Please welcome Kate Emerson, the bestselling author of the Secrets of the Tudor Court series of historical novels. With the third installment, By Royal Decree, coming out in December (have you seen the gorgeous cover?), Kate has stopped by to answer a few questions about historical fiction, the Tudors and herself.
Why the Tudor Court? Do you find it more fascinating than some other period of British history and why?
I've always been interested in this period of history. I can remember reading a juvenile biography of Queen Elizabeth I when I was only ten years old. The Tudors and everything that surrounded them were bigger than life, making a wonderful backdrop for the individual stories of courtiers who served them. Before this series, I wrote mysteries set in the early Elizabethan era (Face Down in the Marrow Bone Pie, etc) under my real name, Kathy Lynn Emerson. The Secrets of the Tudor Court series is written as Kate Emerson to let readers know that, although there are always elements of intrigue in the books, they are not mystery novels. The secrets have to do with spies, treasonous plots, and the personal mistakes that haunt characters' pasts.
How extensive is the research you do for a novel? Does it take a lot of time and energy?
I've been researching the era, one way or another, for over forty years, so I have a huge library and many file folders full of notes on all aspects of life in Tudor times. For each individual novel, I have to do specific research into the lives of the real people I intend to use as characters and into any specialized areas (for example, how to play tennis and how "disguisings" were prepared and performed for The Pleasure Palace and how travel to and from Calais was accomplished for Between Two Queens). It is time-consuming, but also fascinating---what I term "painless research."
How would you characterize your heroines?
Jane Popyncourt in The Pleasure Palace, Nan Bassett in Between Two Queens, and Bess Brooke in By Royal Decree were all real people who had a connection to the court of Henry VIII and a personal connection to Henry himself. Women in those days were considered to be the property of fathers, husbands, or guardians and did not have a great deal of freedom, but they could work behind the scenes to achieve their goals. All three women were all trapped, in one way or another, by the politics and intrigue of life at court, but they were all survivors. In my fictionalized accounts of their lives, I try to make the choices history tells us they made understandable to modern readers.
What do you think about the ever-growing genre of historical fiction? Is there anything that bothers you?
I'm frequently frustrated by the tendency some novelists have to change history, especially when what really happened would, in my opinion, have made an even better story. Historical movies and television series are the worst offenders, since they don't hesitate to, for example, combine two sisters into one character and then marry that character to someone neither sister wed in real life.
Could you at least hint at what you’re writing next?
I'm just starting work on the 4th Secrets of the Tudor Court entry. This one will focus on Anne Stafford, Lady Hastings, younger sister of the Duke of Buckingham who was executed by Henry VIII in 1521. As I work on the novels, I also add entries to and expand the existing entries in my Who's Who of Tudor Women, which can be found online at my website.
Thanks for stopping by Kate! I'm sure we will see more of you by December. Good luck with the upcoming book!