Saturday, May 03, 2014

Tudors, Jakes and Shag Lessons

Posted by Michelle Griep

Recently I pulled off my TBR pile a gorgeous looking book called Queen Elizabeth's Daughter. Want to see?
Yummy, right? Well so is the story. Which made me curious about the author. You know where this is headed, don't you? Yep. Sit back and enjoy an interview with a tale of Tudor intrigue, Anne Clinard Barnhill.

You write historical fiction, which begs the question... how do you research? 

The Tudors have been my secret (now, not so secret) obsession for many years.  Over time, I’ve collected close to 300 nonfiction books about the era.  I’m always on the lookout for new information, so I tune in via internet so websites like The Anne Boleyn Files, On the Tudor Trail, Being Bess, and other great sites for info. I also scout the web for primary sources as can be found in the Gutenberg Project.

What's one quirky fact you uncovered during the process?

Oh, there are so many!  Just the toilet habits alone are fascinating!  You have laws against urinating in the cook ovens in the great kitchens of the castle—you have the king’s private ‘stool’ which is covered in velvet and ornately carved, you have the public ‘jakes’ for the rest of the court to use—all of which dumps directly into the Thames.  Since I have a Tudor dress, complete with hooped petticoat, I wonder how the women managed those big dresses in what must have been small quarters. I haven’t figured out how to sit down in mine, yet!

Why the interest in Henry VIII?

He’s larger than life—physically bigger than most men of the time, brilliant and extremely well-educated, a lover and composer of music and verse, a visionary architect, a dancer and athlete—you name it, Henry could do it.  Yet, in spite of all his accomplishments, he had a romantic and passionate heart which led him into trouble.  He wanted to marry for love, much like his grandfather, Edward IV.  At first, love could move him, but later, power became his mistress.  He was a tyrant in the latter half of his reign—I think he died not fully satisfied with what he had done.  But, he’d left a son, Edward, so that must have brought him peace.

Tell us about your publishing journey.

I’ve always wanted to write, even back in junior high school where I wrote the world’s worst love poetry.  I majored in English literature in college and taught high school for about fifteen years—I had my family at a young age, so I was very busy raising three sons and working full-time.  Then, in 1989, I knew I had to try to write, or I’d lose my mind.  So, I started with small articles for a local magazine.  I moved on to writing for the newspapers in the area, then on to writing for a state-wide magazine.  All the while, I wrote short stories and poetry, even tried my hand at a novel, which is still hiding beneath my bed.  It was a very slow building process. 

Then, in 2007, almost twenty years after I started, I published my first book, a memoir: AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ: Autism, My Sister and Me.  Two years later, my short story collection came out, WHAT YOU LONG FOR.  Then, in 2010, I landed an agent and a 2-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN came out in 2012, along with a poetry chapbook, COAL, BABY.  Now, QUEEN ELIZABETH’S DAUGHTER is out.  I’m thrilled that all those years of hard work are paying off.

What advice would you give a newbie writer?

READ, READ, READ!  Read everything!  Go to the classics and try to figure out why or how they have stood the test of time.  Go to graphic novels, romances, thrillers, contemporary, just all of it.  Study how these things are done.

WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!  Write as much as you can—try to improve.  Read your work aloud to see how it flows.  Get a trusted reader to give you feedback.  And NEVER GIVE UP!!

I heard a rumor that you dance. That true? What type? Do you purposely incorporate dance into your stories?

I LOVE to dance!  I just like moving to music.  My husband and I took shag lessons (a beach dance) but we never actually made it to a dance.  We’ve also done contra-dancing—I’d love to learn ballroom dancing and I just might do it!

Share a blurb about your latest release.

Mary is Elizabeth’s favorite ward and a darling of the court. With a guileless nature and enchanting looks that call to mind the queen’s infamous mother, Anne Boleyn, Mary enjoys every privilege—receiving the queen’s silks and jewels as hand-me-downs; picnicking with the queen and her lover, Sir Robert Dudley; as well as entertaining the prospect of several eager suitors. Like any good mother, Elizabeth hopes to make Mary a powerful match, be it a noble courtier or even a foreign prince. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, the clever, polished, and wealthy Earl of Oxford, whom Mary knows to be lecherous, cruel, and deceitful.
But Mary has plans of her own. Boldly defying Elizabeth’s choice, Mary instead strikes up a friendship with Sir John Skydemore, a widower of five children. Though John is only a minor knight with little money, he is gallant, deeply thoughtful, and handsome. He is also a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against the queen are rampant. When Mary and John’s friendship blossoms into something more, they find their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bound.
ANNE CLINARD BARNHILL has published short stories, poetry, a memoir, and hundreds of articles and book reviews over the past twenty years. She has taught writing in a variety of venues and has been a keynote speaker for numerous events. Her first novel, At the Mercy of the Queen, was published by St. Martin's Press in 2012. She lives in North Carolina with her husband.