As part of his book tour for Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, I have author D Lawrence-Young here with a guest post about how and why he writes historical novels.
I have always liked learning history, even when I had to suffer three of the world’s most boring history teachers in high school. Fortunately, when I went home and told my parents about what I had studied, my father would ask pointed and cynical questions about the heroes or the events we had concentrated on that day. In that way, I learned that there was more than one way in which I could relate to a specific historical hero or incident.
Another spinoff of this was, that when I became an English teacher, I would pepper grammatical examples I wrote on the board with historical events. In this way I hoped that this potentially dry subject would be more interesting. Using examples such as “If Henry VIII had not fallen in love with Anne Boleyn…” or “If the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler had succeeded…” I hoped made learning the conditional structure more exciting.
From this use of English and history grew my desire to write complete historical novels. This desire was helped in that I feel I don’t have to specialize in dealing with one particular era or country. Therefore I have been able to write about Australia in Sail Away from Botany Bay, about Israel in Six Million Accusers, about AngloSaxon kings in Of Plots & Passions, about Tudor queens in Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard as well writing about the 1605 Gunpowder Plot in Gunpowder, Treason & Plot. In addition, I have also written novels about the two World Wars – Of Guns & Mules and Of Guns, Revenge & Hope. And of course I had to write about Shakespeare and Marlowe. These two Elizabethan playwrights became the subjects of four other historical novels.
When it comes to the actual writing, this and the necessary background research is the best part. In terms of writing this means selecting the most suitable vocabulary and style; not repeating the same words too often and making sure that what I write flows well and is credible and accurate. Even though I am writing fiction, I cannot allow mistakes such as ‘the American Declaration of Independence of June 4th, 1777’ or ‘After the Confederate victory at Gettysburg…’ to creep in. Therefore I work hard to ascertain that if I do include an historical fact, it is completely accurate. This means I have to check my sources very carefully. As an example of this, I once phoned a friend in England who is an expert on trees to ask him about which sort of trees grow in the New Forest, the site where King William II was accidentally (?) shot to death by an arrow.
Finally, it is probably because I was a teacher for many years as well as being a long suffering student, that today I work hard to choose interesting topics for books and then to write about them in the most ‘pageturning’ way I can. I love reading and learning about what happened in the past and I want you to do the same.
It is winter 1539. King Henry VIII is galloping through the night to Rochester to meet a young woman. Just arrived in England from Germany, Anne of Cleves is destined to become his fourth wife. He has never met her before. He has only seen her portrait – the portrait of a sweet, demure and innocent young woman. The impatient and lovesick king must see her before their marriage. But this rushed and unplanned rendezvous will shock them and the country both. It will also lead to some completely unexpected and fatal results.
In D. Lawrence-Young’s well-researched novel, we learn of the strong passions and the deadly politics when the romantic plans of a frustrated Tudor king go badly wrong.