Thursday, November 27, 2008

Guest Post with Sandra Worth, Author of the upcoming The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen

We have not traditionally had a lot of guest posts at Loaded Questions. But when I heard that our friend Sandra Worth had a new novel coming out, The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen, I asked her to put together a guest post to give Loaded Questions readers a glimpse into the motivation and research that lead her to write a novel about the first Tudor Queen, Elizabeth of York.

Worth has been a friend of this blog in the past, stopping by last February to discuss the release of her novel Lady of the Roses. In that interview we discussed our mutual love of English history and Anya Seton.

My copy of The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen arrived yesterday morning and as historian who has studied Tudor monarchical figures for the last couple of years I am really looking forward to see Sandra bring life to Elizabeth of York, a figure that has previously been overlooked by the more sensational people in her life: Richard III, Henry VII and her boisterous and powerful mother Margaret Beaufort. Sandra has assured me she brings some new research to the table and I can assure you that before the turkey hits the table later this afternoon I will have snuck to my bags to pull out my copy to see how far I can get before I am found out.

For those of you intrigued by this fascinating historian and author, here is a link to my interview with her last year. I look forward to reading the book and bringing you all the details next week. In the meanwhile, if you want your own copy has it available for pre sale at a very nice price.

Without further adieu...

THE KING'S DAUGHTER:A NOVEL OF THE FIRST TUDOR QUEEN is about Elizabeth of York who closed out the epilogue in the last book of my Rose of York trilogy. You may think there's not much more to learn about her than what you probably already know. But I'm here to tell you you're wrong! Her story is shocking, and amazing.

I know this sounds like a contradiction in terms—but what intrigued me most about Elizabeth is the lack of information on her. How can this be? Sister to the Princes in the Tower and mother to Henry VIII, the first Tudor queen lived at the epicenter of momentous events. So why does she hover unseen on the fringe of history? When you think about it, the question is downright tantalizingly strange. Why is so little known about Elizabeth when so much is known about everyone else around her—her husband, her children, even her mother-in-law?

The documentation that survives is so scanty that only a single biography has ever been attempted—and that author had to resort to novelistic techniques in order to fill in the gaps in Elizabeth’s life! As far as I’m aware, this is the first time a biography was ever handled this way. Armed with this seemingly useless clue, I set out on my journey to solve the mystery of Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor queen.

I already knew some things, such as her relationship with her uncle, Richard III, which came down to this: Tudor propaganda has always claimed that Richard III murdered Elizabeth’s brothers—but did he? And was Elizabeth in love with her uncle?

If you haven’t read the trilogy, don’t worry—nothing is left out in THE KING’S DAUGHTER. Back to why Elizabeth is hidden when all the other Tudors are “in your face,” so to speak. Could the Tudors have kept her captive? If they did, what was the nature of the threat she posed to them? Did Elizabeth believe the Pretender, Perkin Warbeck, was really her lost brother, Richard, Duke of York? Around these questions are entwined other intriguing ones. Did Henry VII rape Elizabeth? Was he in love with the Pretender’s wife? What were his real reasons for subjecting the Pretender to the extraordinarily brutal torture that he used?

Like a detective on a cold case file, I mulled and pondered; I pored over the evidence with a medievalist friend, and went to England to roam the places Elizabeth had lived. I searched for anything from her time in museums and libraries. Suddenly, I began to notice details and references in historical texts that hadn’t meant much to me before. Here were clues! I re-read, looked again—yes, here were those clues, those hints, those little details in the body of research, new and old, that we’d all read before, and missed. The blanks in Elizabeth’s ,life slowly got filled, and the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle took shape. All at once—voila! There she was. I had her story.

Elizabeth tells her own tale in THE KING’S DAUGHTER, and it’s a thick brew of forbidden love, ambition and murder as we follow her from her turbulent childhood during the Wars of the Roses to her reluctant marriage to Henry Tudor that secured the Tudor dynasty. With her sacrifice and goodness, beautiful Elizabeth of York, “Elizabeth the Good”, the people’s Queen, finally achieved what she set out to do. She brought peace to the strife-torn land she loved, and did it with courage, grace, and dignity. She is a queen for the ages.

It was great fun piecing together the enigma of Elizabeth, the first Tudor Queen.

I hope you’ll find her story as much fun reading as I had writing it. One caveat, though. Two other novels are coming out entitled THE KING’S DAUGHTER, (one shortly after mine in December) so be sure you have my novel on Elizabeth. If you’d like to enter my drawing to win one of five copies of the book, please send me an email at

Write me when you’ve read the book, if you have the inclination. I would love to know your thoughts. Meanwhile, happy reading, and Happy Holidays! May troubles pass, and the new year bring a new beginning.

Sandra Worth

Saturday, November 22, 2008

News and Notes: Wally Lamb, Kate Furnivall, A Game of Thrones


Below you will find the links to part one and two of our exclusive Loaded Questions interview with Wally Lamb, bestselling author of She's Come Undone, I Know this Much is True and The Hour I First Believed.

And don't miss the conclusion of this great interview.
Click below to read Part Two of the Wally Lamb Interview.

  • Wally, Wally, Wally: You faithful readers may be wondering, first of all, where the interview with Wally Lamb (author of She's Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True and the brand new The Hour I First Believed) that I gushed about two weeks ago is. The interview is still very much on. We have suffered a few set backs in the form of rescheduled conversations and missed phone calls. Lamb and his publicist can hardly be blamed, they have been trying to find time for Wally and I to talk while he is in the midst of his book tour and so every day he was at a different number in a different city. The good news? Wally will be home in a few days and we're scheduled to chat with him on Monday morning! So, the interview is on its way.
  • Upcoming Interview: Our second interview with Kate Furnivall author of the highly praised The Russian Concubine in which Kate and I discuss the release of her second novel The Red Scarf which begins in a labor camp in Siberia during the Russian Revolution. Kate will also share some news about the sequel to The Russian Concubine that she's been working on. Interview should be up in a matter of days, stay tuned.
  • Fantasy TV: Here's some more good news: HBO has green-lit the filming of the pilot of George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones, the first book in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. The series is set to include a total of seven novels each of which, producers have said, would be made into a single season if the show is picked up by HBO. This is very good news for fans of "A Song of Ice and Fire", especially because the brilliant yet chronically late R.R. Martin is at least two years behind on the release of the next novel with no due date in sight. Read more at Hollywood Reporter.
  • Loaded Domain: Noticed any changes here at Loaded Questions? We've gotten ourselves a real domain name. If you haven't already discovered the domain name for this site is now!
  • Support This Site: Want to know how you can help Loaded Questions keep up the author interviews and book giveaways that we've been bringing to you for the past year and half? Click the ads (all of which lead to great sites about publishing, author resources and book trading websites) to the left of your screen to ensure that Loaded Questions will be around for many years to come. One click is a tremendous help.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Loaded Questions with "The Heretic's Daughter" author Kathleen Kent

Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft.

With The HERetic's Daughter Kathleen Kent has brought to life the defiance and courage and death of Martha Carrier to life through the eyes of her surviving daughter. Kent's debut novel is filled with rich historical research as well as the drama and terror of a very contentious time.

Kelly Hewitt: As a fellow historian I appreciate the fact that in The Heretic's Daughter you portray a very honest look at Puritans who, as you noted in one interview, in 1692 more closely resembled the Elizabethan Puritans who historical documents tell us were, in your words, "contentious and libelous, full of superstitious dread and malicious gossip." That is not to say, and you acknowledge this also, that there weren't individuals and groups who were moving towards the sort of New England Puritan that we associate with the religion today. In some of reviews your readers have expressed some surprised at this fact, as was I when I first discovered it. Why do you think that we have this view of Puritanism? What sources would your recommend readers read to get a better idea of Puritanism at the time?

Kathleen Kent: I do believe that much of what we regard as "Puritan" has come to us not just through the acute study of history, but also through the religious practices of Protestantism (the need to view the founders of our church as somehow more filled with moral certainty) and social rituals, such as Thanksgiving. Through the lens of Victorian idealism we see a God-fearing, saint-like people who came to this country escaping religious persecution. In Wayward Puritans, though, Kai T. Erikson writes, "The main theme of this story [of New England Puritans], however, does not really help us understand the Puritan settlement in America, for it pays too little attention to the English background against which the whole adventure was played. In order to imagine what this experience meant to the men who participated in it, we must begin by looking at the world they claimed as their own rather than the world they happened to make."

The Puritans, then, were transplanted Western European peoples, strangers in a strange land, who brought with them their dress, their language, their practices and superstit
ions and tried to survive, at least initially, by imposing their way of life onto the New World. Another good source of the life of the Puritans can be found in The Puritan Family by Edmund S. Morgan who details not only the practices, but the ideals, of relationships within family groups--husband to wife, parent to child, etc.

What makes the most interesting, and telling, reading, however, comes from town records that reflect the warnings, fines and arrests of the citizens of such villages as Salem, Andover and Billerica for drinking, fornication, swearing and, most of all, gossiping. One detailed account is "The History of Billerica, 1653-1883" by the Rev. Henry A. Hazen, and published by The Billerica Historical Society, which gives in great detail the early conflicts of the colonists, including Roger Toothaker, brother-in-law to Martha Carrier, who was "wasting his time and substance in pursuit of the witchcraft delusions at Salem, and leaving his family to charitable aid." Roger Toothaker had been fined on numerous occasions for abandoning his family for drink.

Kelly: A lot of interviewers and reviewers of The Heretic's Daughter have noted that your great-grandmother nine generations back is Martha Carrier, the real life inspiration of your book who was one of the first women hung in August 1692 during the Salem witch trials and that you first heard this fascinating piece of family history at the age of eight or nine. Aside from being jealous about your link to history I couldn't help but wonder what it must have been like when Halloween rolled around and little girls were dressing up like witches, what reading The Crucible in high school was like or studying about the trials in history class. Did you feel a special connection to these stories or a sort of sorrow for an individual whom you have written was very real and often mentioned in your family? Did you tell your friends and classmates when the subject came up?

Kathleen: I was always very proud to be related to Thomas and Martha Carrier and, following my grandmother's attitude towards our family history, a little bit gleeful to be descended from Carrier women who were known for being outspoken and forceful. My grandmother used to say that Martha was not a witch; merely a ferocious woman. Studying early American history was always fun, and relatively easy, because I always knew what my research paper was going to be about--The Salem Witch trials, of course! The only down side to all this family pride was during Halloween while we were children. My mother made all of our costumes and, although she never forbade us from wearing "witch" outfits, she actively discouraged it. She wasn't humorless about it, but she felt it made light of the suffering of men and women wrongly accused of being confederates of the Devil.

Kelly: I read that you did 30 interviews in three days when the Italian version of the book came out! What was that like? Were there particular questions or aspects of the book that your European interviewers were interested in?

Kathleen: As The Herertic's Daughter is my first published novel, I had no idea what to expect on the initial book tour. In an unusual turn of events, the book was to be published first in Italy and I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Milan and Rome for the launch. When I got the schedule, I was stunned to see close to 30 interviews (radio, print and TV) scheduled within 3 days. It was particularly exhausting because every interview had to be translated, real-time, from English to Italian. I have to say I was very impressed by the knowledge the interviewers had, not only of the Salem witch trials, but of early American history. The Italians have a great interest in, and a great respect for "La Stregha"--the witch-- and without exception, they all asked if there were parallels to be drawn between the witch trials of the 17th century and the treatment of women within some closed societies currently in Western Europe.

Kelly: The story of The Heretic's Daughter's publication is a lesson in taking initiative. I read that you wrote the book and just sent it out blindly. How long did it take before it got picked up? I think a lot of Loaded Question readers, in addition to being avid readers, are aspiring authors as well. How did you select which publishers you sent to?

Kathleen: Having no contacts, or experience, in publishing, I sent cover letters out blindly to agents in the U.S. who I thought would be interested in the story, or who specialized in historical fiction. I got quite a few nice, and not so nice, rejection letters until I was contacted by Julie Barer, of Barer Literary Agency. She was intrigued by the story and is living proof that there are literary agents committed to finding new talent, even if it means slogging through the "slush" piles. Julie led me to Little Brown, and to my wonderful editor, Reagan Arthur, who gently and skillfully guided me through the final editing processes. The process from agent to publisher was relatively short, only a few months--and I'm grateful for (and amazed by this) every single day.

Kelly: Do you think that your familial connection to the topic of witch
trials gives you more credibility with your readers?

Kathleen: People seem to be endlessly fascinated by the witch trials and it's surprising the number of people who have approached me with knowledge of their own genealogy connecting them to the trials. I think it does add interest to readers, knowing about my family lineage, but more so, I think what touches people is finding out that these stories about the Carrier family have survived through 10 generations and more than three centuries.

Kelly: The reviews for the book have been really great. A lot of the reader interviews at commend you for your detailed focus on the harshness of the time period. What books would you recommend readers check out to get more info about the realities of life during the period the book is set in? Did you look at a lot of primary resources?

Kathleen: Reading the transcripts from the trials makes for very poignant, and disturbing reading. Many of the trial documents have been collected into the work: Salem Possessed; The Social Origins of Witchcraft by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum. Another very good, non-fiction book is In the Devil's Snare by Mary Beth Norton.

Kelly: I think that The Heretic's Daughter really works because of your connection to the subject, the research that you have obviously done and most importantly your ability as a storyteller. It is kind of a perfect storm, this your debut novel. If you hadn't written about with trials and Sarah Carrier what kind of debut novel might we have seen from you?

Kathleen: I can't imagine having written any other novel first. The story and the characters have been rattling around in my head for decades and I always knew that I would some day write this book. Since my first love is historical fiction it might have been a book about post-civil war Texas (which is an idea that hopefully will be developed down the road). Reconstruction after mass civil conflict makes way for a lot of human drama; the good, the bad and the ugly.

Kelly: I was excited to read that you will be writing a prequel to The Heretic's Daughter. What can you tell us about that?

Kathleen: The follow-up novel will explore the life of Thomas Carrier, Martha Carrier's husband, who lived to 109 years of age, was over 7 feet tall and, according to family legend, fought for Cromwell during the English Civil War and was one of the executioners of King Charles I of England. The contents of the "red diary" that was presented as a literary device in "The Heretic's Daughter" will be revealed, and the story will encompass the events leading up to the flight of the regicides from the Old World to the New.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Upcoming Interviews: Wally Lamb, David Wroblewski, Lauren Willig and Sandra Worth

Some very very exciting news about some upcoming interviews that we are excited about sharing with you.

Wally Lamb - The Hour I First Believed

What comes first? Well, tomorrow morning we are having a direct phone call with one of our favorite authors of all time, Wally Lamb. The author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much is True released his first book in a great while The Hour I First Believed just a few days ago. I am very excited about getting to chat with him and equally looking forward to reading the book. I am up rather late this evening trying to get myself ready for our talk in the morning. The interview will go live soon! Wish me luck!

David Wroblewski - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

I have been in contact with David Wroblewski over the last several weeks, a man who has suddenly become even more busy when is book, which was already a bestseller, was selected as an Oprah book club selection. This gracious author has agreed to spare some time for an interview which we will be bringing to you in the next couple of days as well.

Lauren Willig - The Temptation of the Night Jasmine

I spoke with our good friend Lauren Willig the other day. She has not only agreed to do another interview with Loaded Questions but also hinted about wanting to provide her Loaded Question friends with a copy or two of her new novel due out in Janruary, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. Stay tuned for more news soon!

Sandra Worth - The King's Daughter. A Novel of the First Tudor Queen

Past Loaded Questions author Sandra Worth will return to Loaded Questions later this month with a guest post about her exciting new novel The King's Daugther that looks at the life of the first Tudor Queen, Elizabeth of York who married Henry VII following the end of the War of the Roses.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blast from the Past: Loaded Questions with Brenda Rickman Vantrease, author of "The Illuminator"

My interview with Brenda Rickman Vantrease is just the second author interview I had ever done. I clearly remember going to my book shelves one night to pull down all of the books I had recently read, emailing all of the authors whose contact information I could find. I was extatic the following day when several had replied, in fact 95% of all of the authors I have ever contacted have happily agreed to participate - there are a few who have been busy and some who have not been so gracious. Some day I fancy writing a tell all in which I unmask the friendly. Some day.

Brenda's book The Illuminator is historical fiction that deals with the process of book illuminating, some very engaging characters and that state of religious change and reformation spurred on by the English translation of Bible scriptures which was at the time very much against the teachings of the church. At a time in my college education when I was pooring over medieval church history as part of my major in English history The Illuminator provided me with interesting characters (Julian of Norwich, for example, a real life and prolific religious mystic who claimed a connection with God) who were not only living in the time period but followed the beliefs of men like John Wycliffe and his Lollards - beliefs and ideas and individuals that I was working to memorize for upcoming exams.

Interviewer's Note: This interview originally took place in 2006.

Kelly Hewitt
: You taught in the Metro Nashville School System for 25 years before retiring in 1991 to write full-time. What was that first month like? Had you already been working on "The Illuminator" or did you start after you were done teaching?

Brenda Rickman Vantrease: I really didn't retire to write full-time. I retired to learn to write fiction and maybe publish something now and then. I never dreamed of writing "full-time." Or at least I wouldn't have admitted to such a dream. It sounds so professional, as though one is doing reasonably well part-time. The first month was great. It was just like the first day of summer vacation. It didn't really sink in that something had profoundly changed for me until the end of summer came and everybody else went back to school. That's when I decided it was time to start a productive routine. Other retirees take up golf or flying or sailing, I was going to take up writing. I found a writer's group that met in a local library once a week. It was one of those open mic affairs, for anybody who wanted to drop in and read aloud or just listen. After several weeks, I finally found the courage to read something. I put myself on a writing schedule, started sending my work out, and sold my first article a few months later. I had a few publication credits (and a children's book and two apprentice novels in a drawer) before I began THE ILLUMINATOR.

KH: I read in an article that you joined a writer's group in order to gain support and have said, "I could never have done it without them." Are you still a member of a group? What would you suggest aspiring writer's look for when joining a writer's group?

BRV: From within that first large group I was able to find a few like-minded souls, all committed, all at about the same stage and level of understanding of the craft. We all wanted to write novels and decided to meet once a week and critique each other's work in a very honest, take-no-prisoners kind of way. The critiques were helpful, but the best thing about that group was the discipline. We felt pressure to produce--much like homework--every week, until it developed into a good work habit. Much of what we produced was throwaway quality, but we were putting words on paper and learning how to write for readers.

Unfortunately, my group broke up when two of the members moved a continent away. We still keep in touch, still exchange manuscripts, but it's not the same. So I'd say proximity is one of the things to look for in a writer's group. Look for people who share your level of commitment and people whose work you don't mind reading, because you'll read a lot of it.

KH: Julian of Norwich, the English mystic who serves as a character in The Illuminator is a pretty serious figure to take on, were you ever hesitant to involve her in your story? Did you take a look at the writings of other English mystics?

BRV: Actually, it was reading Julian that led me into the story. I wanted to write about her, but found it daunting to base a whole novel around what is recorded of her limited life experience. I couldn't really get inside her head. I guess I'm not that holy. So she became a minor character whos philosophy I used as a theme, a sort of touchstone for all the othe characters. Margery Kempe and Hildegard of Bingen also fascinate me.

KH: One review, and I note for the record that it was indeed just *one* review, noted the similarities between The Illuminator and Anya Seton's Katherine. Both novels have Julian of Norwich and John of Gaunt as characters. Is this something that others have brought to your attention? If so, how do you respond to that?

BRV: One of the best novels I have ever read was Seton's GREEN DARKNESS. I read it when I was in high school and never forgot it. I'm honored to be compared with an author who gave me such pleasure. Several years after reading GREEN DARKNESS, I picked up a copy of KATHERINE in the library. But I never read more than the first few chapters. I had just started teaching and was easily distracted by my workload, so I took it back to the library, thinking I would try again when I had more time. I didn't even read enough to remember that Julian was in it. I don't think I'd ever heard of Julian of Norwich until I read her Divine Revelations in a Christian anthology. I do vaguely remember now that John of Gaunt was a character. But the character of John of Gaunt as presented in my novel came solely from my research regarding John Wycliffe. (One of my English teacher friends was quite indignant with me for what she considered my unusual and negative portrayal of the English patriarch.) Now I am intrigued. I shall have to go back and take another look at Anya Seton's KATHERINE.

KH: Your second novel The Mercy Seller is due out in February (of 2007). Can you give us a bit of information about new book?

BRV: I guess I could not bear to part with Finn and Kathryn. They stayed with me and are characters in THE MERCY SELLER, although it is basically the story of Finn's young granddaughter, the child at the end of the story.

The conflict in this story also arises from the historical persecutions of the Lollards and the early English Bible translators. The setting is 1412 and the story begins in Prague when three young men, converts of the reformer Jan Hus, are executed for burning papal indulgences. The setting later shifts to England where Henry V and Archbishop Thomas Arundel are set on burning out the 'heretics." Like THE ILLUMINATOR, THE MERCY SELLER, is a story of romance and intrigue.

KH: I am one of those who can't help but fill their shelves with books, CD, and movies. What is the one thing that loads down the shelf of Brenda Rickman Vantrease?

BRV: Books on the cultural, political, and religious history of England. I'm an addict of English history. And now my shelves are loaded with foreign translations of THE ILLUMINATOR. What a hoot! I can't read anything in them but my name.
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