Interview with Jane Shoup, author of Knightfall
05 Nov 2018
What can you tell us about your new release, Knightfall?
It’s a Gothic mystery/thriller/romance that takes place in 1811 after eighteen year old Leah Middleton has suffered the tragic loss of her parents and siblings in a cholera epidemic and, consequently, is accepted into residence with her mother’s family. The Knights of Red Ridge Hall are strangers to Leah, the result of their having disowned her mother after she ran away to marry a man beneath her station. To say Leah’s transition will be difficult is an understatement. The Knights are noble, while she was raised with loving, common parents who believed nobility is a condition of the heart, not of birth. She was raised in a home above her father’s book shoppe, and Red Ridge Hall is an enormous, rambling castle. Leah is well-read, witty and intelligent, but she knows nothing of servants or correct protocol. The question is, how can she adapt and become who she must be and yet still stay true to her ideals which were instilled by a loving upbringing? To compound the strangeness of her situation, Leah begins to discover that Red Ridge Hall is truly haunted.
On the first night of her arrival at the Hall, she meets and is drawn to the handsome, enigmatic Doctor Grayson Slade, the assistant to her great uncle, Theodore Knight. She is promptly informed Grayson is beneath her station and can never be considered appropriate for her hand. For her sake and for his, she is warned to keep a long, cool distance.
Theodore Knight founded the renowned, benevolent Knight Society which takes in invalid children. For the most part, it’s the unwanted invalid children of the wealthy that are taken in by the Knight Society, but sometimes penniless orphans of London are also rescued. Grayson was one of them, the only one to be tutored and molded into a gifted physician. Theodore has become more about glory than work, so Grayson is responsible for a majority of care. He has a nearly impossible work load and he a personal issue that complicates matters. He is captivated by Leah, as she is with him, but the Knight’s consider him little better than a servant. Still, Leah is different. She’s like a beacon of light in what has become a dark world.
For both Leah and Grayson, dark mysteries have to be unraveled and truths have to be faced because lives are at stake. Knightfall is a fast, compelling read that draws you in and transports you to another place and time.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
It’s not who, it’s what. I was gifted with an imagination (thank you, Universe!) that allows me to be in the stories I create. I’m there with every word and every page, seeing what my characters see, smelling what they smell, hearing and feeling what they do. I thrive on world building and creating characters so real, you feel like you know them. I want every story to have impact. I believe reading quality fiction makes us more insightful and compassionate, because we’re getting outside our own skin for a moment and experiencing life through another.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
I can’t list of any of mine, right? (JK) I was awed and deeply moved by Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier) and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightengale. So beautifully written! I’m a fan of Anne Perry’s William Monk series and I’ve read classics like Jane Eyre and Little Women many, many times. (No matter how much I counsel Jane, she never stays with Mr. R. when she should. So frustrating.) I also love the classic Darkwater by Dorothy Eden. It was an influence in creating Knightfall. It was atmospheric, mysterious and passionate.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
Writing is the only thing I can do for six and eight hours at a time and be totally lost in it. I actually resent when I have get up and hit the bathroom or eat. The most fun part of writing is when a story is well underway and the flow has begun. Creating the bones is the toughest part and rereading and reworking for the kazillionth time when you practically have it memorized in order to tighten and perfect it not fun. But it’s all part of it.
What is a typical day like for you?
I left a way too full time career behind two years ago to concentrate on my writing. I’m very lucky that my husband, Scott, is supportive of my dream. I typically begin writing by nine in the morning and I wrap it up about cocktail hour. (Wow, I never thought about it as a nine-to-five, but it kind of is. Only without the steady paycheck.) I keep my young granddaughters on Friday afternoons to Saturday afternoons, so that takes precedence. (They are four and half, two and half and 4 months old, so it’s a constant eyes-on thing.) I usually write some very day, even if it’s for an hour or two.
What scene in Knightfall was your favorite to write?
That’s tough. It would be easier to tell you scenes I didn’t love to write (usually because something bad is happening.) Leah’s Uncle Abraham is dry and witty and he has some great repartee with Grayson and with Leah which was fun to write and to read. I love the scenes with Grayson and Leah. Their shy beginnings and the building of their relationship, which has to be done mostly in secret. Sometimes what isn’t be said speaks more loudly than what is being said. There is one scene that takes place at Deer Pointe Manor before Leah is being taken back to London to make her debut. Abraham initiates it, Grayson gives Leah a tour, and a lot is shared. Toward the end, Leah alludes to a ghost she’s encountered, which alarms Grayson who swears her to secrecy. A mystery is definitely afoot and a bond between Grayson and Leah is cemented. It’s passionate and powerful. I could go on and on, because a lot happens in the book.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
My favorite quote is usually attributed to Churchill, although it’s sometimes attributed to Abraham Lincoln. ‘Success is the ability to move from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.’ No one ever plans for failure, but our efforts sometimes feel that way in the end, especially for an artist or author who hopes for acceptance and enthusiasm. It’s difficult to get discovered in a sea of material and competition. I’ve had a book released, thought it was wonderful, maybe even the break-through, only then it felt as if it had been swallowed by a black hole. But I love writing and creating stories, so I will keep on keeping on.
My philosophy is that we are all here to experience and grow and learn and share. I believe in the continuation of the soul. In the past year, I’ve revamped my definition of success. I still desire commercial success, but putting quality work out there for whomever it touches is greatly worthwhile and satisfactory. I also raised three incredible daughters. When I look at my family, which is a lot since we all live close and do a lot together, I know I’ve been a success. Not to mention highly blessed!
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