Saturday, March 16, 2019

Interview with Patricia Boomsma, Author of The Way of Glory

Patricia Boomsma grew up in a far southwestern suburb of Chicago, moving to Arizona to escape the brutal midwestern winters. She was a lawyer in Arizona for over thirty years, including six years as the Flagstaff City Attorney. Before going to law school, she studied medieval literature at Purdue University, and her first novel, The Way of Glory, is, in part, a reflection of her love for all things medieval. She recently earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her publications include poems in Haiku Journal and Indolent Press, a book review in New Orleans Review, an article in the Journal of Modern Literature, and short stories in The Vignette Review, Persimmon Tree, and Scarlet Leaf Review.


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Palos Heights, a southwestern suburb of Chicago. It’s pretty built up now, but when my parents moved us there it was still a lot of farmland surrounded by forest preserve.

When did you begin writing?

I wrote my first “book” when I was nine. Pretty much all I remember about it is that it had shepherds and because I wrote it at the time Alan Shepard went into space I misspelled “shepherd” as “shepard” throughout. Luckily my grandma caught it. After that, I wrote the occasional poem or story, and did a lot of writing in my various jobs, but began writing my novel at age 59, after I retired from full-time work.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

Mostly during the day, and usually in long spurts. I find life distracting and so don’t write every day, but once I start, I write for many hours at a time.

What is this book about?

Set in the 12th century, The Way of Glory follows Cate, a teenage girl from Bristol, England, her two brothers Sperleng and Willard, and her aunt Mary on an armed pilgrimage to save Jerusalem. On their way, the crusader fleet joins the Portuguese and Spanish Christians trying to expel the Moors ruling Hispania.

Cate’s life changes when she finds the body of a young boy, Oxa, along the banks of the Frome River. At Oxa’s funeral, the local priest encourages the mourners to punish the local Jews presumed to be Oxa’s murderers and join those who were soon leaving to fight the Saracens. Cate assumes all pilgrims have religious motivations, only to discover that most are men looking for adventure, wealth, and a free pass to heaven. Life on a battlefield strains the family’s closeness as they face the terror and contradictions of holy war. Cate and her Aunt Mary cauterize wounds and confront decisions of who should be saved, while Willard becomes increasingly zealous and hateful toward the women in the camp and Sperleng, a soldier, becomes more entrenched in his military code.

After the siege of Lisbon, the fleet is asked to continue fighting in Hispania. Willard and much of the fleet head toward Jerusalem, while Sperleng stays, seeing the land the Count of Barcelona has promised as a way to improve his tradesman status. Cate’s dreams of sainthood change to those of a husband and children as she falls in love with Egric, one of her brother’s archers. The battles continue even after Sperleng receives land, and Cate must find her place in a strange culture. Cate’s friendship with a conquered Moor forces impossible choices between family, betrayal, and the threat of losing of all she’s known.

What inspired you to write it?

After I retired, I took a trip to Spain and was amazed at the Moorish architecture and culture, so different from Northern Europe. I’d studied medieval English literature and history in graduate school, and couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like for someone from medieval England to come across medieval Spanish culture – if I was amazed, how much stranger it would be for them? So, I started researching whether that ever happened, and came across articles talking about Anglo-Normans settling in Spain after the Second Crusade. I used that as the historical context for a story about ordinary people confronting the mixed motivations of religious warfare and living among people from a very different culture.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

I spent two years trying to find an agent or an independent publisher before deciding to self-publish my novel.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

The ebook is available from Amazon, but you can order a paperback from any bookseller, including online at IndieBound, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

What is up next for you?

I’m editing my second novel now. It’s a very different novel, set in the present and focusing on the strained relationship between a mother and daughter after the daughter goes to college and joins what her mother fears is a cult.

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