Anne Echols is an amazingly talented writer from Atlanta who has just released her third book, A Tale of Two Maidens. She is a brilliant teacher and a wonderful human being. I was honored to get a chance to talk to her last week about her new book, Joan of Arc and, of course, Iron Maiden.
For those folks out there who haven’t read it, tell us a bit about what A Tale 0f Two Maidens is about…
The book is about a fifteen-year-old Felise who is an apprentice scribe in medieval France. She dreams of escaping her cruel guardian, who plots an arranged marriage for her. She dreams of being a writer and a book shop owner. The Hundred Years War rages all around her, even spilling into her town. This takes place at the time that Joan of Arc blazes onto the scene as a teenage girl who claims God-given powers to change the fate of France. Joan inspires Felise to run away and embark on a daring adventure of her own.
Every day draws her further into the underbelly of a life she has never known — a world of lepers and vagabonds, brawling men and loose women. Burning villages and terrified peasants are left behind in the path of war as Joan tries to free France from the English. When a young suitor from home pursues her, Felise finds herself drawn to him despite her quest for freedom and her distrust of men.
Following after the army, Felise meets Joan face to face and soon finds herself torn between Joan’s single-minded sense of purpose and her own desire for love and personal fulfillment.
Lepers and vagabonds! Sounds like she went to a Poison concert. What was the inspiration for writing A Tale of Two Maidens?
I wrote two other books (both non-fiction) about women in the Middle Ages. Joan of Arc has always fascinated me since I read saint’s tales about her and I wanted to understand the truth about her. I researched her life and found out that there were Joan imitators both before and after her death — false Joans who went around pretending to be her. That gave an idea for my book — to see how she influenced ordinary women of her time.
Joan of Arc figures prominently in your book. What do you think she was like in real life?
Blunt; down to earth; practical; bad-tempered; pious and celibate; fiercely loyal to the Dauphin (deposed prince); illiterate. Didn’t like dressing as a guy at first but I think she kind of got into it after a while. She would hear the sound of church bells and lapse into a vision of her saints but then snap out of it and go off and lead her men into battle. I don’t think she liked the adulation of the crowds and certainly didn’t believe that she could perform miracles. I think she truly cared about her soldiers — almost like a big sister.
If Joan of Arc were alive today, what do you think she’d be up to?
She’d be attached to a ruler who had been has been unjustly deposed (or unjustly lost an election) and exiled and she’d be the star military genius helping him or her get back in power. Maybe Radonski in Venezuela. She’d be an indigenous peasant from a small village in Venezuela with undiagnosed schizophrenia and hear voices to help him contest the election or stage a coup. I picture her in a Rambo style bandana driving around Venezuela in a tank — with a tatoo of her beloved saints and lots of groupies. They would use her name to market clothing products, t shirts, berets, and of course Joan of Arc goat cheese (I really saw this product at my local grocery store!)
Earlier I could have seen her as a female Che Guevarra.
Many of the readers are metalheads, so I want to make it clear, A Tale of Two Maidens is not a comparison between Iron Maiden with Bruce Dickinson and Paul Di’anno. But, in your opinion, who is the better frontman for the band?
Both are great singers, but I’d pick Di’anno for being raw and real — I believed that he was actually feeling the emotions as he sang. Dickinson was more theatrical and was having more fun performing but I didn’t believe him as much as I believed Di’anno. I think Joan would have liked the first singer better too.
Who was “more metal” Shakespeare or Chaucer?
This is a tough question…Chaucer came to mind first because I could really see someone doing a metal style Pardoner’s Tale in Middle English. Also I think the earthy, bawdy exterior of the tales (but often with a melancholy but truthful interior) lend themselves well to the metal blend (at least in my mind) of raucous exterior but often emotionally charged, compelling interior. And the ‘on the road’ setting definitely applies to both.
Shakespeare’s play have already been done in so many styles from the Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet, to a stage interpretation of Julius Caesar done in Star Trek style sci fi, so why not metal?