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The Castilian Pomegranate

Novelist Anna Belfrage brings medieval Spain to captivating life

Swedish novelist Anna Belfrage gracefully blends history and romance to create page-turning stories of love, adventure, political intrigue, and treachery. I first read His Castilian Hawk, Book 1 in the Castilian Saga series, and thought Anna did a masterful job of creating an immersive setting and an emotionally satisfying story, grounded in painstaking research. With The Castilian Pomegranate (Book 2), Anna takes us on a deep dive into medieval Spain—a time and place I find fascinating—and spins a thrilling tale of romance, history, and adventure.

Read on to learn more about Anna’s research and writing life.

Welcome to the blog, Anna!

AM: What’s the tagline or super-short blurb description (“elevator pitch”) for your book?

AB: Robert FitzStephan and his wife Noor have been temporarily exiled to Spain by an angry Queen Eleanor. If they want to return home, they must not only abandon their beloved foster son in foreign lands, they must also steal a jewel Queen Eleanor wants. An impossible—and very dangerous—mission.

AM: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

AB: Well, there I was writing His Castilian Hawk when the conflict between Noor and her great-aunt Queen Eleanor escalated to such heights I realized things were about to explode. And they did explode, leaving me with a very messy situation: Queen Eleanor suspects that Robert and Noor are fostering the son of a Welsh traitor—and not any traitor, but Prince Dafydd himself. Noor has just accused Queen Eleanor of stealing her Castilian inheritance (which she has. Sort of) One of Queen Eleanor’s most trusted ladies hammers out a compromise: leave the country for a while as Queen Eleanor’s emissaries. Where to go? Well, that was sort of obvious as Eleanor was born in Castile, which is why Robert and Noor are sent off to distant lands. I must admit I did a very, very happy dance at the thought of setting a book in medieval Spain.

AM: What inspired you to write about that particular era or character?

AB: I have since years back nurtured a passion for medieval Spain and the impressive ladies who ruled the various kingdoms there. While England wouldn’t see an actual ruling queen until Mary I, in Castile there’d been ladies in charge since way back: Urraca in the 11th century, Berenguela in the 12th/13th and in the late 13th century we have Maria de Molina [image below]. This latter lady is one of the more impressive medieval ladies around, IMO, and I loved an opportunity to introduce her to a wider audience.

AM: How did you create a realistic setting for your story?

AB: Other than reading up on the political context—in itself a fascinating challenge as the late 13th century in present-day Spain had everything from Marinid raiders to disgruntled Moors, to avaricious nobles, to traitorous royal brothers, to French crusaders—I’ve spent hours browsing through websites of various castles and museums to get a  feel for what they may have looked like back then. I was particularly challenged when it came to the royal palace in Barcelona as most of the ancient structures were replaced by the Palau Reail built in the 14th century. But that’s when you have to use your imagination plus a clear sense of location to reconstruct a castle that had likely stood there since Roman times in one form or other.

AM: What surprised you in the course of your research?

AB: I knew Spain had a lot of mountains. I did not understand just how mountainous it was until I started tracing the ancient roads that crisscross the country. In fact, Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe after Switzerland, and as Spain is much, much bigger than Switzerland, it follows they have much, much more rugged terrain.

AM: Do your research findings guide the plot, or do you plan out the plot first and flesh it out with research? (Or perhaps both?)

AB: As my central characters are invented peeps, the story trumps the facts. For me, the facts and the actual historical events are the skeleton on which I build my narrative, and depending on how well said facts match my plot line I include them – or I don’t. In The Castilian Pomegranate, I needed a serious conflict and was fortunate enough to have one right under my nose, namely the ill-fated attempt by the French to conquer Aragon that goes under the name of the Aragonese Crusade. Then, of course, I made sure I had as good a grasp as possible over the events in this so called crusade prior to including parts of it in my narrative. When it comes to the real people who share the central stage with my protagonists I make sure to stick to what is known about them. Luckily, when it comes to people who lived so long ago, we may know birth, death, some central events, but we know very little else, giving me plenty of gaps to work with.

AM: What do you have planned for your next writing project?

AB: Well, Robert and Noor’s story is still not complete. They have an irate and disappointed queen to manage upon their return to England and then there’s the tension in Wales and the rather unfortunate appearance of a much younger sibling to Robert’s former mistress, Edith. I had thought the Castilian Saga would be a trilogy, but I have come to realise it will probably require four books—seems to me whenever I set out to write a book it becomes many books 😊

AM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

AB: I walk a lot—which is when Ms Inspiration really goes wild and crazy, bombarding me with new ideas. I work out regularly and spend a lot of time sipping tea and reading—I average three books a week, or so. I enjoy spending time with friends and family but especially with hubby. No one makes me laugh as much as he does. No one makes me feel as safe and loved as he does. No one gets me like he does, even if he finds me very amusing when I rile at my characters, reminding me I’m the writer, so I’m the one in control. Huh: shows how much he knows about writing, doesn’t it?

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  1. The Coffee Pot Book Club says:

    Thank you so much for hosting today’s tour stop.

    Mary Anne
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      My pleasure!

  2. Julie Cassin says:

    Ooooh, now I want to read her books!

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      I think you’ll enjoy them!

  3. Anna Belfrage says:

    Thank you for hosting me, Amy!

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      It was great having you, Anna!

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