I do intend to blog about my Richard III Tour, but I have had to put it off for a while as I fight the Deadline Dragon, who came back again as soon as the galley proofs for A King’s Ransom landed with a resounding thump on my front porch. Before I disappear into the dragon badlands again, I want to put a new blog up, for the current one is probably collecting cyberspace cobwebs by now. So here is the story of my day at Dover Castle.
After the Richard III Tour was over and I’d done what I needed to do for my British publisher in connection with the hardback publication of The Sunne in Splendour on September 12th, I had five whole days for myself. By pure chance, my friend Stephanie Churchill Ling and her husband, Steve, were visiting the UK at the same time and we were able to get together on the weekend before they flew home. On Saturday we went with my friend, Dr John Philipps, to the Globe Theatre in Southwark to see a performance of MacBeth. This Globe is a reconstruction of the original Globe theater in Shakespeare’s time, and it was such a remarkable experience to watch one of Shakespeare’s plays in a sixteenth century theatre. They even had standing room space in front of the stage for the “groundlings.” We were wimps and sat in the sheltered section, having rented cushions to soften the hard wooden benches; John has often been to the Globe and we benefited from his expertise as it was the first visit for Stephanie, Steve, and me. Here is a link to a great website offering the history of the original Globe theatre and a certain playwright from Stratford on Avon. http://www.william-shakespeare.info/william-shakespeare-globe-theatre.htm And this site has some striking photos of the new Globe. http://www.londontown.com/LondonInformation/Entertainment/Shakespeares_Globe/8f9c/imagesPage/15462/
On Sunday, John drove us to Dover Castle as I was eager to see the renovations that had been done since my last visit. They have set up interior chambers that look as they would have done in the time of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. This was one of the highpoints of my trip, for we usually have to rely upon our imaginations in order to envision a medieval bedchamber or garderobe or kitchen. At Dover, no imagination needed! I will try to post a few photos with this blog, but we’ve had trouble doing this in the past and I am not sure the problem has been resolved. However, Stephanie found this wonderful virtual tour of Dover Castle, which is almost as good as being there. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/dover-castle/great-tower/virtual-tour/ Be sure to click onto the interactive map on the left side of the page. On certain days, Henry is there to greet visitors, muttering about his troublesome wife and sons; if you click onto the great hall introduction on the interactive map, you’ll get to see a brief video of his grumbling.
I’ve been fortunate enough to pay numerous visits to Dover Castle over the years, and whenever I crossed the Channel from France, I enjoyed watching the white cliffs of Dover come into view. ( I’ve never taken the Chunnel as I am not crazy about tunnels, especially underwater ones.) I am an even bigger fan of Dover Castle now, for I kept thinking that if only I turned around fast enough, I might catch a glimpse of Eleanor’s skirts as she entered the stairwell or see Henry striding across the great hall, bellowing for his hounds and huntsmen, eager to indulge his passion for the hunt.
Castles have atmosphere, at least to me, and they are often claimed by the ghosts of the people who lived in them. At Middleham, I never think of the Kingmaker, only of Richard and Anne during the years when he was the Lord of the North. Kenilworth stirs no echoes of Simon de Montfort, for I think it belongs to Elizabeth Tudor’s great love, Robert Dudley. I can easily envision Edward I at his Conquest Castles in Wales, probably one reason why I much prefer the strongholds of the Welsh princes! When I visit Clifford’s Tower in York, I can think only of the medieval Masada, the tragedy that engulfed the city’s Jews in March, 1191. Fougeres Castle in Brittany puts me in mind of my fictional characters, Justin de Quincy and Durand de Curzon, who were entombed in its underground dungeon.
But Dover Castle never evoked the spirit of the Angevins to me—not until this last visit, looking at it through Henry, Eleanor, and John’s eyes; I don’t sense Richard’s spirit there, am not even sure if he ever visited it during the six months that he spent on English soil. The key to the kingdom, they called this awesome fortress, and getting to see it with friends on a rare sunlit day was about as good as it gets for a woman whose favorite century is the twelfth and whose favorite king is the second Henry to rule England since the Conquest.
November 16, 2013
I do intend to blog about my Richard III Tour, but I have had to put it off for a while as I fight the Deadline Dragon, who came back again as soon as the galley proofs for A King’s Ransom landed with a resounding thump on my front porch. Before I disappear into the dragon badlands again, I want to put a new blog up, for the current one is probably collecting cyberspace cobwebs by now. So here is the story of my day at Dover Castle.
I do plan to blog about my Richard III tour, but I am still having to devote all of my time and energy these days to fending off the Deadline Dragon, who is lurking around until I can finish the Author’s Note for A King’s Ransom. So in the meantime, I am going to post the new Author’s Note for the hardcover edition of The Sunne in Splendour, which was published in the UK on September 12th. Because of space constraints, my publisher, Macmillan, was forced to go with an edited version of the AN, although the AN in its entirety is included in the new e-book. The new e-book is the one currently available for sale on Amazon.co.UK, although the date given is July, 2012; it incorporates all of the changes I made for the hardcover edition of Sunne. And I have good news for my non-British readers. St Martin’s Press has now made their new e-book edition of Sunne available; it includes the new AN and reflects all of the changes I made to the hardcover Sunne edition, correcting mistakes that were not caught and making some minor alterations to the dialogue. The date listed for the Kindle edition is 2008, but the one now for sale is the new one.
As I discussed on Facebook, Book Depository, dear to book lovers for their worldwide free shipping, is refusing to sell the hardcover edition of Sunne to non-British readers. In the past, Amazon and Amazon.co.UK would pull a “foreign” book if a publisher complained. In Sunne’s case, that did not happen, of course. No American publisher would lose sales if American readers bought the Sunne hardcover, for there are no plans to publish a hardcover edition on this side of the Atlantic. So only Book Depository can explain why they have chosen to penalize would-be book buyers who live in the “wrong” country. Sunne is still available for sale on Amazon.co,UK and Waterstones and other British book sites, although the mailing costs are not cheap.
Okay, end of rant. I just find it so frustrating when artificial barriers are put up to keep people from buying books since we live in an age when book buying is in a downward spiral. But as I promised my readers, here is the new Author’s Note for Sunne, in its entirety.
* * * * *
AUTHOR’S NOTE 2013
I was a college student when I stumbled onto the story of Richard III, and the more I learned, the more convinced I became that he’d been the victim of a great injustice, transformed by the Tudors into a soulless monster in order to justify Henry Tudor’s dubious claim to the throne. While I’d always realized that history is rewritten by the victors, I was taken aback by how successful this particular rewrite had been, and I began telling my friends how unfairly Richard had been maligned. I soon discovered that they did not share my indignation about the wrongs done this long-dead medieval king. I got a uniform reaction, a “Richard who?” before their eyes glazed over and they’d start to edge away.
So I decided I needed another outlet for my outrage, and it occurred to me that I ought to write a novel about Richard. I had no idea how that casual decision would transform my life, setting me upon a twelve year journey that would eventually end in the publication of The Sunne in Splendour. It took twelve years because the manuscript was stolen from my car during my second year of law school. It represented nearly five years of labor–and it was the only copy. The loss was so traumatic that I could not write again for almost six years. And then one rainy California weekend, the log-jam suddenly broke and the words began to flow again. I ended up moving to England to research the book, and three years later, I was lucky enough to find an editor, Marian Wood, willing to take on a novice writer and a thousand page manuscript about that “long-dead medieval king,” and able to convince her publisher, Henry Holt and Company, that this was a good idea.
I am very grateful to Richard, for he launched my writing career and saved me from a lifetime practicing tax law. I am very grateful, too, to Macmillan, my British publisher, for deciding to re-issue Sunne in a hardcover edition. Few books ever get a rebirth like this, one that has enabled me to correct the typographical errors that infiltrated the original British hardcover edition of Sunne and to rectify my own mistakes that came to light after Sunne’s publication, the most infamous being a time-traveling little grey squirrel. In this new edition, I have also made some changes to the dialogue. Sunne was my first novel and was therefore a learning experience. In subsequent novels, I came to see that in attempting to portray medieval speech, less is more.
It does not seem possible that thirty years could have passed since Sunne’s publication in the United Kingdom. And because history is not static, ebbing and flowing like the tides, there have been new discoveries in those thirty years, information surfacing that was not known during those twelve years that I was researching Richard’s world. For example, I state in Sunne that Richard and Anne wed without a papal dispensation, but there is some evidence that this is incorrect. The Earl of Warwick sought papal dispensations when he was planning to wed his daughters to George and Richard, and since he received one for George and Isabel, there is no reason to suppose he’d not have been granted one for Richard and Anne; Richard also sought and received a papal dispensation in April, 1472 because of the affinity created by Anne’s marriage to Edward of Lancaster, who was Richard’s second cousin once removed. We still do not know the exact date of Richard and Anne’s marriage, nor do we know when their son was born, but it seems more likely it was in 1476.
We also know more about the life of Edward’s daughter Cecily, for since Sunne’s publication, it has been established that she wed Ralph Scrope in late 1484. He was the son of Thomas, Lord Scrope, but we know little about this brief marriage. Henry Tudor had it annulled upon becoming king so that he could marry her to his uncle, John, Viscount Welles. He was in his forties and Cecily only eighteen, but what little evidence there is suggests the marriage was a happy one. They had two daughters, both of whom died before the viscount’s death in 1499. Cecily had often been in attendance to her sister the queen, but in 1502, she made what had to be a love match with a man of much lesser status, a mere esquire, William Kyme. Tudor was furious, banishing her from court and confiscating her estates. But she had an unlikely champion in Tudor’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who’d apparently become fond of Cecily, and she interceded with her son on Cecily’s behalf. After the death of her beloved sister, Elizabeth, in 1503, Cecily and her husband retired from the court and settled on the Isle of Wight. She and William had a son, Richard, born in 1505 and a daughter, Margaret, born in 1507. Since Cecily died on August 24, 1507, she may have died from the complications of childbirth. This marriage, too, appears to have been a happy one. I would like to think so, for this daughter of York, said by Sir Thomas More to have been “not so fortunate as fair,” had suffered more than her share of sorrow in her thirty-eight years.
And in my Afterward, I said that Francis Lovell was not seen alive after the battle of Stoke Field and probably drowned trying to cross the River Trent. Well, now we know he actually reached safety in Scotland, for he was granted a safe-conduct by the Scots king in June, 1488. Sadly, he then disappears from history’s notice, leaving us to determine for ourselves whether he died soon afterward or perhaps chose to fly under the Tudor radar for the remainder of his days.
While these are undeniably interesting discoveries, none of them would be classified as dramatic or a game changer. We still have not solved the central mystery of Richard’s reign–the fate of his nephews. That argument goes on, unabated, with many still claiming they died at Richard’s command, others sure they were put to death by Tudor, still others confident that the younger boy survived, surfacing as Perkin Warbeck, and some agreeing with me that the Duke of Buckingham was the most likely culprit. So my views on that have not changed in the intervening thirty years.
There has been, however, a truly amazing development in the fascinating, improbable story of the last Plantagenet king. In September of 2012, DNA results confirmed that Richard’s lost grave had been found, in a Leicester car park of all places. I confess I’d been dubious when the expedition was first announced, never imaging they’d find their royal needle in that Leicester haystack. But once they described their find, I had no doubts whatsoever that this was indeed Richard. The skull had been smashed in and his bones bore the evidence of a violent, bloody death that tallied with descriptions of Richard’s last moments at Bosworth. Even more convincing to me was that this man had suffered from scoliosis, which would explain the disparity between Richard’s shoulders, noted during his lifetime; in Sunne, I had him injured in a childhood fall. I have scoliosis myself and my heart went out to Richard, living in an age without chiropractors. I’d always known he did not have the deformities claimed by the Tudor historians, for he’d earned himself a reputation as a superb soldier at an early age, and at Bosworth, he fought like a man possessed, coming within yards of reaching Henry Tudor before being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. I still like to think that memories of Richard’s last, desperate charge gave Tudor nightmares for the rest of his life.
What else did we learn from the discovery of Richard’s remains? While we always knew he’d died violently, we now know he suffered no less than ten wounds after being surrounded and unhorsed. We know he was five feet, eight inches tall. And, most amazing of all, we now know what he looked like, thanks to the reconstruction of his face. There are no contemporary portraits and the best-known one in London’s National Portrait Gallery was tampered with to make him appear as sinister as the stories then circulating about him. For those who have not seen Richard’s reconstruction, it is accessible on the Internet, and will be included in some of the many books sure to be written about this remarkable archaeological find. What struck me was how young he looks. It is almost like watching a film about England before World War I; the characters always seem so vulnerable, living their lives with such heartrending innocence, not knowing what horrors lay ahead for them. Eden before the Fall. Or Eden while Edward IV still reigned and Richard was the loyal younger brother, Lord of the North, never imagining what fate held in store for him and his doomed House.
March 1, 2013
* * * * *
The members of my Richard III tour agreed that the highlight of the trip was our visit to Leicester, where we visited the car park and met with Philippa Langley and Mathew Morris. Philippa was the driving force behind this quixotic, remarkable project and Mathew is one of the archaeologists involved in the dig. Philippa’s fascinating story of the hunt for Richard’s long-lost grave will be available for sale on October 22nd. Here is the link. http://www.amazon.com/Kings-Grave-Search-Richard-ebook/dp/B00CQY9FDG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381806318&sr=1-1&keywords=philippa+langley I will discuss our Leicester experiences when I am able to blog about the tour; it was a memorable evening in so many respects. The odds were so against Philippa, but she persevered when most people would have given up in despair. If Richard III does have a guardian angel, she lives in Edinburgh!
October 15, 2013
This is the cover for the new hardcover edition of Sunne, which gets its rebirth in the UK on September 12th, thanks to my British publisher, Macmillan’s. As an utterly neutral observer, I think it is spectacular. Just to jog memories, it will include a new Author’s Note and I have made some changes to the dialogue as well as correcting some typographical errors that infiltrated the original hardback edition. And Macmillan is issuing a new Sunne e-book to reflect these changes.
As many of you know, I am leading a tour to England this September, following in the Footsteps of Richard III, visiting all of the places that were important to Richard during his lifetime and brief reign. The tour sold out in two days, showing that Richard has rock star appeal even after 500 years! Some of my British readers had indicated they’d love to meet me during the course of the tour. I discussed this with Academic Travel and they explained they normally do not permit non-tour members to take part in the scheduled events. But they understood that these were unusual circumstances and they knew I did not want to disappoint my readers. So I was very pleased when they came up with this option. They have scheduled a special event in York that will be open to the public. It will take place on the evening of September 10th at Mansion House in York. But because seating is limited, anyone wanting to attend must purchase a ticket in advance and sooner rather than later would probably be better. Here is the information below, as well as links to the Mansion House and Barley Hall, where the reception afterward will be held. My publisher has assured me that we will have copies of the new hardcover edition of The Sunne in Splendour available for purchase and of course I’d be delighted to sign them. (Writers love doing that!)
Tuesday September 10th, Mansion House, York at 6:30 pm.
Ticket price £25
Join Sharon Kay Penman for a short preview reading of A King’s Ransom, to be published in 2014.
A buffet reception with live music inspired by the Middle Ages follows at Barley Hall.
Sharon will also be available for book signing.
Pre-booking is essential as capacity is strictly limited. For more information or to make a booking please call +44 01904 615505 or at jorvikbookings.com
Our Eleanor tour was a magical experience and many friendships were formed, which I suspect does not usually occur on tours. If this one goes as well, we will give serious consideration to another Richard III tour next year, perhaps in time to visit his new tomb. We are still planning another Eleanor tour, but we continue to be stymied by the renovations at the Abbaye Royale hotel on the grounds of Fontevrault Abbey, and so we would not be able to schedule the Eleanor tour until 2015.
This has been such a good year for Richard—and therefore, for Sunne. I am very happy to report that Sunne is back on Amazon.com.UK’s Kindle historical fiction bestseller list. I was puzzled at first by the sudden bump in sales, but then I realized I probably have Philippa Gregory to thank for that! It makes sense that viewers of her television series being shown in the UK this summer might be motivated to find out more about the Wars of the Roses.
I will try again to get my blog to allow me to insert the new Sunne book jacket, which I love. (This has been an on-going problem, which will not be surprising to any of my friends and readers who’ve been following my computer woes on Facebook. Several of them even suggested that I have my very own “dead zone” hovering over me at all times.) But in case it balks again, I am including the Amazon.com.UK link for those who have not seen the new cover yet.
This rebirth of Sunne gave me a rare opportunity. I was able to rewrite some of the dialogue from the original edition of Sunne thirty years ago—and yes that makes me feel very old. I have also written a new Author’s Note to reflect the amazing discovery of Richard’s lost grave. Unfortunately, space constraints compelled us to cut some of the new AN for the hardcover edition. But the AN will appear in its entirety in the new Kindle edition of Sunne, which will be released at the same time as the hardcover, September 12th. And I will post it on my website, too, once the book is published. Many of my American readers have expressed their disappointment at missing out, but they can still buy the new hardcover edition; the wonderful folks at Book Depository will ship worldwide for free. They cannot buy the new Kindle e-book, of course, thanks to the restrictions that drive writers and readers to drink. But one of my American publishers, St Martin’s Press, will be bringing out a new Kindle e-book edition of Sunne that will mirror the British one, even as to the British spelling. American spelling really jars a minority of my British readers, but I’ve never had any American readers complain about British spelling. I rather fancy it myself, and managed to get the British spelling of grey approved for all of my books because Elizabeth Woodville’s first husband was named Grey.
Anyway, here is the Amazon link. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sunne-Splendour-Sharon-Penman/dp/0230768695/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373755647&sr=1-2 And here is the Book Depository link. Apparently they are not taking pre-orders, but they do have a Notify Me feature to alert readers when it becomes available for sale. Ignore the icon saying the paperback edition will also be published on September 12th. That is not so; it will be published in the UK next spring. http://www.bookdepository.com/search/advanced?page=1&searchRefined=1&searchAddedTerm=&searchTitle=The+Sunne+in+Splendour&searchAuthor=Sharon+Penman&searchPublisher=Macmillan&searchIsbn=&searchLang=&submit=%3CSPAN%3E%3CEM%3ESearch%3C%2FEM%3E%3C%2FSPAN%3E
These are exciting times to be a Ricardian!
July 30, 2014
I am sure many of my readers are familiar with the books of Anne Easter Smith, who has written several well-regarded novels about the Yorkists, beginning with her first, A Rose for the Crown, about Richard III. Her newest book is about a woman I always found very sympathetic, Edward’s mistress, Jane Shore. Jane always reminded me a bit of Charles II’s favorite, Nell Gwynn, and I am sure that Anne will do justice to Jane. Anne has also provided a brief biography. Sadly, I could not put up a photo of the Royal Mistress book cover as my blog has been rejecting them for some time now and we’ve yet to resolve the problem. But you can see the cover on Amazon here. http://www.amazon.com/Royal-Mistress-Anne-Easter-Smith/dp/1451648626/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374334120&sr=1-1&keywords=anne+easter+smith+royal+mistress So read the interview below and enjoy!
A native of England, Anne spent some of her childhood in Germany and Egypt and the rest at boarding school. She came to the US in the late ‘60s for two years and is still here, living in Newburyport, MA with her husband, Scott. Anne is the author of five novels about the York family in the Wars of the Roses, all published by Touchstone at Simon & Schuster. Her third, The King’s Grace, won the 2009 Best Historical Biography award from Romantic Times Book Review. Royal Mistress tells the story of the rise and fall of Jane Shore, King Edward IV’s favorite and final mistress. The book arrived in bookstores on May 7th.
Q. How did you chose Jane Shore as your latest protagonist?
A. The one important member of the York family who I had only written about as a peripheral character to the main ones in my first four books was King Edward IV. I felt he needed fleshing out (although he did that himself rather well!). After all, Edward became the first Yorkist king at 19 after some thrilling victories in battle, like Towton and Tewkesbury. I had dealt with his early years as king in A Rose for the Crown and Daughter of York, as seen through the eyes of his brother, Richard of Gloucester in the first book and his sister, Margaret, in the second. As I have consistently told the York story during the Wars of the Roses through a different woman’s eyes in each book, I searched for a compelling protagonist to focus on Edward’s character. I suppose I could have chosen Elizabeth Woodville, his queen, but as Philippa Gregory had only just released her book about Elizabeth, I did not want to be accused of being a copycat! (Although my take on Elizabeth would have been quite different.) I knew Jane Shore’s story from reading Jean Plaidy’s The Goldsmith’s Wife(pub. 1950) long ago, and when I found out that Plaidy’s research was now not up-to-date, I decided to retell Jane’s story with the new information we have about her early life.
Q. Tell us a little about who Jane was.
A. Elizabeth (Jane) Lambert was a daughter of John and Amy Lambert of the London parish of St. Mary-le-Bow. John was a wealthy mercer, or silk merchant, and had been Master of the Mercers’ Guild (or Company or Mystery), the largest and most important guild in the city. Before we meet Jane in Royal Mistress, he had been an alderman and sheriff of London. We believe Jane was one of six children, although a couple of them disappeared from the records. The exact date of her birth is unknown. However, we do know she lived a fairly long life as Sir Thomas More describes a meeting with her, somewhere between 1516 and 1519, and used the word “septuagenarian.” I think he was probably guessing, and that the penury she found herself in at that time may have made her appear older than she was. Jane became Edward’s mistress sometime in the mid 1470s, not long after she married another mercer, William Shore. The marriage was not successful and Jane filed for annulment not long after. Whether it was through the king’s influence that she was freed from her marriage vows, we don’t know, but she was granted an annulment (“divorce” was a word not used in those days) on the grounds of impotence–very unusual and hard to prove. We know that Jane was beautiful, and later portraits of her always depict her with long fair hair and large eyes. She was described as rather small, even for her time, and one can imagine the picture she and Edward made together as he was 6ft. 3 1/2 inches! Edward is to have declared that Jane was the wittiest of his mistresses, and those who chronicled the goings on at court also mentioned that “of all women, he loved her the most.”
Q. Your previous books are told in third-person personal narrative but for Royal Mistress you use omniscient narration. Why did you change your structure?
A. I am glad you noticed! In case the terms are unfamiliar to anyone, the difference between the two forms of narration is that in third person personal, you must pretty much hang out in your protagonist’s head. This means it’s hard for you to go into battle if you have a female protagonist; she needs to hear about it from a letter or from someone who was there. Because Jane was the king’s mistress, there were too many scenes where Jane would not be present but that would be key to the story, so by using the omniscient voice, I can be inside other people’s heads and certainly in other places where Jane was not present. It was confusing at first, but once I got the hang of it, I found it very freeing.
Q. Whose heads in particular did you want to be in other than Jane’s?
A. For the first time, I braved the inside of male brains! I still am not sure how men think, but I gave it my best shot. So, Edward IV was an obvious target, as were his chamberlain, friend and Jane’s champion, Will Hastings, Jane’s husband, William Shore, and most important to me, Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III. In my other books, my pro-Richard stance comes through loud and clear. But in Royal Mistress I had to look at him through other people’s eyes–notably my protagonist Jane’s and her protector Will Hastings’s, both of whom Richard punished severely after Edward died. But, by also being able to jump into Richard’s head, I could temper what other people were saying or thinking by showing Richard’s motivation for some of his more controversial actions. Richard was driven by a strong sense of duty, morality and loyalty, and woe betide anyone who did not measure up.
Q. Although Jane was a concubine and rose and fell because she used her body, did you find her a sympathetic character to research and write?
A. Oh yes. Jane was witty, kind and loyal. She was doomed as soon as William Hastings set eyes on her and marked her out as a lover for either himself or for his friend and master, King Edward. Once her marriage was annulled, she was at the mercy of any man who fancied her. In those days, a woman’s path was defined by the men in her life: father, brother, husband or lord. I had to find the person that won the love and admiration of three of England’s most powerful men in 1470-1480s: Edward IV, William Hastings and Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset and oldest son of Queen Elizabeth Woodville (by her first marriage). And Jane’s story was full of enough drama to inspire poets, playwrights and prose writers to retell it through the centuries. Royal Mistress is just latest of many efforts to do justice to this intriguing, almost-forgotten woman in history.
Thank you so much for sharing this with your many and faithful readers, Sharon. Anyone who loves your Sunne in Splendor will recognize most of the characters in Royal Mistress.
Thank you, Anne, for agreeing to this interview. It was a pleasure to “chat” with you. I am sure Royal Mistress will be a great success and I am also sure that somewhere, Jane Shore is smiling.
July 20, 2013
May 15th is another slow
history day, so I was going to fall back on that old standby, Game of Thrones,
which is quite medieval except for the dragons and Others and dyrewolves
and…Okay, maybe it is not so medieval. But I decided that my Game of Thrones quiz
would make a better blog than a Facebook entry.
First, I want to pass on an interesting bit of information. George RR Martin wrote Sunday’s episode
himself. He writes one each season; I’m
not sure which one he did in Season One but he did the Blackwater Battle
episode in Season Two.
I hope this will
be fun for my fellow Game addicts.
While we are all living in the Martin universe, we live on separate
continents; there are those of us who have read the books and those of us who
have not, preferring to watch the series without knowing what is coming
next. So it will be tricky to pull
this off without telling the latter what they do not want to know. But I have confidence we can do it. The first SPOILER ALERT is for those who are
watching the HBO series but have not seen Sunday’s episode yet. Read no further if you want to preserve the
suspense. I found it interesting that
almost all of the scenes in this episode were not in the books, and even more
interesting that Master Martin penned them himself. I really like the by-play between Bronn and
Tyrion. I am still very worried about
Gentry. I loved Tywin’s response when
bratty grandson Joffrey whined about having to climb all the steps up to the Hand’s
Tower. Tywin said coolly, “We can always
arrange to have you carried.” Joffrey
may be an idiot as well as a sociopath, but at least he has enough sense to be
wary of Grand-dad. And I also loved Arya’s answer when asked who
her God was: Death. Rather sad, though, that this young girl
could make that sound so believable.
we are into more dangerous territory. I
want to ask a few questions about the characters. Only some of my own answers come from the
books and we do not want to give anything away for our HBO-only brothers and
sisters. So I suggest this. In your own answers, do not specify WHY you
are choosing a particular character if his or her bad behavior has not yet
occurred in the series. Just say; see
books. Those who’ve read them will
understand and we won’t be spoiling the suspense for those who haven’t. Here are the questions.
1) Who do you think is the most evil character
in the Ice and Fire series? For me, it
is Littlefinger, but my pick is based on what he does in later books. So I am not going into detail about his many
sins. This is a SEE BOOKS sort of pick.
2) Who do you think is the most unlikable
character in the series? For me, it is
Cersei. My choice is based more on the
books than the series, especially the fourth book when we are allowed into
Cersei’s head—not a pleasant place to visit.
do you think is the character who has made the most remarkable
rehabilitation? For me, that has to be
4) Who do you think is the most sadistic
character in the series? For me, it is
a dead heat between Joffrey and Theon’s torturer. (Notice I do not identify the monster since
he has not be identified yet on HBO) I’d
actually give him the edge over Joffrey, although it is a close race.
is strictly an HBO question. Which
character do you think makes more of an impact in the series than in the
books? For me, it would be Margaery,
who did not make much of an impression on me on the printed page, but who
steals every scene she is in, thanks to the wonderful Natalie Dormer. Same for her grandmother, the Queen of
Thorns, played by the incomparable Diana Rigg, who’d make a marvelous Eleanor
of Aquitaine in her winter years. And
while I think Tywin is a strong character in the books, Charles Dance gives him
even more of an edge on screen.
do you think is the character nowhere near as smart as he or she thinks? For me, this is Cersei, based on both the
series and the books.
“good character” do you find the least sympathetic? For me, that is Catelyn. I can’t forgive her for the cruelty she
displayed to Jon Snow as a boy.
often found myself wanting to scream at my Angevins when they were about to do
something they’d greatly regret.
Eleanor, maybe you ought to rethink this rebellion idea. Richard, I think you forgot your hauberk;
want to go back for it? Henry, for a
brilliant man, how can you be so dense as a dad? Applying the lessons you belatedly learned
with Hal to Richard and Geoffrey is not going to work out so well for you. You get the drift. So here is my Game of Thrones question. Which character did you want to grab and
give a good shake? For me, this was an
easy one—the noble Ned Stark.
one is posed out of curiosity about your answers. Who is your favorite character? For me, it is Tyrion, both in the books and
as played by the brilliant Peter Dinklage in the HBO series.
10) Which secondary characters are you most happy
to see in a scene in the HBO series?
For me, it would be Bronn and Ygritte and Brienne.
11) Lastly, what is your favorite scene in the
series so far? And which one do you
think is the most shocking to date? For
me, my favorite is the scene with Daenerys and the slimy slave trader, when she
trades one of her precious dragons for his Unsullied slave army and then pulls
a beautiful double-cross. The most
shocking to me—especially since I had not read any of the books when I watched
the first episode of Season One—was when Jaime murmured, “The things I do for
love,” and pushed Bran out that window.
May 15, 2013
I am sorry for flying under the radar for so long, but I’ve been struggling with twin demons—that looming deadline for A King’s Ransom and what may be bronchitis. I am happy to report that I am finally on the mend and I have a new blog entry—an interview with the author, actor, and director, David Blixt. When you read the interview, you will be able to tell that David and I are friends—and that we share the same somewhat warped sense of humor. (I mean that in a good way, of course.) For anyone who has not yet read one or more of David’s novels, you are about to hit the literary lottery. Yes, he is that good. You can visit his website, but first I hope you read our interview below. http://www.davidblixt.com/
Your novel HER MAJESTY’S WILL is quite the comic romp, very different from the twists and turns of THE MASTER OF VERONA. But they’re both inspired from Shakespeare. Is that where your ideas come from?
Partly. I’m inspired by gaps in stories we all know, or think we know. For MoV, it was the origin of the Capulet-Montague feud. For HMW, it was the biography of Shakespeare himself, those lost eight years after he left Stratford and before he showed up in London. My Roman/Jewish series is the gap in the history of the early Christian church. I don’t want to tell stories people know. I want to tell stories that surprise people, flout their expectations.
You’re an actor. How much is theatre a part of your writing process?
It’s a huge influence, because it’s what I know. Most of my professional life in the theatre involves Shakespeare, so that’s what I know. He’s a great teacher for character, structure, and dialogue. His plots are rather dippy, but he’s a genius for motive and honest expression. Shakespeare also introduced me to my wife. So I owe him a lot.
What inspired you to write your first book?
THE HOBBIT, and DREADSTAR comics, which is a sprawling dark space epic. I was eleven years old, and imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, so it had giant spiders and a magic sword that lives in your soul. But my first real attempt at a novel was inspired by Jonathan Carroll’s SLEEPING IN FLAME. Romantic and disturbing all at once. I was nineteen when I read that, and it spurred me on.
Which novel is that?
The one that lives in a drawer. In fact, that’s probably a better title for it than the original – THE NOVEL THAT LIVES IN THE DRAWER. For all that it’s a dark time-travel romance, it’s actually the novel I had to write to get out of my own way.
What about your first work of Historical Fiction? What was the inspiration for that?
The basic story for THE MASTER OF VERONA was rattling around in my brain when I happened to read Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series for the first time. It was her work more than anything that showed me the model I wanted to follow.
But the idea itself came from Shakespeare. There’s a line at the end of Romeo & Juliet that hints, maybe, sorta, at the origin of the feud. It doesn’t work theatrically, but I couldn’t get past the notion. Yet I was physically incapable of not telling that story. So I dove in and wrote a much more ambitious novel than I’d intended, involving Dante and Cangrande and politics and religion and war and honor and love. When I finished that book, I realized I wasn’t done with the story. Which is what kicked off the Star-Cross’d series.
You have a new novel out?
Yes, COLOSSUS: THE FOUR EMPERORS. It’s about Nero’s final year and the terror that follows, known today as the Year Of The Four Emperors. It’s available as a Kindle e-book now, and in trade paperback next month.
And then a new Verona book at the end of the summer?
That’s the hope. I’m terribly behind. THE PRINCE’S DOOM, fourth in the Star-Cross’d series. The first three are available on Kindle and Nook, with the trade paperback edition of VOICE OF THE FALCONER out now, and FORTUNE’S FOOL coming next month. The covers are breathtaking.
Speaking of covers, the cover for HER MAJESTY’S WILL is very funny. A twist on the ‘headless woman’ trend. Except when you look closely, it’s a man. Who designed it?
A wonderful artist and fellow actor by the name of Rob McLean. I knew exactly what I wanted from the cover, but it took Rob to make it real. He got photographer Paul Metreyon to come in and shoot the pic. I borrowed the Renaissance dress from Elizabeth MacDougal, and we stuck a wig on the very talented, very tall actor Matt Holzfeind. The photo-shoot was hilarious and joyful, and I think that comes through in the cover. I’m lucky to know so many talented people.
Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
Someone recently said my books convey the message, ‘Life is pain, and then you die.’ I hope not. I’m a pretty happy guy. I’m both bothered and tickled when I see myself being compared to George RR Martin. I love it because I admire his skill at flouting his audience’s expectations. And I approve of his ‘no one is safe’ method. But his work is so bleak, there’s almost no relief. Drama is conflict, and so we thrive on trouble and strife. But there has to be some joy to punctuate the trouble, or else we’re just pummeling ourselves. And our readers.
To actually answer your question – no, I don’t think so. I just like to tell stories. History holds enough messages, and I want people to take away what they will.
You have a great deal of ‘child in peril’ in your Verona books.
I do. Someday my children are going to read these books and wonder what I have against them. Especially as the character Cesco looks a lot like my son Dash. But I created Cesco a full six years before Dash was born. I’m saved by the clock.
What books have influenced your life most?
Dorothy Dunnett’s A PAWN IN FRANKENCENSE. Jonathan Carroll’s SLEEPING IN FLAME. Bernard Cornwell’s ENEMY OF GOD. Colleen McCullough’s THE FIRST MAN IN ROME. And THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR.
You’re cute. What book are you reading now?
For pleasure, I’m re-reading Christopher Gortner’s THE TUDOR SECRET in preparation for the sequel, coming later this year. I’m also back in the pages of A. M. Allen’s A HISTORY OF VERONA. That’s my one regret in becoming an author – these days I read so much more for research than I do for fun.
Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
Not nearly as much as I’d like. But I’ve been everywhere I’ve written about, with the exception of Avignon in FORTUNE’S FOOL. That was hard. I hate relying on pictures and written descriptions of places. I need to have my own impression of the land, the color of the light, the roll and pitch of the streets, the smell in the air.
What projects are you working on at present?
I’m finishing the aforementioned fourth Star-Cross’d novel, THE PRINCE’S DOOM. Then two more Colossus novels, WAIL OF THE FALLEN and THE HOLLOW TRIUMPH. After that comes the novel I’m dying to get to, the one that I’ve wanted to write for years but have finally figured out how. It’s about the Devil. I’m very excited.
And future projects?
I want to wade into another Shakespeare property and tackle Othello. I also have a vampire series in the back of my head. Right now I’m about five years behind my brain, and I’m just trying desperately to catch up. I hope I never do.
Part of the hold-up is theatre. This summer I’ll be on-stage playing Orsino in Twelfth Night at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. While acting can inspire me to write, I can never actually write while I’m doing a show. That’s part of how I fall behind – I took a show last October, and it put me two months off my ideal writing schedule. But theatre feeds a different part of my ego.
Your ego seems very healthy.
Um, thank you?
Vampires, the Devil. You seem to want to genre hop.
My heart is in historical fiction, but there are occasions when I want to play in another sandbox.
What’s your favorite fruit?
To eat, grapes. As a flavor in drinks and whatnot, peach.
Have you ever been in trouble with the police?
Not in the United States.
If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?
I’d replace someone’s medicine with sugar pills, and wait. I’m very patient. It’s like reverse-poisoning.
And if they didn’t take medicine?
A good hand axe. Lots of heft.
What’s the best juxtaposition of life events you’ve experienced?
Being physically thrown out of the Vatican, and being blessed by the Pope. Two different days.
Sounds like a good story.
Back to acting – you’ve been stabbed how many times? On stage, I mean.
Once in the belly, once in the thigh. Once I thought I’d lost part of a finger during a swordfight on stage, but I only lost the fingernail. Lots of blood, though. I’ve had my nose broken onstage. As safe as we try to be, there are mishaps. And with swords, those mishaps can be pretty dramatic.
That’s disturbingly attractive.
Sharon, I’m married.
What do you consider your biggest failure?
All of them. I relive my failures constantly. It’s like my brain says, “Oh, we’re feeling pretty good, are we? Remember that moment in the second grade when you did this?” And I shake to my core.
What do you like to read in your free time?
Seriously. I’m a lifelong addict. I have well over 20,000 comics, all bagged and boxed. And now that I have an iPad I read comics on that, too.
Would you ever want to write comics?
I would. Like everyone I know, I have a killer Batman story. But mine does not involve the Joker. Or Catwoman. In fact, it’s a new villain, but features an old one. And suddenly we’re talking about a whole different part of my brain. Or maybe the same one. It’s all world-building, with familiar characters.
You seem far less attractive suddenly.
Does that mean you’ll stop undressing me with your eyes?
You’re really a child, aren’t you?
Yes. I discovered the things that made me happy as a child make me happy as an adult. I’ve just added sex, cars, and alcohol to the list.
What’s your favorite movie?
What’s your favorite movie that isn’t a cliché?
Nice. It Happened One night. Or Die Hard.
Which is pretty much what HER MAJESTY’S WILL is – a combination of It Happened One Night and Die Hard, with a smidge of Brokeback Mountain.
Ha! Yes. With some Hope/Crosby Road Movies thrown in for good measure.
Way to make a callback!
Thank you. Any final words?
Wait – does this interview end with my death?
If you keep this up, yes.
Then I’ll just say what an honor it is to be counted among your friends. And what an inspiration you are, a dynamo of great writing that it is impossible to hope to match.
And that talent is sexy, which makes you the Marilyn Monroe of Historical Fiction authors.
Excellent answer. Say goodnight, David.
April 28, 2013
A KING’S RANSOM AND MORE RANDOM THOUGHTS
I just finished Chapter 33 of Ransom, which ended well for Richard, not so well for the French king. The happiest day of Philippe’s life had to be the day that Richard died at the siege of Chalus. But I am taking a quick breathing space to put up a new blog. I thought you might like to read some brief excerpts from Ransom since the ones I’ve posted in the past were well received.
Aboard the pirate ship Sea Wolf, November 1192.
* * *
The ship shuddered, like an animal in its death throes. Its prow was pointing skyward, so steep was the wave, and the men desperately braced themselves, knowing the worst was to come. The galley was engulfed, white water breaking over both sides, flooding the deck. And then it was going down, plunging into the trough, and there was nothing in their world but seething, surging water. Richard heard terrified cries of “Jesu!” and “Holy Mother!” Beside him, Arne was whimpering in German. The bow was completely submerged and Richard was sure that the Sea Wolf was doomed, heading for the bottom of the Adriatic Sea.
“Lord God, I entreat Thee to save us, Thy servants!” Richard’s voice rose above the roar of the storm, for he was used to shouting commands on the battlefield. “Let us reach a safe harbor and I pledge one hundred thousand ducats to build for Thee a church wherever we come ashore! Do not let men who’ve taken the cross die at sea and be denied Christian burial!”
* * *
Aboard the pirate ship Sea Serpent, December 1192
* * *
At last the shoreline came into view, greenish-grey under an overcast, dull sky. The pirates were manning the oars again. As soon as they had reached the shallows, they plunged into the water to beach the galley. The ground was marshy and they sank into it almost to the tops of their boots, but even a quagmire seemed like Eden to them after their ordeal on the Sea-Serpent.
The pirates were positioning the anchors to keep the galley from being caught in the next high tide and cursing among themselves as they confirmed that the rudder had indeed broken off. The wind had a bite and the men began to shiver. A silence fell as they looked around at the most barren, bleak landscape any had ever seen. No trees. No vegetation, just salty marsh grass. No sounds but the surging of the surf, not even the cries of sea birds. No signs of life.
Richard spoke for them all when he said at last, “Where in God’s Holy Name are we?”
* * *
Austria, December 1192
* * *
By late afternoon, they could see castle walls in the distance. Even before Gunther pointed toward it and said, “Durnstein,” Richard knew that he was looking at Leopold’s “impregnable stronghold.” It cast a formidable shadow over the valley, perched high on a cliff above the Danube, as rough-hewn, ominous, and impassable as the surrounding mountains. Richard would normally have assessed it with a soldier’s eye, seeking its weaknesses and weighing its strengths. Now he saw only a prison.
* * *
London January 1193
* * *
Eleanor was sitting up straight now, no longer slumped back in the chair as if her bones could not bear her weight, and Andre saw that color was slowly returning to her cheeks; that sickly white pallor was gone. As he watched, it seemed to him that she was willing her body to recover, finding strength from some inner source that defied her advancing years, and he felt a surge of relief. It had shaken him to see her looking so fragile, so vulnerable, so old. She was on her feet now, beginning to pace as she absorbed the impact of the emperor’s letter, and when she turned to face Andre, he saw that her hazel eyes had taken on a greenish, cat-like glitter, reflecting nothing at that moment but a fierce, unforgiving rage.
“They will not get away with this,” she said, making that simple sentence a declaration of war. “We shall secure my son’s freedom, no matter what it takes. And we will protect his kingdom until he can be restored to us, Andre.”
* * *
Marseilles August 1193 Joanna’s first meeting with the son of the Count of Toulouse, who was a controversial figure because of his tolerance of the Cathar heretics.
* * *
There was so much tension over Raimond de St Gilles’s impending arrival that Mariam joked privately to Joanna, “It is as if we are expecting the Anti-Christ.” Joanna smiled sourly, for her sense of humor seemed to have decamped as soon as she’d learned of Alfonso’s double-cross, for that was how she saw his surprise. Soon afterward, she found herself seated on the dais with Alfonso, Sancha, and Berengaria, awaiting the Anti-Christ’s entrance.
There was a stir as he entered the hall, for he was accompanied by a rising troubadour star, Ramon de Miravel. Joanna never noticed the troubadour, though, for she saw only Raimond de St Gilles. He was taller than average, with a lean build and the easy grace of a man comfortable in his own body. She had never seen hair so dark—as glossy and black as a raven’s wing—or eyes so blue, all the more striking because his face was so deeply tanned by the southern sun. He was clean-shaven, with sharply sculptured cheekbones and a well-shaped, sensual mouth that curved slightly at the corners, as if he were suppressing a smile. He was not as conventionally handsome as her brothers or her husband, but as she watched him approach the dais, Joanna’s breath caught in her throat, for the first time understanding what the troubadours meant when they sang of a “fire in the blood.”
* * *
Now, on to those random thoughts. Sometimes it can be a good thing to be late to the party. I was very, very late to the George R.R. Martin party. I had not read any of his Ice and Fire novels until HBO began running the Game of Throne series. I would follow Sean Bean anywhere so I tuned in, and was hooked. Naturally I then moved on to the books. But I was spared the endless waits between books, six years for one of them! And now it has happened again. I did not watch Downton Abbey when it first aired. Once I did come to the Downton party, I enjoyed myself enormously. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite series, Upstairs, Downstairs. And no waiting—I can move on to Seasons Two and Three. I know many of my readers share my fascination with Game of Thrones. Are many of you fans of Downton Abbey, too?
I hear there is going to be a television series in the U.K. based up Philippa Gregory’s novels, The Cousins’ War. And of course the media remains keen on stories about the king in the car park. I will admit that I hope Sunne benefits from this surge of interest in the Wars of the Roses! I have already been given a rare opportunity—I was able to make revisions for the new hardcover edition of Sunne coming out in September. Nothing drastic; Richard still loses at Bosworth Field, I’m sorry to say. But Sunne was a learning experience for me, it being my first novel, and I subsequently concluded that when it came to writing medieval dialogue, less is more. I have also written a new Author’s Note;, for how could I not discuss the remarkable discovery of Richard’s lost grave. I will try to include the new Sunne cover in this blog, but no promises, for Melusine has been her usual contrary self lately, joining Demon Spawn on the dark side. I don’t mean to brag, but I doubt that anyone has the sort of computer troubles that I do.
April 5, 2013
I am very pleased to be able to interview David Pilling, author of The White Hawk, the first of a trilogy set during the Wars of the Roses, which will follow the shifting fortunes of a family pledged to the House of Lancaster. So often historical novels focus only upon those at the top of the social pyramid, but the lives of all the English were affected by the power struggles that convulsed England in the 15th century, and David takes us into this interesting, unknown territory. I admit I have not been able to read The White Hawk, for I’ve had to give up any hopes of having a normal life until Ransom is done, but I did get to read a few chapters, and I was quite impressed. I think you’ll all enjoy David’s interview, which is highly entertaining.
How did you begin writing and what keeps you going?
I’ve always had ideas for original stories swirling around in my head. The setting of my childhood no doubt helped a great deal - I was brought up in the West Wales countryside, a beautiful area soaked in history (and rain), and spent many years dragging my poor parents up and down ruined castles. Added to that, I always enjoyed creative writing at school, but there was a significant lapse during my teens and early twenties. I started writing short stories again about four years ago and since then the floodgates have opened.
What became of your earliest efforts at writing?
Either rotting away in a cupboard somewhere, or long since lost in the rubbish. Probably a good thing! My earliest attempt at a full-length novel, a truly awful attempt at fictionalizing the life of William Marshall has gone missing – again, probably a good thing! My second, a slightly less awful effort based on the life of Hereward the Wake, is still extant. And no-one shall ever read it!
What made you choose the genres and time periods you write in?
I generally write fiction based in the medieval era, or Tolkien-esque fantasy, and chose those thanks to my lifelong obsession with all things medieval. The first full-length novels I ever read were the Lord of the Rings and TH White’s The Once and Future King. I still rate White’s book as the best version of Arthurian legend I have ever read.
What parts of the writing process do you most enjoy, and what do you dislike?
The creative process is the most enjoyable, particularly those moments where fresh ideas suddenly occur to me, and the putting together of a storyline. The least enjoyable by far is editing and proofreading. These I find a major headache.
Historical fiction requires a great deal of research. What is the most memorable thing you have discovered during this process?
The research for battle conditions during The Wars of the Roses – the era of my current novel – was both eye-popping and terrifying. How anyone had the courage to stand and fight on a medieval battlefield is beyond me, considering the lack of medical knowledge and the appalling wounds men suffered. Men like the Earl of Wiltshire were accused of cowardice for running away from battles. Personally, I can only empathize with their good sense.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?
It’s a cliché, but ‘never give up’ is probably the best advice. There are so many naysayers and armchair critics out there. Self-belief and drive are crucial. I have been fortunate in the response to my work so far, but every so often someone does stick the knife in, and it’s often difficult to pretend that doesn’t hurt.
Tell us something about your current project.
My current novel, The White Hawk, is the first of a trilogy set during The Wars of the Roses in 15th century England. Book One: Revenge follows the fortunes of a minor gentry family, the Boltons of Staffordshire, in their attempts to survive and prosper in an increasingly brutal and uncertain world. I wanted to weave a story around the contrasting fortunes of individual members of the same family, and how the savage and uncertain politics of the time affected ‘ordinary’ people.
And finally, what’s next for you?
My next novel, Nowhere Was There Peace, is due to be published by Fireship Press, and I have another story in the pipeline based on the exploits of King Arthur’s (fictional) grandson…
Thank you, David, for a very interesting interview.
March 22, 2013
I am writing this in memory of my friend Gail Frazer, who wrote her medieval mysteries under the name Margaret Frazer, for she has finally lost her long battle. Gail was my sister in all the ways that counted. We were Yorkists, fellow writers, animal lovers, wine lovers, bibliophiles, and shared the same fascination with history. She was much funnier than me, though, much funnier than the great majority of people on the planet. I’d not have been surprised to discover that she could trace her descent from Mark Twain. All that irreverence and irony had to come from somewhere, after all. She could laugh at almost anything, including herself, even death. She was as courageous as any warrior, fighting cancer for twenty years, giving no quarter. She joked that her mantra was one she’d stolen from Han Solo, “Never tell me the odds!” She also took a perverse pleasure in defying her doctors, who were, she reported gleefully, baffled that she was still alive. She rescued stray cats and wayward friends. She loved fiercely and had no patience with the pompous or the pretentious, skewering writers who did not do their research, describing their sloppy sort of work as “Mary Jane visits the castle.”
Her books were a delight to read, for her wit and intelligence shone through on every page. She was not a Catholic, but don’t tell that to Sister Frevisse, her austere medieval nun, who yearned only to serve God, although Gail kept dragging corpses into her peaceful convent. Her dashing spy and sometime player, Joliffe, is probably closer to Gail’s own nature, for he took nothing in life all that seriously, especially himself, She had the imagination to create both chillingly believable villains and the heartbreakingly vulnerable people they victimized. She was almost as ruthless as George R.R. Martin about killing her characters off; my mother never quite forgave her for The Servant’s Tale. It would have been fascinating to see what she could have done with Elizabeth of York, the subject of her next novel; Henry Tudor would have been verbally eviscerated before he even knew what was happening.
Her books are only one of her legacies, though. She touched so many lives. She lives on in her sons and in her books and in the memories of all those who loved her, and we are legion. The world will be a darker place without her. But for those of you who’ve not yet had the pleasure of reading her novels, there is still time. And what better way can a writer be remembered than to be read?