Books: Lady of Secrets

The Lady of Secrets

The Lady of Secrets

Exclusive interview with author Susan Carrol about her novel where Margaret Wolfe must save King James and his family from a curse *** 3 Stars

By Gabrielle Pantera

London, UK (GoshTV) 2013/1/5 -“The original idea came from an article I read about matriarchal societies and how at one time wise women or healers were held in great esteem,” says Lady of Secrets author Susan Carrol.  “The change came when Christianity began to replace many of the old goddess based religions.  Wise women now ran the risk of being called something quite different…witches.”

Lady of Secrets is the sixth book in the Daughters of the Earth series. The first book in series, the Dark  Queen began in France in the year 1572 and was inspired by the legends about Catherine de Medici and her reputed interest in necromancy.

Margaret Wolfe is now Lady of the Faire Isle since her mentor Ariane has died. Accompanied by Contessa Seraphine Beaufoy, Meg returns home hoping for some peace. But King James dispatches Sir Patrick Graham and Dr. Armagil Blackwood to Faire Isle to escort Lady Meg to his court. A witch curses the king and all who are part of his court. Using her powers, Meg seeks to discover the person behind the magical spell.

The story is kept moving from the very beginning. The character of Meg is well defined and the threat to her safety for using the dark arts is clear. It is a risk to her safety and all who help her that she must take to save the King.  The story is well written with romance, danger and magic in the mix to keep it interesting. Historical elements move the story forward. Carrol uses magic and natural healing as a plot device also to move the story. This book can be read by itself, but once you read it you will want to read the rest in the series.

Lady of Secrets concludes the series in the year 1605 and the scene shifts to London.  The fantasy elements of the book are set against the historical backdrop of the reign of James I.

“The idea for this particular novel came from my readings about the infamous witch trials in Scotland in 1591, long before James had ascended to the English throne,” says Carrol. “James believed that his political enemies were trying to destroy him through the use of witchcraft.  Hundreds of women and men were caught up in the witch hunt and executed before the hysteria subsided.  This provided the initial spark for my imagination and the premise of Lady of Secrets.  What if the king feared a curse that continued to haunt him years later when he became king of England and compelled him to seek the help of a legendary sorceress, the Lady of Faire Isle?”

Carrol says she was surprised by her shift in attitude about King James I as she was writing the book.  “When I began my research, I knew little about him except that he was the intended victim of the notorious Gunpowder Plot. I also knew that he was the author of Daemonologie, basically a how-to manual on witch hunting. So I expected to find him a narrow-minded tyrant of the first order. But the more I read about him, the more compassion I felt for this complex, troubled monarch. If James was paranoid, he had reason to be. He was only thirteen months old when he became king of a Scotland torn by religious strife and ambitious nobles fighting to gain power. By the time he attained his majority, he had survived many plots to subjugate or destroy him.  He shared many of the superstitions of his era, but he was also the scholar who fostered the translation of the Bible into English and a patron of the arts.”

Carrol’s research consisted of spending days at what she calls her home away from home, the local library. “I would happily live there in one of the study rooms if they would allow it.  Of course, there are a ton of books available on the Tudor era and the English Civil war. The reign of James I is not as well represented.”

Carrol discovered a great deal of material she needed in the library at the small university of Ashford, about an hour from where she lives. “I was told that one of the deans had a passionate interest in both the Tudor and Jacobean eras and he had made sure that the library was well stocked for which I was quite grateful.”

Carrol began her writing career in 1986, with Regency novels and historical romances, mostly set in England. She is best known for her recent works, which are a blend of history, romance and the paranormal. She wrote a trilogy of books set in Cornwall during the early 1800s. These chronicled the adventures of an aristocratic family named St. Leger who had supernatural powers and were plagued by an ancient curse. Those titles were The Bride Finder, The Night Drifter,  and Midnight Bride.  This series was followed by the Daughters of the Earth books that include The Dark Queen, The Courtesan, The Silver Rose, The Huntress, The Twilight of a Queen, and her most recent work, The Lady of Secrets. 

The Bride Finder won a RITA for Best Paranormal Romance in 1999 and also received the Reviewers Choice Award from Romantic Times magazine for Historical Romance that year. The Dark Queen was a finalist for the RITA award for Best Historical Romance. Carrol also received RITA awards for two of her earlier Regency novels, The Sugar Rose and Brighton Road.

Kate Collins at Random House is Carrol’s editor. “The most challenging thing for me in working with a publisher is that I always have to fight my tendency to overwrite and over-plot my books,” says Carrol. “I have been fortunate at Random House to have astute editors like Kate to help me channel my creativity. I think all writers have a tendency to groan and whine over suggestions for editorial changes, but once I pause to consider and implement those changes, I have discovered that my book is all the better for it.”

“I have had many different editors over the years, but the editorial process remains consistent,” says Carrol.  “The editor screens the first draft that I submit and then suggests any major changes, which in my case usual involves tightening scenes to bring the manuscript to a reasonable length. Next the book is scrutinized by a copy editor to catch any spelling, punctuation or factual errors and then returned to me to approve her changes.   The last stage is the printed galleys when I, my editor and many others at the publishing house go through the book one final time.”

Carrol first started writing for Random House in 1986. She found an agent to represent her work while attending a Romance Writers of America conference. Her Regency manuscript was submitted to an editor at Random House and Carrol has been writing for them ever since under the Fawcett and Ballantine imprints.

Carrol’s agents are Andrea Cirillo and Annelise Robey from the Jane Rotrosen Agency. “I was attending the Publisher’s book fair in Chicago and was introduced to Andrea by one of my writing friends at dinner. I was in the market for a new agent and Andrea invited me to submit to her some of my work.”

Carrol says she is exploring the possibility of doing another St. Leger book or possibly something entirely new. “My writing ideas always spring from my research and I have currently been exploring such diverse topics as Bram Stoker, British theatre during the Victorian era, Irish legends, Greek myths, and even the history of women soldiers during the American Civil war,” says Carrol. “Somewhere out of that simmering cauldron, my next book idea will emerge.”

Carrol lives in Moline, Illinois. She was born in a the small town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, known for Arnold Palmer, Mr. Rogers and Rolling Rock beer.

Carrol’s website is scarroll.net.  She also has an author page on Facebook.

Lady of Secrets by Susan Carol                                                                             Paperback: 448 pages, Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 11, 2012), Language: English  ISBN: 9780345502957 $15.00

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