Susan Coventry Interview

Dec 3, 2010
Today Susan Coventry, author of The Queen's Daughter, has stopped by to answer some holiday themed questions. If you haven't heard of Susan or her book, you have to check it out! It's a wonderful historical fiction novel based on real people.

Here's the summary of her book:

Joan’s mother is Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her father is Henry II, the king of England and a renowned military leader. She loves them both—so what is she to do when she’s forced to choose between them? As her parents’ arguments grow ever more vicious, Joan begins to feel like a political pawn.
When her parents marry her off to the king of Sicily, Joan finds herself stuck with a man ten years her senior. She doesn’t love her husband, and she can’t quite forget her childhood crush, the handsome Lord Raymond.
As Joan grows up, she begins to understand that her parents’ worldview is warped by their political ambitions, and hers, in turn, has been warped by theirs. Is it too late to figure out whom to trust? And, more importantly, whom to love?
So click read more to read the interview and check out how to enter the giveaway!

You write about King Henry II's time, do you know if they celebrated Christmas?
First, my disclaimer: I'm not a medieval social historian. So I welcome correction from anyone with more accurate information. But as far as I've learned during the course of my research, yes, they did celebrate Christmas. It's just that their ideas of "celebrate" are different from ours. This was quite early in the middle ages, before a lot of the traditions that we have now--some of which had roots in the middle ages but didn't really get established until later--began to solidify. So...the king held a Christmas Court. This was a time for him to gather his people around him, often for political purposes as much as for celebration. There would be a lot of church attending and a lot of feasting. The court would last until Epiphany. Important events like coronations and marriages (or announcements of these things to come) could take place at Christmastime. (Duchess Eleanor was crowned Queen of France at a Christmas Court.) I'm not sure when the custom of gift-giving began. I believe gift exchanges started on Epiphany rather than Christmas. But even so, it was not the commercial frenzy we know today!
Finally, although it's fiction too, if you like this time period and haven't seen "The Lion in Winter" it's set during King Henry's Christmas Court. It'll give you a great taste of Henry and Eleanor.

If you could write yourself into a Holiday story which one would you choose?
This is a tough question. It's been awhile since I've read something that would qualify as a holiday story. But a book that I received as a Christmas gift when I was a kid and loved, then reread with my daughter and gave to her, did have several chapters that built up to Christmas. The book was Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney. It's one of those children's classics that deals with very sweet, resourceful children growing up in an impoverished household. It's an old-fashioned book but there was something about those kids and the way they cared for each other that got to me. They tried their hardest to help out their beloved's just heart warming. When the older kids decide to ensure a merry Christmas for the younger ones, I rooted for them so hard. And still do. Naturally, things work out rather all-too-perfectly, in a way that now seems to me be rather simplistic, but that delighted me as a child reader. If I could write myself into a Christmas story, I'd love to jump into one of these books about old-fashioned simpler times and be a generous benefactor who has the power to create a happily-ever-after for all.

What holidays do you celebrate?
We do the marathon--Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-NewYear's Eve.
Of course, Christmas is central, but each of the days has its own traditions and special memories.

In my house we always bake cookies, do you bake anything every year or have any traditions?
We bake cookies and take some to our neighbors each year. We live in a lovely neighborhood but, to my chagrin, we don't put forth the effort to interact with our neighbors as much as we should. Life is too hectic. We're always running somewhere. This is one time when we make the effort to slow down and visit for awhile.
We also bake cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. It's torture but we make the kids take a break in the middle of opening presents to eat breakfast. It's a nice way to calm things down.

What is the best memory you have of the holidays?
My best memory is the Christmas Eve candlelight service growing up in Middletown NJ. My father was the minister of the church there. Every year my family would walk down the hill to the church. We must have had some years of rain, but I remember it as always being crisp and cold with bright stars in the sky. The service centered my heart on what Christmas really means. And after church, we'd return to the parsonage. One of the women baked us a big chocolate chip cake with chocolate frosting every year and would leave it on our dining room table while we were at church. (Imagine that. The house was empty. The tree was up. Presents were under it. And the house was unlocked!) When we were teenagers we'd invite friends back from church to eat cake with us. It became a family + friends tradition.
My family still goes to the Candlelight Service at our new church home. It's still central to my Christmas. But there's no cake :(

Here are some "quick" questions:

What about the best gift you ever received?
This answer may be cheating, but my daughter was born on Dec. 28th. I never had a better Christmas than anticipating her birth, or a more joyous present than seeing her healthy and perfect.

What is your favorite thing to eat during the holidays?
I love mashed potatoes WITH GRAVY. Real gravy is one of the things I've pretty much given up in my quest to live a healthier lifestyle. But during the holidays, I can be tempted to splash gravy over my turkey and potatoes.

What is your favorite Christmas story (doesn't have to be a classic)?
The Grinch. I love to sing along. And at the end, when the circle of Whos opens up with a few of those cute little guys swinging out like a door on a cracks me up every time.

Do you like to watch the New Year's Eve ball drop?
Who doesn't?
Although we don't watch all the T.V. hoopla surrounding it. Our ritual is to watch Casablanca on New Year's Eve until just before midnight and then watch the ball.

What about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
I'm not really much of a TV watcher at all and I don't think I could sit still to watch a parade on TV. Now if I could be in NY for it, that would be a whole different story...


  1. Thanks so much for the giveaway! I've been wanting to read this book for months now! Love Susan's Holiday movie traditions :)


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