The interview questions below were posed by author Michelle Moran (Nefertiti) and posted on her Author Interviews page at: http://historicalfictionauthorinterviews.blogspot.com/
In your historical romance CRUSADER'S LADY, you write about a woman named Soraya al-Din who disguises herself as a boy during the Middle Ages. Although Soraya is a fictional character, is there any historical precedent for women cross-dressing as men during the 12th century (or even earlier)?
I don't know about historical precedent, but logic would suggest that women traveling alone (or even in company), unless they were nobility, would be much safer in disguise. Many noble women were kidnapped anyway by pirates and sold into slavery. Sounds too wild to be true, but it is.
How much of CRUSADER'S LADY is based on fact and how much is fiction?
The true part is that Richard the Lionheart was in fact captured by German knights while traveling overland on his way home to England from the third crusade. One story goes that he was disguised as a monk, and when the German knights burst into the inn, Richard tried to masquerade as a cook, turning a spit.
The other true part is that Richard's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, acting as regent, collected the requested ransom of some 200,000 silver marks and personally traveled across Europe to deliver it. Eleanor had been waylaid and almost kidnapped years before, in Aquitaine, and after that experience she often traveled in disguise.
It is also true that the famous worthy knight William Marshall, who had been fiercely loyal to Henry II (Richard's father), pledged himself to Richard and to Eleanor, and his appearance in Eleanor's court at Winchester, as portrayed in the book, would be authentic.
Your novel spans many countries, but eventually Soraya journeys to Richard the Lionheart's kingdom. Tell us something surprising about women in 12th century England.
Noble women rarely married for love but were used as pawns to gain property and secure "family heritage." Common women, however, were much freer (in England) to be courted and to marry for love, or because they were already expecting. The "jumping the broom" ceremony was common in the countryside--a couple simply committed themselves to each other and from then on were considered married by the community. The Catholic church didn't like this one bit.
CRUSADER'S LADY brings together two very different cultures. Soraya is a spy for Saladin, while your protagonist Marc is a Scottish knight on crusade with Richard I. What prompted you to bring such different cultures together in one book?
In the first place, it intrigued me that the Scots did in fact contribute crusader knights to the cause. Later, after the brutal 14th century dissolution of the Templar order, many Templar knights "of the brotherhood" fled to Scotland.
In the second place, I am fascinated by "culture clash," where different cultures meet and overlap. I guess I like to suggest that throughout history, beneath cultural, religious, etc. differences, human beings are human beings.
Are you working on another historical romance novel, and if so, where will it be set?
I am in fact working on another historical romance; this one (tentatively titled Pilgrimage of the Heart)revolves around another cultural "mix," that of Christian and Moorish culture in Spain and southern France in the 12th century. The novel begins in Granada and moves to Carcassonne. The heroine is half Arab (but Christian); the hero is a (ahem) Templar, sword to celibacy and fighting in the crusades. BUT he was raised, as a Christian, by an Arab foster family in Moorish Spain. I love the heady mix of cultures in Arab Spain--Jewish, Muslim, Christian. One historian I read (Elmer Bendiner) refers to this time and place as "Paradise."