Medieval women have been getting overlooked for a long time, but not anymore! Books and documentaries are increasingly focusing on women in the Middle Ages. Sharon Bennett Connolly wrote a book dedicated to the strong women of the Middle Ages.
Some of the women are familiar like Elenor of Aquitaine, while others are less known but no less important like Maud de Braose.
Grab your copy of Heroines of the Medieval World from the Amberley Publishing website: https://www.amberley-books.com/heroines-of-the-medieval-world.html. While you wait for your copy to arrive enjoy our interview with Sharon below.
What is your writing process? Do you work from Outlines, write free form?
I tend to think of my chapters as individual essays – it makes the process less daunting. As a result, I would plan out the chapter, deciding who to include and jot down which parts of their stories I particularly want to highlight. I worked from a very basic, rough outline. Heroines of the Medieval World was basically a series of biographies, with each chapter covering a different type of Heroine – such as the warriors, the writers or the rulers – so the best way seemed to write their stories, one Heroine at a time, in chronological order. I’m hoping it worked.
Do you write every day?
I try to, although I do have a 12-year-old son, so it is not so easy during weekends and school holidays. On weekends, I tend to write in a morning, whilst my son is doing his homework. And in the school holidays, I probably only get a couple of days in a week to write, but we also go on research trips. My son comes with me for those. We have travelled all over the country, visiting castles, monasteries and cities to get photos for the book. Luckily my son’s a big history fan, so I don’t get any arguments when I say; ‘Let’s go for an explore’, or ‘let’s find a castle’.
During term time, it’s much easier. He leaves for school at 7.30am and gets home at 4.30pm, so I have solid research and writing time – and make the most of it.
How did you begin writing? Did you always want to be a writer?
I have dabbled in writing my whole life, but never really had the courage to take it seriously. However, when Facebook came along, I started joining history groups and writing short historical biographies for these groups. My husband then gave me a blog a couple of Christmases ago and it was the best present – ever!
Called History… the Interesting Bits, I started writing more regularly, sharing bits of history that I had always found interesting and actually found that people were reading it. Quite by accident, I started focusing on the women in history and the blog just took off from there.
As your book is sure to inspire others, what authors inspired you?
Every author I have ever met or read has given me some level of inspiration. I particularly like the way people such as David Baldwin, Amy Licence and Michael Jones write. They have a commitment to telling the history as it is, but in an easily accessible manner. They write almost as if they’re writing a novel, but with strict adherence to the facts. They make history enjoyable and entertaining while at the same time being informative.
How did your interest in the Middle Ages begin?
I honestly can’t remember. I have had a love of history ever since I was a young child. I grew up in South Yorkshire, close to Conisbrough Castle, and have always loved the stories from history. One of my favourite childhood books was The Kings and Queens of England – I still have it, it is incredibly well thumbed, but I can still lose myself in it for hours at a time, flicking from one king or queen to another, or studying the associated family trees. I can’t help myself.
How did you come up with the idea for Heroines of the Medieval World?
Through writing my blog, I realised that there was very little known about the women from Medieval history; unless they were queens who had lived their lives in the spotlight, they seemed to be shadows in the history books. And yet there were so many fascinating medieval women out there, some well-known, such as Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and some less well-known, such as Nicholaa de la Haye and Agnes of Dunbar. So, I wanted to tell their stories, give them a little of the limelight.
I think it is a book that always needed to be written, whether I was the right person to write it – well, time will tell, but I am very proud of the result.
How long did it take to research and write Heroines of the Medieval World?
It took eleven months from the moment I decided to write the book, although some of the research had been done for blog posts in the preceding two years. I did all the research first, but organised in their chapters from the outset.
The research was done by hand, with a fountain pen and only transferred to the computer as I actually wrote the book. Writing the notes by hand anchored the stories in my head and made it easier to arrange the book and its chapters.
Who is your favorite heroine you researched?
Nicholaa de la Haye. I think she’s wonderful. She resisted sieges at Lincoln Castle twice, even holding it against the French and rebel barons in 1217; she refused to yield to the Dauphin, Louis. She was also horrendously treated by the establishment. After holding out for nearly 3 months, she was finally relieved by William Marshal’s army, and just four days later, in a tremendous display of ingratitude, was stripped of her position as Sheriff of Lincoln and Castellan of its Castle. But the establishment had forgotten who they were dealing with and Nicholaa – in her 60s – set out for the court to request her reinstatement. A compromise was reached and, although she never recovered her position as sheriff, she did get her castle back.
She’s also a bit of an anomaly, in that she’s one of the few people who consistently supported the dastardly King John.
Heroines of the Medieval World spans across the Medieval Era. Do you have a favorite Medieval time period?
It changes, frequently. I have always loved the Wars of the Roses, and Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in English history, but I also have a soft spot for Robert the Bruce in Scottish history. I don’t think I have one particular favourite, it’s the stories behind the characters that fascinate me, no matter which reign or century they come from.
Do you have plans for another book?
Yes, I am in the middle of researching Silk and the Sword; the Women of the Norman Conquest, telling the stories of the women who were such a big part of the eleventh century as a whole, and 1066 in particular. From Emma of Normandy to Matilda of Flanders and St Margaret of Scotland, it will look at what influence they had on events, and how the events influenced their lives.
Where can your fans connect with you?
I have my own blog, https://historytheinterestingbits.com/ and my own Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Thehistorybits/ and I am also on Twitter as @Thehistorybits. I regularly share new blog posts and have wonderful communities on the blog, Facebook and Twitter who give me feedback and encouragement.
Any last words for your fans?
Just a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone for their support and encouragement.
You can find Heroines of the Medieval World on the Amberley Publishing website
About the Author
Sharon Bennett Connolly has been fascinated by history for over 30 years.
She has studied history at university and worked as a tour guide at several historic sites. She has lived in Paris and London before settling down back in a little village in her native Yorkshire, with husband James and their soon-to-be-teenage son.
Sharon has been writing a blog entitled ‘History…the Interesting Bits’ for a little over 2 years and has just finished her first non-fiction work, ‘Heroines of the Medieval World‘. The book looks at the lives of the women – some well-known and some almost forgotten to history – who broke the mould; those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history. It was published by Amberley on 15th September 2017.