Author Interview: Megan Elder Evans
Newcomer Megan Elder Evans was kind enough to offer up an interview. To get started, here's an excerpt from her novel, Fate's Arrangement.
No one spoke as Cristiana entered the gates of the castle. The guards’ averted their gazes to distant walls or their shoes, and the servants ceased their whispered conversations. Something was wrong, and Cristiana had a feeling it was what she dreaded.
Over the past four years, Earl Edmund Garrard III had presented sixteen men as suitable husbands, the last two scoundrels. Baron Heinrich von Gerolt of Bavaria was caught in the treasury by the guards. He claimed he got lost on the way to his bedchamber, which was located two floors above and on the far side of the castle. Sir Osbert of York, a knight known for his loyalty and fierceness in battle, seemed to have forgotten his oath of chivalry when he chased Lina, Cristiana’s abigail, into Cristiana’s chambers. These two were easy enough to dismiss, but the majority of her suitors were good noblemen. Still, Cristiana dismissed each one, citing various imaginary or barely existent flaws. She never told her father her real reason for refusing them all.
As she crossed the great hall heading toward the stairs leading to her chambers, a voice called her name. She turned.
Captain Laurence Cokewald, her father’s right-hand man in matters of the castle’s and city’s security, bowed. “My Lady, your father wishes to speak with you at once. He is waiting in the chapel.”
She swallowed against the newly formed lump in her throat. Her father had only asked to speak to her one other time in the chapel, the day he announced it was time to find her a husband.
Why did you decide to write this story?
There are so many reasons I chose to write this (aside from the fact that it kept nagging at me), but I suppose the biggest reason has to do with what was happening in my life when I got the idea. I was newly pregnant with my daughter at the time, and I knew, because of my son's birth, that I was going to have a planned C-section. My mother had also gone through this procedure with me and my sister. One day, as I was watching the show "Married at First Sight" (purely out of curiosity), I started thinking about arranged marriages. Then I thought, what would a woman forced into an arranged marriage do if she knew (or at least thought) she would not be able to live through childbirth. And, viola! Lady Cristiana Garrard was born, engaged to a Scottish earl as part of a peace treaty, and forced to make a decision.
But I did not want Cristiana to simply be a damsel in distress on the run. She is intelligent and caring, so I had to give her the ability to become a midwife who performs C-sections. This took some research, though, before I could commit to writing her story. C-sections have been performed for thousands of years, but up until the 1800s, they were only performed on mothers who had already died in childbirth, in an effort to save the baby. However, there was one recorded live C-section performed in 1337 on Beatrice of Bourbon, Queen of Bohemia. It was purely an accident. Her midwife, physician, or whoever attended her thought she had died. Imagine their surprise when she woke up mid-surgery screaming. Luckily, she did survive the procedure, thereby making my story plausible. With that fact established, I got to work writing Fate's Arrangement.
What kind of research did you do for this novel? Is there any detail you found in your research that particularly interested you?
Well, I have already mentioned the bit about Queen Beatrice's unusual c-section earlier on, but I also did a lot of research on the time period. One area I spent a great deal of time on was the herbal remedies used. I had to find out what healing herbs would have been used in England in the 1300s and what they were for. Luckily, I was not alone in my efforts here. My mother-in-law has studied natural healing (herbs, homeopathic remedies, etc) for years, so she was a great help to me. I also had to research how surgeries would have been performed back then, and how a C-section is performed now. Other details, like clothing, food, and housing, were other things I had to research, and I learned some surprising things. For instance, ladies of the 1300s actually wore very little under their dresses. It was not until a couple centuries later that the petticoat and other unmentionables came into existence. I had to make sure the food I had my characters eating would have been available in England at the time, too. To my surprise, the only sweetener available at the time was honey, and there were no cakes or other sweets like we have today. I am very grateful I live in 2017. Names of the time period also got a lot of attention. I needed to make sure I was using names that would have been common in that era. Unfortunately, the only thing I could not find out was how to pronounce my hero Raegenhere's name. So, in my head, it is pronounced "Ray-gen-hair." After all of the research I did, I kind of feel like I could write a book on the 1300s.
How do you feel that you changed as a person and/or writer after completing this work?
This is the first time I have written from both a male and a female perspective. Prior to Fate's Arrangement, I always stayed in the female head, but now, after being in Raegenhere's head for so long, I feel like I know my husband a lot better. I fashioned Raegenhere's personality after my husband (contemplative and serious, while also playing the occasional practical joke at someone else's expense), and that has allowed me to explore a way of thinking about and maneuvering through the world that differs from my own. I have also grown much more appreciative of modern medicine. We have come a long way, indeed.
What is your favorite go-to advice for an emerging writer?
Take your time. Don't be in a rush to get your work out there. Join a critique group who can help you polish your work and improve your writing style. Study the works of the authors you admire. Read in the genre you write. This is what has helped me the most.
What's next for you? Do you have any works in progress?
Yes! I am currently working on the second installment of my "Defiant Daughters" series, "Fate's Rejection." I don't want to give away too much, but in that novel, the heroine is caught between being in love with a man she has known most of her life, who seems to treat her like a younger sister, and the unscrupulous man her dying, newly financially bankrupt father has given his blessing of marriage to.
I recently became a stay-at-home-mom. I have two children, but it was not until I had my second that I decided to stay home. Before that, I taught Freshman Composition and Literature at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida. I did that for six years.
I have a Masters of English degree from the University of Central Florida, with a focus in literary, cultural, and textual studies. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a student and teaching students, it left very little time for writing. In fact, I once had a Creative Writing professor who said, "If you want to write, don't teach." I did not take her advice seriously until I became a teacher. Back then, I was lucky if I got to write once a month. Usually, the only time I had to write (without being too exhausted to focus) was on breaks between semesters. Now that I have traded the rat race for my rug rats, I am able to focus on my passion for writing every day, while my kids nap, of course.
And what do I write? Honestly, I like to dabble in almost all of the genres, but romance is my favorite. I have always loved fairy tales and happily-ever-afters. Even when I venture outside of the romance genre, I have an overwhelming urge to work a romance into the plot. The news is too full of tragedies, and our lives are full of trials. I believe we could all use an escape to a world that makes us smile and our hearts flutter.