The Castilian Pomegranate

Please welcome Anna Belfrage to my blog. Good morning, Anna. Care for a cup of coffee or tea? Please have a seat next to me.

Shall we start your interview?

1. Please introduce yourself to those reading this blog post.

I could always start by saying I suck at abbreviation 😉 No, more seriously: I am Anna Belfrage, a tri-lingual Swede who grew up in South America, writes (very unpublished and private) poetry in Spanish, novels in English but is struck rather mute when attempting to write in my maternal language. There is no voice, oddly enough.
When I was much younger, I wanted to become one of Richard Lionheart’s pages – which was sort of impossible as
a) we were born like nine centuries apart
b) I am a girl, and everyone knows there weren’t exactly equal career opportunities for girls in medieval times.
Since then, I have come to realise just how lucky I am to be living in the here and now but indulge my passion for everything medieval by writing historical novels set in medieval times. When I’m not writing about medieval times, I like writing about time travel, which goes to show my youthful dream of being a medieval page has left a greater mark on me than one could expect.

2. Has writing always been part of your life and when did you “know” that it was time to start writing your first book?

I have always written. I have this very, very long essay I wrote in fifth grade that almost qualifies as a novella and my English teacher gave me an A and a comment about “rich and somewhat dark imagination”. I also recently unearthed another early attempt, and boy will that never, ever, see the light of the day, but I was rather impressed by my descriptive writing, even if I cringed at every line of dialogue.

Throughout my adult life I have written, but I decided to become serious about writing sometime in 2008, when a friend told me that man should strive to do three things in life: have a child, plant a tree and write a book. I’d already planted some trees, my four children were well on their way towards adulthood, but that book I’d always dreamed of finishing was still not done. So I decided to take all my “notes to self”, all those little snippets of conversations and descriptions I’d written throughout the years and finally sit down and write the story.

3. How difficult was it writing your first book?

Hmm. Turns out I ended up writing eight, more or less in one go. You see, that first book needed a sequel, and then the next book and the next book and the next also needed a sequel. In retrospect, it was good to write the whole series prior to publication, as this allowed me to go back and correct stuff in the various instalments.

So no, the writing wasn’t all that difficult. It was far more difficult to control all that gushing inspiration. Having said that, once the story was done, I began editing, and as the first book in the series has 78 versions pre-publication, I guess that tells you there was a lot of work involved in getting it ship-shape. As an aside, I should probably admit that I LOVE editing.

4. Have you ever wanted to give up and what stopped you?

No. I owe it to my characters to see them to the bitter end. In some cases, the end is bitter…

5. Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?

My best friend, Jeanette, and my sister, Sofia, have been there all the way, reading all those 78 versions of book one. And none of the writing would have been done had not hubby shouldered more than his share of the household duties to create the time I needed to write.

6. Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

*laughs* I think I’ve already said a lot. Writing is to some extent a self-indulgence, but once the book is out there, it is the readers that somehow make it fly. I’d like to thank all those of my readers who have dropped an encouraging comment here or there, who’ve left a review or sent me a message asking when the next book is out. You make me persevere.

7. What is the best advice given to you (book or otherwise), and by whom?

Regarding writing: One of my first editors once told me that it was more important to make the dialogue snappy and gripping than make an attempt to write “dialect” or “period correct” dialogue. “No one living here and now would understand Middle English anyway,” she said, “and readers want to be hooked by the dialogue, not spend time deciphering it.”

Best advice in general? “Live now. Die later.”

8. What is your target audience and what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?

Any reader who enjoys being submerged in the past—maybe with a bias towards those readers who enjoy a romantic thread through the battles, blood, loss, pain and other difficult stuff I subject my characters to. I believe (well, hope) I deliver stories and characters that makes the journey to the past interesting and exciting.

9. What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?

I have several WIPs vying for attention. One is set in 18th c Philadelphia (note to self: finish that book on Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania) another is the continuation of Robert and Noor’s story, i.e. a sequel to The Castilian Pomegranate. A third is something very different set in contemporary times, and then there’s an additional book about Adam and Kit (protagonists of The King’s Greatest Enemy) and their lives in 14th century England. Below an excerpt from this:

England in June of the year of Our Lord 1332 was a goodly place. From Tresaints to Framlingham, it took them just over a week, with Adam avoiding any major towns. Instead, they travelled along smaller country roads.

Theirs was not a large party: other than Adam and Kit, they were accompanied by Stephen, Adam’s squire, four men-at-arms, and Kit’s new maid, Hawise, riding pillion behind Stephen. And young Gilbert, although Adam was regretting bringing his page along – the lad was a constant cause of mishaps, generally due to the enthusiasm with which he approached all his tasks.

He wishes to impress you,” Kit said when Adam yet again complained. This time, it had been a flailing arm which has smacked Stephen’s horse over the nose, causing the beast to shy and almost dislodge Hawise.

If so, he’s failing dismally.” Adam regarded this latest addition to their household with exasperation. Of an age with their eldest son – had Tom lived – Gilbert was at an age where most lads consist of long limbs and little else. A mop of thick curls defeated all attempts to neatness, there was invariably a stain or a rent in his clothes, and mostly he had his mouth full – the lad could not stop eating, despite having been purged twice by Mabel. According to Kit, the lad had no worms, just a healthy appetite, further whetted by the recent misfortunes of his family.

Caught up in the aftermath of Mortimer’s fall from power, Gilbert’s father had been evicted from his little manor and had since then died, leaving the mother alone in the world with four children. Gilbert was here as a favour to Lady Joan, who had taken it upon herself to help the poor destitute widow. Adam sighed: not that Lady Joan’s present state was much better, the king stubbornly refusing to return her dower lands, insisting her lands were as attainted as the rest of the Mortimer lands.

They’d been to see Lady Joan some weeks ago, finding her remarkably unchanged despite all her hardships and determined to regain every square inch of her lands. Her latest imprisonment—as Mortimer’s wife she’d been held on vague charges of treason for nigh on a year—had bleached all remaining colour from her and pared off what little extra flesh she’d still carried. It stuck in Adam’s craw. If anyone should have been imprisoned, it was Isabella, the king’s mother, not Lady Joan. It had been with Isabella Mortimer had shared his life, his dreams, his hopes and his ambitions – not with his wife. And yet Queen Isabella had been back at court for Christmas less than a month after Mortimer’s execution, and to hear it mother and son were now happily reconciled.

What else can she do but accept the new order of things?” Kit asked when he shared all this with her. “Without Mortimer, Isabella has no champion.”

Does she miss him, do you think?”

Kit gave him a look that conveyed just how foolish she found that question. Adam gave her a rueful smile. “I miss him,” he admitted in a low voice.

I know.” She rode close enough to take hold of his hand. “He aimed too high, Adam.”

Aye. Like that young man who made himself wings and flew too close to the sun.

There’s nothing left of the Mortimers,” he said. “All his sons but Geoffrey are dead—and may God ensure he remains safe in France—his little grandson has but little to his name, and Lady Joan fights an uneven battle with the king to regain what is rightfully hers.”

Whatever else one might say about our young king, he doesn’t carry a grudge. Give it some time and he’ll surely restore some of the lands to young Roger and Lady Joan.”

Adam didn’t reply. His faith in King Edward, third of that name, had been severely dented by how the king had handled Mortimer’s trial. To gag Lord Roger, not allow him to speak in his defence, and then have the audacity to accuse Lord Roger of having murdered the previous king…Adam exhaled. He was not looking forward to meeting the king again, did not think he’d ever be able to forgive him for laying such a heinous deed at Lord Roger’s feet. Even worse, the king knew his father was still alive, smuggled out of England by Adam himself.

11. Any last words before we wrap things up?

No – beyond thanking you for allowing me to visit! It has been a pleasure.

Book Title: The Castilian Pomegranate

Series: (The Castilian Saga, Book 2)

Author: Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: 1st October 2021

Publisher: Timelight Press

Page Length: 400 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Twitter Handles: @abelfrageauthor @maryanneyarde

Instagram Handles: @annabelfrageauthor @coffeepotbookclub

Hashtags: #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #Medieval #medievalspain #CoffeePotBookClub #BlogTour

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An enraged and grieving queen commands them to retrieve her exquisite jewel and abandon their foundling brat overseas—or never return.

Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor, have been temporarily exiled. Officially, they are to travel to the courts of Aragon and Castile as emissaries of Queen Eleanor of England. Unofficially, the queen demands two things: that they abandon Lionel, their foster son, in foreign lands and that they bring back a precious jewel – the Castilian Pomegranate.

Noor would rather chop off a foot than leave Lionel in a foreign land—especially as he’s been entrusted to her by his dead father, the last true prince of Wales. And as to the jewel, stealing it would mean immediate execution. . .

Spain in 1285 is a complicated place. France has launched a crusade against Aragon and soon enough Robert is embroiled in the conflict, standing side by side with their Aragonese hosts.

Once in Castile, it is the fearsome Moors that must be fought, with Robert facing weeks separated from his young wife, a wife who is enthralled by the Castilian court—and a particular Castilian gallant.

Jealousy, betrayal and a thirst for revenge plunge Noor and Robert into life-threatening danger.

Will they emerge unscathed or will savage but beautiful Castile leave them permanently scarred and damaged?

Trigger Warnings:

Sexual content, violence

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Author Bio:

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

The Castilian Pomegranate is the second in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, a world of intrigue and back-stabbing.

Her most recent release prior to The Castilian Pomegranate is The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode!

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

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