An Interview with Phyllis Haislip

The RICHMOND MAGAZINE interviewed me because I was a finalist in the Best Unpublished Novel Contest sponsored by the magazine and the James River Writers.

RM: Is this your first novel?

PH: This is my first adult novel. I have six published historical novels for middle grade readers age 8 to 12. My first children’s novel, LOTTIE’S COURAGE, won the Beacon of Freedom Award, a child-chosen award. My kids’ novels are all set locally and based on things that actually happened.

RM: How long have you been working on this novel?

PH: This novel is the first volume in a trilogy. I’ve been working on the novels for five years. I visited the key places in France: Toulouse and Narbonne, where the story takes place. I walked on the bridge my heroine built, the monastery she supported, and her husband’s castle. I even visited Tortosa in Spain, the city my heroine besieged as part of the Christian Reconquista.

RM: What inspired you to write it?

PH: I am an historian. My first published historical essay was on my heroine, Ermengarde of Narbonne. I was drawn to her story because she defied the stereotypes about women in the medieval world. She was a political and cultural leader who waged war against her husband in order to rule her inheritance herself.

RM: How long have you been a writer?

PH: Does the fish story I wrote in the third grade count? I have been writing since then. However, I didn’t begin to write full time until I retired from college teaching.

RM: What is your writing process – how/when/where do you write?

PH: Except when I am traveling, I write five days a week. I make an appointment to meet two other writers at a Williamsburg coffee shop and we write from 9 until 12. We say hello and then turn on our laptops. Their energy and silence make the time very productive.

RM: What do you do when you are not writing novels?

PH: I am a great walker averaging about three miles a day in Williamsburg. My husband and I have walked six times, carrying everything in backpacks along 1200-year-old trails in France, Spain, and Portugal on the medieval pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago.

RT: Who are your favorite writers?

PH: My two writing partners Laurin Wittig and Kathy Huffman….of course. And my son Alexander Hall Haislip is also a fine writer. Edith Wharton is a  favorite among the classics. Ken Folett has good historical yarns. I like Collum McCann, Margaret Atwood, and Carlos Ruiz Zafron among contemporary writers. The list could go on and on. I continue to be inspired by good writing.


About medievalphyllis

I love history and I love writing. I've been working on an historical novel about a medieval viscountess, Ermengarde of Narbonne since 2009. It has been quite a journey and the journey isn't over. Previously I written 6 historical novels for kids, but this is a new challenge.
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