It’s my happy privilege to interview the very talented Katherine Longshore (she also happens to be my publishing sister—we are both Viking authors) for her latest book, TARNISH, her second novel about Henry VIII’s court. Katy’s first book about the Tudor court was GILT, now available in paperback. As usual, the Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks crew submitted questions for Katy. To start off the interview, here is a synopsis:
Anne Boleyn is the odd girl out. Newly arrived to the court of King Henry VIII, everything about her seems wrong, from her clothes to her manners to her witty but sharp tongue. So when the dashing poet Thomas Wyatt offers to coach her on how to shine at court—and to convince the whole court they’re lovers—she accepts. Before long, Anne’s popularity has soared, and even the charismatic and irresistible king takes notice. More than popularity, Anne wants a voice—but she also wants love. What began as a game becomes high stakes as Anne finds herself forced to make an impossible choice between her heart’s desire and the chance to make history
TARNISH released on June 18th. Penguin uploaded the first 30 pages to scribd. Bonus! You get to scroll through GILT to get there.
From J Anderson Coats
“Which scene do you think will surprise readers the most?”
I think that depends on what they know about Anne Boleyn. If all of their information comes from The Other Boleyn girl, they might be surprised by a scene with Mary Boleyn in which Anne is vulnerable and affectionate. If they have read accounts of Anne as a strong-willed, aggressive force of nature, they might be surprised by a girl who (at first) capitulates to the opinions and desires of Thomas Wyatt. If they believes the myths—the six fingers, the poisoning, the witchcraft—they might be surprised by how ordinary this extraordinary girl could be when she first enters Katherine of Aragon’s household. Ultimately, I wanted to present a realistic, multi-dimensional character whose actions might be misconstrued if filtered through the experiences of the other characters. So I hope these scenes are surprising, but not unbelievable!
From Laura Golden
Was it harder to write Tarnish, your second book, than it was to write your first? What challenges did you face, both on the page and in your mind?
Yes and no. I’ve said before that when I wrote my first book—GILT—I didn’t know what I was doing, but wrote anyway. With TARNISH, I realized I had no idea what I was doing and for a while it terrified me so much I froze. Early in the process, I suffered the worst writer’s block I’ve ever faced. Luckily, I had the support of some amazing writer friends and when I pulled myself back out of the hole, I saw that I knew more than I originally thought. That helped get me through the rest of the draft.
What made the process easier was the strength of Anne’s voice. This character’s voice spoke for itself, and sometimes I felt like all I could do was hang on and enjoy the ride. Deadlines helped, too. They can be stressful—and to some writers even deadly—but I find them invaluable.
From Jessica Spotswood
Anne Boleyn is such a fascinating character. What are your favorite other fictional or nonfictional depictions of her?
Like many Tudor fiction fans, I loved The Other Boleyn Girl. Philippa Gregory’s Anne is one of those brilliant characters you love to hate, and Gregory exploited all of the salacious details of history and myth to create her.
Because I like to get a fair and balanced opinion, I also love historian Eric Ives’ account in The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. He digs out the truth in the history and busts the unsavory myths in a comprehensive and compassionate account.
From Sharon Biggs Waller
How did you research Anne’s teenage life? Was there a lot of information on her?
There is very little concrete information about Anne’s life before she attracted the attention of the king. Even her birthday isn’t known for sure, and there’s debate over whether she was born in 1501 or 1507. I’ve used information pieced together from surviving letters and court records and the rather unreliable biographies written in the decades after her death. This made my job easier (if no one knows anything, I can’t be wrong!) and more difficult (how old was she? Was she even at court when I say she was?) But it’s also why I find writing so much fun—because I can look at how people saw her later, and try to create a character who could become the queen we know and love.
From Cat Winters
What’s the most surprising fact you learned about Anne Boleyn when you were conducting research for TARNISH?
I was surprised by the passionate devotion the Anne Boleyn fans feel for her. I had always seen her as a fascinating and tragic historical character, but it wasn’t until I’d lived with her for a year that I understood. She was a feminist before feminism was a word. She had strong beliefs and convictions and wasn’t afraid to voice them. She is more admirable than some fictional representations would lead us to believe. Even after all these centuries, she has a charismatic appeal that encourages respect and strong emotions. It’s inspiring.
From Jennifer McGowan
What was the biggest difference for you in your writing process in working on Book 2, after launching GILT last year?
Having all those other voices in my head was the biggest difference. GILT was written in a vacuum. But once a book is out, you start to hear all this other noise while you write. Editor, reviewers, readers. Sometimes, it brought me to a standstill, hearing all the characteristics that had been applied to GILT by the negative reviews—boring, long, anachronistic. My inner editor has always had a pretty strong voice, but it was never stronger than it was last summer as I was finishing my line edits for TARNISH, because it had lots of extra ammunition. What saved me was being able to call on the voice of my actual editor, Kendra Levin. I trust her implicitly and her kindness and insight brought out the best of my abilities.
Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
I have two projects coming out next year. MANOR OF SECRETS will be published by Scholastic in February—an upstairs/downstairs, dual point of view novel in the spirit of Downton Abbey. Book 3 in the Tudor series features entirely new characters living in Henry’s court in the time between TARNISH and GILT and is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2014.
Visit Katherine Longshore online at KatherineLongshore.com.