Author Talk: Sharon Kay Penman Gave Me A Cupcake!

The Book

Purchase A King's Ransom on AmazonA King’s Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: A King’s Ransom is the continuation of Penman’s novel Lionheart. The first book ends as Richard the Lionheart, King of England attempts to return home from battle in the Holy Land, but is captured along the way. His mother, Queen Eleanor, then raises the funds to pay her son’s ransom. The second book picks up upon Richard’s release and follows through to his death.

Locations in novel: England/France/Israel

Location of Book Talk: Seattle

Purchase on Amazon (*affiliate link)


The Experience

Dream come true: Meeting my favorite and most influential author, Sharon Kay Penman!
Dream come true: Meeting my favorite and most influential author, Sharon Kay Penman!

I have been a fan of Sharon Kay Penman’s novels since before there was Facebook, and before every author had a blog. If you’d have told me then that thanks to social media I would one day not only meet the author that inspired me to choose history as a college major, but that she would hand me a cupcake for coming to her book reading, I would not have believed you. But it happened!

When I left for college I had picked up and started the first book in Ms. Penman’s series about England’s Plantagenet Dynasty. (The most famous of which were King Richard the Lionheart and King John. You probably recognize them from the story of Robin Hood?) I was so enthralled by the story that I continued through the rest of the series. The character, or more accurately, historical figure, that intrigued me the most, however, is Richard and John’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. This woman was queen of both France and then England. As Penman describes her, this woman that lived during a time when men held all the power often influenced the decisions of state made by the men in her life. For example, each of her husbands in turn fought battles to regain the lands of Aquitaine, which she felt belonged to her by right. And during her 16 year house arrest instituted by her second husband, Henry II, while he found a mistress, and stubbornly refused to share power by granting lands to his sons, is it any wonder she was able to greatly influence the actions of her sons? Eleanor inspired her sons to revolt against their father. Again, her influence scarred the country side. I was absorbed by the idea that bedroom talk between a man and a woman could lay waste to a countryside. As I waded through options to major in, I found myself drawn to the discipline of History so that I could further explore the idea of the passions of men and women having further reaching implications.

I thought one day I might send a babbling fan letter to Ms. Penman explaining how much she has influenced my path in life, how she sparked my interest in history, and how fascinating I find her characters. But I never sent it. I was too shy.
Majoring in history meant reading more books per night than is humanly possible, and between the reading and paper writing I hardly had any free time. Then graduation meant I didn’t have to pick up another book if I didn’t want to! So it took me years to work through Ms. Penman’s series. It was in that time that Facebook showed up, became popular, then blogs… By the time I was on the search for more of Ms. Penman’s books, she had a website, and a blog, and a Facebook Fan Club Page. I visited her website to find out which book came next and happened upon her blog. She was running a giveaway for a signed book and all I had to do was leave a comment. So I did! I thanked her for her writing and told her how much it influenced me! And then the MOST AMAZING THING happened. SHE RESPONDED! I couldn’t believe it. I told everyone I knew, after picking myself up off the floor.

I almost have a complete set of Sharon’s books

When I found Ms. Penman’s blog post describing the trip she had led to Europe, through Academic Travel Abroad, exploring sites related to Eleanor, I decided I would one day take that tour and meet my favorite author. I talked of nothing else while I read her newest books. My poor, suffering, boyfriend endured it like a champ. Though wasn’t quite ready to throw in the money to join me.

And then, much to my amazement, I discovered that Ms. Penman would be doing a book tour for her latest book and would be stopping in Seattle! I could fly to Seattle for a weekend! It’s only a two hour flight. I was ACTUALLY going to meet Sharon Kay Penman. My indulgent boyfriend agreed to accompany me, since Seattle is quite a bit closer than Europe. Having joined the Sharon Kay Penman Fan Club Page on Facebook, I posted that I was coming from Alaska to hear the book talk and I couldn’t be more excited!

Sharon Kay Penman reading her latest novel
Sharon Kay Penman reading her latest novel

I made sure we showed up early at the bookstore. I did NOT want to be late for this. We were the first ones there. My boyfriend asked if I’d like to sit in the front row. Nope. I didn’t want to be THAT fan. I subtly sat in row 3 hoping not to look embarrassingly eager. Eventually the seats filled, Ms. Penman arrived, and I grinned goofily from ear to ear. I was so happy to be there. Ms. Penman announced that before she started her reading she had one order of business. There were two people she had noticed posts from on the Facebook Fan Club page that were coming from so far away to hear her talk that she felt obliged to humbly thank them in some way. One from Victoria, Canada and one from Alaska. She couldn’t mean me! And then I heard my name! She asked us to come up and accept her thanks by way of a cupcake! I froze in my seat, my face flushed red. Was this happening? Pinch me! My boyfriend had to push me forward. Not only did I get to meet my favorite author, get my book signed, but she gave me a cupcake! She really is the best author ever. I hope someday I’m able to make somebody’s day like she made mine that day!

I still hope to take her tour of Eleanor sites next time it’s offered. Until then I shall be re-reading her books from the beginning. Again.

Ms. Penman,
If you read this, which I’m almost certain you will, please accept this as the letter I never sent. I’m so glad I got to meet you! And I hope to travel with you someday!

Reader,
if you’d like a book suggestion, I recommend starting with When Christ and His Saints Slept. It also happens to be my favorite. I’ve read it over and over. I hope you love it as much as I do.

P.S. The cupcake was almost too pretty to eat, but I later split it with my boyfriend back at the hotel. It will forever be the best cupcake ever.

Let’s Talk!

Have you ever met your favorite author? Have you read any of Sharon Kay Penman’s novels? Are you a historical fiction fan? Let’s discuss in the comments below! I’d also love suggestions for other medieval historical fiction books!

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  • Hi! Popping in from the Sharon Kay Penman fan club on Facebook. 🙂

    FABULOUS story! Sharon really is one of a kind! I only discovered her books 2 1/2 years ago. I started reading Lionheart in June 2013 after a friend had recommended Sharon’s books to me several times… When I saw she had one just coming out on Coeur de Lion (son of my absolute most favorite historical figure EVER – since I was 12 or so – Aliénor d’Aquitaine), I figured that would be a good place to start. So I downloaded it on my Kindle… and spent the next 6 months or so reading nothing but Sharon’s books! :p Starting with When Christ and his Saints slept, all the way to the Justin de Quincy novels. I finished what I thought was the last one while watching over my mom in hospital, and I mentioned on the FB fan page that I was really looking forward to her next books: Ransom and a new Justin de Quincy novel in Spring 2014. Then Sharon surprised me by answer that the Justin novel I was mentioning was already published, just not in the UK, so not available for me to get in Europe! And the most amazing thing happened, she asked me to send her an e-mail with my postal address… and a few days before Christmas a dedicated copy of Prince of Darkness arrived in my mailbox!!! It brought tears to my eyes, and a huge smile on my mom’s face when I told her about it that evening in the hospital.

    I’m rather envious of those of you who live on the other side of the pond and have gotten to meet Sharon, wonderful experiences for sure! I’ve only had the chance to meet an author whose books I admire once (well technically twice, it was the same author): Matilde Asensi. The first time was just a book signing, I waiting in line for an hour for her to sign her latest book (second in a new trilogy which I had somehow missed and which I had just happened upon a few days before and saw the notice that she would be in town for a book signing). I had devoured the first 2 books in a couple of days and all I could think of asking was “when’s the third one coming out?” Poor woman! The second time it was actually a reading and discussion and Q&A about the third book in the trilogy, followed by the signing. I got to ask several questions and had more of a conversation that time, good fun! I’ve been meeting to write about that on my blog… It was a few years ago but eventually I’ll get around it. :p

    If you’d like to read my take on Sharon’s books, please stop by my blog for a visit!!!
    http://crazycrishereandthere.blogspot.com.es/2014/05/300-years-of-plantagenet-england-with.html

    I’ll be bookmarking your blog and stopping by for a visit now and again. I love reading about travels and books! Visiting places from a story sounds like a great idea!!! It’s one of the topics I mean to blog about on my travel blog – that and film/TV locations – but at the moment I’m so busy traveling for work I don’t have time/energy to organize trips to anywhere else or much time to write about it all! (I eventually split my blog into 3 so I could have one “general”, one dedicated to travel http://criscrossing.blogspot.com.es and another dealing with my fascination/obsession with King Arthur and Robin Hood http://artoriusrex.blogspot.com.es :p )

    Cheers!

    • That’s a great story! I always wished a signed copy of Saints would show up in the mail! I still haven’t read the last Justin novel so I would’t complain if that showed up in the mail!
      Please do visit the blog from time to time! I joined a Facebook group called Part Time Travel Bloggers for those of us that have full time jobs but also enjoy travel blogging. Now I don’t feel quite so bad about not being able to travel and write as much as I’d like!

  • I discovered Sharon’s books in 2007 quite by accident while browsing on Amazon for a “dragon” themed book? Eight years later I’ve been to Wales 10? times, have done the two Academic Travel trips with Sharon in 2011 and 2013. To say I’m a groupie is a huge understatement! I had tried to get to a book signing for 4 years with no luck, so to be able to meet her in person and call her my friend is always surreal. She quite literally changed my life. My late husband would always say that Here Be Dragons was the moat expensive book I ever bought, and living in Alaska was quite a challenge for you! ☺ Congrats!

  • What great story! I too gushed over my love of Sharon and her books and got to MEET her. It was one of the most fantastic days of my life. Gotta love Facebook JUST for that! I was excited, I wrote a blog post about it as well. Sharon is such an inspiration. I’m so excited you got to meet her.