Every Ricardian (those of us interested—and usually fascinated—with Richard III) has a story about how they ‘discovered’ Richard. I “found” him in a book on the wrong shelf of the Cambridge Library, up in the stacks. I joined the Richard III Society, and the rest is “history”! This was 1992. Several years later, several dedicated Ricardians formed a New England Chapter of the Society, where I met Joan. We became fast friends, as kindred souls; not only did we write novels featuring Richard, but we wrote time travels in which Richard comes to modern times—even before we met.
Meet Joan, read about her time travel trilogy, and what’s on the drawing board.
Tell us a little about yourself.
After retiring from a career in Computer Science and Data Communications, I accidentally reinvented myself as a writer because I read a book—THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR by Sharon Kay Penman. I found Richard III’s story so compelling that I did a deep dive into his history. I just published my third and final book, STRANGE TIMES, about Richard III in the 21st century.
While learning about the real Richard III, I found the Richard III Society and joined the American Branch. About six years after joining the society, I became the editor of the semi-annual magazine, RICARDIAN REGISTER, and the semi-annual newsletter, RICARDIAN CHRONICLE.
I like to read a variety of genres and styles. In no particular order, an incomplete list of my reading ranges from science fiction, science, humor, historical fiction, and biography.
Your trilogy is about Richard III in the 21st Century. Why did you bring him forward in time?
Once I discovered the real man was not Shakespeare’s arch-villain I loved to hate, I began to wonder about him as a person and imagined sitting across from him at dinner. What would he tell me about his nephews—the infamous princes in the Tower, his family, and his friends and enemies.
One of the facts deeply affecting me about Richard III was his age—thirty-two—when he was killed in his final battle. I felt his story wasn’t finished and I wanted to examine his character in a modern light, without forcing our modern sensibilities onto his fifteenth-century actions. To do this, I had to let him speak for himself.
What were your conclusions about his nephews?
Despite the rumors the princes had met an evil end and Tudor’s willingness to parlay these rumors to his advantage, extant documentation and contemporary reports show only that the boys disappeared. Setting aside the lack of documentation, I also took into consideration the behaviors of both Richard III and Henry VII. Then, it was standard operating procedure to display bodies to “prove” that their reigns were without credible challenge. Despite the way Henry had Richard’s body mistreated immediately after the battle, he nevertheless had it put on display to show that he was now the undisputed king. I have to think that if Henry had killed the princes or knew where their bodies were, he would have displayed them and blamed Richard for their deaths. If Richard had had them killed, he could have easily first blamed Welles for their deaths during the botched attempt to “free” them from the tower, and then later, Buckingham, when Richard had him executed for treason.
Richard had far less reason to want the princes dead than did Henry. Through “Titulus Regius” parliament declared Richard the rightful king and bastardized all of Edward IV’s children. As bastards, the princes could not inherit any title. Henry VII had his parliament revoke “Titulus Regius” which enabled his marriage to Edward IV’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth Woodville. If the princes were alive, they now had more claim to the crown now that their impediment had been removed. In fact, based on how he handled the man he called Perkin Warbeck, I think he was more than a little afraid that Warbeck was really Richard of York, the younger of Edward IV’s two sons. Interestingly, Warbeck claimed to have been in Edward Brampton’s household in Portugal. Now Brampton was a Portuguese Jew who converted soon after Edward IV first became king and served both Edward and Richard. Among the many awards that Richard gave Brampton, he knighted him in 1484—the first monarch to knight a converted Jew. As much as Richard may have liked the guy, I think there had to have been an extraordinary reason for him to grant Brampton knighthood. I think a strong reason was that Richard had entrusted Richard of York’s care to Brampton.
What device did you use to effect time travel and what limitations did you employ?
Having something of a scientific background, I decided to “invent” a time travel machine and to follow the physical laws as closely as possible. Therefore, one could not just go back into the past or come forward into the future without an equal exchange of mass/energy (the law of conservation of mass/energy). Additionally, without the equal exchange, the time displaced mass would soon disintegrate. So, for my Ricardian team to bring Richard III forward at the moment he would have been killed in battle, they had to exchange an object of equal mass with him fully armored. It also meant that a person or object could not travel through time and remain without being damaged to the point of death.
A second limitation to time travel is the position of a particular object—such as the planet—in the universe. Because the universe is expanding at increasing speed, every object is hurtling through space. The calculations to go to a specific point on the earth either back or forward in time would be quite complicated and have to account for trillions of miles displacement.
Since STRANGE TIMES is the third book of the trilogy, please tell us a little about the first two.
THIS TIME starts moments before Richard III loses to Henry Tudor on the field of Redemore near Leicester, England on August 22, 1485. In THIS TIME, a team of Ricardians substitutes an armor-clad corpse for the king and brings Richard into Portland, Oregon. He awakens August 21, 2004 to an alien world where even the English he speaks is different.
The story follows two parallel paths: the present where Richard must learn how to adjust to not only the technological advancements but also the more difficult cultural differences; and looking back at the past to solve some of the mysteries that have haunted and maligned his image for over 500 years.
The second book, LOYALTY BINDS ME, continues Richard III's story. Richard has married a divorcee, adopted her two daughters, and with the help of his new wife, has been able to rescue his son Edward, who had predeceased him in the 15th-century. Richard has lived in the twenty-first century for two years, and his son has been with him for the past year. At the start of the novel, they have just arrived in London, when Richard is brought in by the Metropolitan Police for questioning about the alleged murder of Richard III's nephews in 1483. Richard must now find a way to clear his name and protect his family while concealing his true identity.
STRANGE TIMES starts immediately after Richard and family return to Portland, Oregon.
What are your thoughts on historical accuracy?
I think it is important to respect the lives and histories of those who have gone before us. Therefore, I try to stay as close to the known history as possible, given that not all references are themselves accurate and in some instances are in conflict with other respected sources. In addition, there are often gaps of knowledge, where important details are unknown. So, as a novelist, I try to learn and understand as much as I’m able about certain events and actors and fill in those gaps based on my understanding of the material I have absorbed.
Part of my research goes to formulating what may have motivated a character to behave the way he or she had in real life to find a way of letting me into that character’s head.
How has the discovery of Richard’s Remains affected this trilogy?
While I was able to follow Richard’s 15th century history as reported, only adding my own speculation where there was no extant or conflicting documentation, the same could not be said for his 21st century history. The remains were found at a unique time, where the remains could be confirmed as his through DNA and isotopic tests, which without employing a massive deus ex machina, could not be reconciled with what would have been found in the remains of the body that was substituted for Richard.
Many time-travel novels ignore language differences, but you didn’t. Yet, Richard was able to adjust rapidly to modern English.
Richard was probably fluent in three or four languages, and although today’s English would have at first sounded foreign to him, I felt that there were enough similarities—based on my reading of THE PASTON LETTERS, for example—between Early Modern English and today’s English that he would have been able to understand a lot of what he heard fairly quickly. I also provided a linguist that was able to help him over the inevitable speed bumps.
Do you have other projects in mind?
Yes. I have a paranormal languishing on my back burner about Catherine Howard’s spirit invading a young woman who is studying American History at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. She’s an intern at Agecroft Hall, a late 15th century manor. Thomas C. Williams Jr., a wealthy Richmond entrepreneur, transported timber by stone to his twenty-three acre estate overlooking the James River. The modified reconstruction was completed in 1928 and is now in the U. S. National Register of Historic Places.
Two other projects that are in more nascent states of development are a science fiction story and an anecdotal family history with lots of photos.
How can readers find out more about you?