Development of a Tudor Historical Fiction Series

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He’s a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony and I have never met and yet I consider him a good friend. He’s been on the blog before talking about what makes historical fiction tick, being a second career author, and how he researches locations for his novels. His latest novel is Brandon – Tudor Knight

Guest Post by Tony Riches – Development of a Tudor Historical Fiction Series

It all began with my research for a novel about the life of Henry Tudor, who like me was born in the Welsh town of Pembroke. I collected more than enough material for a substantial book – and discovered there were no novels about his amazing story. I think this was partly because Henry had been (mistakenly) labelled as dull and miserly, when in fact he was an extravagant gambler, who knew how to broker peace and end the Wars of the Roses.

I also discovered there were no novels about Henry’s Welsh grandfather, Owen Tudor, or Owen’s son, Jasper Tudor, who helped Henry become king. The Tudor trilogy provided the perfect ‘vehicle’ for Henry to be born in the first book, ‘come of age’ in the second, and become King of England in the third.

I’m pleased to say the books of the Tudor trilogy became best sellers in the US, UK and Australia, with the final book being the only historical fiction novel shortlisted for the highly competitive Amazon Kindle Storyteller award. (Henry was a runner up but I won a Kindle Oasis and a large bottle of good Champagne.)

The challenge I then faced was how to follow a successful trilogy. I’d enjoyed developing the character of Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor, and realised the story of how she became Queen of France is little known. (In the TV series ‘The Tudors’ Mary was ‘merged’ with her sister Margaret – and some people understandably confuse her with her brother’s daughter, also Mary Tudor.)

I wrote Mary – Tudor Princess, which has become my best-selling book this year, then followed up with my latest book, (published just in time for Christmas) Brandon – Tudor Knight. Readers are probably familiar with Charles Brandon’s story of how he risked everything to marry Mary Tudor against the wishes of her vengeful brother, Henry VIII. What they might not know is how Brandon found himself seriously out of his depth fighting Henry’s wars in France, or that after Mary’s death he married his fourteen-year-old ward, wealthy heiress Lady Catherine Willoughby.

Now I have two ‘sequels’ to the Tudor Trilogy, with the five books forming a series providing a continuous narrative throughout the reign of the two King Henrys. Where to go next? I’m busy researching and writing the amazing story of what became of Catherine Brandon after the death of Charles. Her story deserves to be told – and leads right up to my next series, which will explore the fascinating world of the Elizabethan Tudors.

A fascinating tale, Tony. I’ve yet to read Brandon – Tudor Knight, but I can tell you that Tony’s novel about Mary – Tudor Princess is a great read and one I highly recommend. I suspect someone on my list will be receiving Brandon – Tudor Knight for Christmas 🙂

For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on  Facebookand Twitter @tonyriches

Brandon – Tudor Knight by Tony Riches

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy:Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Transported in Time and Place – Nicola Cornick, The Phantom Tree

Nicola Cornick is a writer and historian who was born and brought up in the north of England. She left the world of academia to become a full-time author and loves to write dual timeframe novels inspired by the history and legends of her local area.

Transported in time and place – Nicola Cornick, The Phantom Tree

As a reader of historical fiction first and a writer later, the concept of being transported through time and space via the medium of books has always intrigued me. As a child I didn’t travel far from home and so my reading became the way in which I learned about different and exotic experiences, from boarding schools to boating holidays. As I grew older the appeal of the past as a “foreign country” took hold of me. I wanted to travel back. I wanted to be transported via my imagination and the words on the page to another time and place, one of magic and vivid experience.

Writing dual time Gothic fiction, I use the idea of transporting a reader in several different ways. Firstly there is the historical research that provides an authentic framework for the book. In the case of The Phantom Tree, I was writing a book set in the later Tudor period of English history, so I read a lot of general political and social histories of the period before focussing in on the details of everyday life in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I – what people wore, what they ate, how they travelled. These elements are the threads that come together to create the background tapestry which I hope will help to build the world in which the story takes place.

The next layer of world-building comes from specific details and for this I study letters, portraits and diaries; this feels as though it puts me within touching distance of the people about whom I’m writing, the things that were important to them and their daily pre-occupations. I love the information that material objects can provide to a researcher.  The Phantom Tree was inspired in part by a little portrait of a Tudor lady that belongs to a member of my family. As soon as I saw it I was fascinated; I wanted to know who she was and to tell her story. So I studied the style of clothes, the colours, the background imagery, all the while building up an imaginative picture of who she might be.

My favourite part of the research process however, comes from visiting the place where I am setting a book and experiencing it for myself.  The Phantom Tree is set in Savernake Forest in Wiltshire and I spent many hours wandering along the paths and bridleways, losing myself amongst the trees. It wasn’t difficult to imagine what Savernake would have been like four hundred years ago. Studying the forest through the seasons, the plants, animals and insects, the way that the mist hangs over the fields in the autumn and the sun cuts through the leaves in the summer… All of these give richness and texture to the imaginative world I hope to create. So do the local myths and legends that I build into the story. Visiting Wolf Hall, the iconic home of the Seymour family in the forest, was the ultimate inspiration, especially when I went on a tour of the Tudor sewers under the house! You can’t get closer to the traces of history than that! [And yes, that’s Nicola coming up from the sewers!]

I’ve never been able to paint but I visualise the process of creating my imaginary world as a picture in which layer upon layer of detail is added, from the frame that surrounds it to the tiniest figure in the corner. I aim to take all the different elements that have made up my research and through vivid description, conjure a time and place that is waiting to welcome the reader in.

Below is an extract from the book where the heroine, Mary Seymour, experiences the forest as a child.

“Forests were full of concealment and surprise and I had known that from the beginning. I took delight in exploring Savernake. It was by no means an empty land. It seethed with people: Sir Edward’s Ranger, the foresters, the villagers whose pigs grubbed for nuts in the undergrowth in the autumn, the poachers who risked their lives to take the Queen’s deer, thieves, gypsies, runaways, witches. I saw them all and avoided them as much as I could, slipping between the trees like a wraith, like a hind.

Now that I had a bedchamber to myself it was easy enough to slip away at night, simply by climbing down the ivy that covered the old brick wall of the manor. I knew every ancient oak in the forest now including the one that marked the boundary of Edward’s land with its huge bulging belly. It was rumoured to be the oldest tree in the woods, already ancient when the Conqueror had claimed Savernake along with the rest of the kingdom, a tree in possession of old magic. I had heard Dame Margery whispering to the scullery maid, with many gestures to ward off evil, that the witches sought its power to summon the devil. I could imagine that they did and I shuddered to think of it. Old magic was dangerous and unpredictable. Even though I had never dealt in it myself but I had an instinct for it, never knowing where my knowledge had come from, only knowing that I saw and heard things that others did not. However the threat of heresy, of witchcraft, haunted my every step. I thought of my mother and longed for an ordinary life, free of visions, untouched by magic.”

Many thanks for sharing your perspective with us, Nicola. I’m sure readers will enjoy being transported to Tudor times in Wolf Hall and Savernake Forest.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

“My name is Mary Seymour and I am the daughter of one queen and the niece of another.”

Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.

The painting is more than just a beautiful object for Alison – it holds the key to a past life, the unlocking of the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.

But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Robert Allen – 1549 by D.K. Wilson

the_devils_chalice-coverI’m delighted to welcome Derek (D.K.) Wilson to the blog. Armed with a degree in History and Theology, Derek has been writing historical fiction and non-fiction since the mid 1970s and is the author of 70+ books. His latest novel – The Devil’s Chalice – is set in Tudor times. Today, Derek explains the inspiration for this new story.

Robert Allen – 1549 by Derek Wilson (D.K. Wilson)

In 1549 a man by the name of Robert Allen was languishing in one of the cells in the Tower of London, under suspicion of being a magician. At this time the law governing witchcraft was in a state of confusion. A parliamentary Act of 1542 had stipulated the death penalty for those convicted of ‘calking’ – i.e. summoning up spirits for the purpose of, among other things, discovering buried treasure, recovering stolen property or ‘provoking any person to unlawful love’. This was the first attempt to bring under civil law what had previously been the preserve of the ecclesiastical courts. It was one of the lesser known aspects of the extension of state control over the church that we call the Reformation. However, this Henrician statute was one of several repealed at the start of Edward VI’s reign in 1547 – only to be reinstated by Elizabeth I’s parliament in 1562. Legislators agreed that magic should be suppressed but could not agree on how to deal with it.

When I interested myself in the obscure figure of Robert Allen and worked him into the plot of The Devil’s Chalice it was to provide the reader with a way into the common psychology of the mid-Tudor age. For Allen was, by no means, an unusual feature of England in the reign of Edward VI. Another suspected ‘wise man’ or ‘wize-ard’ or ‘wizard’ told his accusers that there were at least five hundred practitioners of magic in the kingdom. But that is only part of the story. In this pre-scientific age the common understanding of the solar system was that the earth stood at the centre of concentric circles of astral bodies beyond which lay heaven and that divine and spiritual forces reached right down through the system to man and to the animal and vegetable creation. That being so, those who claimed special knowledge or power ranged from the village wise woman, who collected herbs and made simple medicines, to the scholarly magus who studied ancient religions and philosophies and used his knowledge to gain access to the higher powers. Allen, himself, claimed that ‘he knew more in the science of astronomy (what we would call astrology) than all the universities of Oxford and Cambridge’. This was the age which saw the origin of the Faust legend about the scholar who abandoned all other areas of study in favour of necromancy and sold his soul to the devil in order to enjoy limitless power. It was the age in which casting horoscopes was part of a doctor’s stock-in-trade, for, in order to be effective any prescribed potions had to be taken at the time of the lunar cycle when the relevant zodiacal planets were most ‘favourably’ aligned. Kings and statesmen consulted astrologers about the most propitious times to engage in war, sign treaties or make other important political decisions. Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer was the famous (or notorious) Doctor John Dee, whose neighbours were so frightened and suspicious of him that when he left home to travel abroad they trashed his laboratory. In addition to all these practitioners, there were the fairies and sprites of common folklore such as we encounter in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. These, to us strange, but very real and potent beliefs mingled with conventional Catholic and Protestant theology to make up the kaleidoscope of common convictions during the reign of the boy king, Edward VI.

Someone else also locked up in the Tower at that time was a gentleman by the name of William West. He was being held on suspicion of trying to murder his uncle Lord de la Warr in order to get his hands on his inheritance. These two detainees set my mind working. Suppose they were connected? Might Allen have supplied the poison West administered to his uncle?

Having formulated the germ of an idea I then looked at the background against which I might set my main characters. It was rich with possibilities, for in that summer of 1549 England was in turmoil. Bands of malcontents, angry at the behaviour of rapacious landlords, who were enclosing common fields and dispossessing tenants from their traditional holdings, were rampaging around the shires, pulling down fences and uprooting hedges. The most worrying activity of all was a Norfolk rebellion led by Thomas Kett, which seized control of Norwich, held it for fifty days and provoked panic in London where it was feared that a full-scale peasants’ revolt was brewing and that the malcontents would march on the capital.

Meanwhile, a power struggle was developing at the centre. Henry VIII had died in January 1547, leaving the guidance of his nine-year-old son in the hands of a group of councillors. Edward’s uncle, the Duke of Somerset, grabbed personal power and sidelined his colleagues. Resentments, rivalries and factions soon appeared as councillors jostled for power and sought to bring Somerset under control.

At last, I had the several strands necessary to weave a complex plot involving all levels of English society. The Devil’s Chalice is the result. It is a story, a fiction, but I believe it touches the realities of this very troubled few months. I hope readers’ reaction will be ‘We know this story is made up and didn’t actually happen – but it could have.’ As both a historian and a novelist I firmly believe that there is a place for well-researched fiction which engages the reader’s imagination and helps to create a ‘feel’ for past ages which straight history, strictly confined (quite rightly) by documentary evidence, cannot convey.

Of course, it is down to the reader to decide whether the historical novelist succeeds in his/her endeavour. I hope you will want to try The Devil’s Chalice for yourself. If you do, I shall always be pleased to hear your reactions.

Many thanks, Derek. I’m fascinated to learn of your writing process – the story behind the story – and I’m sure readers will be too. Best wishes for The Devil’s Chalice.

The Devil’s Chalice: The third book in the acclaimed series of Thomas Treviot Tudor crime thrillers – Based on REAL TUDOR CRIME RECORDS.

The Real Crime: In the steaming summer of 1549 two men languish in the Tower of London. William West is accused of attempted murder. Robert Allen is under investigation for dabbling in the Black Arts. Meanwhile, England is in the grip of rebellions against the boy king, Edward VI. The connections between these facts remains a mystery.

The Story: London goldsmith, Thomas Treviot, is sent by his patron, Archbishop Cranmer, to discover discreetly what connections West has with leading figures at court. But Thomas has problems of his own: his teenage son has gone off to Norwich to join rebels led by Robert Kett. Trying to find his son and please Cranmer, he is plunged into dangers from peasant mobs, London gangsters and political chicanery, not to mention an enemy wielding occult power…

Links: Amazon UK, Amazon US

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.