Lindsay Townsend Author Interview
It is my pleasure to introduce Lindsay Townsend, an English author from Yorkshire. I had the privilege of reviewing her historical romance, Dark Maiden, for the Historical Novel Society. When I first started reading this story, I had no idea of how much I would enjoy reading a tale set in plague-stricken England in 1350. Not only did I enjoy the romantic elements in the story, I also learned about the chaos and superstitions that arose as a result of the plague. The humor sprinkled throughout the story ultimately made this an entertaining read from beginning to end. The novel was selected as the Editor’s Choice in the Historical Newsletter HNR Issue 82 (November 2017).
I enjoyed learning more about Lindsay in her interview below.
Lindsay Townsend lives in Yorkshire, England, where she was born. Lindsay started writing stories at an early age. Always a voracious reader, she took a degree in medieval history and worked in a library for a while, then began to write full-time after marriage.
She is fascinated by the medieval and ancient world, especially medieval Britain. When not writing or researching her books, she enjoys walking, reading, cooking, music, going out with friends and long languid baths with scented candles (and perhaps chocolate).
Interview Lindsay Townsend
Would you provide an overview of newest books that you have released this year?
I have written and released several medieval historical romances this year including my full length novel, Dark Maiden, published by Prairie Rose, and a sensual romance novella, The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon, part of my Medieval Creatures series with Siren-Bookstrand. I’ve also reissued A Knight’s Vow, now self-published for Kindle. I’ve also self-published a sweet medieval novella, Plain Harry. For Christmas I’m part of the One Yuletide Knight anthology, with my novella, Sir Constantine and the Changeling.
What inspired you to write the historical romance, Dark Maiden, about a black female exorcist in plague-infested England?
I’ve always been fascinated by ghost stories and authors such as MR James. I studied medieval history at University and reading about the Black Death (or Great Pestilence) and its massive, shattering impact on society stayed with me. This was a time when “normal” customs and morals were almost destroyed in some areas of Europe, as shown by accounts by contemporary writers such as Boccaccio. Reading Philip Ziegler’s vivid history of this time in his book The Black Death, I was struck by a passage concerning Ralf of Shrewsbury, the medieval bishop of Bath and Wells. In 1349, when the pestilence was spreading through England, devastating society, Ralf wrote a letter to his priests and in it he explained “you should …persuade all men…that if they are on the point of death and can not secure the services of a priest, then they should make confession to each other…or, if no man is present, then even to a woman.”
That phrase “even to a woman” got me thinking and the germ of a story began to form. It was shaped further by reading of the appearance of strange cults, such as the Flagellants, and the belief throughout Europe that this killer disease presaged the end of times. The dead and dying clearly dominated people’s minds during this period, as seen by the appearance of skeletal avatars of death in manuscripts and in church paintings and tombs.
The dead and dying and ghosts and a hero to help them. A different hero, one outside the usual customs of the time. Considering these factors, Yolande came into my mind, emerging almost complete from a dream. I knew the medieval church revered the black saint Maurice. I knew from archaeology and historical sources that England has always been multi-cultural, with a rich blend of races. I wanted to celebrate that heritage in my story.
How much research was involved in writing your books? How did you go ABOUT researching the various evil entities for Dark Maiden?
It really depends on the story I’m creating. I love telling stories, so to me that’s always the most important, then come the characters within the tale, then the research so the world of the story is real to readers. I look at primary sources, such as contemporary accounts, plus the art, music, food, fashions of the period I’m writing about. I also read folk stories and sometimes base my fiction on retelling of such tales. So I re-worked the story of Beauty and the Beast into my medieval novel The Snow Bride and the story of Sleeping Beauty into my fable A Christmas Sleeping Beauty. For Dark Maiden I read books on Medieval Magic, (especially Kieckhefer’s Magic in the Middle Ages), Medieval Graffiti, The Medieval Underworld by McCall, Jusserand’s English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages, and the encyclopedia Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. The Medieval Underworld by McCall covered beliefs concerning ghosts and magic during the fourteenth century and how people could deal with revenants and other spiritual threats. Google and Wikipedia are also superb sources, with many articles.
Is there any story of a sub-character who the female exorcist, Yolande, meets in Dark Maiden that is your favorite? Explain why.
I have a real soft spot for Geraint, the foil and hero to Yolande. He’s a tumbler and juggler, a light-fingered Welshman who always has her back. I like the way he’s a commoner, not a noble, and the way he doesn’t back down. I wanted a tumbler hero ever since learning the old legend of the Virgin Mary and the Tumbler—the version I was told by my mother was that the tumbler had no Christmas gift to present to the statue of the Virgin except for his juggling, but his “gift” and skill pleased her the most.
I also enjoyed introducing Theodore in the third part of Dark Maiden. He’s a little person who has been kept almost as a pet by a greedy noble, has escaped and is determined to make his own destiny henceforth—which he does, decisively. I like Theo because he is a mass of surprises and not someone to under-estimate.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
Quite regularly, I think. I have a plan in my mind of each character and their cardinal virtues, fears and secrets (not their flaws since no characters are evil to themselves) and keep those key words in the front of my head as I write each scene. However, the degree to which a character reacts can surprise me. In Dark Maiden I was startled, as I wrote, just how angry Geraint was against the medieval church and churchmen. I was surprised how patient Yolande remained in dealing with intolerance.
Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?
I am always grateful for feedback to my stories, especially when I feel a reader has understood and appreciated what I have attempted to show in my work. Harsh reviews are upsetting, particularly if I feel they are unjustified. I recently had a review on a light romantic suspense, A Secret Treasure, set in late 1930s Rhodes where a particular reader complained I had not gone into sufficient detail about the Italian occupation of the Greek island. Since my story was a sweet romance, I felt this was a little unfair.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
- Be kind to everyone and give to charities.
- Don’t waste resources. Don’t shop till you drop—what’s the point?
- Try always to put yourself in the shoes of others.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My ruby and diamond engagement ring from my husband.
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
Kindness. Empathy. Laughter.
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
To tumble and do back flips. I sometimes spot football players doing back flips during a celebration after scoring a goal and I always envy them that.
What might we be surprised to learn about you?
I’m utterly useless at ball games where the ball is head height or higher. My instinct is to duck, not catch.
What makes you laugh?
Buster Keaton movies. The timing and skill of those scenes, contrasted with his marble-solid face, always makes me laugh.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
Seeing a baby, a rainbow, a new flower, hearing birdsong or music, smelling deep red roses or wild garlic.
You can contact Lindsay Townsend as follows:
Other Books by Lindsay Townsend
For information on all of Lindsay Townsend’s books, check out Amazon Lindsey Townsend Author Page