Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Interview for On The Tudor Trail

I recently did an interview with Natalie who has an interesting new website called Anyone interested in Anne Boleyn and the Tudors should take a look, there are some interesting posts on her blog at http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog and I am sure there is more to come.

Here is my interview:

Q & A with Brandy Purdy

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Brandy Purdy, author of The Boleyn Wife. She very kindly agreed to answer some questions exclusively for our On the Tudor Trail readers! I thank Brandy for sharing her thoughts and opinions with us in such a sincere manner.

The Tudors have inspired countless novels, biographies, films, plays and documentaries. Why do you think readers and audiences are insatiable when it comes to this period in history?

I think it’s the characters, the fascinating blend of personalities, the royal trappings, the whole saga of Henry VIII and his six wives is like a grand soap opera, brimming with romance, sex, danger, and intrigue, it’s one of those stories that has captured the public imagination since these events happened centuries ago and we’ve never let go. Everyday I think someone discovers it for the first time and gets caught up in it and wants to know more. And there is so much authors can do with it, so many twists and turns and different viewpoints from the strictly the facts approach to the more romantic or fanciful, there is something for everyone on the fiction shelves, and the non-fiction/biographical shelves are loaded too.

Who is your favourite of Henry VIII’s queens and why?

Anne Boleyn, because she broke the mold, there was no one else like her. She was so brave and daring, she gambled on herself when no one else would, when everyone thought she was bound to lose. When the world is full of women willing to flop on their backs to be the mistress of the king, it takes courage to say “no” when even your own family pressures you to give in. Sometimes people who have read The Boleyn Wife come away with the impression that I do not like the Boleyns, I’m always sorry when that happens, because in fact Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth I are the two historical women I admire most, but I like a challenge when I write, I don’t want to tell the same story the way everyone else has done, and The Boleyn Wife was written from the viewpoint of an unstable and vindictive woman who detested Anne Boleyn, though in my opinion at times a grudging admiration still shows through.

Why did you choose to write The Boleyn Wife in the first person?

From the time I first read about her, I was always curious about Lady Rochford, so little was known her about, I always wanted to know more, I wanted to know why she made the accusations against Anne and George, what her relationships with them were actually like, and what it was like for her afterwards, how it affected her. You don’t falsely accuse someone of a horrible crime and help send them to their death and that’s it, it’s over, you never think about it again. It has to stay with you in some form or fashion, even if you push it to the back of your mind it has to bubble up to the surface again from time to time. And I wanted to explore that. I always had the impression from what I read that Lady Rochford was a rather unlikeable woman, and I wanted to create a…well, heroine seems the wrong word for Lady Rochford, but I wanted to create a character who readers would be able to watch emotionally disintegrate as the story progressed, eaten up by her own jealousy and hate, and decide for themselves whether to pity, despise, or sympathize with her and whether to believe what she says or dismiss it, in whole or in part, as the ravings and fantasies of an unstable mind or someone twisting the facts to garner sympathy. It is not supposed to be a straightforward, factual historical novel, like the works of Jean Plaidy, I wanted to do something different that readers could maybe have a little fun with.

Do you believe that Jane Rochford volunteered the damning evidence against Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn because of her jealousy of their supportive relationship? Or do you believe that Cromwell initiated ‘discussions’ with Jane and that she simply succumbed to the immense pressure of his relentless questioning?

I personally think the seed of bitterness and jealousy was already planted, but Cromwell came along and watered it. Perhaps he waited and caught Jane at the right or a weak moment? I do not think if it had been a good marriage, a loving marriage, where both parties were happy in it, that Jane would have gone along with any scheme concocted by Cromwell, even if she hated Anne body and soul, if she loved her husband she would never have risked his destruction alongside his sister. She was either, in my opinion, acting out of vengeance, or with a mind clouded by some strong emotion, whether it was fear, anger, or jealousy or all three I don’t know, and no one else does either, that is what makes her part of the story so intriguing. If Jane had written a diary and we knew exactly why she did it the mystery would be solved and we would have missed the chance to wonder and speculate about her motives for all these many years. What if she had written something that basically said: I married him because my father told me to, we never clicked, we just didn’t care for each other, and I never liked Anne either, and I wanted to keep in good at court, I liked being a lady-in-waiting and in the thick of things, so when Cromwell asked me to help out I was glad to oblige; Anne was going to fall anyway so why should I go down with her? In my opinion, that’s just not as interesting as hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and a descent into madness. I guess I prefer strong emotions to self-interest and bland indifference.

Did you portray Anne Boleyn with a sixth finger because you believe it to be true or is there another reason?

I am well aware that there has been considerable debate about whether Anne actually possessed any disfigurements or deformities. I personally don’t have an opinion one way or the other; a disease, disability, or disfigurement does not define who a person is. I chose to include it as yet one more way in which the odds seemed stacked against Anne. When I first describe her appearance in my novel, I mention that her parents despaired of her ever attracting suitors and marrying because she was not the typical Tudor beauty like her sister Mary and even considered sending Anne to a convent, because she was intelligent and clever this might have allowed her to rise to a prominent position in spite of her appearance. I think it is sad but true that people have always been judged by their looks, sometimes we utterly dismiss or just don’t notice someone who is truly special because of the outer package; I like it when someone triumphs over that, as Anne did, she beat out all the blonde beauties vying for the King’s attention and is still remembered today when most of them have been forgotten.

There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding your inclusion of an affair between Catherine Howard and Anne of Cleves in The Boleyn Wife. Could you tell us a little bit about how this idea came about and why you included it?

It was actually intended as a joke that very few people seem to have gotten. Anne of Cleves was very badly treated by the King and his court, in my opinion, she was mocked and made fun of, yet, despite all this, she came out a winner, she won her freedom and became a wealthy woman of independent means, and that I think is an underrated success story. In my novel, I didn’t want her to be a hapless victim, The Flanders Mare blundering her way through the Tudor court, clueless and smiling, I wanted to give her control, to play and eventually win a game no one even realized she was playing. The scene in question was also intended as yet another example of how emotionally damaged Katherine Howard was, I think her rather negligent upbringing, which today would be considered child abuse, caused her to never learn to differentiate between sex and love, and to let her impulses rule her and lead her into dangerous and rash decisions and to be taken advantage of by others; in my novel she is a promiscuous teenager too emotionally immature and damaged to understand or be having sex who pays the ultimate price for it. It was a scene to show what I consider the tragic folly of one young woman and the wisdom and triumph of another. At the end of the scene they discuss their change in circumstances and both of them see that the one who in the eyes of the world appears the loser is actually the winner and vice-versa.

In The Boleyn Wife, Lady Rochford sees the ghosts of Anne and George Boleyn in the Tower. Do you believe in the paranormal?

I have always been fascinated by the paranormal and all kinds of unsolved mysteries, I love to read ghost stories both fictional and supposedly factual ones. I included the ghost scenes in my novel because I first discovered the story of Anne Boleyn in a book of ghost stories I read when I was nine or ten years old, it had a chapter about a sentry in the Tower of London who was almost court-martialed over a supposed confrontation with Anne Boleyn’s ghost. After reading that chapter I wanted to know more about Anne, and that really began my enduring interest in both history and historical fiction.

I believe that you are currently working on Mary and Elizabeth: Rivals for the Tudor Throne. Why did you decide to write this book?

Actually I didn’t, it was my publisher’s idea, but I decided to go with it because I had been interested in their lives since I first learned about them, and I wanted to tell the story of their love-hate relationship and the various twists and turns of their lives in alternating voices, with a more personal and emotional focus rather than a political one. The book is written in first person, Mary and Elizabeth each take turns telling their story. The book is finished and is scheduled for publication in America in July 2011 and, unless dates change, a month earlier in England as Elizabeth and Mary under my British pen name Emily Purdy.

I know that some authors only write at certain times of the day, some in their pyjamas, others arrange their desks in a certain way. Do you have any rituals that you follow when writing?

To be honest, I am often disappointed with myself because I am such an unproductive writer. I am sole caregiver for a very difficult elderly father, and because of his behavior and personality, I am usually unable to write during the day, so I have to write at night, which, I probably would prefer anyway, as it is quieter and there are fewer distractions, but there are nights when I am just so worn or stressed out that I just crash and don’t get even a word written or any research done, and I hate it when I am like that, when the desire is there but not the energy. It’s frustrating, there are so many books I want to write, so many ideas in my head that I want to get down on paper, but sometimes I am just too tired, but when I can force myself to turn the computer on, sit down at the keyboard, and just do it, it usually goes well. I do have a rule though, I do not let myself just sit and stare at the screen. If I run into a tangle or am not sure where the story goes next I get up, walk around a bit, do something like listen to a song or two, watch a spot of TV, have a cup of hot chocolate, read a magazine article or short story–not a book though lest I get caught up in the plot and characters’ lives and neglect my own for wanting to know how it all works out–and then I go back to it and I’m usually fine. On rare occasions, I find I need to sleep on it, though usually after I have turned the computer off and laid down and turned off the lights and gotten drowsy then the solution comes to me and I either have to make myself get back up or just write it down in a notebook I always keep by my bed.

If you could ask any historical personality a question, what would it be and whom would you ask?

I would ask Jack the Ripper who he was and why he did it.

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