Interview: Ella March Chase

Like many of you, I’m a bit of a historical fiction buff, especially as it relates to Queen Elizabeth I. Recently I picked up The Virgin Queen’s Daughter by Ella March Chase and couldn’t put it down. I had to know more about this author!

I love stumbling across a new writer, only to find that he or she has written many other books. One of the things that surprised me was that The Virgin Queen’s Daughter was Chase’s 30th book. (Now I can’t wait to look up the others and stock my “to be read” pile.) Another thing that I found interesting was the “soundtrack” Chase plays in the background when writing each of her books. I especially liked the last bit she added about her teachers, and the prediction one of them had that she would be a writer. Enjoy this interview.

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I loved your book, The Virgin Queen’s Daughter. How did you come up with the idea for this book?

I have always been fascinated by Elizabeth Tudor and the rumors that circulated during her reign claiming she had borne a child. When I read Alison Weir’s wonderful biography that contained the account of a midwife who said she had delivered that child, I began to wonder how such a pregnancy could be hidden and what a child of Elizabeth might be like– though most theories say the child was a boy I chose to make it a girl because imagining what the daughter of such a remarkable survivor of a queen would be like was too enticing to resist. I have my own amazing daughter, Kate, who inspired many of Nell’s characteristics. The bond between mother and daughter is arguably the most powerful in a woman’s life.

Your explanation on the possibility of Queen Elizabeth having a child was one of the best I’d ever read. What is your personal belief about this?

I’m grateful to hear my theory rang true. I pieced it together as carefully as I could and was happy it turned out to seem plausible. My own opinion regarding Elizabeth having a child is this: There were so many rumors obviously people of her time believed it was possible. We know she was in some very compromising situations with Thomas Seymour according to the testimony of her own beloved governess Kat Ashley. I do think it possible Elizabeth bore a child. I’m not sure it is likely.

How long have you been writing? Is The Virgin Queen’s Daughter your first work?

I began what would become my first published novel twenty eight years ago. My original idea was for an historical novel set during the Irish Potato Famine. Though the writer’s group I had it critiqued by loved my writing historical novels weren’t selling at the time They suggested I turn it into an Historical Romance, so I did. I sold twenty-nine works of romance and women’s fiction, both historical and contemporary, in the ensuing years under the pennames: Kimberly Cates, Kimberleigh Caitlin and Kim Cates. When the historical fiction market opened up I was able to return to my first love. The Virgin Queen’s Daughter was my 30th novel. I fell so in love with the character of Mary Grey my next novel explores the lives of Mary and her sisters, Jane and Katherine– all three of whom were imprisoned in the Tower at some point. The working title is Three Maids For A Crown.

In your opinion, what’s the best thing about writing?

Being able to get lost in my own world, interact with characters I love and not having anyone scold me for daydreaming. Also the constant surprises and possibilities– I never really know what might happen next.

Is there a specific time of day you like to write?

First thing in the morning is when my writing goes most smoothly, but I’ve been caretaking for my mom in the morning for the past 16 months as she battles cancer and Alzheimer’s, so I’ve had to adapt my schedule and now write in the afternoon.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

The book that affected me most deeply is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It made me believe that, like Jo March, I could be a writer. Her account of what those creative struggles and rewards feel like still resonates with me today. My daughter and I went to Concord Massachusetts to the Alcott’s Orchard House. It was amazing to see the ‘Roderigo boots’ the sisters used in their plays and to see drawings on the walls that were done by the sister who was the model for artistic Amy March.

Favorite authors?

Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Anne Perry and Susan Carroll.

Book you’re currently reading?

Martyrby Rory Clements. It’s an Elizabethan Thriller, and though I’m only a third into it I’m loving the story, writing style and historical detail.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

I have a soundtrack or song for every book. I wrote The Virgin Queen’s Daughter to the music from The Man in the Iron Mask. Three Maids For A Crown is currently being written to Elizabeth The Golden Years and the movie soundtrack for Amazing Grace. It’s all about evoking the right emotions. Since life is a little complex at present, I work most in one of the study rooms at the library where I’m less likely to get distracted.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

Yes. I see writer’s block as a wall of concrete blocks. To get through you just have to keep banging your head against that wall until you break through. Techniques I use when I’m stuck: writing stream of consciousness in my character’s point of view (peppered with asides conveying just how unamused I am at their lack of cooperation). Writing in long hand instead of composing on the computer. If these don’t work I go back to my research/outline/characters and try to figure out why the scene is being so difficult. Usually it’s because I’m trying to make the character do something they wouldn’t do. Alas for my writerly sense of control the character always turns out to be right. My last resort if I still can’t get the scene moving is to walk away from it for awhile, sleep, garden, go to the knitting shop or take my King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, Sailor and Sir Tristan, to the dog park. They always think I’m brilliant.

What’s the measure of a successful writer?

Someone who writes with passion and joy. (When they’re not banging their head against that brick wall I talked about earlier)

Advice for other writers?

Be fearless in exploring new possibilities, tenacious when faced with obstacles and disciplined about your writing time. Tell your own truth as honestly as you can.

Where can we learn more about you?

www.ellamarchchase.com

Anything else you’d like to add?

To the teachers who encouraged me (Mrs. Eye, Mrs. Beck, Mr. Coolidge, Mr. Fessler, Mrs. Burns, Mr. Dennis and Dr. Erickson)– I’ll always be in your debt. To the teacher who called my parents in for a conference because I claimed I didn’t need to learn my multiplication tables because I was going to be a famous writer some day: Your grim prediction came true. I do spend all day staring out the window daydreaming. But now I get paid to do it!

Image: Miriam Graff

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