Ruth Kaufman and The Wars of the Roses

My guest today is debut historical author Ruth Kaufman.  Ruth won the 2011 Golden Heart in Inspirational Romance with the book we’re discussing today, At His Command (though there’s a twist to this story), and has placed in numerous other contests.  She was the runner-up in the RT Book Reviews American Title II contest.  In addition to writing, Ruth is an editor and an on-camera and voiceover actor.

Welcome, Ruth! You took the unusual step of releasing two different versions of At His Command, one medieval and one medieval-inspirational. What led you to this choice? 

Ruth.KaufmanThank you, Nancy! Glad to be here.

I knew that while there are many readers of inspirationals, there are more historical readers. The inspirational version won RWA’s Golden Heart® award, so since I was indie publishing I thought it might help to have that credential. And this particular story, IMO at least, fit in both subgenres with appropriate additions and deletions, of course.

I hadn’t heard of anyone who’d released one inspirational version and one not, no matter how many authors I told. (I did come across a few who’ve done, shall we say, very spicy and less spicy versions.) And those authors thought it was a great idea and were curious about the results. So despite the additional expense and effort to do everything from cover design to editing twice, and the thought that went into striving to avoid confusion between the two, I decided to do it.

Your story is set during the Wars of the Roses, a period I love. How did you choose this setting?

I love it, too! I was in a production of Richard III in college, and wanted to know how much of what Shakespeare wrote about RIII was true…was he really so cruel, did he kill anyone much less family members, etc. That led to general interest in the 15th century. I like to incorporate some actual historical personages and events, so thought I’d start at the beginning of what we now call the Wars of the Roses rather than at the end.

Another thing I love is that the mid to late 15th century is far enough back that there are many unknowns. If a reputable source says, “No one knows how X happened,” I can make X up as it suits my characters, conflict and plot.

UnknownPlease tell us a bit about the book.

Thanks for asking. The setting is 1453 England. King Henry VI sends Sir Nicholas Gray to protect the recently widowed Lady Amice Winfield from undesirable suitors. Though Nicholas intrigues her, she yearns to run Castle Rising (a real castle I visited, which helped inspire the story) without a man’s control.

Nicholas has no interest in marriage, but can’t deny he’s attracted to Amice. He’s surprised to finally find in Castle Rising a place he feels at home. A kiss sparks desire neither can ignore, yet serving opposing factions seeking to govern England threatens to pull them apart.

At court, the king and queen reject Amice’s pleas and choose a new husband for her, a highly-ranked lord who’ll provide connections and coin for the king’s depleted coffers that Nicholas cannot. How can she follow the king’s command when she’s a scribe for his rival? How can she marry another man when she’s falling in love with Nicholas?

RKaufman_AtHisCommand_HistoricalRomance_285kbWould you like to share an excerpt?

Sure! Here are the opening pages of AHC-Historical Romance Version.

Sir Nicholas Grey’s scout leaned forward in his saddle, holding up two fingers to let the others know two horses approached. Nicholas heard only the slight jangling of harnesses blended with wind rattling through the trees, but relied on his scout’s uncanny ability to hear what no one else could.

He and his eight men sat alert, deep enough in the forest to avoid being seen while maintaining a clear view of the road through leafless branches. Nine armed men could frighten travelers. ‘Twas best to let them pass.

Each man watched, each horse sinking deeper into chilling mire as a mud-covered, black palfrey plodded over the rise in the road, its long mane whipping in the frigid winds.

“No rider,” Martin, the scout, murmured.

“Look again,” Nicholas replied. At first he too had thought the horse was riderless. Now he could see a woman collapsed on the animal’s back. Her dark hair draped down its flank, mingling with the horse’s mane. The palfrey placed each step as if trying not to jostle its burden.

Another horse, this one a brown rouncey ridden by a thin, balding man, galloped after the palfrey. A look of triumph brightened the man’s face as he spotted the horse ahead of him. He bent forward, extending his hand. Fingers like talons grasped the woman’s tangled hair.

“Mine!” he cried.

*          *          *

Amice Winfield jerked awake. Agony forced her head back, allowing her to see the man who gripped her hair as though he’d perish if he let go.

Harry Winfield.

She screamed. Arrows of fear pierced her as she clawed at his fingers. Her horse bolted, leaving her dangling from Harry’s hand by a small clump of hair. The long strands held for a few seconds, then tore from her head.

Pain seared her scalp. She dropped into a puddle. Stunned by her fall and her stinging head, Amice could only stare at her tormentor while freezing water soaked her clothes. How she hated him. How she regretted her desperate flight from home. But what other choice did she have?

Harry gaped at the dark tresses hanging from his hand. He threw them to the ground as she struggled to rise. Panic gripped her as his hostile glare changed to a slow, confident smile.

“There’s nowhere to run. I’ll catch you if it’s the last thing I do,” he vowed. He leapt off his horse.

Amice tugged her sodden skirts, trying to haul them out of the puddle. Where was her mount? Too far away to reach without being caught, weighted down as she was. Sprays of water flew as she heaved her skirts over her arm. Heart racing, she ran for the trees. A branch snagged her. With a cry of frustration, she pulled the wet wool until it wrenched free.

Ignoring twigs tearing at her skin and icy mud that sucked away one of her shoes, she forged ahead. She gasped for air as she plunged into a tiny clearing, then came to an abrupt halt at the sight of a group of mounted men. Slimy hair slapped her face and clung to her cheek.

Panting, cold air stinging her throat, she sought a path to escape the strangers. Alarm coursed through her. She focused on the man at the head of the group. Anxiety and uncertainty warred within her though she sensed an almost tangible power emanating from him. The wind tossed his chin-length black hair as he stared down with a stern expression.

Will he help me? Am I better off with him or…? Before Amice could decide, branches snapped behind her. Harry ran into the clearing. Instinctively she moved closer to the commanding stranger.

“I am Sir Nicholas Grey,” he announced, his voice deep. Confident, yet reassuring. “And you are?”

Harry’s pointy nose wrinkled. She knew he wondered if he could get away with a lie. “This miscreant is my daughter. She’s running away because she refuses to marry the man I’ve chosen for her,” Harry said.

“He lies,” Amice protested. “Harry Winfield was my husband’s cousin. He wants to marry me now that my husband is dead, which all know is against—”

“This is none of your affair, Sir Nicholas. ‘Tis a mere family misunderstanding,” Harry said. His spindly fingers closed over her wet arm, sending a shiver of revulsion through her. “Come, sweeting, ‘tis time to go home.”

Silence reigned while she twisted free. Amice hoped Harry’s friendly tone didn’t fool Sir Nicholas. If necessary, she’d beg him to help her. All Amice wanted was to go home and live her life in peace. Without Harry. Without any husband. One had been quite enough.

Sir Nicholas studied her, clearly assessing the veracity of her tale. Something flickered in his piercing blue eyes. The intensity of his gaze unnerved her, but she couldn’t look away. When Sir Nicholas broke their connection, she felt colder than before.

“I come on the king’s business.” He opened his cloak to reveal King Henry’s badge of a chained antelope. “Which makes whatever I choose my affair.”

Had Harry met his match?

Oh, very cool! What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing At His Command?

Great question. I’d have to say not including too much history and historical detail. Part of the challenge is knowing how much is too much. As a reader, I prefer that the time period be essential to the plot, rather than stories in which the hero/heroine are dressed appropriately for their setting, but if they moved to a different time and dressed for that, the story could still stand.

Among the first historicals I loved were Roberta Gellis’s Roselynde Chronicles. Those, to me, had a great balance of history and romance. That’s what I wanted to write. But editors, agents, and even Roberta herself one day, told me the market had changed…so I toned down the amount of history.

Perhaps I should’ve written historical fiction. An earlier AHC version had scenes in the king’s and queen’s POVs. Maybe I should put them on my website, or into a novella. Hmmm. Thanks for inspiring me!

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

The market is changing so fast, with indie publishing becoming more mainstream and already-successful authors walking away from traditional publishing contracts or being hybrid authors. We can now write what we want instead of trying to please an editor and/or agent or a sales department deciding what’s marketable or what pushes the envelope too far or not far enough.

But with that freedom comes other challenges…. First, the rush to release. Is your book really ready to compete with everything that’s out there? Without a traditional publishing editor or literary agent on your team to vet it, how do you know? Also, there are so many new releases including novellas and boxed sets and so many from household name authors who’ve already established a following that even a reasonably priced, great book from a newer author can get lost in the crowd.

Oher issues: take time and money into account. Do you have time to write new content, make all of the decisions to indie publish and/or submit while keeping up with social media and promotion? If you don’t want to take time or don’t know how to do everything yourself, can you afford a great cover, editor(s), etc.? A couple of indie published friends say they work 80-90 hours a week.

What’s next for you?

Decisions. What are my next steps? Do I create a series by releasing manuscript #2 (which revolves around something that actually happened in 1455), then #3 and #4? And do so as fast as I’ve heard makes the best use of Amazon algorithms? Continue to do two versions because that’s now my thing? Or should I move on with a medieval paranormal I think has a great series hook?

Do I want to spend money on promotion and/or advertising? What’s the best use of my time and money going forward?

To find out what Ruth decides or to learn more about her work, visit her websites, www.ruthkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com.  You can also connect with her on these social media sites:

Twitter: @RuthKaufman or http://twitter.com/RuthKaufman

Facebook: Ruth Kaufman Author & Actress or https://www.facebook.com/ruthtalks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ruth_kaufman

Ruth is giving away one download of each version to commenters today.  So tell us what your favorite book or movie with a medieval setting is, and in your comment, let us know whether you’d rather have the historical or the inspirational version.

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Comments

83 Comments

  • Amy Conley says:

    He’s getting sniwed on tkday.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Ruth

    I have recently read two historical from this era NY Isolde Martyn and really enjoyrped them both there was so much going on 🙂

    I think I would like the historical version

    Congrats on the real ease you have pu in a lot of work 🙂

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Helen, I love Isolde’s books! I met her at RWA the year she won the RITA. We both ended up at the same party after the booksigning and had great fun huddled in a corner discussing Richard III. She’s such a nice person.

    • Ruth Kaufman says:

      Thanks, Helen! I also enjoy Isolde M.
      While I love writing in this time period, I’m adding a bit to my next book…and so keep reaching for my research books.

  • Amy Conley says:

    I love history, and medevil history is a favorite . I can’t remember the name of the book, but it was about RichardIII and a daughter which he kept hidden for several reasons, all to keep her safe. OMG I was in heaven. I agree, when you go back that far, it is easy to follow the history, but it also gives hou enough of an opening for your characters.

    • Amy, you know I’m interested in all things Richard III-related. I have a collection of fiction about him (no, I don’t define that as including any of the traditionalist histories, though a few of them might qualify), but I’m not familiar with that one. If you remember the title, please let me know.

      • Amy Conley says:

        Nancy, I remember there was a ring involved to prove she was Richard III’s daughter and there were two books if not a trilogy. If I can find the site which will look up books for me based on what I can remember, I should be able to find it. It hasn’t let me down yet.

  • flchen1 says:

    How fun, Ruth–happy congrats on your debut!

    Favorite book or movie with medieval setting? Hmm… I really enjoyed Monica McCarty’s medievals…

    And either version would be lovely!

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Ruth *squee* so happy to see you here! Everyone, Ruth is a fab writer! Congratulations on your release and what a cool idea to do two versions! Also cool that you are such a fan of that period as we all know what a huge RIII fan Nancy is 😉

    I’ve really enjoyed Terri Brisbin’s ‘Bride’ series and Marianne Mancusi’s funny time travels ‘A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court’ and ‘A Hoboken Hipster in Sherwood Forest’.

    • Anna, would you believe I did not put my name in the pot for a seat at one of the three services that will be held for RIII’s reinterment? I thought about it, but the logistics were daunting.

      I tend to like my history played straight, but those books sound interesting.

    • Ruth Kaufman says:

      Hi, Anna! Great to see you here, too! And thank you for the kind words.

      I served on RWA’s board of directors with Terri and enjoy her books.

      It’s interesting how the two versions is playing out…

  • Maureen says:

    Congratulations to Ruth on her new book(s). What an interesting idea. One of my favorite medieval story is By Arrangement by Madeline Hunter. I would pick the medieval version.

  • I have a sort of crazy day today but will stop in as often as I can. If all else fails, I’ll catch up around dinnertime.

  • Ruth Kaufman says:

    Amy, maybe someone at the Richard III society would know what book you’re talking about?

  • Ruth Kaufman says:

    Thank you, Fedora!
    Like Nancy, I prefer English settings. I’ll have to check MM out.

  • Ruth Kaufman says:

    Thank you, Fedora!

    Like Nancy, I prefer English settings. I’ll have to check MM out.

    How do you discover new authors when there are so many books available?

  • Hi Ruth! Welcome to the lair!

    I used to love medievals back in the day, but you just don’t see as many lately (or correction, “I” don’t see as many). This is a stretch, but my favorites were by Johanna Lindsey and another author whose name I can’t recall.

    Interesting about the two versions. You’ll have to let us know which version does best.

    • Ruth Kaufman says:

      Hi Donna!

      It’s true you don’t see many medievals. Is it a chicken and egg thing…because there aren’t many traditionally published medievals, sales are low? Or are sales low because medieval readers moved on because there weren’t many books to buy?

      (P.S. I remember judging your first book in a contest…it was great!)

    • Donna, I remember those Johanna Lindsay historicals! She wrote medievalist of all sorts, often pubbed with Fabiola covers.

  • Oberwon Wonch says:

    So glad to see another medieval romance published! Congratulations, Ruth!

    The medieval Highlander stories are great, but I miss the non-Scotland-set ones. I remember the days back around 2004 or so when all of a sudden the store shelves had no new medievals to buy. None. I couldn’t understand it. Fast forward a few years…There they are in e-book format!

    Since you asked: My favorite medieval of all time is Julie Garwood’s The Prize, followed closely by Rexanne Becnel’s The Knight of Rosecliff. I’ll bet your inspirational version is terrific, but my fingers would reach for the historical version first. 🙂

    • Ruth Kaufman says:

      Yay! Thank you, Oberwon. I agree with you. I’ve been asked more than once by an editor if I could move my books to Scotland, but they revolve around real English history…

      The Prize and Knight of Rosecliff are on my keeper shelf.

      No one has mentioned my favorite medieval yet…though it’s at the very beginning of my definition of medieval.

    • Oberwon, I also miss non-Scottish medievals. The kilted heroes are great, but so are the ones who live farther south!

  • gamistress66 says:

    quite enjoyed the excerpt. such an interesting idea to have the 2 versions & wish you success w/ both 🙂 I always enjoyed medieval romances — just something about a knight warrior on a powerful stead defeating the enemy with sword so he can return to his lady 🙂 that love started with Wolf and the Dove which still holds a special place in my bookloving heart. I’d be interested in the historical romance version.

  • Great excerpt, Ruth and wonderful interview, ladies! I love anything historical set in the UK. For three years of my childhood I lived in a villagein Suffolk with a Norman era church in it. We had many adventures playing knights in the grounds of that church.

    One of my favorite medieval’s is Claudia Dain’s The Marriage Bed. And I love Madeline Hunter’s medievals as well. Then of course there is Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove which is one of the first historical romances I ever read outside of those of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Dunnett.

    I’d love the historical version. It is cold here in LA (Lower Alabama.) I’m up for some heat!

  • Ruth Kaufman says:

    Regarding RIII books, I’m learning my way around Goodreads and came across this: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/richard-iii

  • Ruth, congratulations on the release of the two versions of AT HIS COMMAND! Been dying for you to get a book out – I feel like you’ve been holding your breath forever while the trad publishing market made its mind up about what it wanted to do. So glad you’ve taken your fate into your own hands. And what a fascinating idea to do the two versions. It will be interesting to see which proves the most popular. The story sounds great!

    Way back when I started writing, I was a medievalist at heart. In fact, I turned my nose up at anything past 1600. How times change! My first completed book was set in the 100 Years Ward which is also a fascinating period but really uncommercial in today’s world.

    I love lots of medieval books and movies, as you can imagine. I remember loving the Rosemary Hawley Jarman books when I was teens/twenties, especially Crown in Candlelight about Katherine de Valois and Owen Tudor. So romantic and so sad. In movies, let’s go for the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, so dashing, and Lady Hawke, so romantic!

    • Ruth Kaufman says:

      Hello Anna! Thank you for all of the kind words.

      I’m not sure the time period in these books, at the very end of the 100 Years War is commercial, either. That’s one benefit of indie publishing. You can try anything you want and see if it finds an audience. On the other hand, you don’t have an editor on your team who loves your writing enough to pay you for it!

      I didn’t know you were once a medievalist. Do you think your first book will ever see the light of day?

      I haven’t heard of Rosemary HJ; I’ll have to check her out.

      • Ruth, they were the first books I read featuring Richard III as a goodie. Just loved them in high school and uni. Not sure if she’s still writing.

        This book was set just after the treaty of Bretigny in 1360 (I think! Long time since I thought about it). It’s very much a bodice ripper – and I use that term deliberately – of the 70s. I’d just finished high school when I read it and I was very much under the Woodiwiss spell. Definitely never to see the light of day! But I remember that drunk on words pleasure of writing it.

    • Anna, I think Flynn was the quintessential Robin Hood. And I loved Ladyhawke. My favorite Rosemary Hawley Jarman, though, is We Speak No Treason (about RIII *g*).

      • Somehow I knew that, Nancy! 🙂 I loved The King’s Grey Mare about Elizabeth Woodville too. There’s a really beautiful and very sad secondary romance in that between Edward IV’s illegitimate daughter Grace and Richard III’s illegitimate son whose name escapes me. I haven’t read these books in about 30 years! Should drag them out again. I’ve still got them – they survived the great cull of 2014.

  • Stopping by to wave and wish you all success! As to my favorite medieval 0 Madeline Hunter’s Stealing Heaven is one of the best romances, not just medieval romances but of any time period. And I do have a soft spot in my heart for Laura Kinsale’s My Lady’s Heat.
    And Anna, some of us are still writing Hundred Year’s War settings!!

  • Shannon says:

    Congratulations!

    I was looking on my keeper shelf for a Roberta Gellis book, but I can’t find it. I did come across Here Be Dragons Sharon Kay Penman and A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley. I may have to re-read them to see if I like them since I think both were pretty hard on the heroines.

  • Deb says:

    Thank you for the interview and post today, Ruth and Nancy! Both books sound really good! Congratulations on such a super venture and idea! I think I might like to try the Inspirational version…first. 😉

    It has been a very long time since I have read a medieval romance! I have read some of Judith Ivory’s and Julie Garwood’s books. Betina Krahn wrote some good ones as well and I think her book THE MARRIAGE TEST is fun. HA, love her spoof on the heroine’s name, who is the cook, as Julia Childe! I still have it on my keeper shelf.

    I was so interested when I saw the blurb the other day in the Lair about your books. I look forward to adding them to my TBR pile. CONGRATS!!

    • Ruth Kaufman says:

      Thank you, Deb! The story is the same in both versions. ..one is inspirational and mild, the other isn’t.

      I have several Julie G medievals. I’m not at home to check, but Kingdom of Heaven is another of my favorites.

      • Deb says:

        What is wonderful about this idea…the same story, only different “heat” levels…is that you can market the story to different readers. I like the “gentle” stories, for the most part. Again, congrats on this unique venture!

    • Deb, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I known Ruth for a good while and am so happy to celebrate her debut. I can’t wait to read it.

  • Mozette says:

    Ooohh… this is tough one. I love all kinds of movies with medi-evil backdrops… but mine would have to be ‘Ever After’ the story of Cinderella. It’s lovely, bittersweet and the backdrop of France is just gorgeous!

    I also love the ‘Highlander’ movies… all filmed in Scotland… and you know, I went there and saw one of the castles they shot some of the film at… and it wasn’t Eilean Donan Castle either (even though that one was in the original movie); and yes, I have seen that one too. 😀