INTERVIEW WITH ANNE EASTER SMITH

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!
short bio:
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

29 Responses to “INTERVIEW WITH ANNE EASTER SMITH”

  1. Valerie L. Says:

    Thanks for the interview, Sharon and Anne. This sounds like a book all of us here would enjoy reading.

  2. Emilie Laforge Says:

    Thank you, Sharon and Anne, for this lovely interview. Royal Mistress has been somewhere on my to be read mountain for the last few months but I will now be moving it to the top. :)

  3. Koby Says:

    Oh, what a lovely interview. I hope to be able to get my hands on Royal Mistress soon.
    Today, Joan of England, Queen of Scotland, John and Isabella’s eldest daughter was born, and Charles VII of France died, making his son Louis XI ‘The Spider’ King.
    Also, Godfrey of Bouillon was elected Defender of the Holy Sepulchre of The Kingdom of Jerusalem (the title he insisted on, rather than king) and William Wallace lost the Battle of Falkirk to Edward I, causing him to resign his position as Guardian of Scotland. Lastly, the Massacre of Beziers took place today, which was the beginning of the horror known as the Albigensian Crusade. Suffice to say that some 10,000-20,000 people were butchered, with the Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric, Abbot of Citeaux summing up the spirit of the massacre: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” (’Kill them all, for the Lord knoweth them that are His’).

  4. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Another great post, Koby. I really appreciate the way you and others take the slack when I am fighting the Deadline Dragon, and you and Kasia often give us a more eclectic view of history since my own posts are usually centered on England, Wales, France, etc.
    It is looking as if July 22nd will also be the birthdate of the newest British royal since Will’s Kate is finally in labor.

  5. Gabriele Says:

    Yeah, and it’s a boy.

    It’s also the birthday of my late mother.

  6. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Another day, another fight with the Deadline Dragon. What can I say—life in the fast lane. It really helps, of course, that I am getting such enthusiastic responses to Ransom, but sleep would be nice, too. Anyway, while said dragon stalks Holly, who probably looks like a juicy morsel from a dragon’s perspective, I thought I’d pop in to say Hi and confess I was a bit disappointed that the royal baby was not a girl. I liked the idea of a daughter finally getting to stay on center stage and not being shoved off into the wings when little brothers appeared on the scene. Since I have had an intimate relationship, fictionally speaking, with two of the English kings named Richard, naturally I’d like to see another Richard crowned one day. But it is not the luckiest of royal names—all three Richards died young and violently—and Shakespeare does cast a long shadow, so I’d say the chances of that happening are slim and none and slim has left town. But having had to deal with infertility and the high mortality rate of medieval mothers and babies in my books, I am just happy that this baby is a healthy one. And at least William’s Kate did not have the sort of pressure Anne Boleyn faced to produce a son. Such a pity that Henry VIII never knew that it was the father who determined the sex of the child. But then the Tudors were not fans of irony.

  7. Koby Says:

    Today, Matilda of Tuscany (also known as Matilda of Canossa for her ancestral castle), la Gran Contessa died, and Louis VII’s disastrous 5 day Siege of Damascus began.

  8. Malcolm Craig Says:

    It is also unlikely that we will see a King John or King James. Another Alfred would be nice after all those centuries.

  9. skpenman Says:

    There was a sad story on the MSNBC website today about two women who got lost hiking in Vermont during bad weather. They called for help and were found and taken back to their car. But it was raining heavily and foggy and there was a boat ramp at the end of the road; they accidentally drove off it into the ocean and both women and their dog drowned. To make the story even sadder, one of the women was pregnant. I mention this because I made the mistake of reading the comments by readers, and was stunned to find so many of them were hateful, calling the women some vile names, making all sorts of assumptions, and claiming they were no loss to the gene pool. This has long been the ugly underside of the Internet, of course, providing a forum for people who do not deserve one, but this seemed particularly nasty to me. So my day got off to a bad start and I haven’t even tackled the Deadline Dragon yet. But then I came upon this story, about two fishermen who came upon a right whale entangled in buoy lines. There are only about 350 of these whales in the world, and thanks to these two men, we did not lose another one. One of the men was an experienced diver and he managed to free the whale, which swam safely away. And they also managed to get the underwater rescue on video, which you can watch here. http://www.care2.com/causes/fisherman-frees-endangered-whale-in-daring-rescue.html

  10. Koby Says:

    Ah, Sharon, I forgot to thank you for the compliment. It is of course my duty and pleasure.
    Today, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland was born - he would die at Towton, commanding the Lancastrian van. Mary I of England married Philip II of Spain, and James VI was crowned James I of England.

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  12. Koby Says:

    And today, the Battle of Edgecote Field took place, where Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, defeated Yorkist forces gathering to defeat rebels sponsored by Warwick.

  13. skpenman Says:

    I don’t know what I’d do without you, Koby. I think I told you that a friend of mine was convinced you were a university professor?

    I hope people will share this sad story about a soldier’s missing dog. His only hope of recovering the dog is through publicity.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/washington-soldier-dog/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

  14. Koby Says:

    Today, the Battle of Bouvines took place, where Philip II Augustus defeated an allied Imperial and Angevin army under Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor and William Longsword. It was a devastating defeat, with William Longsword, Renaud of Boulogne, Ferrand of Flanders and Theobald I of Lorraine being captured on the field, 12 enemy banners captured by Mathieu de Montmorency, and the Imperial Eagle standard captured.

  15. skpenman Says:

    I knew I could count on you to post about this, Koby, as I am busy feeding that very hungry dragon. A sad day for England and Germany. Otto would be forced to abdicate and Renaud de Dammartin, the Count of Bologne, suffered the worst fate, being chained to a log in a dungeon by a vengeful Philippe for the rest of his miserable days. I never found him a particularly sympathetic figure, but that is still a wretched way for anyone to die. On the other hand, I like Mathieu de Montmorency, who appears in both Lionheart and Ransom, so it is nice that he got to shine.

  16. Joanne Lee Says:

    I have a question for Ms Easter-Smith: Why is the book not available in Kindle edition? With big book stores closing down all over the world, it’s not easy to get a hold of dead-tree versions of her new book - especially halfway across the globe here in Singapore. I’m so very disappointed it’s not Kindled.

  17. Koby Says:

    Indeed, Sharon, that is why I mentioned him.
    Today, Willaim Clito died - he was Robert Curthose’s son, and so a rival claimant to the Duchy of Normandy and the throne of England. Also, Henry VIII [IX] had his best counselor, Thomas Cromwell, executed, and married Catherine Howard.

  18. skpenman Says:

    Taking a Dragon break to mention that one of my favorite Lionheart characters, Richard’s nephew, Henri, the Count of Champagne was born on this date in 1166. I am looking forward to having him hang around the house again in the next book.

  19. Koby Says:

    Today, Pope Urban II died - he preached the Crusades, and died 14 days after the conquest of Jerusalem. The Siege of Damascus ended in a decisive crusader defeat and retreat, leading to the disintegration of the Second Crusade. Mary Queen of Scots married Henry, Lord Darnley, and their son, James VI and I was crowned King of Scotland today. And as Sharon already posted, Henri of Champagne was born today.

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