Q&A with Patricia Bracewell, author of Shadow on the Crown, plus Giveaway!

Today is the publication day of Patricia Bracewell's debut historical fiction novel, Shadow on the Crown, and I am thrilled to be hosting her with an interview! 

Hello, Patricia and Happy Release Day! We are so honored to have you here to answer a few questions for us!

To begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thank you, Amy, for having me here. I’m a California girl who, like so many other girls, grew up with my nose in a book. I studied Literature in college, taught high school English, married, and while my two sons were growing up I wrote whenever I could – before the boys were awake, usually. When they went off to college, most of my available time went into my writing, and that’s how it stands today. 

What inspired you to write SHADOW ON THE CROWN? Were you always drawn to the Medieval time period? 

I have always been drawn to the Medieval period and to even earlier times. I once aspired to write a book about Arthur, but that avenue, like the Tudors, seemed over-crowded. And then I ran across a queen of England I’d never heard of before, and I was smitten. Emma of Normandy had me in the palm of her hand. 

How did you come up with the title, SHADOW ON THE CROWN? 

Originally the book was called “Royal Hostage”; that was its title when my agent submitted it to editors starting in late 2009. By early 2011, although we had received a number of positive rejections, the book still had not sold. So at her suggestion I made some revisions and began re-thinking the title as well. She wanted something bigger, something that did not refer to just Emma. I gave that a lot of thought and I finally came up with SHADOW ON THE CROWN. I think it has resonance for every one of the four viewpoint characters in the book. 

What do you hope readers take away from reading Emma's story? 

Emma of Normandy
I wrote this novel because I wanted people to know who Emma of Normandy was, how strong a character she must have been, and to imagine, with me, what difficulties she might have faced. I also hope that they will come away with an interest in a little-known era in English history that is every bit as fascinating as what would come later. Finally, I hope that they will close the book with the satisfaction that comes from reading an intriguing story about men and women who were not so very different from people today. 

On your research travels, what was the most inspiring location you visited? 

I would have to award that to the seaside town of Fecamp in Normandy, perhaps because it was the only place with 11th century ruins still visible. The remains of the ducal palace originally built by Emma’s father, Richard I, and rebuilt in stone by her brother can still be seen. It was the favored retreat of the ducal family, and I believe that Emma may have spent much of her girlhood there. I was able to stand at a window embrasure and imagine myself as Emma, gazing at the nearby abbey or watching shipmen make their way to the palace from the harbor. When I went down to the beach, it was the first time I realized that the coast at Fecamp has white cliffs just like the coast at Dover. You can’t see that on a map. That wall of white chalk cliffs would have been the last thing that Emma saw when she left Normandy, and the first thing she saw when England came into view. 

What do you find is the toughest part of the writing process? 

Writing the first draft of anything – even the answer to this question! – is difficult for me. Before I begin a scene I think long and hard, and I ask myself dozens of questions. Who is the best viewpoint character? Where is this happening? What does it look like, smell like, feel, like? Who else is there? What does each character want? I might have conversations on paper with the characters or I might draw a map of the space they’re in. I suspect that a lot of writers can do this all intuitively, but I’m a pencil and paper gal. I need visuals. So that first draft of any scene is almost always grindingly hard work. 

What do you like to do when you aren't writing? 

I enjoy tennis and gardening. I live in a wonderful neighborhood with grocery stores, libraries, and bookstores an easy walk away, so I do a lot of my errands on foot. If a scene isn’t working for me, getting away from the computer by taking a short walk will often help me reach a solution. 

What is the book that first introduced you to the historical fiction genre? 

I have to go all the way back to my senior year in college when I designed an Independent Study Course around the figure of King Arthur. One of the books I read was Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset, which transformed the Arthurian tales into a very realistic story of a 6th century warrior king. That’s the first book I can pinpoint by name. I still have the paper I wrote for that course – 20 pages long, which I thought at the time was monumental. Little did I know what lay ahead of me! 

If you could recommend one historical fiction book which one would it be and why? 

The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett. It has a fabulous hero in Francis Crawford, and it’s beautifully written with lots of action. It’s breathtaking, really, and it’s gloriously long. I love lengthy historicals that you can sink into for days. Don’t expect an easy read, but if you make it through the first 100 pages you’ll be hooked, and it’s the first book in a marvelous six-book series. 

Can you tell us about the next project you are working on? Will you be staying in Medieval England? 

Because Shadow on the Crown is the first book of a trilogy, I’m already nearing completion of the follow-up book. It begins about a year after the final scene of Shadow, and follows the story some years into a pretty harrowing future. 

As a debut author, do you have any advice for those that are looking to be published? 

That is such a hard question. Every piece of advice seems like a clichĂ©. My own route to publication was very traditional. I wrote my first book-length manuscript (a romance) in the late 90’s, a second manuscript (another romance) in the early years of this century, and now here it is 2013 and I’m finally a debut author with a third manuscript that bears no resemblance to the first two. I’m not exactly a poster girl for Overnight Success! I think that old saw about persistence and determination, whatever publishing route one takes, is absolutely true. Nothing can guarantee success, not even a mainstream publisher, so it’s important to write what you love, and to make decisions about your career that feel right for you. 

About the Book

Publication Date: February 7, 2013 
Publisher: Viking Adult
Hardcover; 432p
ISBN: 0670026395

A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen.

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.

 Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Shadow on the Crown introduces readers to a fascinating, overlooked period of history and an unforgettable heroine whose quest to find her place in the world will resonate with modern readers. 

About the Author

Patricia Bracewell is a native of California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. A lifelong fascination with British history and a chance, on-line reference to an unfamiliar English queen led to years of research, a summer history course at Downing College, Cambridge, and the penning of her debut novel SHADOW ON THE CROWN. Set in 11th century England, SHADOW is the first book of a trilogy about Emma of Normandy who was a queen in England and a power behind the throne for nearly four decades. Patricia is working on the two follow-up novels in the series, but takes time out for tennis, gardening and travel. She is the mother of two grown sons and lives with her husband in Northern California. 

Find more information at Patricia's website and blog.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Passages to the Past has one copy of Shadow on the Crown up for grabs.

Giveaway is open to US residents ONLY.  To enter, please complete Rafflecopter Entry Form below.

Ends on February 17.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I so wish I could enter this, I crave it. I even wrote a paper about Emma :)

    Oh and Amy, the blog looks great! Real classy

  2. What a wonderful introduction to yet another person in history about whom I would love to learn more. It sounds like a book that would certainly keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Looking forward to reading it and am adding it to my Wish List. Thanks for sharing this today.

    In addition, your blog is very neat and easy to navigate. Congratulations, Amy!

  3. I read this one, and it was pretty good.. Here is my review. I definitely want to read the next one in the trilogy, I feel like all I've gotten was like a prelude to Emma's story now.

  4. Great interview! This was an absolutely fantastic novel. I loved it!

  5. Loved the interview--this one is on my to-read list. Thanks for the chance to win!

    I love the new blog look too, very classy & clean.



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