Tudors

Guest Post: Robert Parry, author of Virgin and the Crab

 Welcoming author Robert Parry today in honor of the 3rd Birthday of his debut novel, Virgin and the Crab (this is a cross post from Historical Fiction Connection)!


HISTORICAL FICTION – A Writer’s Perspective on Celebrating the 3rd Birthday of his Debut Novel

Once upon a time, in the days before the interenet and the advent of so much of the passionate discussion that we now encounter online, the work of the writer of historical fiction was relatively easy. One simply got hold of a biography or two, looked up a few facts and figures, dates and places, and hey-presto! The author could then just let his or her imagination run riot and delight everyone with yet another story about their chosen heroes, all those kings and queens of bygone days and all their legendary exploits!
Now, however, it is all so different. Now every possible item of information about every prominent historical figure is scrutinised and picked to pieces by whole armies of avid enthusiasts. Do you think you know where Queen Elizabeth was located on such and such a date, who she was with, or even what she might have been eating for dinner? It’s all out there … somewhere. And it changes quite often, too. So if you are not content with one version of events, you can always find an alternative point of view, supported by this or that document or state paper or erudite thesis from prominent scholars or TV personalities who all insist they have the right answer. There also seems to be a clear trend – away from information written down by people who actually lived at the time (unreliable – what did they know, anyway!) towards the discovery of more and more unromantic counter-assertions that seek to ‘put the record straight’ or ‘explode the myths.’ There are even a number of historians who have become novelists themselves! The whole genre has moved up a notch. Or has it?
The question is, should writers of historical fiction now be quaking in their boots at the prospect of any new venture they plan? Should they pepper their pages with footnotes and provide appendices explaining why they chose to write what they did, and the sources they used – a little apologetic perhaps just in case they might have drifted too far into the realms of speculation or untruth? Should they? No, of course not. That’s why, whenever I sit at my desk and reach for the keyboard, I console myself with the recollection that literature, be it good bad or indifferent, is a branch of the arts. And whenever the day comes when artists begin to worry about what they write or whether it conforms to some external standard of conduct, or version of ‘truth’ as perceived at the time, then it probably ceases to be art at all – and then we are all in big trouble.
Well, all this might sound terribly irresponsible, and anarchic, and there are certainly many people who would disagree. But my assertion is this: it is every bit as interesting for writers and readers of historical fiction to speculate on what their characters might have been thinking about, dreaming about and imagining for themselves, as it is to describe what they actually did. This approach provides us with a number of possible insights into the past, insights that can reveal how the world we live in today might have been formed and, ultimately, why we are who we are, and why we think the way we do. And that, I believe, is important.
Thanks to Michelle for her continued support of this novel and for hosting this article here today. ‘Virgin and the Crab’ is named after the astrological signs of the two main characters: Virgo (the Virgin) for Elizabeth Tudor, and Cancer (the Crab) for her illustrious mentor John Dee. It is set in a period of twelve short years (1547 to 1559) in which England saw no less than two kings and three queens upon the throne in rapid succession. As you can imagine, there certainly was a lot of research needed in the making of it. But it’s not a history book, and the sub-title should serve as a suitable health warning: ‘Sketches Fables and Mysteries from the Early Life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor.’ In other words it is all rather theatrical; dramatic and full of fantasy, dreams and speculation.
To celebrate it’s 3rd Birthday there is a giveaway contest taking place over at The True Book Addict. Good luck, if you enter.
My website is on: http://robertparry.wordpress.com

And looking forward, perhaps, to meeting you on my Facebook page, too, sometime: https://www.facebook.com/RobertParry.author

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Categories: 16th century, historical fiction, historical figures, history, Queen Elizabeth I, Tudors | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

This is a cross post from my book blog, The True Book Addict.

My thoughts:

It was a perilous time during the reign of Henry the VIII of England.  Women who caught his eye and who were ‘lucky’ enough to be made his wife would not feel so lucky for long.  At least, in the case of a few of them.  Loyal servants who served his will in one instance could next find themselves out of favor and facing execution for some failing, many times through no fault of their own.  And none felt the danger more than the faithful who served at the monasteries, at the priories and abbeys throughout England at the time.  These institutions were being suppressed and the nuns and monks turned out (with or without pensions, depending on the situation) to either find houses in foreign countries or to find new ways of life.  For many, a life outside of an religious order was unthinkable, but they were given no choice as Henry appointed himself the head of the Church and ushered in a new era of religious reform.

It is among this strife that this excellent novel is set.  Meticulously researched, The Crown is at once a historical novel that the reader will learn a lot from.  I am always pleasantly surprised when I learn something new from a historical novel and in this case, I learned of King Athelstan, a king that I had never heard of.  Just when you think you know pretty much everything about a particular country’s history, something like this comes along to prove you wrong.  It happened to me here in a big way.  I can’t wait to go off on my own and read more about him and the legends surrounding him.  One of these legends is about his crown which is what the book is about.  There is a desperate search for this crown and so we are also given an exciting and interesting mystery along with the excellent historical prose.  I’m not kidding when I say exciting.  I was literally on the edge of my seat during many parts of the book.

Add to what I’ve said above the seamless incorporation of historical figures, such as Mary Tudor, Katherine of Aragon, Anne and George Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, as well as compelling and heroic characters, and this book easily takes a place on my list of great works of historical fiction.  Joanna is a heroine I have a strong liking and admiration for and I look forward to the continuation of the series in the second book, The Chalice.

About the book:

An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537…

Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.

The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.

But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted, and Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, Arthur. The crown’s intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm and it must not fall into the wrong hands.

With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.

Nancy Bilyeau’s Website

Nancy Bilyeau on Twitter: @TudorScribe

Categories: 16th century, Henry VIII, historical fiction, historical figures, history, Tudors | Leave a comment

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