, I developed a Writer’s Block the size of the Rock of Gibraltar.  And then one rainy February Saturday—I was then practicing law in Los Angeles—I sat down at the typewriter and the log-jam broke, the words started to come, and they did not stop.  I do not know why it happened then, am just grateful that it did.


Jerelyn: In the Welsh trilogy, which tells the story of the Welsh Princes during what proved to be the twilight of an independent Wales, your portrayal of the Welsh Princes is so sympathetic.  But did you go into Here Be Dragons and the subsequent novels with the intention of telling about the last Princes?

Sharon: Here be Dragons was initially supposed to be the story of King John and his illegitimate daughter.  I found myself wondering how a woman would react when she learned that the father she’d always adored was capable of acts of great cruelty, specifically starving a woman and her son to death and hanging Welsh hostages, some of them children.  At that point, all I knew of Wales was that Joanna had wed a Welsh prince.  But when I moved to Wales to research the book—and to learn how to properly pronounce Welsh—it took only a fortnight for Llywelyn to high-jack the novel right out from under John’s nose.


Jerelyn: You kind of fell in love with Llewellyn Fawr, and with Wales itself didn’t you?

Sharon: As I said above, I knew little of Wales, aside from the fact that the wonderful actor Richard Burton was Welsh.  So the history of the Welsh princes was a revelation to me.  And I soon concluded that Llywelyn Fawr—Llywelyn the Great—well deserved that epithet.  He is definitely one of my favorite male characters and Here Be Dragons is my own favorite of my books, for it began my love affair with Wales, the most beautiful country this side of Eden.  And most of my readers seem to have fallen under this potent Celtic spell, too, for Here Be Dragons always wins when they are asked to name their favorite of my books, with The Sunne in Splendour coming in a close second.


Jerelyn: The burning bed scene in Here be Dragon’s is probably my favorite scene in any book I have ever read.  Where did this come from?

Sharon: This is the question I am most often asked—did it really happen?   No, this came from my own imagination.  It was fun to write and I am delighted that so many people have found it as much fun to read.


Jerelyn: Do you have a favorite scene, in any of your works?

Sharon: There are always scenes in each book that resonate with me.  Henry’s penance scene at Canterbury Cathedral in Devil’s Brood.  Ellen de Montfort’s encounter with pirates in the pay of the English king in The Reckoning.  Richard and Edward in the tavern in Bruges in The Sunne in Splendour.  Henry and Eleanor meeting for the first time in Paris in When Christ and His Saints Slept.  But I would be hard pressed to name any one scene as my favorite.


Jerelyn: Your love scenes are very restrained but to me they smolder off the page. I am talking about the meeting in Edward’s chamber in The Reckoning between Llewellyn and Eleanor, or Henry and Eleanor’s wedding night in When Christ and all the Saints Slept. What is your philosophy when writing love scenes?


Sharon: I don’t believe a love scene need be a lesson in anatomy.  Nor do I believe it need be too explicit.  Readers have imagination, after all.   I am concerned with the emotional as well as the physical aspects of the act, and I usually add a bit of humor, for laughing in bed is surely one of the joys to be found between a man and a woman.


Your battle scenes are some of the best I have ever read.  Two in particular were very difficult for me to read, Evesham in Falls the Shadow, and Bosworth in Sunne in Splendour.  What is your process like for these scenes?

Sharon: When writing Sunne, I was uncertain how to approach a battle scene, for this was something that I could only imagine, not experience for myself.  This is true, by the way, for men, too, even those who’ve seen combat.  While certain aspects of battle are universal for soldiers—the adrenalin rush, the sense of solidarity—modern and medieval combat each has aspects unique to itself.  I actually remember when I realized the way to write of battles.  I was driving in the desert and it was so hot it hurt to inhale the air.  I started thinking about the physical aspects of medieval combat.  How sweat must have stung a man’s eyes.  How difficult it must have been to see through the slits of a great helm.  How it must have felt to wear plate armor or mail hauberks.  The thirst and the dust and the fear and the confusion, as when the Earl of Oxford mistakenly attacked his own ally, John Neville, at the Battle of Barnet.   That was the starting point for me.   But above all, I want readers to understand how much training it took for knights to be able to fight like that, to wield swords or lances while astride stallions maddened by the smell of blood.  It took years to perfect skills like that, one reason why I am very irked by films in which the heroes acquire these skills in less time than it takes viewers to slip out for popcorn.


Jerelyn: Did the 3rd crusade have a single battle that changed everything?  Or perhaps a single event?

Sharon: Medieval generals tried to avoid open combat if at all possible.  In the 12th century, war was fought with the chevauchees, the raids upon an enemy’s lands, or castle sieges.  Henry II, a highly competent soldier, never fought in a pitched battle, and he was not at all unique.  Medieval commanders usually preferred not to risk all on that one roll of the dice.  Until his arrival in the Holy Land, Richard himself had only fought in one full-scale battle.  But I’d say his march along the sea from Acre to Arsuf, which military historians consider one of the great accomplishments of a medieval general, and then the two battles of Jaffa can be said to have changed the course of the war, for had the outcomes been different, there would have been no negotiated settlement, no peace.


Jerelyn: You wrote a mystery series, set in the time period Richard I was imprisoned on his way home from Crusade.  Why did you want to write a mystery series?  BTW Justin De Quincy is one of the H/F Forums Historical Hunks!

Sharon: Justin would be thrilled—and probably somewhat embarrassed—to hear that.  He is rather modest, not at all like those pushy Angevins, and he was overwhelmed to learn that he has his own Facebook fan club.  Seriously, I was in need of a change of pace after writing When Christ and his Saints Slept, for that was such a challenging book that I feared I might be in danger of burning out.  Since I love to read mysteries, it seemed only natural to think about trying my hand at one myself.  And I had no trouble at all deciding I wanted to set my mysteries in the late twelfth century, making Justin The Queen’s Man, the queen in question being Eleanor of Aquitaine, then in her Katharine Hepburn mode; I always assume that everyone has seen The Lion in Winter!  I have temporarily put the series on hiatus, but I do hope to be able to resume Justin’s adventures in the not-too-distant future.  I really do enjoy writing them; it is fun to be able to play God with my characters, to have more say in their fates.  That is the one drawback about writing of people who actually lived.  I always get to start out with a road map, but often that map takes me places I’d rather not go.


Jerelyn: I bring these up because I believe some people might be intimidated by the size of your historical novels, and the mysteries are a very good primer for your work.

Sharon: A minority (I hope) of my readers do not like mysteries, mine or anyone else’s; I’ve even been asked when I would get back to writing my “real” books.  Then there are mystery readers who enjoy mine, but have no interest in tackling the sagas.  But based on the feedback I get, I’d say that most of my readers read both.


Jerelyn: I watched something on your face book page this past spring.  You are a staunch advocate for animals.  You have personally rescued two White Shepherds.  You lost one to injuries sustained in the violence he suffered before coming to your home.  I was very sorry for your loss.  A few months later you found Tristan.  Will you tell us about ECHO and how a Florida dog became a Jersey dog?

Sharon: I’d lost my beloved German shepherd, Cody, in March of 2010; I’ve written about him in a blog called Cody, if anyone is interested in reading about a truly remarkable dog.   A few months later, I was on the wonderful Petfinders website, and stumbled onto a sad, white shepherd who’d been terribly abused in his young life, starved, kicked, beaten.   I adopted him from the Burlington County Animal Alliance and he turned out to be the sweetest dog I’ve ever known.  Once Shadow realized he was safe and loved, he blossomed; it was lovely to see his utter joy, his sheer happiness.  But we only had nine months.  He became ill suddenly, and we discovered that he was suffering from a diaphragmatic hernia, the result of past trauma, the abuse he’d suffered at the hands of his former owners.  He underwent surgery to correct it, and at first his prospects for recovery seemed bright.  But then he developed pulmonary edema, could not breathe, and the vets said there was no hope.  I’d never lost a young dog before, and losing him  under such circumstances broke my heart.   I knew I wanted to adopt another dog, but I could not bring myself to take any action; I was still grieving for Shadow.  Then it occurred to me that I ought to adopt a dog that might not otherwise find a home, so I went onto the website of the Echo White Shepherds Rescue, looking for an older dog, and there I found “Hank.”   He was painfully thin, thought to be 9 years old, abandoned and left to fend for himself.  As soon as I saw his photo, I knew he was the dog for me.  Once the adoption was approved, Echo arranged transportation from Florida to Maryland, where I was waiting to pick him up.  Thirteen wonderful volunteers drove him up the coast.  I posted his progress on my Facebook page, letting everyone know that he was now in Georgia, that he was now entering North Carolina, etc.  This dog that no one once wanted was literally cheered on by people all over the globe.  The best comment came from an Australian friend who said, “It is rather like the passing of the Olympic Torch, isn’t it?”   Once he started his new life in NJ, he got a new name, Tristan, which was both medieval and Welsh!   Six months later, no one would ever recognize Hank in Tristan.  It turned out that he is not 9; he was in such dire physical shape that the Florida vet over-estimated his age, and he is more likely about 7.  He was bald in patches from malnourishment; now he has a plush, thick coat that a polar bear might envy.  He was a skinny  64 lbs when I adopted him; today he tips the scales at a robust 96 lbs.  I joke that I am not sure how my frail senior shepherd morphed into Godzilla, but it is wonderful to see him restored to health, sleek and stunningly beautiful and happy, maybe for the first time in his life.

What is wonderful, too, is that Tristan has been able to help other dogs find good homes.  Whenever Echo needs drivers to transport shepherds to new lives, I post the itinerary on Facebook and some of my readers volunteer; it usually entails giving up an hour or so, as the distance is normally about 50 miles for each leg of the trip.   They tell me that it is a very gratifying experience—as is adopting a rescue dog.  I realize it is not for everyone, but there are so many advantages to it.  For one thing, you get a dog that has been vetted by the rescue, a dog that has been living with a foster family who can tell you about the dog’s nature, if he is good with cats or other dogs, if he is possessive of his food or toys,  how well housebroken he is, etc.   So there usually are no unpleasant surprises.  And rescue dogs seem to understand that they’ve been given a second chance and are so grateful for it.  Tristan was pulled from a high-kill shelter on his last day, so he truly was rescued from certain death.   And when I watch him playing with his favorite stuffed duck or rolling around on the carpet, waving his big feet in the air, I can’t help smiling.   You can check out the Echo website here. http://www.echodogs.org/dogs.htm      Or the next time you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, why not go to http://www.petfinder.com/dog?  Having adopted three rescue shepherds, I can testify that I could not have found better dogs anywhere or for any price.


Jerelyn: What inspired you to become a writer?  Your education was in the law.

Sharon: I was a writer by nature, a lawyer by circumstance.   I just never expected to be able to make a living as a writer, one reason why I went to law school.   When I was lucky enough to find a publisher for The Sunne in Splendour, I felt truly blessed.  Besieging castles is much more fun than filing court briefs.


What do you read for fun?

Sharon: I don’t have as much time for pleasure reading as I’d like, which makes me sad, for I’ve always been an avid reader.  I like to read mysteries for fun.  I also like to read historical fiction, although I usually stay away from books about the historical figures I’ve written about; after living with them for so many years, I tend to get possessive about them.   Among the writers I enjoy are Margaret George, Margaret Frazer, Sharan Newman, Priscilla Royal, C.W. Gortner, Elizabeth Chadwick, Alice Hoffman, Barbara Kingsolver, David Rosenfelt, Dana Stabenow, Joseph Wambaugh, Robert Crais, and George R.R. Martin.  And that just scratches the surface; I really need to buy one of those bumper stickers that says “So many books, so little time.”


Jerelyn: What were your favorite books as a child or during your teens?

Sharon: As a child, my favorite book was Black Beauty.  In my teens, I discovered the Bronte sisters; then I preferred Wuthering Heights, but now I think Jane Eyre is the better book.


The words ‘Gold Standard’ are often used to describe your work, how do you feel about that?

Sharon: Very flattered, of course, and honored.


Jerelyn: I understand that A King’s Ransom will be your final work set around the Angevins have you decided what your next project will be?

Sharon: After I tell the rest of Richard’s story in A King’s Ransom, I would like to write about the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the story of Balian d’Ibelin, the real man, not Orlando Bloom’s fictional blacksmith in Kingdom of Heaven.  Balian and a number of the characters in Lionheart will be front and center in the new book, which I’ve tentatively titled The Land Beyond the Sea, which is the translation of Outremer, one of the names for the Holy Land.  So I hope readers will find Balian, Conrad of Montferrat, Isabella, Humphrey de Toron, Henri of Champagne, Saladin and al-Adil interesting enough to want to know more about them.


Jerelyn: Is it hard to say good-bye?

Sharon: Very hard.  It was emotionally wrenching to bid farewell to Wales upon the completion of my Welsh trilogy, although I’ve managed to include Welsh characters whenever I could: Ranulf in When Christ and His Saints Slept, Hywel the poet-prince in Time and Chance, Ranulf’s son Morgan in Devil’s Brood and Lionheart.  And of course in one of the mysteries, Dragon’s Lair, Justin crosses paths with a young Welsh rebel named Llywelyn ab Iorwerth; after so many years, it was great fun to have him hanging around the house again.    So I expect that it will not be any easier to bid farewell to the Angevins when I write the last scene in A King’s Ransom.


Jerelyn: Best of luck with Lionheart.  I can’t wait to get my hands on it and also A King’s Ransom!

 I could go on and on but I won’t.  Ms. Penman I thank you for taking the time to do this.


You can read more about Sharon Penman at http://www.sharonkaypenman.com/index.htm  or friend her on face book at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=1660007719 .

I would also like to thank Dr. John Phillips for his permission to use the photo he took of Sharon next to the rock crystal vase that once belonged to Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Taken in the Louvre June  2011.


Sharon’s books:

Sunne In Splendour about Richard III the last Plantagenet King, and the War of the Roses.

When Christ and all the Saints Slept  this book deals with the founding of the Angevin Empire and “The Anarchy “ which is what history calls the civil war between the Empress Maud the Lady of the English, and her cousin Stephen I, who fought for nearly two decades for the English Crown.

Time and Chance deals with the first half of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life together.

Devil’s Brood deals with the second half of Henry and Eleanor’s reign.

Lionheart, deals with the first part of Richards reign and the third crusade.

Here be Dragons This is my personal favorite.  This first book in the Welsh trilogy, deals with King John’s reign and that of the reign of Llewelyn Fawr (the great) Prince of Wales and the love story between Llewelyn and Joanna (King John’s bastard daughter) which connected the royal houses of the Plantagenet and house of Gwynedd.

Falls the Shadow, is the continuation of the story dealing with the difficult reign of Henry III.  His problems in Wales, and those within his own family.  His sister’s Eleanor’s marriage to the charismatic Simon de Monfort, and also of Henry III’s son Edward’s rise to power.

The Reckoning, deals with the relationship between Edward I and the Llewelyn’s grandson  the last native born Prince of Wales Llewelyn ap Gruffydd.

The de Quincy Mysteries:

The Queen’s Man: Man A Medieval Mystery

Cruel as the Grave

Dragon’s Lair

Prince of Darkness


Don’t forget to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing of an autographed copy of Sharon’s book Devil’s Brood. A winner will be chosen at random from the members who comment on the blog.




Sharon Kay Penman’s new book, Lionheart will be the Historical Fiction Forum’s read-along book for October. We are very excited that Ms Penman will be joining us for the discussion!
Keep an eye on the Historical Fiction Forum for updates and more information. Join us! The more the merrier!

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30 Responses to “Author Interview with Sharon Kay Penman”

  1. Bonnie (LoveNE) , says:

    Another great interview Jerelyn! I have to personally thank-you for turning me on to Sharon and Sharon I must thank-you for personally turning me on to Eleanor! You have made me feel as if I’ve known her all my life…

  2. Deb B. says:

    First-rate interview — thank you, Jerelyn and Sharon! As one who thinks Sharon is the Goddess of HF, I can hardly wait until my pre-ordered copy of Lionheart arrives — which will, after reading, go onto the part of my bookshelf that I consider the Penman Shrine. (I’m also a huge fan of Justin’s — and always happy to spend time with him!)

  3. Jill says:

    A fascinating woman! One as full of twists as her Angevin’s. Well done Jerelyn and a special thanks to Sharon Kay Penman!

  4. Cheryl M. (hannamatt52) says:

    Wonderful interview! I can’t wait for my copy of “Lionheart” to come. Thank you to Ms Penman for taking to time to do this interview for all of your fans here at PBS!

  5. R E K. (bigstone) , says:

    So glad to see this interview. I have many of your books on my shelf but alas I did not read them in order, instead reading them as I received them. Keep up the great writing and I hope that I can win Devil’s Blood! If not I’ll get a copy to read.

  6. Jeanne L. (bkydbirder) , says:

    This was a great interview with a very great and much loved author – thank you Jerelyn! I too had a white Shepherd and he was one of the greatest dogs I’ve ever had – I truly understand her love of these dogs. I’ve been rescuing dogs all of my life and after hearing what Ms. Penman has done, I have an even greater respect for her – over and above her terrific writing!!!

  7. Elizabeth B. (Cattriona) , says:

    Very nicely done, Letty!

  8. Debbie H says:

    Looks like a great book. I would love to win it. thanks. Debbie H

  9. Aubree G. (notyourstar) , says:

    Great interview Jerelyn! Ms. Penman is one of my favorite authors and it was great getting to know her!

  10. Thank you all for the lovely compliments. I think Jerelyn did a such a great job with her questions. It is challenging to find questions that have not been asked hundreds of times before, but she managed it. I am especially grateful that she gave me an opportunity to talk a little about Echo White Shepherd Rescue, adoption as an option for pets, and of course, my white wolf, Tristan, who looks very much like Jon Snow’s direwolf in George RR Martin’s Ice and Fire series–well, except for the glowing red eyes, of course. Jennifer, I so agree with you about white shepherds–they are amazing dogs. I’d had shepherds all my life, but Shadow was my first white one, and now I’m hooked on them. When you took yours out for a walk, did you get a lot of attention? Shadow and now Tris practically stopped traffic. It was like going out with a rock star!

  11. Sue Coleman says:

    What a wonderful interview with Sharon. She is one of my favorite authors. Her work makes you feel as if you have traveled back in time. I anxiously am awaiting my copy of Lionheart so I can get engrossed in this book, too.

  12. Jeanne L. (bkydbirder) , says:

    Ms. Penman – I don’t know if you are still looking at these comments, but in answer to your question, yes, our White Shepherd slways had a lot of praise for being so beautiful – and we found him at the humane society! I have to tell you though, that the most fantastic sight I ever saw was in the grocery parking lot. A VW Beetle pulled up and this woman got out and let out FIVE White Shepherds from her car to run around a bit before she ran into the store. WHAT A SIGHT – it took my breath away!

  13. Mary Gardner says:

    I love reading about Ms. Penman – one of my top 3 most favorite authors. Can’t wait to read her latest book!

  14. Owen Mayo says:

    Another great interview from a lady who is probably the most respectful of historical writers, non-judgmental of her characters and never lowering herself to defamation of people long dead for purposes of sensationalism. She tells the stories in a wonderfully descriptive narrative, having meticulously researched the facts, and introduces the fictional element in the most natural, believable way. Long may she continue to beguile her readers as she has done for the last thirty years or so. Thank you, Jerelyn, for your part in this honest and fascinating interview.

  15. Marjorie Cullen says:

    What a great interview. I very much enjoyed reading it. Right now, I am looking forward to receiving my copy of Lionheart which should be here soon. I can hardly wait.

  16. Kathy Carroll says:

    I am re-reading her Welsh trilogy now and plan to visit Wales in 2012 (after cruising with PBS in February).

  17. Robin K. (jubead) says:

    Sharon, thank you for a great interview. As always Jerelyn, a superb job! I look forward to reading Lionheart.

  18. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    For those of you that, don’t visit the Historical Fiction forum there is a thread about the house believe to be that of Llewelyn Fawr, yes it still exists in part at least. You can see it here. http://www.paperbackswap.com/Very-Cool/topic/204922/.

    Thanks for all your nice comments and Sharon I truly mean it when I say it was a thrill of a life time to get to speak to you.

  19. Mimi M. (mimima) says:

    What an honor for you Jerelyn! Thank you for writing so engagingly your interview, and for giving us a window into Sharon’s world.

  20. Annis McGowan says:

    I didn’t know of the stolen manuscript, how do you move on from that point. Sharon seems to have a wonderful sense of humour or should that be wicked : ) after reading this interview I just want to go and read all her books over again!

  21. Vicky T. (VickyJo) says:

    Oh Jerelyn, you’ve reached the pinnacle now! What a wonderful interview–many thanks to both Jerelyn and Sharon. I’ve been involved in transports for Echo in the past, even though my shepherds are the standard black and tan. 😉 They are a lovely breed. It’s a thrill to help any animal arrive at a forever home.

    I don’t have my hands on Lionheart yet, but I’ve been planning a complete re-read of Sharon’s works for 2012. I *must* start after the holidays or nothing else will get done!

    Thanks, ladies!

  22. Kelly P. (KellyP) , says:

    I add my thanks & appreciation to both Jerelyn & the lovely SKP for this wonderful interview. While I have loved all of her books, my first one (& sentimental favorite) is Christ & His Saints. While we have passed on the Justin books (via PBS, of course), all of her other books are on our keeper shelf. For ont thing, the Welsh Trilogy books are all too tear-stained to meet PBS guidelines!

    I saw a poster yesterday browsing facebook: “Want to see a perfect dog? Visit your local shelter.” As one who is deeply involved in my local humane society, it is thrilling to hear success stories like Tristan’s and that so many of the other commenters have adopted shelter/rescue pets and/or participated in rescue transports.

    BTW, particpating in transport runs is an absolute blast! It’s a great way to do something good; you meet wonderful people and knowing that you are saving lives gives a glow that lasts for days!

    Didn’t mean to hijack this thread (and, I’m sure Jerelyn isn’t surprised!) … :-/

    Thanks again, Jerelyn & Sharon !!


  23. J. Long (longblade) says:

    Thanks so much Jerelyn for such a great interview with Miss Sharon K. Penman it was one of the best one’s yet. i have read all her books which i feel are the Holy Grail of HF writing, and my favorites are the Justin series. all her books are keepers and my shelf is full with the addition of Lionheart which should be here in a few days.i can’t wait to get my hands on it. Richard is my favorite of all the Kings of medieval Europe. so Thanks again Miss Penman and Jerelyn for the great interview.

  24. Sianeka N Hollywood, CA says:

    I love to read, and come across all kinds of genres since I will read almost anything I happen across. I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction, but have never really dedicated myself to that genre as I have with other types of books I’ve enjoyed. Think it’s time I start! And good to know of a “gold standard” by which I can begin: I’m going to read Sharon Kay Penman’s books as I have enjoyed some books about the Angevins and Plantagenets in the past. (Also, I’ve seen and very much enjoyed The Lion in Winter!)

    The author interview was interesting and varied enough to entice me to want very much to start reading her books. Great interview, by both sides involved! Thank you for sharing.

  25. Sianeka N Hollywood, CA says:

    PS Thank you for the included Penman bibliography!

  26. ANNA S. (SanJoseCa) says:

    This is probably my favorite PBS author interview so far! I felt like I really got to know Sharon Kay Penman as a person as well as a writer. I have always loved her historical fiction but now I will definitely read her historical mysteries as well.

    I was also touched by her advocacy for animal rescue. Growing up, my family always had Shepard dogs for pets and as an adult, all my pets have been rescue cats and dogs. I loved learning about this aspect of her life!

  27. Lorrie J. (treddie) says:

    I’m so surprised to find the caliber of interviews here – both the interviewer and the interviewee. I have some of Penman’s books that I’ve never read b/c I was always looking to start reading with the first book.

    Now, I am recommitted to my search so that I can enjoy reading about one of my fave periods in history written about by a talented author.

    I may also have to find more time to spend here than just book swapping. 🙂

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