For our Fiction Friday interview we welcome Mary Ann Bernal, author of the historical fiction series, The Briton and the Dane, and fellow Indie publisher and Literary Underground member. I am posting this one day early, as I’m on the road part of the day on Friday. Welcome, Mary.
This Blog Blank: So we may as well get the good stuff out first. Can you tell us about your latest work?
Mary Ann Bernal: I am currently writing the third and final novel in the first trilogy of The Briton and the Dane series, Legacy. In addition to winding down the storyline, unresolved issues from the first two books are addressed, secrets are revealed, and the human emotions that motivated character behavior are discovered.
TBB: What was your inspiration for writing the story?
MAB: As an impressionable teenager growing up in the era of Hollywood blockbusters, I fell in love with such epics as “Ivanhoe,” “The Vikings,” “Knights of the Round Table,” and “King Arthur,” to name but a few. It was during this time that the seeds were sown, and my Erik the Viking theme became embedded in my mind, but it would take half a lifetime to fulfill the dream.
TBB: When I fall in love with a book, invariably it’s when I can get lost in the descriptions – when it becomes real – sound, image, etc. Other people I know skip the descriptions and go straight to the dialogue. As writers, we are fortunate in being able to get lost in worlds we create. What causes you to get lost when you are writing a book?
MAB: Once I return to the Kingdom of Wessex in the reign of Alfred the Great, my mind’s eye sees the British landscape as it existed in the Ninth Century. I become involved with the trappings of the time, placing my characters in situations relevant to the brutality of the age, and the emotional forces which drive them to act the way they do.
TBB: What led you to historical fiction?
MAB: The credit must go to Sir Walter Scott, since it was while I was reading “Ivanhoe” that I became enthralled with British history and the early Middle Ages.
TBB: Do you bring your real-life experiences to your fiction? If so, how?
MAB: I am especially interested in the how and why people behave as they do and what causes them to make either good or bad decisions. What I have found interesting is the different takes on the same situation, and these conflicting views do prove useful when I or rather my character decides how he/she will react when placed in predictable and unpredictable situations.
TBB: I hear writers all the time say that they “write for themselves.” Whom do you write for? Why?
MAB: I write because I love to write, but I must confess that I want to share my stories with the world. My novels delve into the problems that have plagued mankind since the beginning of time: religion, forgiveness and redemption, family relationships, war and peace. I believe we must understand the past to change the future, and the human race still has yet to learn from past mistakes.
TBB: Being a photographer as well as a writer, I take a lot of inspiration from photographs. What do you use to generate your story ideas, to make it “real” to you?
MAB: I am a visual person and a frequent visitor to the History Channel. Such docudramas about the Dark Ages, the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, the Black Death etc. paint a vivid picture of life in a long-forgotten era, and easily gives me a mental visualization of the timeframe when I put pen to paper, or rather keystrokes to computer screen.
TBB: What do you like most about your writing? What do you want people to take from it?
MAB: I love to think of a person living in another time and try to put myself into his/her head so to speak, making this person “real,” and not just a name on a page in a history book. People are people, no matter the century they live in. I would like my readers to “see” that they could be a certain character in my book because he/she would have done the same thing, or maybe not.
TBB: I imagine, that like a lot of writers, you’ve been reading most of your life. What changes have you seen in fiction that move you, or anger you?
MAB: I do not like the emphasis on “the bottom line.” It seems that a good story is not the real issue, what counts is the number of followers on social web sites, how many of your fans will actually buy the book, how well known are you in your community, and the number of speaking engagements and media appearances appear on your resume!
TBB: What part of writing do you like the most? The least?
MAB: I love writing dialogue because of the interaction; the character is personally involved in the situation, expressing emotional insight that might otherwise be lost in a narrative. The least part about writing is when technicalities get in the way of the creative process.
TBB: Who is your favorite character, and why?
MAB: My first set of favorite characters are Erik and Gwyneth, whose chance meeting started my story. Erik is my Viking warrior since adolescence so, of course, he would take precedence in the poll while Gwyneth is the personification of youthful innocence. However as the story developed, other characters longed to be recognized and thus competed with Erik for the “starring role.” David quietly entered the arena and quickly became the one “perfect” character in Gwyneth’s world. As the story progressed I became especially fond of Arista and Liesel but then I have always had a tender spot for unrequited love after having read the legend of Tristan and Isolde.
TBB: What do you want potential readers to know about your writing?
MAB: My novels are quite complex, having multiple characters and subplots, and I use period words, such as healer instead of physician or doctor, to help transport the reader back in time. Character lists, maps, and a glossary are included in my books and are also available for download on my webpage.
Author webpage (links to purchase the books and join social media sites)
The Briton and the Dane fan page on Facebook:
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Follow The Briton and the Dane’s blog
Published in association with The Literary Underground
The Briton and the Dane book covers were designed by Steven Novak
Mary Ann was born on the United States Naval Base located at Patuxent River, Maryland and was raised in Yonkers, NY after her father’s honorable discharge from the Navy. She graduated from Gorton High School in 1962, received an Associate in Arts degree from Elizabeth Seton College, and a Bachelor of Science Degree from Mercy College where she graduated summa cum laude. She moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 2004 to be near her son and his family.
Mary Ann is actively involved in her grandchildren’s activities and attends as many sports events and dance competitions as is humanly possible. She is also very active within the Soldiers Angels organization, which provides support for our deployed men and women of the United States Military.
Mary Ann has traveled to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy, and plans to return England in the near future.