A LITERARY WORLD: An interview with Anna Belfrage.
A Literary World
An interview with author Anna Belfrage.
Welcome to A Literary World, the first of what I hope will be a series of fascinating author interviews. Today I am honoured to have as my guest, the delightful Anna Belfrage, renowned author of The Graham Saga, a series of eight compelling and adventurous novels with more than a hint of Game of Thrones. The main protagonist of the series, Alex Lind, is a time-traveller who inadvertently finds herself thrown back into the seventeenth century, a period of political instability where religion plays a dominant role. Anna is an accomplished author with a passion for history that is evident in her writing. Her last and final novel in the series – To Catch a Falling Star – was recently voted ‘Editor’s Choice 2015’ by the Historical Novel Society. She is also the recipient of five other HNS Indie Editor’s Choice awards and six BRAG Medallions (so far), three long-listed books for the HNS Indie Book of the Year Award, two books shortlisted for the same award, and one book among the finalists for the HNS award. Four books were also long-listed for RONE, one RONE Honourable Mention. Quite an achievement.
Welcome to A Literary World, Anna. Where do you live in Sweden?
I live in Malmö, but have a summer house an hour or so due north-east, which is where I can enjoy breakfasts outside such as this.
What inspired you to write The Graham Saga?
Ha, I could write a book about this, but for the sake of brevity, it was my husband – or rather his ancestor, John Belfrage, who fled Scotland for Sweden to avoid religious persecution during the 17th For some odd reason, John went to Sweden. My Matthew decided to go west instead.
How long did it take you to write each book?
The actual story-line of any book I write takes me 3-4 months to put down. And by then I’ve got 90% of the work still to go. I edit, re-write, edit, re-write, re-write…a wonderfully satisfying process that has none of the urgency of writing the initial draft, but is more like being submerged in a bubble bath with a nice bottle of champagne at hand.
When you begin a novel, do you have an outline of where the story will take you and do you have an ending in mind?
Generally, yes. But that doesn’t mean the end product comes anywhere close.
Do you have any tips for someone intending to write a time-travel novel?
It has to be “believable”. Yes, the reader suspends disbelief by accepting the concept of time-travel, but as a writer, you must apply some logic – however backward that sounds.
As a writer of historical fiction, what is it that you look for in a story?
Nerve and human interest. I am more interested in depicting how the “common people” were affected by events than in writing about the actual movers and shakers. Having said that, I am presently working on a series where most of the characters are documented historical figures – but by having an invented protagonist, I allow myself the luxury of being able to comment and participate in the events as I see fit.
What part of the research process did you enjoy the most?
I like researching, full stop. I indulge myself by lying in bed for entire days reading everything from Antonia Fraser to Coward’s The Stuart Age
What were the whispering voices of advice that helped you? Do you have any tips for us?
My characters quickly take on a voice of their own. And once they do, they become meddlesome and opinionated, but also fundamental to how the plot develops. So I listen to what they say – rather, I write as they direct, at least in some scenes.
As to tips, I have two: read your dialogue out loud (and boy, does it grate at times), never skimp on the editor.
What are your typical working conditions? Do you have a special time and place to write.
I have my writing desk at which I spend a lot of time. As to when I write, it tends to be dictated by what time windows I have.
Do you write longhand?
I do all my writing on the computer – except for notes to self and abbreviated plot outlines.
Do you listen to music when you’re writing?
At times. But I prefer working in silence – or with something familiar and haunting in the background.
Who are your favourite authors?
Far too many to list, I fear. But to name a few, Mary Renaults, Sharon K Penman, Pamella Belle, Antonia Fraser, Elizabeth Chadwick, Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, Gabriel García Marquez, Miguel Delibes, JRR Tolkien (sheesh! I almost forgot him! How could I?), Michael Dibdin, Bruce Chatwin, Salman Rushdie, Edith Pargetter…right; I’m stopping there, I think.
What are some of your favourite books?
No, no, no, no – I will not bore you with yet another endless list. But if pushed, I’d say Here be Dragons by Sharon K Penman, The Gwynedd Brothers Quartet by Pargetter and What am I doing Here, by Chatwin
What kind of child were you?
Extrovert and creative. My mother had a number of blood-chilling moments, principally among these the time when she found me balancing on the railing of the Atlantic Cruiser we were on – in the middle of the sea.
Were you an avid reader?
Yes – and very cunning when it came to hiding my flashlight.
Can you share with us some of the things you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to bake. I like to eat chocolate. I rather enjoy taking off into the woods on my own, grab a stick and engage in wild swordplay with the nearest shrub/tree. I enjoy skinny dipping in the summer (at which times I practise stealth diving – one never knows when that skill may come in useful). I love cuddling with my hubby.
Do you have a philosophy on life?
In so many words? Not really. But I do believe life is about being as good a person as you can be, and about approaching each new day as an opportunity to learn something new.
What are you working on now?
A quartet set in the 14th century, a trilogy dealing with reincarnated souls and a story (which will probably also end up multi-book) set in the 17th century court of Swedish Queen Christina – well, it starts there at least. Oh, and the other day, Matthew Graham (protagonist of The Graham Saga) threw an impressive tantrum, so I’m thinking there’s a ninth book in the making.
And a few quick questions:
Favourite type of music to relax to?
The Eagles – especially Desperado
LOTR – all three
Diego Velázquez beautiful portrait of Prince Felipe Próspero. The little boy was not destined to live much beyond its finalisation.
Favourite holiday destination?
Staying at home – I travel too much with work.
Where can we buy the books?
As per my publisher, “wherever good books are sold”, which includes Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, to name a few. Plus Silverwood’s own website, of course.
Well, dear Kathryn, it was very fun to drop by and visit with you. Thank you so much for having me!
Thank you, Anna, for taking time out of your hectic schedule to be with us today. It’s been a pleasure to learn more about you and we wish you continued success.
link amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Anna-Belfrage/e/B008C89JB8/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1390304501&sr=1-2-ent
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing”