Tuesday, December 17, 2013

INTERVIEW with Brandy Purdy, Author of "The Boleyn Bride"

Questions for Brandy Purdy – The Boleyn Bride – Historical Fiction Obsession

How did you become a writer? What was your journey like?

Well, I’d always been a reader, and I suppose it had always been in the back of my mind that I might become a writer someday, but it wasn’t until my mother died ten years ago that I actually started to become one. Books have always been the one constant in my life and when they fail me I know I am in serious trouble. After my mother died I kept picking up books and putting them down, I couldn’t take anything in, then I picked up a book about royal scandals, one of those books written in kind of a comic, trashy tabloid style and opened it at random and found myself reading the story of Edward II’s grand passion, Piers Gaveston. Something in that story spoke to me, and I started reading everything I could find about Gaveston, and became intrigued by all the rumors about him yet how few facts are known about him. I decided to try writing a novel, The Confession of Piers Gaveston; I wanted to write from the viewpoint of an unreliable narrator, to tell the kind of story where the reader might wonder if this person was sitting in front of them telling this story if they would believe it or not. No one in my life really believed I could do it, but it was something to occupy me and help me through my grief. I finished the book and after about a dozen or so query letters was signed to a literary agency but, as an unpublished nobody from nowhere with no college education or other degrees or experience that the agent thought would help paint a better picture of me, I was basically at the bottom of the barrel. In the meantime I moved on to another fascinating character from history, Lady Rochford, who is remembered today for accusing her husband, George Boleyn, of incest with his sister Anne, and wrote my second novel, which was then called Vengeance Is Mine. Finally I decided to gamble on myself and self-published both books, a few months later I had a new agent and Kensington had bought the rights to my second novel and changed the title to The Boleyn Wife,  and The Tudor Throne, The Queen’s Pleasure, The Queen’s Rivals, and The Boleyn Bride followed. It’s been an interesting journey, I’ve loved writing and researching the books, and the challenge of finding new and different ways to tell these oft-told stories, the only thing I regret is not having the close, personal support system many other writers are very fortunate to have. I started out gambling on myself because no one else would, and in a strictly personal sense, I still am.

Any particular thing or event draw you write to historical fiction?

Sometimes a certain person will just “speak” to me in a way that makes me feel compelled to learn more and perhaps tell their story.  I never know when that is going to happen.

How did the Tudor Era inspire you?

I’ve always been fascinated with the Tudor era ever since I was a little girl about nine or ten years old and I bought a book of ghost stories that had a chapter about Anne Boleyn’s ghost haunting the Tower of London. To be honest, I didn’t originally plan to write so many Tudor novels, I’m interested in many historical characters and eras, but I’m very glad I was able to write about some of the characters who particularly intrigued me like Lady Rochford and Amy Robsart.

What kind of research is involved in your process?

I read a great deal and take notes and I am very visual I always look at lots of pictures. I like to be surrounded by pictures when I am writing.  I see the story playing out like a movie in my mind, sometimes in whole scenes, sometimes in fragments, sometimes in full color with crisp, clear images, sometimes like an old silent movie in dire need of restoration,  and it’s my job to try to turn those pictures into words, to convey the actors emotions, and get it all down on paper, hopefully in a way that my readers will enjoy.

What inspired you to share Elizabeth Boleyn’s story?

I didn’t really want to write another novel about someone who had already been the subject of dozens of books, and while I was sitting thinking about it I realized how absent Elizabeth Boleyn was from the story of her more famous daughters. I did some research and it confirmed that very few facts about her have come down to us, and that absence intrigued me. It’s actually, in some ways, a book about absence, it’s the story of a woman who is both emotionally and physically absent from her children’s lives until they become grown up and a little more interesting to her, but, by then, it’s too late. It’s also a story about mistakes, missed opportunities, regrets, and choices made for all the wrong reasons.

Out of all your books, which character has been your favorite to bring to life?

That is a very hard question. It’s a tie between three: Piers Gaveston was in a sense my knight in shining armor, writing his story saved me and also showed me that I could be a writer; Lady Rochford was both fun and fascinating, I loved the challenge of writing from the viewpoint of a madwoman, and one that hated Anne Boleyn, who is actually one of the women in history I admire most; and Amy Robsart’s was such a sad and neglected life, she’s been largely reduced to just a name on a page, so many focus on the glamour and romance of her husband’s ambitious dalliance with Queen Elizabeth I, and even when I was a little girl just becoming immersed in the Tudor saga I thought it was so unfair that Amy’s voice was lost, and I remember thinking if I ever wrote a novel when I grew up I wanted to give her back her voice, to let her be the star of the story for once.

Are there any authors you admire or any must-read books you’d like to recommend?

Anya Seton is my favorite historical fiction author, I’ve read all her books. Green Darkness is my favorite, it was one of the first adult novels I ever read, and I loved the way it used the reincarnation theme to weave together the modern and historical stories. I still try to reread it every few years when I can, next time I get the chance I hope to review it on my blog.

If you could go back in time, what place would you visit?

Well, I have a toothache now, so I don’t think I’d like to visit anywhere without modern dentistry so that kind of limits my choices. But, that’s not a very good answer, so,  if I could be a noblewoman and have the fabulous clothes and indulge my love of jewelry, and have my hair styled by Leonard, I’d kind of like to pay a visit to 18th century France during the time of Marie Antoinette, before the Revolution, when panniered skirts were at their widest and powdered hair was at its highest,  and maybe pay a call on Count Fersen; I’d like to see for myself if he looked anything like Tyrone Power in the movie. Anyone who knows how shy I really am will know I’m joking:-)

Are you working on anything currently?

I am, something very special, but I can’t say what it is right now, only that it’s not another Tudor novel, and if all goes well I hope to have a big surprise for my readers in time for next Christmas.

Do you have any advice for aspiring historical fiction writers?

There’s really nothing I can say that hasn’t been said countless times before. Keep writing, keep submitting, believe in yourself even when no one else does, and always remember that books are like candy, not everyone likes the same kinds and flavors, and keep repeating that to yourself when the bad reviews come. I know better than anyone all that is easy to say but sometimes very hard to do. I wish you all the best of luck.

"The Boleyn Bride" is due to come out February 25th 2014! Preorder it at amazon now!

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