Sharon Kay Penman, whose novels about the Middle Ages were read by millions of fans, has passed away at the age of 75.
Before becoming an author, Penman worked as a lawyer. However, history was her passion, and as a student Penman wrote a draft of The Sunne in Splendour, which told the life of England’s King Richard III. Unfortunately, the original manuscript was stolen from her car, and Penman did not write for the next six years. When she did pick up the pen again in 1982, Penman produced a 982-page version of The Sunne in Splendour.
Penman would go on to write over another dozen novels, including When Christ and His Saints Slept and The Queen’s Man. She was widely lauded for the research she put into her historical novels. In an interview with Medievalist.net from 2011, Penman explained, “I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about striving for historical accuracy, but I haven’t often been asked why. I think it is partly because I see historical fiction as a means of awakening curiosity about the past. Readers who might not buy a biography will pick up a historical novel. So I feel a responsibility not to mislead them.”
Penman’s novels routinely ranked highly on The New York Times Bestseller List, and in 2001 she received a Career Achievement Award for Historical Mysteries from Romantic Times.
RIP Sharon Kay Penman. When she published her first novel, The Sunne in Splendour, she thanked the Richard III Society libraries in the UK & US for their help. She will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/eccGtfpR4Z
— Richard III Soc CA (@RichardIIICA) January 22, 2021
I lost a dear friend today. Sharon Kay Penman was a world-renowned and best-selling author but also one of the most humble people I've known. She will be mourned by so many. The writing world has lost one of the best. pic.twitter.com/RYmqcHIGRX
— Stephanie Churchill (@WriterChurchill) January 23, 2021
To learn more about Sharon Kay Penman and her books, please visit her website.
See also her article Historical Novelists Owe the Truth to Readers–and to History