Born and raised in Surrey, England, Cynthia Sally Haggard has lived in the United States for thirty years. She is the author of the Thwarted Queen series, which includes The Bride Price, One Seed Sown, The Gilded Cage, Two Murders Reaped and Rose of Raby. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Yes, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of SHE and KING SOLOMONS’S MINES. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of the author’s great-grandfather.) Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society. You can visit her at: http://spunstories.com/,
Q: Thank you for this interview, Cynthia. Can you tell us what your latest book, Thwarted Queen, is all about?
A: Thwarted Queen is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal and a King brought down by fear. It is biographical fiction, about the life and times of Lady Cecylee Neville (1415-1495), which takes us from 1424 (when Cecylee turns nine and is betrothed to Richard of York), to 1495, two months before her death. (I don’t like deathbed scenes). It is set during the waning years of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) and the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485).
Q: Is this your first novel?
A: Yes. It took me seven years to write. I started it in September 2004, and completed it in May 2011.
Q: How difficult was it writing your book? Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?
A: This was an ambitious book both because it is about a real person, and it covered 71 years of her life. I have a PhD and I must say I think this novel was even more difficult to write than my dissertation (which is saying something)! Yes, I had times when I felt that I could not continue. Usually what I do in these circumstances is put the book down and work on something else. In those early days, I was so busy just trying to learn the craft of writing, and calling upon a dear friend (Beth Gessert to whom the book is dedicated) to help me. But from May 2007, I started writing my second novel, Family Splinters. So whenever things would get difficult with Cecylee, I would just work on Splinters. Then I would come back to Thwarted Queen feeling refreshed, and continue.
Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel? Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?
A: The book is slowly beginning to gather traction, particularly as I have been promoting it on Goodreads for the past couple of months. And I have received some flattering comments from various people online. One of my most thrilling experiences was when a 15-year-old young lady, who seemed to harbor ambitions of becoming a rock star, gave 5 stars on Goodreads to The Gilded Cage, the political novel about the opening of the Wars of the Roses. I was simply stunned. It never occurred to me that it would appeal. So I sat down and wrote a thank-you note.
Q: What is your daily writing routine?
A: I have various routines. But what I’m doing right now is writing for 2-3 hours each morning, because I have a new novel that I want to get started. After lunch, I then deal with the internet and all the marketing of Thwarted Queen I have to do.
Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?
A: I like to do physical things, like walking, hiking, yoga. I’m also thinking of taking up martial arts. And I enjoy playing violin and piano. Am hoping to start a string quartet one day.
Q: What book changed your life?
A: It’s hard to say about one book. I can name two or three. Tolstoy’s War and Peace comes to mind. I first read it when I was sixteen, and literally could not put it down. A little later on I was galvanized by Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary and Bertrand Russell’s Unpopular Essays, because they made me laugh so hard. More recently, I would have to say Elizabeth Lesser’s The Seekers Guide, her book on spirituality, which is what I think the Bible should have been like.
Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?
A: House of Secrets: A Conspiracy of Silence.
Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”
A: that I love writing my novels, and I hope they enjoy reading my novels as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Thank you for this interview Cynthia. I wish you much success on your latest release, Thwarted Queen!