NFReads interviews Mango author Rosalie Gilbert about her book, The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women.
My name is Rosalie Gilbert and I’m the author of The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women, a non-fiction history book which answers all the questions you didn’t know you had about medieval women and their intimate lives.
# What is the real-life story behind your book?
I’m a history nerd whose interest in medieval women started with clothes. I think we’ve all been there. Whilst talking about clothes, there was always a small group of people who would linger after talks and enquire about the likelihood of underpants. Surely, even though we are repeatedly told that medieval women didn’t wear any, they MUST have, at least, at some times of the month. Clearly, I needed to know. Research in feminine hygiene practices revealed a world intertwined with what went on between the sheets (and other places) and there were more questions which needed answering. The answers were astonishing. Answers became notes, which became a lecture, which in turn became a book.
# What inspires your creativity?
The amount of misinformation about medieval women and my genuine love of telling people random facts which they won’t believe couple here to keep me talking.
# How do you deal with creative block?
Once I’m on my soapbox, I think the real question here is How Do People Get Me To Stop Talking About It. No, really.
# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
A really terrible cover font.
*sad author noises*
# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I’d recommend that if one has any really passionate feelings about the cover, sort that out before you sign the contract. In fact, write that in. Try not to jump on other people’s bandwagons. Be your own wagon.
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I realise that my style of humour is sometimes not appreciated in a history book. Who knew Australians could be seen as terribly unfunny by some parts of the world? To be honest, the worst review I received was actually quite funny. I feel that it may actually encourage readers to look it up on the strength of the comment alone. Negative feedback is always taken on board and considered, but if social media has shown the world anything at all, it’s that you really can’t please everyone all of the time.
# How has your creation process improved over time?
I’ve harboured a deep-seated grudge against being forced to use computer programmes I don’t like for a long time, and quite frankly, this aspect of writing hasn’t improved in the least. Upgrading my laptop to one with a really good processor and keyboard I like has meant that longer periods at the keyboard are more productive. Tracking sources has improved over time as many manuscripts have become freely available online and access to the holding institutions has improved.
# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book?
The best thing was talking about what I love- medieval women and their rather surprising sex lives. The worst thing was discovering that there WAS an upper word limit from my publisher which I’d not known about, and had to leave a lot of things out to cut it back down. The most surprising thing was having the cover artwork censored. The offending item was a tiny little drawn nipple which looks more like a cow udder. Keep in mind that this was a copy of an existing 14th century manuscript, and the illuminator had faithfully stayed true to the style of art. It was in no way lascivious or inappropriate. I have felt so strongly about this issue that I printed dust jackets out of my own pocket to send to anyone worldwide who wants the original uncensored cover. Also, there was a long running battle for the font on the front cover. This was addressed by covering it with the dust jacket. Still, it makes me sad to see the cover of my own book as it has been printed.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
Passion is what keeps the world turning. Creativity and passion go hand in hand.
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
Quirky, you say? Like I have three nipples or that I have an overwhelming compunction to colour code my underwear drawer? That kind of thing? How about that my favourite pencil is a 2B and you really can’t go past a good Artline with a 0.05 point? Perhaps you’d care to know that I’m the owner of the most worried-looking concrete Jesus in the history of worried-looking concrete Jesus’s? No? Maybe we’ll leave this one blank, shall we?
Thanks for reading.
Link to the book here: https://rosaliegilbert.com/verysecretsexlife_about.html
An Inside Look at Women & Sex in Medieval Times
An inside look at sexual practices in medieval times. Were medieval women slaves to their husband’s desires, jealously secured in a chastity belt in his absence? Was sex a duty or could it be a pleasure? Did a woman have a say about her own female sexuality, body, and who did or didn’t get up close and personal with it? No. And yes. It’s complicated.
Romance, courtship, and behind closed doors. The intimate lives of medieval women were as complex as for modern women. They loved and lost, hoped and schemed, were lifted up and cast down. They were hopeful and lovelorn. Some had it forced upon them, others made aphrodisiacs and dressed for success. Some were chaste and some were lusty. Having sex was complicated. Not having sex, was even more so.