Darci Hannah, author of "The Angel of Blythe Hall" and "The Exile of Sara Stevenson" answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in history, her favorite figures from history, and the age old question of coffee or tea.
1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?
This is a tough question, but I’m going to say Jane Austen. I’d love to be Jane Austen for a day—maybe even a week—and live in her world. Not only am I drawn to the time and place in which she lived—the English countryside in the height of the Regency—but I’m also drawn to the fact that Jane was a writer and a keen observer of her world. She had a great sense of humor and had a way of turning the mundane into something fresh and utterly charming. On the surface life in such a time and place seems quiet and rather peaceful compared to today’s bustling world, but the traditional roles of a woman were quite demanding. I’m drawn to that too, and hey, there’s a lot to be said about living the simple life. I’d also love to party Regency style! I’d love to live in an English country house. I’d love to take a stroll down a lazy country lane while the flowers are in bloom and just soak it all in. And who doesn’t love a man in well-fitting pantaloons, polished riding boots, and tails? It all sounds terribly romantic!
2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?
First, let me just say how happy I am to be living now. Studying history and writing historical fiction is utterly fascinating, but at the end of the day I find that I’m very thankful to have been born in the 20th century. I like indoor plumbing and hot water far too much! That being said, if I had to choose, again I’d probably go back to my Jane Austen statement. I love studying and reading about all different periods in time, but to experience a year in history and survive it, I’m going to say that for me it would be sometime in the early 1800’s.
3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?
Umm, let me see. Since I love a good conversation, and I love listening to passionate, interesting and super intelligent people talk here’s my dream dinner party list: Aristotle, Jesus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, and Ben Franklin. What a total hoot it would be to get these five iconic men together in a room! I’d start the night off with some tasty h’orderves, good wine and a rip-roaring game of charades to break the ice, and then, once everyone was sufficiently jolly, I’d bring them to the table and let them go at it. I’d just sit, marvel, and attempt to soak it all in.
4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?
Since I’m rather partial to historic Scotland I’m going to have to say the very beautiful and totally iconic Eilean Donan. It’s not a palace; it doesn’t even look very comfortable at all. It’s essentially a medieval structure built for defense and strategically placed on an island that’s accessible through a causeway bridge. It’s stark and remote, but the Highland setting is spectacular! If it weren’t for all the tourists (and ghosts) I’d probably get a lot of writing done there.
5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you'd like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?
There are a lot of great and interesting historical fiction writers out there, but the two I’d most like to go on a history tour of the world with would be the prolific Bernard Cornwell and the equally prolific Diana Gabaldon. Not only are they both superb writers, but both are fun, generous, super interesting, highly intelligent, creative, and both have a wicked sense of humor—and that’s important when you’re traveling the world. It would be an amazing trip in every way, and one I’d likely never recover from.
6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?
Although Louis XIV had quite a remarkable reign, I’m going to have to go with Henry here. Young Henry was an interesting guy, and from all accounts he was handsome, dashing, brave, chivalrous, passionate and intelligent. He was also utterly self-centered and a bit of a hothead. However, England under Henry must have been an exciting place to live. Another bonus is that with Henry’s proclivity for new and fruitful wives there’d be no end to the gossip and drama coming out of his court.
7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?
Anne Boleyn. She was the girl that started it all. Unfortunately for Anne, hers was a very tragic story, but her life was fascinating all the same. She was beautiful, spirited, intelligent, and had tremendous influence over Henry for quite a while. It was Anne who inspired Henry to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, sparking his excommunication with the Catholic Church and making her a key figure in the English Reformation. She was the mother of Elizabeth, one of England’s greatest monarchs, and as testament to her political acumen and devotion to her daughter, saw that Henry’s first daughter by Catherine was stripped of her title and declared a bastard. In the end Anne was accused of treason, adultery, incest and witchcraft. Quite a list for a queen; and it really makes one wonder. Her life and exploits still have the power to spark the imagination five-hundred years after the fact. No wonder books written about Anne and the Tudors seem to fly off the shelves.
8. English monarchy or French monarchy?
I’m quite partial to the English monarchy, mostly because my reading and research involves Great Britain more than it does France. There’s such a rich history there, and it’s so amazing to me that it’s still going strong today. Queen Elizabeth and her progeny still captivate us. They’re always in the news, which just goes to show that they’re still our favorite, most enduring celebrities.
9. What three novels could you read over and over?
This is a very hard question because there are so many great novels that deserve to be read more than one time. However, books at the very top of my list would have to be, "Post Captain", by Patrick O’Brian (really his whole Aubrey-Maturin series is amazing!), "Game of Kings", by Dorothy Dunnett (again I’m going to recommend the entire "Lymond Chronicles" and everything Ms. Dunnett has ever written), and "Pride and Prejudice", by Jane Austen.
10. Tea or coffee when writing?
Definitely coffee! I’d say that ninety-five percent of the time when I’m writing I have a cup of coffee beside me. I’m such a coffee addict! But there are those times, whether it’s the day, my mood, or I’m working on a particularly atmospheric scene, when only a pot of tea will do. There’s just something about tea that’s so very British and quaint. I’m also a sucker for a cute teapot!
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