Tales of a Medieval Woman Doctor- PK Adams

One of the great things about historical fiction, if you’re open to it, is the chance to read stories you’ve never heard from places you haven’t given any thought to and learn a little in the process. Take, for instance, Hildegard of Bingen. I’ll lay money you didn’t know she was Germany’s first female physician. I wouldn’t know either except for “The Greenest Branch,” by P K Adams.

Alright, lady. What’s your story?

I’m a Boston-based historical fiction author with a master’s degree in European Studies. I’m a life-long lover of history, and my goal is to bring stories of lesser-known historical figures and places to the attention of wider audiences. The Greenest Branch is my debut novel, with the second book in the series slated for release in early 2019. When not writing, I can be found drinking tea, practicing yoga, reading …. although usually not at the same time.

I was gonna say, that could get messy. Anyway, what’s “The Greenest Branch” about?

The Greenest Branch is based on the true story of Hildegard of Bingen (c.1098-1178), Germany’s first female physician. Living in the 12th century, she faced an uphill battle in her quest to gain the necessary medical education to be able to practice what was referred to then as “the healing arts.” Opposition to what she wanted to do was rooted not just in the prevailing social norms, but also in the Church’s attitudes towards women and towards the use of herbs (which it tended to conflate with witchery).

But it was not just the patriarchy that Hildegard had to deal with on her journey – she also faced difficult personal choices. In the book, I try to balance her achievements against the sacrifices she had to make, sacrifices that I believe ring true even all those centuries later.

What is it about Hildegard and the time period that drove you to write about her?

I have been a fan of medieval history for a long time, but I did not hear about Hildegard of Bingen until I took a history of music class in college (yes, she was also a composer, a writer, a philosopher, basically a jack-of-all-trades – in an era where most women could not even read or write). So I became captivated by her accomplishments and began to read more about her to find out how she was able to become a pioneer in so many fields reserved as a man’s domain in her time.

Interestingly, the record of her early life is pretty sparse, and I saw that as a chance to write a fictionalized account of how she rose to such prominence despite not being a royal wife or daughter. Some of the details may be fictionalized, but the story broadly follows Hildegard’s life journey.

Without giving away too much, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

In a scene quite early in the book, when Hildegard is only 13 years old and has just started working as an assistant to Brother Wigbert, the abbey physician, she asks him if women can also become physicians. Here’s the exchange:

“Can women study to be physicians, Brother?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“It is the natural order of things,” he replied, “that women should rear children since they are the gentler and more nurturing of the sexes. Who would guard the family hearth if they were to go to schools?”

I pondered this, frowning. “But if women are better at caring for others, they should make better doctors too, shouldn’t they?”

Wigbert looked momentarily surprised, then chuckled. “You make clever arguments, Hildegard, but studying requires well-developed reasoning faculties, which women do not possess, being more impulsive and less logical than men.”

I considered pointing out the contradiction but decided not to.

I love that scene because it shows the prevailing medieval beliefs regarding women’s intellectual abilities (I did not make Wigbert’s statement up, it’s based on how women were generally viewed). It also debunks them by pointing out the fundamental flaw of this way of thinking. Still, I feel a bit bad for Brother Wigbert because he is actually one of the good guys in the story – he becomes Hildegard’s mentor as her talent and determination become evident. However, there is another monk – the abbey’s prior – who is the antagonist and whose entire existence is absorbed by his efforts to make it impossible for Hildegard to achieve her dream of becoming a physician. As you can see, she had her work cut out for her.

Where can people find more about you and your work?

My book is available on Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2IPpj7h

and also Amazon UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, and several other marketplaces

My Goodreads author page URL:  https://www.goodreads.com/pk_adams

Twitter: @pk_adams

Subscribe to my newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look at the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction of all types from around the world.

Shameless Self-Promotion Update

With The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership out in the world for just over a week, I’ve been doing an incredible amount of promotion. Most of it is completely work-related, and you can find out everything you would ever want to know about that book at www.LongDistanceLeaderBook.com. 

By the way, if you’re traveling through an airport, it’s now a Hudson Booksellers Best Seller!

I’ve also had a couple of chances to talk about my fiction work. Most enjoyably, an old colleague from my stand-up days, Keith Tomasek, has a terrific podcast about the arts and the creative process, The Inadequate Life. Recently, we talked for an hour about my stand-up days and the transition to being a grownup, as well as the ins and outs of publishing. It was a blast. If you’d like to hear it, it’s here. I think it’s the most wide-ranging and probably most honest interview I’ve ever done. And for a media ho like me, that’s saying something.

I got into corporate training because when I left stand-up, I had a 15-year hole in my resume and only one marketable skill; I could stand there and talk.

To Keith Tomasek, The Inadequate Life podcast

 

I was honored to be on The Inadequate Life podcast

 

“I like to tell people I’m the love child of Alexandre Dumas and Hunter S Thompson and let them figure it out.”

When asked by James Quinland Mervey what my influences are….

Also, a fellow writer named James Quinlan Meservey interviewed me for an ongoing series on his blog about literary influences and why we do what we do. It was a lot of fun. You can read it here if you’d like. And check out James’ fantasy work.

Volcanoes, Scorpions and the Glamour of Public Speaking in Guatemala

So there I was, 300 feet above the Guatemalan jungle, in my socks, talking to some very smart people about my newest book, “The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.”  

Take a look at this picture. None of it is doctored:

Me speaking at the Remote Work Summit at the Eagles Nest Retreat in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala

All my life I’ve dreamed of traveling to exotic places, seeing the world, and speaking about my passion; helping people communicate more effectively and making work suck less. This is a moment few people will ever experience (or even believe me when I tell them about it.)

I was miles from home and civilization, speaking at the Remote Work Summit, overlooking the jungle and talking about The Long-Distance Leader. Yes, the attendance was less than expected and disappointing, and yes, I was staying in a place with no air conditioning, a bathroom down the trail that I shared with 5 other cabins (and a passive-aggressive scorpion,) it was the rainy season, and when I wasn’t walking through the rain to the banos, my roof leaked. Travel logistics were a nightmare, but I got to see sights like this:

Lake Atitlan from San Marcos la Laguna

Because of my schedule, I couldn’t stay for the whole conference so I was up at 4:30 Saturday morning for a sometimes-terrifying 6-hour journey to the airport. Passing back through Antigua, I saw Monte Fuego at the end of an alley and took this picture:

Monte Fuego the day before the eruption

Sunday afternoon, my phone blew up with messages, asking if I was safe. Turns out that lovely mountain now looked like this:

The volcano erupted on Sunday, June 3

Basically the paradoxes of life were encapsulated in this trip:

  • I got to travel to an exotic place to speak about my work and met some amazing people, but it wasn’t the financial success I had hoped for. The story of my life.
  • It was a frustrating, crazy trip with a lot to whine about, but I saw and experienced things I would never have seen otherwise, and despite the mental and physical exhaustion, I’m grateful to have gone.  Also a recurring theme.
  • I was bitching about some of the logistics and accommodations, and having to be up at 430 in the morning, and leaving the conference early. Yet I got out before a horrible disaster that has left dozens dead and many people unable to get home. I am one lucky sonofabitch.

If you’d like to see all the pictures from my trip and read some of the commentaries, I have made the flickr page public. Check it out

As a writer, these experiences are priceless. Like the late, great, Steve Goodman once said, “we do it for the stories we can tell.”

 

“The Long-Distance Leader” is Out in the World

Today is launch day for The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.  This is the result of a lot of research, work with clients and looking at the way people really work today. Kevin Eikenberry and I are very proud of this book, and hope you’ll enjoy it.

I share this because even though I have written several other books, and most of you who read this blog know my fiction work, launch day is always a day to celebrate and heave a big sigh of relief. The book is debuting at number 75 on Amazon’s list of business/coaching books, and we’re delighted by that. Of course, we’re looking for best-seller status.

It is available in paperback, e-book and audio book wherever you buy your books including Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, airports and Amazon.

I also share to ask for your help. Here’s how:

– If you lead a remote team or know someone who is, buy a copy!
– If you would be willing to share on your Facebook wall (or other social media), we would appreciate that too.

You can learn more by visiting http://LongDistanceLeaderBook.com. There you’ll find sample chapters, free downloads and bonuses. Of course, you know the drill. If you like the book and find value in it, please tell your colleagues and co-workers (and, of course, Amazon. Reviews matter even though it’s unseemly to beg for them.)

Thanks for your good wishes, positive thoughts, and assistance. I appreciate each and every one of you.