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Author and fellow Historical Novel Society member Sarah Johnson is featuring The Cross and the Dragon and an interview with me on her book review blog, Reading the Past. About The Cross and the Dragon, Sarah says, “I enjoyed seeing how she wove material from this ancient story into a historically accurate backdrop, one full of beautiful descriptions of the Rhine Valley, while fleshing out the characters and their motivations.”

Calling Sarah a fellow HNS member is an understatement. A tireless volunteer, Sarah is the reviews editor of Historical Novels Review and maintains the HNS website. Two of her books deal with historical fiction and readers’ advisory topics: Historical Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (2005) and its sequel, Historical Fiction II (2009). All this on top of her day job as a longtime reference/electronic resources librarian at Eastern Illinois University.

Here is a sampling of Sarah’s thought-provoking questions:

You’ve written about being inspired by a romantic legend surrounding the ruins at Rolandsbogen in Germany, one that reinterprets characters from “The Song of Roland.” What inspired you to work in mentions of the myth of Siegfried and the dragon as well?

I especially enjoyed the many scenes that were set in the Benedictine abbey at Nonnenwerth and the Abbey of St. Stephen, since they emphasized the importance of religion, as well as people’s internal conflicts between godliness and worldliness. How did you set out to re-create the mindset of this very different time?

In reading The Cross and the Dragon, I got the impression you gave considerable thought to character names. Was there ever any question in your mind about using Frankish names for your main characters, rather than the more familiar ones taken from the poem?

Alda changes over the course of the novel from a romantically inclined teenager to a still willful but less impulsive young woman, one who matures after being touched by loss. Did you find any stage in her life easier or more challenging to write about?

Hint: One of the answers has something to do with the painting below. Find out the answers to these questions and more at Reading the Past.

Forstmann Nonnenwerth Painting

This circa 1870 painting by Arnold Forstmann (1842–after 1914) shows Nonnenwerth, along with Rolandsbogen and Drachenfels. (Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.)