Amy Belding Brown, author of “Flight of the Sparrow” and “Mr. Emerson’s Wife” answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in history, her favorite figures from history, and the age old question of coffee or tea.
1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?
I’d choose Lydia Maria Child because she was an influential novelist, and also a reformer who advocated abolition, women’s rights, and Native American rights. Like me, she had a passion for New England history and she also lived a long and productive life.
2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?
That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many unpleasant aspects of living in an historical time period. But I’d probably choose the ante-bellum period in New England, say l847, when the anti-slavery movement was gaining momentum, and people were enthusiastically embracing new ideas and ways of relating to each other. It was also the year that one of my favorite books – Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” – was published.
3. You’re having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?
Sojourner Truth, Lydia Maria Child, Anne Hutchinson, Sacajawea, and Abigail Adams. I think the conversation would be electric.
4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?
I’m more attracted to cottages than castles, but if I had to live in a castle, I’d choose Skipton Castle in North Yorkshire, England. I love its beautiful courtyard and the Yorkshire countryside. Also, my English ancestors came from Yorkshire (though they didn’t live in a castle).
5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you’d like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?
Tracy Chevalier and Hillary Mantel.
6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?
I’m much more familiar with Henry VIII, and I think he was a fascinating man, but I wouldn’t call him “dashing.” Louis XIV was probably more dashing but less interesting to me, partly because I know less of his history, but also because I’m partial to the English.
7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?
I feel the most sympathy and admiration for Catherine of Aragon because she refused to compromise her integrity when Henry tried to get her to renounce her beliefs. She would have fared better if she’d been willing to lie about not consummating her marriage to Prince Arthur and meekly give up her position as queen. But she used the tools she had (including her faith) to fight for her own rights and the rights of her daughter, and though she didn’t win, she didn’t give in either. I see her as a very principled, though tragic, figure.
8. English monarchy or French monarchy?
English. Mostly because I know a lot more about it. However, I don’t care much for monarchies in general, and would much rather read and study about people in the forgotten classes.
9. What three novels could you read over and over?
“Mrs. Bridge” by Evan S. Connell, “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton, and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
10. Tea or coffee when writing?
Tea, usually. Although I sometimes drink coffee on sleepy, overcast days.
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