Annie Whitehead Interview

I’ve read my fair share of Regency and Tudor era fiction, but hadn’t delved into the historical fiction of previous periods until I met Annie Whitehead. Annie is passionate about all things Anglo-Saxon, and it shows in her impeccable research. I just started Alvar the Kingmaker and it captivated me right away. Annie’s first book, To Be a Queen has won HNS Editors’ Choice and was long-listed for HNS Indie Book of the Year in 2016, an IndieBRAG Gold Medallion and a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award. Alvar the Kingmaker has won an IndieBRAG Gold Medallion, a Discovering Diamonds Award, a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award and was Chill with a Book’s Book of the Month in Jan 2017. I see great things in Annie’s future! She loves to hear from readers and other writers, so stop by her social media sites and say hello!

Tell us about your most recent book.

It’s called Alvar the Kingmaker and I’m thrilled that it has been the recipient of a number of awards.

The story, based on true events, begins when the king is caught in bed with his wife and her mother, and ends with the murder of another king, a crime attributed to his stepmother, the queen. Central to the story is Alvar, earl of Mercia. Having helped King Edgar to secure the throne, amid great unrest he must fight to clear the queen’s name, bring the country back from the brink of civil war, and stabilise the monarchy for Edgar’s son, Æthelred the Unready. He does this at great personal cost, and his enemies will stop at little: Abbot Dunstan, banished, recalled, and in no mood to forgive. Bishop Oswald, the ambitious foreigner who will let nothing stand in his way. They must not discover Alvar’s secret love for the wife of his deputy, whilst Alvar must keep her safe, and serve and protect the queen, who is in love with him and who harbours a dark secret of her own…

Where is it set — both location and time? What draws you to this area and/or time?

The book is set in tenth-century Mercia, which roughly equates to the Midlands area of modern England. I’ve had an abiding love of the Anglo-Saxon period since studying it as part of my history degree, and I’ve often felt that it has been slightly under-represented in the world of historical fiction, although that certainly seems to be changing now.

How much time do you spend researching?

It varies, but it’s usually several months in research time, spaced out over a longer period, depending on what else is going on in my life at the time. I try to track down all the sources, so that I can gather as much as possible of what is, it’s fair to say, fairly limited information about the period. I don’t use any fictional characters, so I have to make sure that my story is as accurate as it’s possible to be. Where there are gaps in the historical knowledge, I fill them with pure fiction, but I need to get the facts straight first.

Who is the protagonist?

He is Alvar (Old English name Ælfhere) and he is the ealdorman, or earl, of Mercia. His rise to power is quick, taking even him by surprise, and garners for him as many enemies as friends. He is a young man who finds himself suddenly given a position of power, and he’s slightly dazed by it all initially.

What is the protagonist’s besetting sin/weakness?

Strangely, I think it is loyalty. He starts his career by breaking an oath, something which he feels is necessary but not honourable. Thereafter, he places loyalty above all else, and it gets him into a lot of trouble which might otherwise have been avoided.

What is his internal struggle in this book? Does he overcome it?

His struggle is two-fold. Firstly, he doesn’t believe that he deserves his success, and this makes him endure a great deal of strife when he should be standing up for himself, so when he finally loses his temper, the results are catastrophic. Secondly, his personal struggle is that he falls in love with someone that he has no business falling in love with. He overcomes the first by developing insight, and doing everything in his power to restore equilibrium. As for the second part of his struggle, I couldn’t possible divulge how or if the problem is resolved…

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