Interviewing Linda McCabe

Dear Reader,

Today I’m interviewing Linda C McCabe, author of Quest of the Warrior Maid. As a bit of housekeeping, don’t forget that I have a giveaway from December 2 – 6 where Haunting Miss Trentwood is 50% off! All right, onto the interview…

 1. Learn more about Linda…

I have been a bookworm since I was a small child. I obsess over small details in drama and I hate continuity errors.  If I spot an historical anachronism I want the author to mention it in an endnote so I understand this was a conscious choice for dramatic purposes and not due to ignorance or laziness.  I am one of those information crazed addicts who reads footnotes, endnotes and listen to the director commentaries on DVDs to get the behind-the-scenes information I wouldn’t know otherwise.

Yup, I am a nerd and proud of it.

My debut novel Quest of the Warrior Maid is due to my involvement with the online debates in the Harry Potter fandom.  No really.  I spent far too much time and energy engaged in online debates about where the series was headed during the time before and after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published.  There were wildly inventive theories spun about possible plot twists and underlying meanings buried in the text.  Some fandomers argued that hippogriffs were a symbol of love and that Harry and Hermione riding on the back of a hippogriff indicated a later romantic relationship between the two characters.  In following that lead, I read the epic poem Orlando furioso since it was the first time in literature a hippogriff was used as a character.

While reading Orlando furioso, I discovered an amazing love story between the kick-ass heroine Bradamante and the virtuous warrior Ruggiero.  I felt that this literary couple deserved to be as well known as Tristan and Isolde or Arthur and Guinevere.  Later I disengaged from the HP fandom and set about adapting this classic work for modern audiences.  That was the genesis for Quest of the Warrior Maid.

 2. How do you transform your passion into focused research?

After deciding to adapt these poems, I sat down and looked carefully at the source material to decide what to keep and what to ruthlessly prune. I began studying maps of France to determine where the events took place.  That was when I discovered how terrible the poets were with geography. I had to give myself the freedom to alter the settings to fit my dramatic necessities and forgo strict adherence or fidelity to what Boiardo and Ariosto wrote.

Once I had a broad understanding of where I was going with my story, I knew the questions I had about this time period and what I needed to learn.  I began reading extensively on the Middle Ages checking out over a dozen books from the library at a time. The books that were extraordinarily helpful, I purchased for my personal bookshelf so I can use them as a handy reference tool.

Documentaries are also a good source of information as well.  Travel DVDs and travel guides often give historical summaries of towns and regions. To further my research, I traveled to France in 2007 to see the settings of my story and discovered real life magic in the Midi Pyrenees region. I scoured many museums while on my trip and saw artifacts with my own eyes and was open to discovery of items I had not read or heard about before. My novel became infused with detail that I could only learn from being there in person.

 3.  How do you transform your research into an entertaining narrative?

I avoid data dumps as much as possible. I recognize early drafts will be rife with clunky dialogue and paragraphs of detail that will cause pacing to come to a grinding halt.  It is important that I allow myself to turn off my inner editor, and get my story down in tangible form so that a first draft is created.

Once the editing phase begins, I edit for pacing and readability.  I think it is important to add historical detail on the fly as much as possible.  This is similar to revealing character by demonstrating through action or dialogue and not in boring narrative summary paragraphs.

I also balance adherence to historical accuracy with its impact on the drama of the storyline.  If those two principles came into conflict, I will side with drama every time.  I have extensive author’s notes explaining my historical anachronisms and my rationale for them. I would rather entertain someone with a story including some historical inaccuracies over boring someone with a lame dramatic structure but containing historically correct details.  After all, my story features a holy war that never occurred, starring fictional characters who never lived, and includes magic that doesn’t exist.  My goal is to retell these classic legends for a new generation, hope they are entertained and may be inspired to learn more about Charlemagne, the Medieval period as well as Renaissance Italy, the famed poets and the classic poems.

4. How do you sneak underlying messages into your narrative?

I smuggle deeper meaning by using symbolism and archetypes.

I admire the writing of Katherine Neville in her novel The Eight and the symbolism she used throughout.  I also adore the symbolism used in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  The more I scratched the surface of either author’s work, the more I understood the underlying meaning of their narrative.

I deliberately include hidden meaning by the naming of characters.  One character is the hermit who treated Bradamante’s wounds.  He appeared in the original poem, but was unnamed.  In researching online I found a treasure trove online of over 500 names of hermit saints and their mini-biographies.  I discovered Saint Namphaise, who according to legend was a soldier of Charlemagne. I hope to rescue this saint from obscurity with my story.

I want to extend an offer to join your readers who are in book clubs to join their discussions either by speakerphone or Skype.  My website is www.LindaCMcCabe.com where you can find my copious author endnotes, a sample set of reader questions, and more information about the legends of Charlemagne.  You can also visit my blog at lcmccabe.blogspot.com to see pictures from my trips to France and a recent trip to Italy.

Quest of the Warrior Maid is available as a trade paperback and an ebook on many online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Sony. It is globally distributed, so those outside the U.S. should be able to get an electronic or physical copy.

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