My cover

My cover
Nell and her oranges

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Writing Process - Making History into Fiction


I’d like to thank my friend and critique partner Patricia Bracewell for inviting me to participate in the My Writing Process blog hop. Pat is the author of the wonderful Shadow on the Crown, the first book in a trilogy set in tenth-century England, featuring the little-remembered English queen Emma of Normandy. The second installment in the series, The Price of Blood, will be out early next year. You can learn more about Pat and her books by visiting her website, http://www.patriciabracewell.com/, and by reading her post on her writing process on her blog, http://www.patriciabracewell.com/2014/04/my-writing-process-a-writers-blog-hop/.

All the participants in the blog hop respond to the same questions. Here’s my take!

What am I working on?

I’m at work on my fourth book, as yet untitled. It’s a historical novel, but it’s a bit of a departure from what I’ve written previously in that it’s not based on a real person but is completely fictional. It takes place mostly on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides in 1901-1902, has elements of suspense, and involves some spooky experiences. More than that I will not say just yet, but I’m having a great time working on it!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

One of the things I really try to get right in my novels is creating the character’s world so vividly that my readers feel as if they’re there, experiencing the events of the story right along with my heroine. I try to evoke sensory elements—what does my character see and hear and how does it make her feel? What do her clothes feel like on her body? How’s the weather? What’s the quality of the light? Is it a brilliant summer day or is the scene taking place by candlelight. What smells permeate the places where the story takes place? What is the taste of what she’s eating and drinking? Does it bring up memories?

Here’s a little bit of The Darling Strumpet, my novel about Nell Gwynn, who rose from the streets to become one of the first English actresses—beloved by the playhouse crowds for her comic turns and likeable sex appeal—and eventually the longtime mistress of King Charles II. This scene takes place on Nell’s first day at work as an orange seller in the newly opened Theatre Royal:

The first interval came, and the musicians struck up.  Nell gazed at the empty stage and longed to know what it felt like to stand there.  Did she dare to try it?  Moll had given her permission, so Nell clutched her basket to her and climbed the steps to the stage and surveyed the scene before her.  She felt as if she were at the center of the universe. The galleries rose to the ceiling, enwreathing the space, and the sloped floor of the pit made it seem as if its benches were marching toward her. The theatre was a swirling sea of movement. The king in his box was not ten paces away. She took a breath and sang out “Oranges! Fine oranges! Who will buy my oranges, fine Seville oranges?”

 

The king smiled and beckoned. Nell went to him, her heart in her throat.

 

“Will you have an orange, Your Majesty? They’re very sweet.”

 

“How could they be otherwise, with such a peddler?  I’ll take two.” She held out two oranges, but the king took only one.

 

“One for you and one for me,” he said with a wink.

 

Nell’s scene with the king had been observed, and as she turned from him and sang her cry again, gentlemen pressed to the foot of the stage. By the end of the interval she had sold almost all that was in her basket.

 

When the play was done, the audience straggled out, pleasantly exhausted by the long hot afternoon, and ready for real food and drink. Before Nell went to reckon up with Moll, she stood and looked around the emptying playhouse, breathing in the scent of perfume and the smell of hot wax and oranges and flowers and sweat. She imagined the gaze of hundreds of spectators watching her. Caught up in the fantasy, she dipped in a curtsy and was brought up short as she noticed two gentlemen watching her with amusement. She threw them a smile and scampered off to find Orange Moll, blushing and laughing with delight.

 

 

And here’s another scene, in which Nell is waiting backstage at the playhouse for the arrival of the Duke of Buckingham, who’s asked to meet her:

 

 

Nell picked up her already-damp handkerchief and blotted it across her forehead and chest, then dusted powder across her face, hoping that it would dull the sheen of sweat without caking. She glanced in the mirror. Her hair was as good as it was like to get, the ringlets and curls pagan-wild in the damp heat of the tiring room.

           

Well. He had asked to see her, not she him. He had just had as good a view of her as anyone could desire, and she had been at her best today, she knew, carrying the house to wave after wave of laughter.  So she had nothing to fear. 

Lords were nothing new to her now, she reflected. 

 

And yet—the Duke of Buckingham. A duke was one step only below a prince, and some said he was less than that step, having been raised as he had almost as brother to the king when his own father died. 

 

What was it Hart had said once? “Like one of the royal pups.” 

           

To counter her nervousness, she leaned back in her chair and breathed deeply of the familiar mixture of smells—sawdust, paint, tallow candles, gunpowder, dirt, and sweat, overlaid with the sweetness of face powder and perfume. Motes of dust drifted in the rays of summer evening sunlight that came through the high window.

           

She heard a footstep in the hall and half rose, then forced herself to sit again.  She’d meet him like a lady. Or as close to that as she could manage. She turned as she heard the rap of his stick against the door, and then found herself rising, unable to keep her seat in his overwhelming presence.

 

 

Why do I write what I do?

 

I’ve loved reading historical fiction for as long as I can remember. When my sisters and I were little, my mother read us Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, Sydney Taylor’s evocative All-of-a-Kind Family series set in turn-of-the century New York, Mary Poppins, the Narnia books (which opened during World War II, long ago enough to seem like ancient history to us), and many other stories set in times past.

 

Later I devoured such books as K. M. Peyton’s Flambards trilogy; Joan Aiken’s Nightbirds on Nantucket, Black Hearts in Battersea, and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase; Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard and The Sherwood Ring, and of course Gone With the Wind. I wanted to lose myself in the worlds those authors created.

 

As an adult, I still love getting lost in a well created world, like those in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Lord John books; Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series; Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels; George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman adventures; Margaret George’s novels based on Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots and others; and many more, including Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin; Michael Cox’s The Meaning of Night; and Malcolm Macdonald’s The Rich Are with You Always.

 

So I think that to some extent I write the books that I would like to read. Part of the joy of writing a book for me is the research process, finding the pieces of the puzzle that illuminate my character’s life and experience.

 

How does my writing process work?

 

Years ago when I was working on a couple of screenplays, I was introduced to Syd Field’s book Screenplay, which analyzes the three-act story structure that is the basis for most film scripts. I still use what I learned from that book and the follow-up, The Screenwriter's Workbook, in structuring a novel and creating a story arc out of the facts of a person’s life, since my first three novels are all about historical people.

After I’ve done some basic research, I create a timeline of events in the life of the person I’m writing about and major events that would have affected her. Then I decide what events seem appropriate for the turning points in the story, the “plot points,” as Field describes them, that spin the action in a new direction about a quarter of the way into the story and again about three quarters of the way through, the midpoint and the “pinch” scenes that keep the story on track, the climax, and the resolution.

 

Then I write a scene sequence, describing in a couple of sentences the scenes that will take me through the narrative. That gives me a skeleton to hang the story on, and tells me what I need to know more about or gaps that I’ll have to fill creatively. Sometimes I start by writing what I think of as the “tent-pole scenes”—the opening, the closing, the climax, the plot-point scenes, and then fill in the rest. But I wrote my most recent book, Venus in Winter, based on the life of the formidable four-times widowed dynast Bess of Hardwick, straight through from beginning to end, maybe because I felt overwhelmed by the tight deadline and felt the need to just keep plodding ahead.

 

I continue researching as needed while I write, and I keep adding to my chronology, putting in historical facts along with events that I’ve invented. There are limits to what is known about the life of any historical person, and not much was recorded about the early lives of any of my three heroines. When that’s the case, it’s necessary to flesh out what’s missing. When I do this, I try to write what seems likely or possible to have happened. But sometimes, the gaps in fact are enormous, and more creative license is necessary. Then, an author has to remember that the most important part of their job is to write a compelling story, and that generally means making the choice that presents the main character with the greatest danger and trouble and the most to lose.

 

That’s what happened with The September Queen, the story of Jane Lane, who helped the young Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Because many people published accounts of their part in helping the king, there’s a record almost hour by hour of what Charles did, said, wore, and ate during parts of his odyssey. But Jane Lane didn’t write about her experience, so I had only the barest facts about what happened to her when she wasn’t with Charles, and I had to invent parts of her story.


Ultimately, historical novelists have to remember that it’s fiction we’re writing. It’s our job to breathe life into our characters, and to transport readers back across the centuries to stand in the character’s footsteps, to feel the rocks in their shoes and the sun on their face, smell the blossoms on the air, see the eddies in the river, and feel the beating of the heart and the rise and fall of the breath of a person long gone, but who once lived, and was as real as we are.

 

I hope you enjoyed your stop with me on the blog hop! To learn more about my books and me, and to find the link to my other research blog and some of the articles I've written, please visit my website, www.gillianbagwell.com.

 

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, please come hear Patricia Bracewell and me talking about “Melding History with Fiction: the Fugitive King and the Forgotten Queen” at 7 p.m. on April 30 at Laurel Book Store in Oakland: http://www.laurelbookstore.com/event/2014/04/30/day. We’ll be talking in depth about the history behind our novels and the process of fictionalizing history, and our books will be available for sale and signing.

 

And next Monday, April 21, please visit the blogs of my fellow historical novelists Grace Eliot and Julie Rose and read about their writing process!

 

Julie K. Rose's novels feature complicated, compelling characters seeking to overcome their pasts—and themselves. Her stories evoke a vivid sense of time and place through a keen ear for dialog and beautifully elegant prose. Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is her second novel. You can find her website at: http://www.juliekrose.com

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day, and author of historical romance by night. Grace works in a companion animal practice near London, and is housekeeping staff to five cats, two teenage sons, one husband and a bearded dragon. She believes intelligent people need to read historical romance, as antidote to the modern world. Please visit Grace’s blog, Fall in Love with History, at http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.com.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cleopatra in Restoration London!

Welcome, all! This post is part of the Facebook party celebrating the release of Stephanie Dray's Daughters of the Nile. Join me and the many other guest authors for piles of prizes and interesting articles about Cleopatra, Ancient Rome, history, and historical fiction in general. http://ow.ly/t0weG

On January 30th, from 12pm EST to 10pm EST, an impressive roster of historical fiction authors and bloggers are hosting a Facebook party in honor of historical fiction, the 2,023rd anniversary of the Ara Pacis, and the release of Stephanie Dray's newest book, Daughters of the Nile: A novel of Cleopatra's Daughter.

Readers can win free books, lunch at the next Historical Novel Society meeting, swag, gift cards, and other prizes from some of the hottest authors of the genre. Please join us, and RSVP!


When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, he very soon authorized the reopening of the theatres, which had been closed since 1642 under Oliver “Killjoy” Cromwell. Since there were no new plays, the acting companies first turned to works that had been popular in the past. The King’s Company and the Duke’s Company divided Shakespeare’s plays between them. Among those assigned to the King’s Company were Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra, all of which were set in ancient Rome.


Shakespeare’s plays were some of among the first to be presented, but once the playwrights got busy, turning out an enormous volume of new plays, there was less call for Shakespeare. But the histories, and especially the Roman plays, were popular, partly because they could be used as political propaganda. Coriolanus, for example, with its struggle between those born to govern and those elected to govern, would have had a lot of resonance for English audiences whose lives had been very much affected by the overthrow and execution of King Charles I, the installation of Cromwell as Lord Protector, and finally the restoration of the monarchy—the Restoration, which gave the era and its name.


Shakespeare’s plays were often performed in adapted versions, which frequently contained political overtones. Nahum Tate’s adaptation of Coriolanus, The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth, used about sixty percent of the lines from Shakespeare’s play, though many of them were revised. It appeared in the wake of the Popish Plot, as Parliament was debating the Exclusion bills, which would bar the succession of the exiled Catholic Duke of York (later James II).


Edward Ravenscroft’s adaptation of Titus Andronicus has a preface stating that “it first appear’d upon the Stage at the beginning of the “pretended Popish Plot,” a period of anti-Catholic hysteria in the autumn of 1678. Its prologue and epilogue have been lost, but those customized bits appended to the beginning and ends of plays were frequently very topical. Julius Caesar, with tyranny and rebellion at its heart, could be made to have contemporary parallels, as it still can and is.


One of the most popular revisions of Shakespeare’s Roman plays was All for Love, or the World Well Lost, an adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra by John Dryden, who had been made Poet Laureate in 1668. Presented in 1678, the play’s action takes place over a few days and entirely in Alexandria, unlike the original, which spans years and continents.


On February 12, 1677, the Duke’s Company presented Sir Charles Sedley’s new version of Antony and Cleopatra, with a musical setting by Jeremiah Clarke, , with the stellar actor manager Thomas Betterton in the role of Antony and Mary Lee as Cleopatra. The show played on the next two days, too, indicating that it was a hit.


Restoration playwrights wrote original works set in Rome, as well. Dryden’s tragedy Tyrannick Love, or The Royal Martyr tells the story of St. Catherine, who was murdered by the Roman emperor Maximus because she wouldn’t submit to his sexual advances. Nell Gwynn played Valeria, the daughter of the tyrant emperor. She stabbed herself and died at the end, but the tragic mood didn’t last. When two solemn Romans came to carry off her body, she jumped to her feet and cried, “Hold, are you mad? you damned confounded dog, I am to rise, and speak the Epilogue!” And then she did, declaring:


I come, kind Gentlemen, strange news to tell ye;
I am the Ghost of poor departed Nelly.
Sweet Ladies, be not frighted; I’le be civil;
I’m what I was, a little harmless Devil.


The Romans in Shakespeare’s plays are essentially Elizabethan Englishmen, and he made no attempt to keep out anachronisms. [clock] If there were attempts to suggest period dress in the costumes, they weren’t accurate, and the same was true in the seventeenth century. Just as we can usually identify pretty well in what era a historical movie was made because the style of the modern period overlays the historical dress, the clothes of the Restoration “Romans” were more like what the audience was wearing than what would have been seen in ancient Rome.


Classical subjects were also used for court masques, and there the costumes were wildly extravagant and highly fanciful. Calisto, presented in 1675, featured Roman combatants in silken armor of gold and silver decorated with gold fringe, “gold purle rosets,” jewels, spangles, and feathers. The costumes for the one-time performance cost more than £5000, at a time when shopkeepers and tradesmen earned about £10 a year, and more than enough to pay off the entire company of a ship that had been at sea for a couple of years, when sailors were perpetually begging for past-due payment.


A sketch for a “Roman habit” based on a contemporary records shows a gentleman in heeled shoes, cuffed gauntlets, long hair, and a skirted coat very much in the Restoration style. A sketch for Diana shows the goddess of the hunt pulling her bow, but she would have had a hard time running in her stays, enormous hooped skirt, and three-foot feathered headdress.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Castles, Customs & Kings Blog Hop!

I had the privilege of being a contributor to the newly-released book Castles, Customs, and Kings, a compilation of essays from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog by more than fifty authors on real life stories and tantalizing tidbits discovered while doing research for their books. You can buy the book here: Today, many of these authors are participating in a blog hop, each writing a post related to castles and giving away a historical novel. My subject today is Codnor Castle in Derbyshire. Bess of Hardwick, one of the most interesting and striking figures of the Tudor era, who ended up the most wealthy and powerful woman in England after Queen Elizabeth, began life inauspiciously. Her father had died when she was a baby, her mother remarried, and by the time Bess was twelve years old, her stepfather was in debtor's prison and her mother was struggling to raise the five children still at home. The crown had seized control of the estate upon the death of Bess's father, until her brother James came of age. Bess's mother was entitled to a widow's dower of a third of the proceeds from the estate and to lease another third of the land, and she must have despaired of how she could keep from losing the family's property. One thing she could do was to ensure that her daughters had a chance at a better life, and this she did by sending them off to serve as ladies in waiting in the households of distant relatives who were better off. This was a common way for young people to meet potential mates and influential patrons who would help them rise in the world. When Bess was about twelve years old, she went to serve Anne Gainsford, Lady Zouche, at Codnor Castle, about twelve miles from her home at Hardwick. There was probably a fortified on the site soon after the Norman invasion. The Codnor Castle that Bess knew was built in the thirteenth century and was the seat of the powerful De Grey family for about three hundred years, but in the fifteenth century, it passed to the Zouche family through marriage. The castle grew and transformed over the year, and by the time Bess arrived there in about 1539, it no longer served its original purpose as an armed fortress, but it still retained imposing round towers with battlements and a moat. Outbuildings that served the estate such as the brewery, bakery, and dairy no longer had to be within the protective walls of the castle but had spilled outside to the south courtyard. Bess's mistress Lady Zouche and her husband Sir George Zouche had served in the household of Anne Boleyn before she became queen. They managed to stay in the good graces of King Henry VIII, and in about 1540 Sir George became one of the king's Gentlemen Pensioners, the prestigious few men chosen to guard the king and remain in his company both at court and during his summer progresses around the country. In this position, he would have had to spend much time in London. Bess's service in the Zouche household certainly set her on the path to success, and in my novel Venus in Winter, based on the first forty years of Bess's long and eventful life, I chose to have Bess accompany the Zouche familiy to London in time for Bess to witness the king's marriage to Anne of Cleves and the resulting upheavals. Today, Codnor Castle is one of only two castles in Derbyshire retaining its original medieval architecture, thought only ruins are left of the three-story keep, curtain wall, and ditch, flanked by round towers. Post a comment on this post to enter to win a copy of the mass-market paperback edition of The Darling Strumpet, my five-star rated novel about Nell Gwynn! Tweet or post the link to the post for extra entries! Below are links to some sites with more information about Codnor Castle, and to the other blogs on the blog hop. http://www.codnorcastle.com/gallery/g2embed.php?g2_itemId=448 http://www.codnorcastle.com/ http://www.codnorcastle.co.uk/index.html .

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Summer Banquet Hop Winners!

Congratulations Grace Elliot and History Writer - you're the winners! Email me your mailing addresses please (gillianbagwell@hotmail.com), and whether you'd like the mass market paperback of "The Darling Strumpet" (with excerpt from "Venus in Winter") or "Venus in Winter" (which I will have in a week or two!)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summer Banquet Hop! Enter to Win!


Summer Banquet Hop! Join me and thirty other historical novelists for a bounty of food-related posts and chances to win prizes!
I'm giving away two prizes: a copy of The Darling Strumpet, released in mass-market paperback on June 4, with a teaser chapter of Venus in Winter, or a copy of Venus in Winter, my novel based on the first forty years of the eventful life of the Tudor dynast Bess of Hardwick, coming July 2!

Enter by leaving a comment on this post. Get extra entries by following me on Twitter https://twitter.com/GillianBagwell and/or for liking my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/gillianbagwell

The Darling Strumpet
“An absolute triumph as a debut novel . . . [It] is an absolutely brilliant addition to the historical fiction genre and might be the best novel on Nell Gwynn ever . . . Nell would have applauded in approval and probably done a little jig to celebrate her tribute.” — Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner

Venus in Winter
“A wonderful portrait of one of Elizabethan England’s most fascinating—and most long-lived—women. A great read, rich with detail and story.”—Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series

Nell Gwynn, the subject of my novel The Darling Strumpet, was born in the slums of London in the area of Covent Garden. At the age of thirteen, she was hired as an orange seller at the newly-built Theatre Royal in Bridges Street, which opened on May 7, 1663. The present Theatre Royal on Drury Lane is the third building on the same site.

Oranges were a delicacy, and sold for sixpence, as much as the cheapest seats in the theatre. Nell’s witty banter and likeable sex appeal got her noticed, and soon she was the lover and protégé of Charles Hart, one of the leading actors and shareholders of the King’s Company. She probably made her debut in Thomas Killigrew’s comedy Tomaso, in a small part as a saucy wench. Nell rapidly became a favorite of London audiences, and she and Hart appeared in a series of “gay couple” comedies featuring battling lovers, making them the Myrna Loy and William Powell of the Restoration theatre.
Here’s a delightful seventeenth-century recipe featuring oranges:

Orange Butter
Good with plain cookies, on ice cream, etc. From  A Taste of History: 10,000 Years of Food in Britain, which took the recipe from The Savile Recipe Book, 1683, quoted in The Gentlewoman’s Kitchen.

¼ pint (150 ml) fresh orange juice, and thinly peeled zest of the oranges
¼ point (150 ml) white wine
6 egg yolks
2 T. (30 ml) sugar
Soak the zest in the orange juice and white wine for 30 minutes to enrich the flavor, then remove. Beat the eggs yolks and sugar and add to the orange juice. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and stir continuously over a low heat until thick and creamy, but do not allow to bring to a boil. Allow the butter to cool and serve with wafers as a rich full-flavored fruit dip.

The original recipe:
R. a quarter of a Pint of cleared juice of Oranges, a quarter of a Pint of white wine, pare the Peel of your Oranges thinne, steep itt in the juice & white-wine halfe an hour, then put in when you have taken out the pill a little fine Sugar, to take away the sharpnesse. Then beat the yolks of six eggs very well, & put them into the liquor, & sett them over the fire, & keep itt continually stirring till you find it almost as thick as Butter then throw it about the dish or bason, & let itt stand all night, in the morning take itt off lightlie with a spoon, & serve itt as other Butter.

For more on my books and events, please visit my website, www.gillianbagwell.com!

Be sure to visit the blogs of the other authors participating in the Summer Banquet Hop! Hop Participants
  1. Random Bits of Fascination (Maria Grace)
  2. Pillings Writing Corner (David Pilling)
  3. Anna Belfrage
  4. Debra Brown
  5. Lauren Gilbert
  6. Gillian Bagwell
  7. Julie K. Rose
  8. Donna Russo Morin
  9. Regina Jeffers
  10. Shauna Roberts
  11. Tinney S. Heath
  12. Grace Elliot
  13. Diane Scott Lewis
  14. Ginger Myrick
  15. Helen Hollick
  16. Heather Domin
  17. Margaret Skea
  18. Yves Fey
  19. JL Oakley
  20. Shannon Winslow
  21. Evangeline Holland
  22. Cora Lee
  23. Laura Purcell
  24. P. O. Dixon
  25. E.M. Powell
  26. Sharon Lathan
  27. Sally Smith O'Rourke
  28. Allison Bruning
  29. Violet Bedford
  30. Sue Millard
  31. Kim Rendfeld

Saturday, April 27, 2013

POV Panel April 28 at California Writers' Club

Hi, all,

My friend Patricia Bracewell and I will be talking about point of view at the meeting of the California Writers' Club at Book Passage, tomorrow, Sunday, April 28, 2-4 p.m. We met for quite a while this morning to plot!
http://cwcmarin.com/events/apr-28-point-of-view/

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Next Big Thing!

Hi, friends,

I've been tagged in The Next Big Thing by fellow writer Isabelle Goddard (http://www.isabellegoddard.com/isabelle-goddard.html), author of Regency romances, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Historical Novel Society conference in London in September.
I'm instructed to tell you all about my next book by answering these questions and then to tag a few other authors about their Next Big Thing. So here I go!
What is the working title of your next book?
Venus in Winter.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
After I finished my second book, The September Queen (U.K. title The King’s Mistress), I was casting about for a new subject and recalled that I had thought Bess of Hardwick sounded like an interesting historical character, though I didn’t know much about her. Just from reading the Wikipedia entry on her, I was hooked!

What genre does your book fall under?
Historical fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My book runs from Bess’s twelfth birthday to her fortieth (she lived to 80), so there would have to be a young girl for the first scenes and another actress to portray her in adulthood. Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey) has the right strength and presence, though Bess was a fair-skinned, blue-eyed redhead! Jessica Chastain looks right and is a very good actress.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A sweeping and romantic novel of Bess of Hardwick, the formidable four-times widowed Tudor dynast who began life in genteel poverty and ended as the richest and most powerful woman in England after Queen Elizabeth; built Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall; and is the forebear of numerous noble lines including the current royal family of Britain. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My book will be published by Berkley, a division of Penguin, who published my first two books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Writing this book was rather a nightmare process. I had less than year from when the deal was made until I had to turn in the manuscript to the publisher. Like my other books, it has required an enormous amount of research. I started writing in late July 2011 and finished the first draft at the end of April 2012.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Biographical historical fiction of the type written by Margaret George and C.W. Gortner.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Bess knew everyone who was anyone throughout the Tudor period.  At the age of twelve she began serving Lady Zouche, who had been a lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, and she was probably at court beginning around the time that Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves. When she was about 15 she joined the household of the Marchioness of Dorset, Frances Grey, and was close to Frances’s daughters – Lady Jane Grey and her younger sisters Katherine and Mary.

Bess second husband, William Cavendish, was a member of the privy council, and her third husband, William St. Loe, was captain of the queen’s guard. Elizabeth probably owed him her life for not betraying her shadowy involvement in the Wyatt Rebellion, and partly in thanks, she made Bess a lady of her privy chamber. Shortly after Bess married her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, they were put in charge of Mary Queen of Scots – which contributed to the ruin of their marriage.


Here are some lovely authors I've tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing! I had the pleasure of meeting all of them at the Historical Novel Society Conference in London in September, and like me, they all write about seventeenth century England! Their posts will be out on November 15!
Deborah Swift, whose most recent book The Gilded Lily, has just come out. http://www.deborahswift.blogspot.com

J.D. Davies is the author of the Matthew Quinton series, the first of which is Gentleman Captain. Excellent swashbuckling naval tales set during the Restoration era.
http://gentlemenandtarpaulins.com

Anita Davison, whose book Royalist Rebel will be out soon!
http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com