About the Author
riscilla has a degree in world literature from San Francisco State University, where she discovered the beauty of medieval literature. She is a theater fan as well as reader of history, mysteries, and fiction of lesser violence. She lives in Northern California and belongs to the California Writers Club and Sisters in Crime.
Priscilla grew up in British Columbia and until 2000, she worked for the Federal government in a variety of positions, all of which provided a wonderful education in the complexity of human experience and motivation.
Interview by Pamela James
Wine of Violence may be Priscilla Royal's first published book, but with her educational background and love of medieval literature, it certainly won't be her last.
WomenOnWriting: Priscilla, tell us about your current book.
P.J.R.: Wine of Violence takes place in 1270 on the remote East Anglian coast at Tyndal Priory which belongs to the Order of Fontevraud, a double house where monks and nuns live and work in close proximity. Young and inexperienced Eleanor of Wynethorpe has just been appointed prioress by King Henry III over the elected choice of the priory itself, Sister Ruth. Soon after Eleanor's arrival, a brutally murdered monk is found in the cloister. As if she did not have enough problems with a resentful group of religious and a murdered monk, she must now deal with her less than chaste feelings engendered by the arrival of a new monk, Brother Thomas. Brother Thomas, however, comes with his own secrets and torments. Not only is he a Church spy sent to investigate allegations of malfeasance at Tyndal, he has come to the religious life with a less than true calling. While Thomas fights his personal demons and tries to fulfill his investigative mission, Eleanor battles to cope with her flock that is now both terrified as well as resentful. As the violence continues, however, both struggle to unmask the vicious killer in a place dedicated to love and peace.
WomenOnWriting: How long have you been writing and how long did it take you to pen this book?
P.J.R.: Since the Third Grade! I started with ghost stories, illustrating them myself. I quickly realized that I had no art talent but that I did love telling tales. Through college, I wrote short stories that were long on drama and short on insight. Then I had a long hiatus before I started writing fiction again just before I retired. Wine of Violence took slightly less than two years to write. Doing the research adds to the total time.
WomenOnWriting: What type of writing schedule do you have?
P.J.R.: When I am getting the story down, I try to write either every morning or every afternoon so I do not lose the thread of the tale. When I am polishing the book, I cannot write every day. I need a day or so off to regain editorial perspective on what I'm doing.
WomenOnWriting: Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?
P.J.R.: Katherine V. Forrest. She said that there are many talented writers who never write that book or do not persevere long enough to get published.
WomenOnWriting: Tell us about Priscilla, the author, the woman and the friend.
P.J.R.: I'm a native of Washington State but grew up in British Columbia. After getting my degree in world literature from San Francisco State University, I spent a year at UC Berkeley in graduate work but realized I did not have the talent to be a good teacher. I dropped out and went to work for the Federal Government. After 30 years of that, I got back to fiction writing and took some classes at Book Passage in Corte Madera CA. It might have been a long hiatus, but it gave me a much needed balance and maturity that I did not have in college. Since I have started this completely new career at almost 60, I hope my experience will show others that life can take wonderfully new directions at any age!
WomenOnWriting: What are your 2004 writing goals?
P.J.R.: To get the second book in the series polished and start work on the third.
WomenOnWriting: Let's talk about your publishing house and editors. How does this work for your books?
P.J.R.: Poisoned Pen Press is a small press in Scottsdale AZ. The publisher, Robert Rosenwald, combines flexible innovation with a cost conscious approach that helps both the business and the author do well. Barbara Peters is the ideal editor. She is able to see exactly what you need to do to make the book you have written exactly how you wanted to write it. The two of them have combined the best of the past in publishing, which put emphasis on quality of craft as well as the nurturing of writers, with modern technology and creative business ideas that benefit both the press and the writer. Being a part of something like this is very exciting and it works perfectly for me.
WomenOnWriting: What books do you like to read?
P.J.R.: Of course I read mysteries and I love medieval history and literature, but I am also a big fan of theater and biography of all eras.
WomenOnWriting: What is the best and worst part of the book for you to write?
P.J.R.: The worst is an easy answer! I hate the dreaded middle when I've run out of steam and haven't gotten my breath back for the next push. The beginning and the end are the easiest.
WomenOnWriting: Do you have a website and if so how might readers reach you?
P.J.R.: My website is www.priscillaroyal.com and my email is email@example.com.
WomenOnWriting: What advice do you have for the aspiring writer wanting to become a mystery author?
P.J.R.: First of all, read and study the way your favorite authors write. Second, take classes from the masters of the craft. I was lucky to study under Katherine V. Forrest, Michael Nava and Gillian Roberts. If you cannot take classes, I highly recommend one book: You Can Write a Mystery by Gillian Roberts.
WomenOnWriting: Do you try to stay current on movies, books, conventions, workshops and the writing life?
P.J.R.: I care about improving in the craft so I like to take workshops and classes as well as read fiction that tells a good story in an innovative way. I love plays, modern and classical, because they teach the development of a theme and the power of dialogue.
WomenOnWriting: Is there someone you would like to thank? Maybe a mentor for family member?
P.J.R.: Like every writer, I have so many people to thank that we'd run out of RAM if I listed them all. In addition to the three wonderful writers I have already mentioned, however, I would like to thank Katherine Neville, Joanne Pence, Sheldon Siegel, Sarah Smith and Penny Warner for encouragement, advice and education in the writing craft.
WomenOnWriting: What is your writing pet-peeves?
P.J.R.: When my imagination is deep into the 13th century, I hate it when the phone rings. I also hate not having an answer to historical questions right at hand--that's why my breakfast nook, where I write, now looks like a library.
WomenOnWriting: How do you keep track of the books progress as you're writing it?
P.J.R.: I have a wonderful critique group. They see the book at the halfway point, and, after I've incorporated their remarks, they see the whole work. Then I let the book sit for at least a month before I read it again with refreshed eyes for the final polishing. I am also lucky to have a friend who reads it for typos, inconsistencies and words that "scream 21st century". At that point, I hope it is ready for the editor.
WomenOnWriting: How do you develop your characters for each book? P.J.R.: I give each one a mini-biography which is for my eyes only. In doing that, I also sometimes discover that some potential characters need to go into another book or that others need a stronger role in the current one.
WomenOnWriting: Where will you be signing books this year?
P.J.R.: Since Wine of Violence just came out, I am still planning so the current information can be found on my website. I will, however, be at Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale AZ on March 14 at 1 PM with Twist Phelan and Sharon Slater.
WomenOnWriting: Leave is with some writing words of wisdom.
P.J.R.: Jane Austin's first recorded work was at age fifteen and she died at forty-one. Ellis Peters was 62 when she began the Brother Cadfael series, a classic in the medieval mystery genre, and she finished twenty books before she died. If you love the craft of writing, start anytime.
ll books are now available in hardcover, trade paperback, large print, and e-reader versions.
Available from Amazon.com
Poisoned Pen Press
Signed copies are available from
Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona
And now published in London in paperback and for eReaders by
Head of Zeus
with new covers
"A Killing Season," "Sorrow Without End," "Forsaken Soul," "Chambers of Death"
and "Valley of Dry Bones" are available in audiobooks from