Author Interview with Elizabeth Chadwick & winner of The Greatest Knight

I am just beyond ecstatic to bring you an interview with one of my favorite historical fiction authors, the Mother of Medieval Fiction....Elizabeth Chadwick!!!

EC: Many thanks for inviting me to be a guest on Passages to the Past.

What is it about William Marshal that fascinates you so?

I think it is the sheer power and scope of the man, coupled with his ability to hold onto his honour and integrity in some very difficult times. He wasn’t born to greatness. He was only the fourth son of a middle-ranking court official. A man less strong would have remained an ordinary hearth knight for the rest of his life, serving some lord in a minor capacity. William was known as ‘Gaste Viande’ in his youth, meaning ‘Scoff All,’ or ‘Greedy Guts.’ I think that describes his character well, because he had such a vast appetite for life. He saved the life of a queen, he knocked a great warrior king off his horse. He was a champion at the joust, but he was also skilled in the political and diplomatic field, and from what we can tell was a good husband and father. He wasn’t by any manner of means perfect, but that only makes him all the more interesting. He rose above himself and in so doing, he took the world.

How do you think history would have been changed had Henry the King not crowned his son in his lifetime?

Actually I suspect it wouldn’t have been all that different. Young Henry was a spoiled and feckless young man who would still have argued with his brothers and his father whether he had a crown or not. Whatever he was given, he would have wanted more. Other King’s sons were crowned in their father’s lifetimes and didn’t have a problem with it. I think with this one, you just have to put it down to the young man’s fickle personality. William was his tutor in arms, and personally I think William had a very hard row to hoe. I suspect the Young King had little time for anyone but himself.

Can you give us a taste of what we readers can expect with your new novel due out in May of 2010, To Defy a King?

I have to say here that Sourcebooks in the USA will be issuing a second book about William Marshal’s astonishing life, titled The Scarlet Lion. My next new UK release is To Defy a King and follows the story of William Marshal’s eldest daughter, Mahelt. For various political reasons, she has to marry at a young age, and although her husband and his family welcome her, there are some difficult adjustments to make. To say that there is trouble in store is a huge understatement! The title comes from the fact that Mahelt and both her birth family and her marriage family are caught up in conflict with King John and set on a road that could lead to destruction. We’re just doing the jacket cover shots at the moment and I am very excited about this one.

Besides the Middle Ages, is there any other time period that you find intriguing and why?

I enjoy reading in most other periods and I’m not as picky about the history because I don’t know it so well. As far as history goes, I have a general interest all round. However, I do have more interest in some aspects of history than others. The food and cooking of various time periods fascinates me. I would love to be a guest at various tables and scenarios throughout history and sample the meals on offer. What did it really taste like. How was it cooked? I’d be there, peering over shoulders and dipping my spoon. I love the artifacts and archaeology of historical periods. All of the things that have been buried or hidden or forgotten but have been used and touched by the people who went before. They are what fire my interest, and the era doesn’t really matter.

What is your favorite line from a book?

Now you’ve got me! I don’t collect favorite lines as such. If I went away to my book collections, it would probably end up being a quote from either a Terry Pratchett novel or one by Dorothy Dunnett. I do have a favorite poem though, by Tolkien, from The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s called ‘I sit Beside the Fire and Think..’ and it encapsulates what being a historical novelists is about. It also makes me stop and think about life itself too and the time for which we are here. It’s a simple poem, and repetitive, but it says a great deal. The line from it I really love is ‘In every wood, in every spring, there is a different green.’ The poem in its entirety can be found here:

by J.R.R. Tolkein

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

What are you reading at the moment?

As usual I have several books on the go.

In research I am reading Daily Living in the Twelfth Century by Urban Tigner Holmes, Jr. and Warren Hollister’s biography of King Henry I. Novel-wise I have just started The Unicorn Road by Martin Davies. Stephenie Meyer’s The Host is winking at me from my TBR shelf too!

I can't thank Elizabeth enough for stopping by PTTP today - I am a HUGE fan and it has been a real treat getting to know you.  You are so generous with your fans and so eager to share with us and that's what makes us love you even more!  Here's to many, many, many more years of Elizabeth Chadwick books!

And now for the moment a lot of you have been waiting for...the winner of The Greatest Knight is...



  1. Amy and Elizabeth, thank you for such a lovely interview. This novel sounds great. And I love the Tolkien poem. When I work, I find myself listening "for returning feet/ and voices at the door."

  2. Oh, wow! I'm so excited to have won this! Many thanks, Amy!

    Great review, BTW!

  3. Great interview with EC :) Thanks for hosting a segment on the blog tour - have really enjoyed it.


    I have an award for you on my blog.


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