Here's all you have to do… Read the Q&A interview between myself and Brandy, and then add a comment to the end of this post. Whoever comments here (not on the Facebook page), will be entered into a random drawing for the books! There will be two winners for this competition!
**Brandy has asked me to limit the winners to American residents only!
***Remember to leave your EMAIL ADDRESS in the comment below this post, so I can contact you if you are selected as the winner(s)!
1. Do you have any particular favorites of the novels you've written and published?
Each one means something different to me, so is special to me in its own way, but three stand out: The Confession of Piers Gaveston, my first novel, helped me learn to believe in myself, and take a chance on me, when no one else would, no one believed I could do it, and it also gave me a project to occupy my mind after my mother’s death when I needed it most. The way the idea came to me still amazes me—I’ve been a reader all my life, I have always looked to books for comfort as well as knowledge and entertainment, and when I can’t read I know I am in trouble. After my mother died I kept picking up books and putting them down, I couldn’t take in a single sentence, then I picked up a book about royal scandals, one of those written in a light, comic style and opened it at random to the chapter on Edward II and Piers Gaveston. I don’t think I even knew who Piers Gaveston was at that point, but something in his story, and how little was known about him, captivated me enough to break through my grief and compel me to try my hand at writing. This is my least known novel, and it remains in a self-published edition, but it’s the one I always come back to whenever I doubt myself; because there is a peacock on the cover, peacocks have become my personal symbol for self-confidence, that’s why you see them in the banner on my blog, and I keep a peacock paperweight on my desk and also have one on my lampshade. My second novel, The Boleyn Wife, is about Lady Rochford, a character from history who has always intrigued me, but about whom frustratingly little is known. I was always fascinated by the fact that her evidence, the accusation of incest, led to the execution of two innocent people—her own husband, George Boleyn, and his sister Anne. I wanted to explore that as a novelist since the lady left behind no letters or diaries to tell us what her reasons were. I wanted to write a novel from the viewpoint of an emotionally unstable, maybe even “mad” woman; you don’t just falsely accuse someone of a crime, see them die for it, and then go on as though nothing happened, it has to do something to you. Writing this novel also helped me personally come to terms with some guilt I was feeling at that time in my life; it actually helped me more than years of therapy and cost less too. My fourth novel, The Queen’s Pleasure, was the fulfillment of a childhood ambition; I was always fascinated by Amy Robsart and her mysterious death. Her death remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of history, but her life is lost, and most novels focus on the glamour of court life and the romance between Elizabeth I and Amy’s husband, Robert Dudley, while poor Amy is relegated to rustic obscurity. I remember being a little girl of nine or ten and thinking if I ever wrote a novel when I grew up, I wanted to give Amy back her voice, I wanted her to have the starring role for once, for her life, not just her death, to matter even if it was only for the time it takes to read a novel, for people to see her as a person, not just a hindrance to others’ ambitions and an unsolved mystery.
2. What is your process when planning and writing a novel?
It varies book by book, though I always do a lot of research and take notes. If I’m fortunate, there’s something in that story or character that speaks to me and compels me to want to tell it. The books I like best are the ones where I feel I can bring something special to the story, something that isn’t cookie cutter. I never know where I will find inspiration, it speaks to me sometimes in the strangest ways and at the oddest, sometimes inconvenient times, but I always listen, I never ignore it, this is not like having a nine to five job for me, my brain never shuts down. I’ve learned to always keep a notebook by me, even in the bathtub, and to write, albeit illegibly, in the dark; sometimes I will wake up and reach for my notebook then fall back asleep and try to decipher my scribblings when I wake up, or I will be putting away groceries or dusting or shopping and suddenly I remember a song or a movie or a book I haven’t heard, seen, or read in years and I just feel compelled to drop everything and find it NOW, and it’s like a gate opens up, and there’s either a new idea or a resolution to a situation I’ve been struggling with in whatever I’m working on at the time.
3. What attracted you to the Tudor Dynasty?
The personalities, the whole colorful saga. I think that’s why people are still fascinated by this era, it’s like a soap opera in fancy dress, and most of the characters are larger than life, the way they come together, like a big, bright, gaudy patchwork quilt, people who might otherwise have been forgotten have become immortal, like Jane Seymour for instance, if she had married an ordinary man and been an ordinary housewife, we wouldn’t be talking about her today, but because she married Henry VIII, she became a star in the Tudor drama. There’s a little of everything in this story—you see the best and worst of the people who are a part of it, just like on the decks of the Titanic.
Many, I am interested in almost all eras of history, but it’s the people, the personalities, the individual stories, that attract me most. I read anything and everything that grabs my attention, and, if I continue writing, I hope I will live long enough to get all the ideas dancing around in my head down on paper.
5. Which of Henry VIII's six wives do you feel you relate to the most, and why?
The two Annes—Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves. Anne Boleyn, because she broke the mold, there was no one else like her, I admire her boldness, her audacity, so much; the way she gambled on herself and took chances and was true to herself first and foremost. I’m always a little amused, and also saddened, whenever people read The Boleyn Wife and accuse me of hating Anne Boleyn when nothing could be further from the truth, she is one of the women in history I admire most, but as a writer I like a challenge, and I chose to write against the grain from the viewpoint of someone who did indeed despise Anne, but if you read it carefully, a little admiration does creep in, grudgingly given in Jane’s voice. As for Anne of Cleves, I can relate to her situation, being an outsider, a misfit, when she arrived at the Tudor court everyone made fun of her. I know what that’s like, I never fit in when I was in school, no matter what I said, what I did, what I wore, it was ALWAYS wrong. If I was seen reading a book about the Salem Witch Trials by the end of the day rumors would be swirling around that I practiced witchcraft, I even got called into the school counselor’s office about that, once I even read a book with a picture of a woman in a bathing suit on the cover and someone started a rumor that I was a lesbian, and a similar situation occurred when I read a book about serial killers. Just to set the record straight, in case any of my former classmates are reading this, I’m not a witch or a lesbian, just a voracious reader, and I’ve never killed anyone outside the pages of my novels. Readers are sometimes upset by the way I chose to portray Anne of Cleves in The Boleyn Wife, but I did this for a reason, nothing in my books is ever gratuitous, I always have a reason, though sometimes you have to stop and think and look for it, but it’s always there, in this case I wanted this person everyone laughed at to have the last laugh, to win a game no one even knew she was playing. The much criticized lesbian scene was meant to say something about the two women involved—Anne of Cleves, the supposedly so unattractive “Flanders Mare” Henry VIII was too repulsed by to bed, by this point in the story an attractive woman of independent means, eagerly being embraced, and taking advantage of, the foolish, reckless, and vulnerable teenage Katherine Howard, who tragically never learned the difference between sex and love. It’s Anne’s way of having a last laugh, a little sweet revenge, at Henry’s expense. It’s really not about sex at all, it’s about people using people, and a way of showing that beneath the surface things are not always what they seem, which is definitely the case with the two women involved—Anne was never in reality the malodorous drab the court took her for, and Katherine was never really the innocent, virginal “Rose Without A Thorn” Henry thought she was.
6. If you could ask one Tudor figure ANY question, who and what would it be?
I’d ask Lady Rochford why she made the accusation of incest against Anne and George. I’d like to know if she really was as evil and vindictive as she’s acquired the reputation for being.
7. Are you currently planning on writing any future novels?
Oh yes, and if all goes well, around this time next year I will have a surprise for everyone. I’m stepping away from the Tudors and entering a whole new era. Forgive me for not saying more, but I’m a bit superstitious about talking about unfinished works in progress.
Anya Seton, Green Darkness was one of the first adult novels I ever read, and I still love it, and I have since read all her novels.
9. What was your favorite part of writing your newest novel, The Boleyn Bride?
The challenge of how to portray Elizabeth Boleyn, so little is actually known about her, I had even less facts than usual to work with. When I sat and thought and tried to get a feel for her, all I felt was coldness and absence, so I decided to go with that. I wanted to paint a portrait, with words, of a vain woman who makes what she thinks are all the right choices only to find out that they are in reality all wrong when it’s too late to do anything about it, a woman who would probably have described herself as “passionate,” but who is in reality, a rather cold woman, even in her amorous affairs. I also wanted to depict Elizabeth as an emotionally absent mother, and how this indifference and neglect molds and shapes her children; I think this might make an interesting topic for discussion if any book clubs decide to read this book. I would like to stress that my portrayal of Elizabeth Boleyn is entirely fictional, she might have been the most warm, caring, loving mother in the world, but history didn’t record it if she was.
10. Do you have any advice for aspiring historical fiction novelists?
I’m afraid there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said thousands of times before. Believe in yourself, trust your instincts, keep writing, keep submitting, and when the bad reviews come always remember books are like candy and not everyone likes the same kinds and flavors—all very easy to say but sometimes very hard to do. The first agent who ever read my work told me I had no talent, and the first review I ever received was so mean and bad that I almost felt like withdrawing my book from publication, but if I had let that stop me you wouldn’t be reading this interview now. I wish you all the best of luck.