You have a debut novel. How are things going?
I have learned that excitement fortunately doesn’t kill you, and it is possible to run on caffeine and adrenaline. I’ve had an amazing first week. I’ve managed to maintain my position on Amazon’s top 100 in my category, and even made a Hot New Release. I’ve also discovered new things about myself, specifically how competitive I am. Traitor’s Knot has been battling The Last Kingdom’s Utred son of Utred for position on the charts. “If it’s reputation you want…” Can you not hear him say that? At one point, he and the heroine on my cover were cozying up too close for my hero’s comfort, and he had a few choice warnings for the Dane. I was not best pleased with my grumbling hero when Utred pulled ahead. I’ve locked him in a water closet for now.
Ed. — That’s amazing! Congrats. 😀
Tell us how you settled on 17th century England?
I’m not sure that I settled on the 17th century England as it settled on me. When I was mulling on what to write (the desire to write something came before what that something would be), I realized that all my favourite reads came from that era (i.e. The King’s General and The Three Musketeers). 17th century England is a time of social and political reform, civil war, advances in science and exploration! The Tudors have nothing on the Stuarts (IMO) except a cross ginger-haired serial husband. The Stuart men were far better looking, with their dark, wavy hair, larger than life personalities, and their tragic ends. One day, HBO or Netflix will wake up to them.
The monarch’s side is not usually favored in film and popular novels (unless it’s NETFLIX’S The Crown). Are you a monarchist generally, or specifically, as in the case of Charles?
That’s a good question. I wouldn’t consider myself a monarchist and yet I do find myself on the Royalist side. Here I am, waving an oak sprig. I can’t argue against what Parliament tried to accomplish in rising up against the crown. They had to deal with a stubborn king who believed in absolute monarchy which left no room for the will of Parliament. The moderates were trying to hammer home a constitutional monarchy, which happens to be the system that we have today in Commonwealth countries. Furthermore, one of the movements that caught fire at this time were the Levellers, who lobbied for the freedom of men. If the war was only about fair representation and democracy, I’d be sporting a rosemary twig in my hat (nod to the Levellers). Unfortunately, as with all revolutionary movements, the fanatical extremists fill the void and redefine the conflict. The result was that the fanatical Independents (Puritans) in the New Model Army, with Oliver Cromwell at their head, purged the moderate elements and forced the King’s trial and execution. Cromwell sets himself up as a de facto king with a weak Parliament and no more rights for the common people.
We’re hearing more and more about “blended genres.” Some might say that TRAITOR’S KNOT is a blend. Care to comment?
I do believe that Traitor’s Knot is a blending of the historical fiction genre with the romance genre in a way that the description ‘historical romance’ doesn’t entirely fit. The heart of the historical fiction genre is incorporating historical details to build a world that a reader can become immersed in. The history forms the spine of the story and propels the characters (historical or fictional) through the events. Historical romance is similar to historical fiction in that the best of the genre is well-researched and conveys a sense of place and time. But here, the romance drives the story, not the history. As a result, most historical romances are played out in the charm of a drawing room or a ballroom.
Traitor’s Knot puts the historical events front and centre with a central love story. Instead of allowing them to remain in the safety of a drawing room, I’ve thrown my lovers into the middle of a civil war. Their reputations are less at stake than their lives. They don’t spend the book wondering if they should or shouldn’t; James and Elizabeth instead fear that they will never see each other again. I would consider Traitor’s Knot a darker historical romance.
Strong female characters are ‘most wanted’ these days. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Vikings’ Lagertha, and House of Cards’often villainous Claire Underhill. How would you classify your character Elizabeth Seton? Do you favor her over her beloved James Hart?
I don’t have a favoured child, mostly. 🙂 I believe there is a strength to a woman that is not defined by her ability to run off and be badass. It comes through in the choices that she has to make and the steel in her spine when faced by those who want to take her down. In historical fiction you need to capture the sensibility of the age so it wouldn’t be credible to have sent my 17th century heroine off on a rampage. But she found other ways to show her strength, through her resistance against a hypocritical regime, protecting the weak, and defending those she loved. Not as badass as James racing along the highway, but both characters bring different strengths to the fight as well as compliment the other.
Interesting. But how would they do in a modern context? How would they cope in our time?
James would be a football captain (British for soccer), and he’d give David Beckham a run for his money. James is a natural leader and inspires his men to pull together and never give up, no matter how deeply behind they are. Besides, he’d look great with his stubbly beard and shoulder length hair while rocking a red and white jersey. But he’d be pretty oblivious over his effect on his groupies.
Without question, Elizabeth would be doctor. Probably an emergency physician. You can’t take the herbalist out of the girl no matter how many centuries pass. She always considered healing people to be her greatest calling, and she fought so hard for the right to practice her art. I can see her in a white lab coat and blue scrubs. Her dark hair would be tied back in a pony tail, and she’d be practically attached to her clipboard. Come to think of it, she’d probably be the attending physician when James is brought in over a pulled tendon.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the second book of the series, the Severed Knot. It touches on the fate of the Battle of Worcester prisoners, many who were shipped to the colonies as indentured servants. This story will focus on one of the characters from Traitor’s Knot who is captured and shipped down to Barbados. I’m not telling who though. I’m very excited about this as this is a part of history that hasn’t received very much attention.
Have I forgotten anything?
If you enjoy being immersed in the past and are looking for a love story combined with action/adventure, then you’ll Traitor’s Knot should be your next read. Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon. And don’t forget to leave a review!
Ed. — Thanks, Cryssa. Let’s take a closer look at TRAITOR’S KNOT.
England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.
Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.
Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.
The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.
Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.
Praise for Traitor’s Knot
“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story. Five stars.”
– Elizabeth St. John, bestselling author of The Lady of the Tower
“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.”
– Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife
“Cryssa Bazos is equally at home writing battle scenes as writing romance, and the pace keeps the reader turning the pages.”
– Deborah Swift, bestselling author of The Gilded Lily.
From nowhere, a racing black horse flashed past her window, the rider passing close to the carriage. Startled, Elizabeth craned her head, wondering at his reckless pace. Without warning, the coach veered off the road and pulled up, throwing her onto the floor. The others shrieked and braced themselves. They heard panicked shouts from the driver and the deep, jarring voice from another.
“Stand and deliver!”
Elizabeth heard the measured clopping of a single horse drawing close and the nervous shifting of their team. She crept to regain her seat. Mistress Pritchett shook with terror, and Elizabeth reached out her hand to reassure her.
“One inch more and your brains will lie in a pool at your feet.” They heard the click of a cocked pistol.
Elizabeth froze, fearful that he spoke to her. But with his next words, she knew that he still dealt with their driver.
“Toss your musket over the side.”
“You’ll have no trouble.” The driver’s voice cracked, and the carriage swayed and creaked as he scrambled down from the top seat.
Elizabeth followed the Pritchetts, nearly stumbling on her skirts. Her foot found the first step and froze. A pair of pistols trained upon her, unwavering and baleful. Slate-grey eyes burned with equal intensity above a black scarf. Although every instinct screamed retreat, Elizabeth descended the coach.
The highwayman rode a large black horse with a white blaze on its forehead. He commanded the powerful animal by his slightest touch, moving like one, rider and horse, fluid and instinctive. The highwayman wore all black from his heavy cloak to his mud-splattered boots.
“Richard Crawford-Bowes.” The highwayman’s voice cut through the stunned silence. “Step forward. I would fain make your acquaintance.”
Sir Richard did not twitch.
Provoked by the absence of a response, he pointed his pistol at Sir Richard’s stubborn head. “Mark this well—I never repeat myself.”
“I am he,” he said and stepped forward.
The highwayman circled Sir Richard with the imposing horse. “This is a unique pleasure, my lord. Are you beating the countryside looking for desperate souls to fill your court, or have you reached your quota?”
“Now listen here,” Sir Richard sputtered. “If you persist in this venture, I vow to bring you before the assizes and see you hang!”
The highwayman shrugged. “You deserve nothing more than to share the same fate as the honest men you rob in the name of your Commonwealth. Strange idea that— common wealth. As though the wealth stolen from the King would ever be given to the common man. Deliver your coin or die.”
Sir Richard’s brow darkened. From his pocket, he withdrew a handful of shillings.
A shot fired. Elizabeth jumped and smothered a scream, pressing her hand to her mouth. Shouts and shrieks erupted from the people around her. The highwayman lowered his smoking pistol. Sir Richard remained standing, a foot back from where he had been and pale as chalk.
“My patience is nearing an end,” the brigand said, levelling his other pistol. He tucked the spent one in his belt and replaced it with a primed carbine. “A few pieces of silver. I’m sure you have more than thirty.”
Colour returned to Sir Richard, and his thin mouth pressed into a resentful line. “You will regret this.” He drew a larger pouch from his cloak and took a step forward, but the rogue’s next words stopped him.
“Take one more step and it will be your last. I care little for the honour of judges and trust their intent even less. Hand the purse to someone else.” His flinty gaze passed over the huddled couple and singled out Elizabeth. “Come forward, mistress. You’re neither fainting nor quivering.”
Startled, she considered pleading to be left alone but smothered the impulse. She would not show fear to this villain. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth walked towards Sir Richard. A sheen of sweat beaded his forehead, and his Adam’s apple bobbed in this throat. She held out her hand and tried to keep it from trembling. Her nape prickled as if the pistol pressed against her skin. Sir Richard clutched the purse, glaring at her as though she was the villain.
“Your purse, my lord,” she whispered. “Please.”
Sir Richard hesitated for another moment before shoving it into her hands.
Greedy wretch. Elizabeth’s annoyance with Sir Richard gave her the courage to walk up to the brigand. With every step, her determination grew. She would be quite happy to hand over Sir Richard’s money.
The rogue motioned her to give him the pouch, and when she dropped it into his outstretched hand, she met his direct gaze. Elizabeth expected to see the cold eyes of a ruthless madman, but to her surprise, she did not. There was a hardness in those grey depths, but also a keen, calculating intelligence that heightened her curiosity. He stared back at her boldly, and she could not look away.
“My thanks.” His tone was an unmistakable dismissal.
Elizabeth stood puzzled. Old Nick’s small purse rested under her cloak, the sum of everything she owned. She would have been sick over parting with it but wondered why the highwayman had made no demands on her or the others.
“Was there anything more, mistress?”
She was about to shake her head and back away, but the muffled weeping behind her ended thoughts of retreat. Having reached the end of her endurance, Mistress Pritchett began to cry, soft at first and then with more violence. She would have collapsed to the ground had her husband not supported her. Elizabeth grew outraged for the hysterical woman. The audacity of the scoundrel, with all that he dared, awakened her. “Pray, what is your name, sir, so that we may know the coward who threatens us behind a scarf?”
The highwayman’s eyes narrowed. The silence unnerved Elizabeth. Beneath him, the great black shifted. “Who are you?”
“Elizabeth Seton, late of Weymouth.”
“So, Mistress Seton from Weymouth dares where others fear to tread.”
“Your words suggest you were once a King’s man,” she said, ignoring her better judgment.
“Aye, proudly so.”
“Your manner disclaims it. The Royalist soldiers I knew did not hide behind scarfs.” His expression darkened. “Times have changed,” he said in a rough voice. Instead of firing his pistol, he urged his horse closer. Its shadow cast over her. “Your people fought against these rebels?”
Elizabeth’s stomach gave a sick lurch as she realised her blunder. She prayed that Sir Richard didn’t mark the significance of her words. Being caught between a highwayman and a Roundhead justice, she should have had the wits to mind her tongue. Elizabeth’s eyes darted to Sir Richard—his entire attention seemed to be focused on the purse in the brigand’s hand.
The highwayman waited for her response, and when none came, it seemed to Elizabeth that he smiled behind his scarf. He leant forward as though they were the only two on the road. “’Tis a shame that we had not more with your bravery. We may have yet won the war.”
With a curt nod, he spurred his horse and disappeared down the road. Elizabeth released her breath in a rush, and her limbs dissolved into unset jelly.
About the Author
Cryssa Bazos is an award winning historical fiction writer and 17th century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, is published by Endeavour Press and placed 3rd in 2016 Romance for the Ages (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance). For more stories, visit her blog cryssabazos.com.
Traitor’s Knot is available through Amazon. http://mybook.to/TraitorsKnot