Friday, April 15, 2011

Interview with Brandy Purdy, author of The Tudor Throne

After reading, loving and reviewing Brandy Purdy's upcoming novel, The Tudor Throne, Brandy kindly offered to allow me to interview her.

Did Henry VIII help or hurt his children? Did he have a favorite girl?
 I think it was a bit of both, he hurt them but he also helped, sometimes by that hurting, to mold them into the women, and queens, they later became. I sometimes think Mary might have been the more damaged of the two, she spent a longer period of time as the adored daughter, and was old enough to fully comprehend what was going on when she lost the King's favor, whereas Elizabeth was only around three when her mother's fall from favor and execution exiled her from her father's affections. But that's not to say Elizabeth was not damaged, she was, I believe, and her views about marriage and sex and death I think were largely formed from witnessing, even when it was from afar, her father's parade of wives. I think as Elizabeth grew older, Henry saw that of all his children, she was the most like him, but I don't think he ever had a really warm fatherly relationship with any of his children.

 During her stay with Katherine Parr, Elizabeth falls for Thomas Seymour. You include details in their romance that others haven't. How far do you believe the romance went? Do you believe that Thomas is responsible for Elizabeth's views on marriage and love?
 Historians have always wondered about how far in the physical sense Elizabeth's relationship with Tom Seymour went. I personally think there was some sexual behavior between them, though how far it actually went, if he actually took her virginity or if it went no further than touching and kissing, I don't know, but I think the relationship was very significant and had enough impact to reinforce everything Elizabeth had up to that point come to believe about marriage and sex in a much more personal way than as just an observer of what happened to others. I think Thomas Seymour played a significant role in making Elizabeth the "Virgin" Queen. If he had not come into her life the way he did, Elizabeth might have put those beliefs she formed and harbored from childhood behind her and married, but I think instead Tom Seymour underscored and put the exclamation point on them. I also think the men she was later attracted to, Robert Dudley and much later Essex, had some of the same qualities as Tom Seymour.

Thomas became erratic after Katherine's death.Why then? And do you think that Thomas got his just rewards for his behaviors?
I think Katherine Parr had a restraining influence on him, and once that was removed, he threw caution to the wind. I think he did deserve some form of punishment, though of course to modern eyes decapitation seems quite harsh, but had he been sentenced to life imprisonment, he would never have stopped scheming, and if that had happened and he had still been alive when Elizabeth became Queen, it could have been disastrous. That would be a very interesting idea for a writer who does Alternative Histories to explore.

Jane Grey has been judged by history as a victim. Do you think she deserved mercy?
I don't think Jane deserved to die, I do indeed see her as a victim. Novelists (myself included) and artists tend to paint a more sympathetic and even romanticized portrait of Lady Jane Grey, I personally sympathize with her, but I think she had a lot of stubbornness and steel in her and her zealous, even fanatic Protestantism may have made her less likable. She was an abused child, and she was used a pawn in a game of power politics, so yes, she was a victim. 

Mary seems so harsh, but at times so nostalgic.How did she come to love and then hate Elizabeth? Would Mary have executed Elizabeth?

 I think Mary is an intriguing study in contradictions, that harshness and sentimentality. I think as a young woman who always desired children of her own, the baby Elizabeth charmed her way into her heart, but Mary could never forget that this was Anne Boleyn's child, and how Anne Boleyn had affected the lives of Mary and her mother in every way, and as time passed, and Elizabeth grew older, more independent, and was no longer a needy baby Mary could hold but a intelligent young woman with beliefs and a will of her own, I think it became harder for Mary to forget or ignore the past. And as Mary grew more paranoid, and there were all these Protestant plots, many that wanted to put Elizabeth on the throne in Mary's place, that just fed the flames. I believe it is possible that, if the right moment had come along, in the grip of anger, fear, and paranoia, Mary might have signed the death warrant, but her subjects and council might not have let the sentence be carried out as Elizabeth was much loved and very popular.

Religion plays a huge part in the book. Why won't Mary pretend to take the reformed faith like Elizabeth pretends to take on Catholicism? Where does Elizabeth's relaxed attitude towards religion come from?
Writing about religion is always difficult for me, I am not a religious person myself, so writing about people who felt strong enough about these beliefs to die for them and kill others or go to war is difficult for me to imagine. But I have always liked Elizabeth's more relaxed attitude, she was once quoted as saying "There is but one Jesus Christ and the rest is just disputes over trifles." In Mary's case, I think she clung to her faith as a reminder of her happy childhood, before everything went so wrong, and in a sense by trying to turn back the clock, bring that religion back, she was also trying to restore her own personal happiness. Somehow in her mind the two became blended.

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
For me, it's a blend of creativity, curiosity, and freedom. I have alway loved creative things, like art and design,
the act of actually creating something, and this is one way I can do that, it's like drawing, painting, or 
embroidering with words. And it also gives me a kind of freedom I don't otherwise have, to temporarily
escape a life that is not happy and to rise above the things that weigh me down, and sometimes, oddly, I find it 
even helps me in ways I didn't expect. I have always loved to read, I love stories and history, and archaeology,
for me writing historical fiction is my version of mental archaeology, I like trying to understand the emotions and
motivations of people from the past who intrigue me, I also like the challenge of trying to give a little known or 
poorly documented figure like Piers Gaveston, Lady Jane Rochford, or Amy Robsart a voice when they are 
largely silent in the historical records. I'm not one of those novelists who get bogged down by the facts and the 
intricacies of politics, and that is not meant in any way as a criticism of those kinds of novels, but for me it's 
more about feelings and emotion. I often think of historical fiction as the gateway to non-fiction, many times I 
have read a historical novel or seen a movie that has sent me to the non-fiction section, biographies and history 
books, intrigued enough to want to know more, to learn about the facts that inspired the fiction, I think my love
of creativity and design makes me appreciate the novelists' art more when I can look back and see what the 
historical facts led them to create.
A HUGE thanks to Brandy for letting me interview her. And I hope to have Brandy back closer to her release 
date at the end of June (June 28th as of now!) for a giveaway! Also, if you want to be safe, you can pre-order the 
book at Amazon here. 

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