Newburyport author Anne Easter Smith characterizes her foray into fiction as accidental, a series of unexpected, fortuitous turns.
But considering her zeal for history, her landing in the realm of historical fiction was perhaps destined.
This Friday, Smith will launch “This Son of York” where she has launched all five of her previous novels, at Newburyport’s Jabberwocky Bookshop.
Jabberwocky owner Sue Little has read Smith’s earlier works and calls the latest and last in the series Smith’s masterwork.
The recovery of King Richard III’s bones, discovered in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester, England, has rekindled interest in the king and refreshed controversy over his sullied reputation, Little said.
The English king’s standing was savaged centuries ago by a chap named Shakespeare. Writing during the reign of the ascendant monarchical family (the Tudors), the bard made Richard (from the York family line) into a hunchback monster in his play “Richard III.”
Shakespeare’s bent on Richard took root over the centuries. And it has long irked Smith. She, a loyal Ricardian (Richard backer) and fiery exponent of righting the record and rehabbing his image, has given her ambition its best and final shot with “This Son of York.”
“This is the book I should have written first, but I was too chicken and too inexperienced to write in his voice,” Smith said in a recent interview at her home.
Smith grew up infatuated with all things medieval, and her parents obliged her fascination, taking her to castles and museums.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed about my fantasy world, dreamed about castles and running around in long dresses ... anything to do with ladies and knights and Robin Hood,” Smith said.
Smith’s own past is rife with history and movement. She’s moved 23 times. She was born in England, one of three children. Her father, Edward Easter, a military man, worked logistics for D-Day, the historic 1944 Allied invasion of France.
He later worked in Egypt, during the Suez Crisis. Anne, her siblings and their mum lived in Egypt, as well.
Smith later attended secretarial school, married and had two children.
She worked as an executive secretary and raised her children and, throughout, maintained her consuming interest in museums and English history.
She has read an estimated 40 books on Richard III, as well as letters and essays and articles related to the monarch.
She has lived in London, Paris and New York, including Plattsburgh, where her first husband was stationed during his military service commitment.
She divorced and remarried. And remained in Plattsburgh, where she found herself. She went to work at a newspaper, discovering, unexpectedly, that she had transferable skills in organization, communication and writing and a desire to learn, attributes needed to find a place in journalism.
By cranking out newspaper feature stories, shaping them with beginnings, middles and ends, and editing them, on deadline, Smith was unknowingly preparing for her later venture.
Finally, the tripwire sending her from reporter/editor to novelist, was a friend’s prodding in 1998 to write a book.
“She said, ‘I am so tired of you rabbiting on about Richard III,’” Smith recalled.
The friend, a woman named Roxanne, bought Smith her first membership to the Richard III Society, which issues scholarly journals on the king.
Once she decided to write fiction, there was little doubt where Smith’s imagination would lead. The Middle Ages.
In particular, the Wars of the Roses. More specifically, to the castle door of King Richard III. And right into the beleaguered monarch’s Great Hall.
Smith’s other books have told their stories through characters around Richard, including his mistress, Kate, the vehicle for the story in the first book, “A Rose for the Crown.”
For each of the novels, Smith has traveled to where her historical figures lived. Walking the paths and countryside, and the streets and into the buildings, that these historical figures once traversed gives Smith a bridge to their inner lives and invites possibilities for storytelling.
Little said that Smith weaves facts into a captivating and evocative story that reminds readers of their own lives.
“She turns it into this fascinating story about people you might know, even though it is a different time or place,” Little said.
The book launch format on Friday will differ from earlier launches.
Fellow historical novelist Heather Webb will interview Smith.
In addition, Smith will read from her new book and field audience questions in the bookstore’s used book room, which has seating for 85 and is reserved for occasions such as these.
Smith will be easy to recognize. She’ll be the one with enthusiasm for Richard III, enthusiasm for another time and place.
“I feel like I really don’t belong in this century,” she said during our interview, turning her mouth down in a disappointed, almost sour expression.
If you go
What: “This Son of York” book launch with Anne Easter Smith
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Jabberwocky Bookshop, The Tannery Marketplace, 50 Water St., Newburyport
How much: Free, with books available to purchase
More information: 978-465-9359 or www.jabberwockybookshop.com