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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Take a Trip to the Medieval Era with Guest Author Deb Kinnard


Hi, everyone. Dina here. I've spent the last two weeks traveling. Fictional traveling that is. My favorite kind. No layovers. No leg cramps. No time changes. No gastrointestinal disorders. Thanks to the creative mind of novelist Deb Kinnard, I've been enjoying a fanciful trip through the Middle Ages. And I had a top-notch tourguide, 21st century medieval historian, Bethany Lindstrom. So I just had to invite Deb to come and talk more about my favorite time in history for our "To Era is Human" theme. I hope you'll forgive me for straying from the Saturday review format, but I think by the end of the post you'll realize how much I enjoyed Seasons in the Mist.

Here's the basic idea: stranded in 1353 cornwall, American graduate student Bethany Lindstrom knows she must find a way back to her own time or face a life of falsehoods and peril. But with the stern overlord Sir Michael Veryan, she is swept into the intrigues of King Edward's court, which will test their mettle and their faith in God to the limits -- and forever bind their lives together.

Welcome to Inkwell Inspirationals, Deb. Let me start off with a few questions I asked Louise earlier in the week. First of all, why do you write historical novels?

LOL, I suppose for the same reason Sir Edmund climbed Everest--"because it's there." I'm fascinated by the middle ages and have been since I was a teenager, so it seems natural to try to tell some of their stories.

You have also written contemporary novels. What is different about the experience?

Research, mostly. Some facts we take for granted when writing present-day characters and stories are more difficult to get to, when writing in another era. For example, when were forks first used? How did medieval physicians and herbalists use the plants they knew as healing? All sorts of things. The answers are not always easy to find, but always fun to dig into.

I couldn't agree more. Seasons in the Mist is a time travel novel. That fascinates me. I love time travel novels, but I think I would be afraid to tackle one. How did you make this work for a Christian book?

I felt at first that I must "explain" time travel in a Christian context. Then as I got deeper into the story, I realized that some questions, for us in real life as well as for my characters, are unanswered and it's His best judgment for us that they remain so. My hero asks why so many died in the pestilence--this is an answer my 21st century character doesn't have, and I don't have my characters "solve" the question. So it is with time travel. They agree that God is sovereign and He does many things we puny humans cannot comprehend. They leave it at that.

And I admit, you made it work well. I think the smartest thing you did was making the main character a medieval historian. That was a really nice touch. But why did you choose this period?

Because I know it best and love it best. I've written a Regency romance, but better not ask about that one. It stinks, big-time. I don't know the period well enough, and that book remains forever in the bottom drawer.

It's obvious that you really have a grasp on this time. I admire that. For me, it was sort of the opposite, I knew a little about it, but I wanted to learn more. Probably what drew me to it the most, was that I was interested in learning about life before the Reformation. Tell us about the spiritual climate of this time period.

It was an era in England when virtually everyone believed. Imagine, if you can, an age in which reverence and fear of God was universally understood. People in England were either Christian or Jewish. There were few if any who did not know God. Contrast that with the age we live in -- the only answer is "whew!" Granted, some "believers" were nominal and some in their hearts had secretly fallen away. But virtually all people were part of the church and expected to follow the Lord.

Yes, one of the subjects I deal with in my writing is the differences between nominal Christians, corrupt elements in the "church," and true heart felt believers. I discovered that many during this era had instensely personal relationships with Christ. Can you share any interesting or off-beat facts you discovered about this era?

I had to dig quite deeply simply to discover what language they spoke. Did the upper classes speak French? English? How much French did the middle and lower sort of folk understand? Since this was a transitional age, linguistically, those answers were surprisingly difficult to find. I settled with my characters speaking English, with an occasional French or Cornish phrase thrown in, and I think it works.

I found that interesting. I think having a 21st Century protagonist narrating allowed you to dig deeper into the language than I did. I just sort of treated Middle English like a foreign language, but having Bethany there to translate and give us a break with her contemporary thoughts was a big help. I chuckled when she described one of the characters as a surfer dude. Does the book have any themes or messages inspired specifically by this time period?

First and foremost it's a love story, so I didn't intentionally go for deeper truths. However, Bethany is a believer who has left God behind, and I think one of the reasons she must travel in time is to rediscover the bright fire of faith. The reader, I hope, will get the idea that God is infinitely creative about bringing His children to Himself, and loses no opportunity to call us back!

Amazing concept Deb. I think our Inkwell audience will enjoy this trip back in time as much as I did. Thanks so much for visiting with us today.

* Deborah Kinnard started writing at age ten, frustrated because there was no preteen girl with a horse on Bonanza. She earned two degrees in health care and has enjoyed a career that encompasses Spanish translation, volunteer work at a crisis line, years in assorted ERs, and a day job at a big Chicago teaching hospital. Deb keeps busy with reading, playing the guitar, participating in a church outreach team, and skiing in the winter.

You can order Seasons in the Mist at http://amazon.com/ or http://cbd.com/

Deb will be stopping by to chat more with us today, so be sure to leave your questions and comments.

22 comments:

  1. Welcome to the Inkwell, Deb! First, I have to tell you that a friend of mine just got back from a trip to England and Wales and brought me tales of hearing Welsh spoken. There is a real effort to keep the language alive and I think that's amazing! (Deb and I share some Welsh ancestry so we have to stick together)

    Okay to your book--
    I can't wait to read it. For one, I trust Dina's opinions and secondly, I've been following your progress with this book since I first 'met' you online. The idea has fascinated me from the beginning. Dina pretty much covered my questions-especially that 'how did you figure out that time travel/Christian novel thing'...

    Congratulations on your success with it!
    Please remind our readers of your other novels (talk about clever titles....) and give us your website.

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  2. Deb, I'm so pleased that you're here. I know the journey for this particular story was a long one, and I'm glad it's finally out there!!

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  3. Hi Ladies,

    I left the house around 8 this morning and just got back. Hopefully Deb will be stopping be soon. I'm going to go post a little promo for Deb on facebook and some of the loops. I know its Saturday, but this is a really fun book, and I don't want people to miss it.

    Deb's website is http://www.debkinnard.com/


    I'll add it to the post.

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  4. Hi, gang! I'm having one of those lazy, undermotivated Saturdays. So of course, when I sat down to the computer to check e-mails and such, a flash of inspiration came to me and I put down 10 new pages on SEASONS' sequel. Figures, doesn't it? When you PLAN to write, sometimes nothing happens...

    Debra, I hear you about the Welsh language, and how good it is that it's being supported. I tried to teach myself Welsh before my trip there, and ended up with one phrase, which loosely translated means, "There are boys in the field." Not easy to work into the everyday conversation. I gave up.

    Cornish is being revived also. There are many groups such as Agan Tavas ("Our Language") which are helping in this: I say, more power to 'em! Many of the Cornish terms I use in SEASONS and its sequel are due to these groups' diligent efforts.

    Lisa, thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm thrilled to have readers commenting on SEASONS at last.

    Other books, eh? You want my backlist? My other available titles are digital books, with Desert Breeze Publishing. All are contemporaries. I've loved working iwth this small press/big hearts group of writers and editors.

    Dina, thanks for having me on your blog!

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  5. Hey, Deb!

    I am so enjoying reading "Seasons." What a great job you have done with it. I can relate to getting hung up on small research items. I think I researched for a week trying to find out how they lit fires in 17th century France!

    Wishing you great success with the book!

    Golden

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  6. Deb, I'll be asking you about some of your research sources for Cornwall one of these years.

    I had to laugh at Golden's comment about a week spent chasing an historical detail. I started down a bunny trail today and decide to just avoid the point and save all the hours of searching.

    Have a good week!

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  7. Dina, great interview! Deb, thanks for joining us today :-) I like time travel books and Seasons sounds like a fascinating read.

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  8. I'm more like you, Deb Marvin. If I can't find a fact, I just skirt around an issue.

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  9. Thanks, Narelle. It was a lot of fun to do. Deb Kinnard is one of my fellow authors in the Historical European Writers Network, and its a pleasure to support her and her awesome new book.

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  10. Hey, Deb and Dina! I'm thiiiiiiis close to finishing Seasons in the Mist too, and having a blast. There have been several times when I chuckled and said, "Wow, that's a line that could only exist in a time travel!" Before I started it, I had forgotten how much I enjoy a good time travel book.

    Deb, you've done a fabulous job with this, and I'm all agog and impressed with your skill and knowledge.

    Dina, great interview! I love seeing one medievalist's questions to another. =)

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  11. It was a great read, Deborah. I don't usually read time travel so i was impressed by how believable you made it. I'm also quite intrigued by your sequel. Care to give us a little sneak preview on what it's going to deal with???

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  12. I started reading this book a couple of days ago and quite like it. The fact that the heroine is a Medievalist like me attracted me to it.

    The only gripe I have is that Bethany is totally convinced that she could be branded as a witch or burned at the stake for the slightest and most trivial things like wearing 'strange' clothes or talking about surgery.

    As a Medievalist Bethany ought to know that burning at the stake was actually extremely rare in Medieval England, and was reserved for only very serious offences like using allegedly worshipping the devil or using black magic to harm people in authority- and that people certainly could not be burned for silly things like thier clothing or havinf scars.

    In fact, because 14th century England had trade links with India, China and the Far East 'strange clothes' would not have been much of an issue, and there were surgeons at this time too who could deal with most types of wounds (but not infections) so having surgical scars would not have been too much of an issue either.

    I suppose having a Historian heroine who believes things about the Middle Ages which are not true is more than a little irksome for me.

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  13. Well, Anna, all I can say is that many of my research books better align with Deb's version of history than yours. And I know Deb personally and she is a scrupulous researcher.

    I think it's important to remember, especially when dealing with a poorly documented era like the Medieval Period, that history is more often opinion than "fact." And I do think Deb's books falls well within the opinions of many historical scholars.

    To put this in American terms, we all know that for years the Indians were portrayed as the "bad guys" of history and the white people the "good guys." These days the perception has mostly flip flopped, although some people still believe the old version of history. The truth is, we'll never know 100% for certain unless like Deb's heroine we have the opportunity to go back and see for ourselves.

    I was just told my Virginian romance novel might be too accurate for most Americans because I truthfully showed Thomas Jefferson as a Deist and not a Christian. This goes against some Christians' views of American history. Although, it is documented by his own writing, so I'd say that's pretty reliable. The solution we came up with was to mostly remove Jefferson from the story and not address the issue at all.

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  14. Hi Anna,
    Your comment popped up for moderation and I took the newer one. I'm glad you liked the book. The draw for me is the time travel aspect but I imagine it's difficult to read fiction that raises red flags for historical accuracy as you know it. Funny, I just commented on another blog today where the author was discussing writing Regency. Now THERE's a group of readers who are decidedly nit-picky-- which is why I'll probably never write Regency!

    I tend to do this with plants - when someone goes out in June and harvests carrots I want to scream, but hey,it's all about the story, the characters. Am I compelled by the journey enough to ignore the fact those blossoms on the tree are an impossibility?

    thanks for checking in with us!

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  15. That's interesting, Deb. I had to look into some plant and farming issues with my latest novel. One thing that struck me was I realized I had apples in the early spring. Then I had to go look up when canning and preserving started and change them to preserved apples.

    I had a nice trip to Jamestown last week with my son's class and learned a lot of new interesting trivia. But I don't think I will ever be able to write a historical romance set there. 1) The English are pretty obviously the bad guys, killing Indians and enslaving blacks to get rich. That won't go over well with the Christian romance audience. 2) I would be obsessed with mosquitoes. Which is why I set my book in Charlottesville rather than closer to my home in Virginia Beach. All I can think of is without screens and air conditioner, they'd be nonstop mosquito bait.

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  16. Yes I apologise for commenting twice, I wasn't sure if I hit the 'post' button first time.

    Dina, I don’t deny that Mrs (Miss?) Kinnard has done a lot of research, all those Middle English and Cornish words show that quite clearly. I just thought that as an expert on the Medieval period Bethany should have known about the heresy laws, and realised that there was almost no chance of her just being grabbed and burned at the stake summarily by the folk around her.

    I have heard that other parts of Europe applied heresy laws more strictly than England, so the situation may have been different there, I only base what I say on England which I know most about. I think where the whole 'witch burning' issue is concerned there is a lot of confusion and conflation between what was going on the Middle ages and trends in later periods like the 17th century and people tend to associate the paranoia about witchcraft in the later period with the former.

    As to fact and opinion, I find much of the contention regards opinions about the facts, rather than one or the other. Or rather, we have a set of established facts about events or persons (for instance we know for a fact that the Battle of Hastings happened, or that Napoleon existed) but then a lot of differing opinions over the finer points of those facts. Some historians I know deny the existence of facts altogether, but that does not mean there is no such thing.

    I agree that we can never know about some things, but other things we can know about from what was has been written and passed down by people who were there, at least to some extent. This is what Historians rely on to a large extent.

    I wish sometimes that the Middle Ages were as 'poorly documented' as people say, but unfortunately for the Later Medieval period this is often not the case. There are documents and records by their thousands, most of them on very mundane and everyday subjects.

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  17. That is an interesting comment about the English and the slave trade. I remember one guy years ago saying the English were entirely responsible for the slave trade, but I remember thinking that there could not have been a 'trade' at all if people had not been buying slaves in the Americas, or even if some Africans had not been selling thier own people to the traders.

    I think sometimes when you look at those who we think are the 'bad guys' we find that things are often not as black and white as they appear.
    For instance, we almost always see the Nazis as the bad guys in WW2 (and with good reason generally) but then when you come across a story about members of the party who helped Jews or were opposed to Hitler it makes one question if all the Nazis were bad.

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  18. It interests me to hear you talk about the issues you face and some of the choices you have to make. That's why I think I would have trouble writing a Hisotical novel because I would want to put it everything and be way too pedantic.

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  19. I hear Cornish is very similar to Welsh, and that there was something of an issue with the good old tongue an few years ago when the U.N declared it a 'dead' langauge, but then rescinded the decision the following year. One of the initiatives to keep the langauge alive has included translating the Bible into Cornish.

    Linguistics really interest me, but I must profess a fear of the 'Celtic' langauges, but also an odd fascination.

    Ms. Kinnard mentioned a sequel to 'Seasons in the Mist' but I have not seen one, so I take it is has not been released/ finished yet?

    Apologies for hogging this blog with all my comments.

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  20. Don't apologize for chatting, Anna. The purpose of the blog is to spur dialog. It's rather daunting to think about getting the facts right if even the experts in any field disagree, which always happens!

    I imagine most of us writing historicals have to enjoy research, and if we love it too much (find the facts so fascinating) it is easy to overdo it. And...the point is mostly to entertain. A reader reads to be transported for a short while into someone else's life and experience how that character views the world, himself and others. For a historical, the reader wants a piece of that but if they want to learn about the setting (Time and place) they'd should realize it's just a taste.


    Right now, on one of our writer loops, there's a discussion on titles among the peers and what one person thought might work, another says no. Back to the drawing board. We just have to do the best we can but know we aren't going to get it 100% right nor please everyone.
    If Deb Kinnard doesn't get any notification via email of your new comments, I'll at least see if I can find out the status of the next book.

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  21. I don't know that Deb's sequel will be coming out, although I'm pretty sure it's written. Something changed with the publishing company, which happens in this industry :(

    She will however have another three book series coming out. I think it's with Desert Breeze. That one is set even earlier.

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