Last week, we reviewed a book entitled “Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia Vol. I”. I had the pleasure of interviewing author Jayden Woods about her upcoming book, background, and future novels.
Jayden graduated from the University of Southern California’s Writing for Screen and Television program and lived Los Angeles for five years before deciding to leave Hollywood and become an author.
“Eadric the Grasper” is her first book set in tumultuous 11th century England. It’s a fast paced historical fiction novel based on the life of Eadric Streona, often considered one of the worst villains in English history. This book tells a different side to his story. It will be released on Amazon.com on October 5th.
For more information about Jayden Woods and her work , please visit her website: http://www.jaydenwoods.com/
1.) You graduated from USC in screen and television writing; what made you decide to leave this career and pursue writing novels? Were you disenchanted with the Hollywood “scene”?
Before I pursued my degree of Writing for Screen and Television, I already wrote novels. But I also dabbled in some artwork and musical composition. I wanted to combine all my skills and make my stories come fully to life on the screen. And what better way to accomplish that than to go to arguably the best film school there is, USC in Los Angeles?
I lived in Los Angeles for five years in all. I met a great deal of successful people in the business. I received a fantastic education. I made short films, interned with a production company, and worked as a writers’ assistant on a primetime TV show (“Numb3rs”). I even got commissioned at one point to write a feature script for a production company (though it will probably never get made). In a lot of people’s eyes, I was really on my way to success.
But indeed, I became “disenchanted.” I saw that most blockbuster scripts went through so many people and revisions before production that they often became warped into something else by the end. I also saw that most of the people who found success did so by devoting years upon years of their life to miserable assistant jobs and/or by social networking. As for the first task, I found it self-defeating. If I put all my energy into a lousy job (and I am talking about jobs in which someone may literally work 60-80 hours in one week), I wouldn’t have the time or passion to write. As for social networking, I must confess, that has never been my strong suit. I’m an introvert, for goodness sakes! And I’m certainly not the only artist with that challenge. But to make a long story short, I felt as if I needed to turn over my entire life, and even change my personality, in order to get where I wanted in Hollywood. And I simply wasn’t willing to do that.
I haven’t lost my dream of bringing my stories to the big screen. In fact, I now think that starting by publishing a book may be the best way to achieve that. Popular books are a “safe” product for studios to invest in, and the writer’s original work is guaranteed respect, because it already has a fan-base. But even if it never comes to that, I am so happy writing novels and soon sharing them with the world.
2.) What interests you in this particular period of the Middle Ages? Will you be expanding into other areas of the Middles Ages for future books?
What intrigued me about the early Middle Ages, or Dark Ages, is that so little is known about them. As an artist, this allowed me to step into the genre of historical fiction and bring my somewhat rampant imagination along with me. During the Viking Age in particular, the Vikings burned valuable items and manuscripts left and right, items which otherwise might have preserved history. So it remains an especially mysterious time. I wanted to be able to use known facts as a plot-base but still have enough freedom to craft my own story. So the first book begins in 1002, and the next two books follow two subsequent generations, concluding a few years after the Norman Conquest.
3.) What drew you to Eadric’s story?
Interestingly enough, I already had a story I wanted to write long before I stumbled upon Eadric Streona’s wikipedia page. You can say my inspiration came from two major sources: the intriguing history of Eadric Streona and my life-long love of the 80’s TV version of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Sir Percy Blakeney was one of my childhood heroes. What does this have to do with Eadric Streona? When I finally read Baroness Orczy’s book, I was rather disappointed by the simplicity of some of the characters, but most especially by Percy’s wife, Marguerite. I wanted to write a story about a man with the skill and charm to achieve whatever he wanted, though sometimes what he wanted was not necessarily “good.” I also wanted him to play off someone equally strong, but dogmatic and self-righteous to a fault. I already had a light plot drafted out incorporating Vikings and Anglo-Saxons when I found Eadric Streona, and it was as if a light shone down from heaven. He was the man I needed to write about, and everything else fell into place from there.
4.) Eadric has been vilified in historical treatises; William of Malmesbury described Eadric as, “The refuse of mankind and a reproach unto the English” ; what made you decide to reform this view of Eadric?
I am fascinated by the way society views “heroes,” and also why history remembers some figures more favorably than others. To me, it seems that Eadric was vilified because he lacked what one might call patriotism, or at least loyalty to a single king’s bloodline. He switched sides. He changed his mind. He wasn’t dogmatic. I find this especially interesting from a modern perspective, now that open-mindedness is more often embraced. Eadric certainly killed a few individuals, but he also prevented a major battle from taking place, and in that way saved hundreds of lives. His actions eventually brought England and Scandinavia together under a single king (at least for a little while). So should we vilify him while glorifying the people who wanted the wars to keep going indefinitely? After two-hundred something years of Viking attacks, what were the Anglo-Saxons still fighting for but an incompetent king? I do not want to turn Eadric into a hero, for he certainly wasn’t that. But I want people to question their definition of one.
5.) What sources did you use in your research? How long did it take to do research for this book?
Because Eadric Streona is so often described as a despicable man, sometimes without explanation, I wanted to start with the source texts and go from there: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles by Florence of Worcester, the Chronicles of the Kings of England by William of Malmesbury, and so on. I tried to draw my own conclusions from those sources (at least as far as the characters and their personalities) before moving on to more recent compositions. I went on to read many other great texts from historians like Edward Freeman, James Henry Ramsay, James Campbell, and others, so that I could combine old knowledge with the new. I spent a few weeks researching vigorously before starting the book, and continued to deepen my research as I worked.
6.) What are your upcoming projects? The Eadric novel is part of a larger series entitled, “The Sons of Mercia”, what can we expect from upcoming novels in the series?
The next volume is “Godric the Kingslayer,” the story of Eadric’s bastard son, Godric. Godric is fictional, but many of the events in the book are not. Canute the Great is a prominent character of Volume 2. Godric wishes to kill King Canute and avenge his father’s death—a goal that comes to consume his entire life. His quest begins as a righteous one, but he watches himself become his own worst enemy, and eventually he must change his ways or tear his own world apart.
The third volume (which is the one I’m writing now) follows another descendant of Eadric Streona, Edric the Wild. Edric is more of a typical protagonist: charming, kind-hearted, and full of good deeds. He is a man who will later inspire the legendary tales of Robin Hood. He seeks to rise up against William the Conqueror and the Norman takeover—even if his battle becomes a losing one.
I see the entire trilogy as an exploration of what makes a hero, what makes a villain, and why we perceive certain men or women as such. Whenever I write, I like to turn black and white into as many other shades as possible. My villains tend to have good traits and intentions; my “heroes” tend to be seriously flawed.
7.) Can you tell us a bit more about your other series, “The Lost Tales of Mercia” and when it will be available to your readers?
“The Lost Tales of Mercia” are already available to readers free and online. As I write this interview, eight of the ten short stories have already been released, and the last two will be out by the time “Eadric the Grasper” releases. “The Lost Tales of Mercia” introduce minor and major characters from the novel and expose details from their lives that are not fully revealed in the book. The novel and the short stories strongly complement each other, but I wrote the book first. You can certainly read “Eadric the Grasper” alone; you will simply be a step ahead of other readers if you’ve read the Lost Tales. On the flip-side, you may finish reading “Eadric the Grasper” first and then wish to dive deeper into one of the characters’ lives; the Lost Tales allow you to do so.
The stories are available on my blog, http://talesofmercia.wordpress.com, and many other ebook distribution channels across the web. I also plan to release a printed version very soon, and people who prefer a physical book will be able to purchase one on Amazon. Otherwise, enjoy them for free online!
We would like to thank Jayden for taking the time to answer our questions ~ Peter & Sandra