My guest author today is historical fiction writer Susan Fraser King
I asked Susan why she decided to write about Margaret of Scotland
Why did I decide to write a novel about Margaret of Scotland, a medieval queen whose name is not all that familiar to readers? (She’s better known once you add “Saint” to her name – about 200 years after her death, she was canonized as Scotland’s first royal saint, though she was not Scottish, but Saxon and Hungarian.) Quite simply, I wrote about Margaret because she’s fascinating, and her true story has a great natural plot – a vulnerable, beautiful young princess, stranded in a strange land, meets a warrior king in need of a bride; she is intelligent, determined and sophisticated; he is a clever, brute warrior in a provincial country; he adores her delicate determination; she reforms him and his country … and their match of genuine opposites becomes one of the most enduring true love stories of the medieval era.
Margaret is one of the most interesting of medieval queens in part because we simply know so much about her personally and historically. A Saxon princess raised in Hungary and then England, she was shipwrecked in Scotland while fleeing from the Normans. She married King Malcolm of Scotland, who according to their contemporary sources, evidently fell in love with the Saxon princess on sight. Political advantage weighed heavily too, though at first she is said to have resisted the marriage and wanted out of Scotland, which would have seemed to her a very backward, foreign and pagan place. Yet later Margaret and Malcolm were admired for their strong relationship of love and respect.
Her personal confessor, Bishop Turgot, wrote her biography, so what we know about her comes from a friend. Turgot (an Anglo-Dane who escaped from the Normans) depicted her in glowing archaic terms, but he gave exciting hints of the real Margaret -- her hot temper, her drive to be perfect, her bold opinions, her humble kindnesses and tender heart. She was a determined young woman who was aware of her responsibilities and critical of her own shortcomings.
Margaret’s biography is a gold mine for historians as well as for a novelist, and in some ways I had almost too much information about Margaret, with much to pick and choose for the novel! Previously, I had written Lady Macbeth, which was a challenge to write in terms of its scope and the depth of research required, as well as a complex chronology of historical events and people to coordinate in the plot. And Lady M had no biographer – she was barely a footnote in history, in fact, before Shakespeare got hold of her. Only one document exists that directly mentions her, and that gives us her name (well, a phonetic equivalent, “Gruoch,” which I interpreted as most likely “Gruadh”).
For Queen Hereafter, the good Bishop Turgot had provided a good deal of the groundwork in terms of Margaret’s life, personality, triumphs and challenges. And I was able to include some continuing characters, making Queen Hereafter a sequel -- Lady Macbeth returns, and Malcolm Canmore, who was a shadowy villainous guy and the man who defeated the king in Lady Macbeth, was fleshed out as a protagonist.
Margaret of Scotland was a devout and proper young woman devoted to her causes, a woman who felt deeply and did her utmost to help others from her position of privilege. She also diminished herself through humility and excessive fasting, and felt that her charitable deeds, her marriage and her children were her most important contributions. The novel covers the early years of her courtship and marriage – I wanted to focus on the young Margaret, and show the potential in her to become the gentle, troubled mature queen who would later starve herself to the point of ruining her health, the woman who died of heartbreak days after her husband’s death, and whose later canonization was urged by her children and others who loved her and knew her genuine quality of character.
Writing about a pious medieval woman was not easy, nor the most interesting part of her story, so I wanted to bring out her temperamental and mischievous side too. Anyone who had eight healthy babies and cuddled orphans in her lap, and who stole gold from her husband's treasury and released his ransomed prisoners on her own was not only about saintliness, as the historical record would have us believe. Another, more realistic Margaret existed, and that was the young queen I wanted to bring to life in Queen Hereafter.
I would like to thank Susan for being guest author today.
Susan's website can be found here
and here at Word Wenches
YouTube trailer for Queen Hereafter