A Celebration of Katherine Longshore’s BRAZEN!

BrazenCongratulations to our own Katherine Longshore! Her third Tudor-era novel, and fourth published novelBrazendebuts tomorrow, June 12, 2014, from Viking/Penguin! In typical Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks fashion, we’re celebrating with a group interview. Here’s what Katherine had to say in response to our questions:

From Jennifer McGowan: BRAZEN gives readers a glimpse into a world that most have probably never explored, telling the tale of Mary Howard during her all-too-brief marriage to Henry Fitzroy. What was it like crafting this storyand what was your biggest challenge?

Honestly, the biggest challenge was the history. Because there are so few facts about Mary Howard’s life, and so many about that period in time (most of the story occurs during Anne Boleyn’s queenship) that it was difficult to find the story I was looking for. The history kept trying to take over. I also raged against the limitations of history and its inflexibility, because there were certain events that I wanted not to happen, and I had to write about them, anyway.

From J. Anderson Coats: The spoken word has changed significantly over the centuries. How much of a challenge was it for you to have your characters speak in a way that is relatable to contemporary readers, while being true to the novel’s setting?

I don’t want to sacrifice relatability for linguistics, nor do I want to write in a way that sounds anachronistic, though I probably lean toward the latter. I’m careful with my word choice, though I have to admit I haven’t gone to the manuscript to check the origin and usage of every word. I make sure I don’t use words that I know have modern origins–such as focus, zero in, or bleachers to mean stadium seating. But I will set aside my pedantry for others—such as sex as a term for intercourse—because I’m trying to avoid sounding archaic (or precious) to the modern ear. My phrasing and my characters’ dialogue have a contemporary feel to them for the same reason.

When all else fails, I do what I consider the Marie Antoinette test. Sofia Coppola made a gorgeous, historically accurate film that included Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” in the soundtrack. The Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger did something similar but pushed it into the story so much that it went over the edge into farce. I enjoyed both movies, but I try to err on the side of Coppola.

UK Cover

UK Cover

From Susan Hill Long: Katy, one of your many fans on Goodreads has said, “this book is why I love historical fiction.” That must warm your heart! Can you tell us what book(s) or experiences made you want to write about the Tudors?

That quote made my day, Sue! Seeing Ian McKellen in the film version of Richard III sent me down the rabbit hole of history because I wanted to find out if the actual man (Richard that is, not Sir Ian) was really that bad. Reading The Other Boleyn Girl offered the same sort of incentive—to read as much as I could and devise my own opinions. Both of them made me want to write a story that offered a different facet of the lives we think we know so much about because of the already existing canon. Was Catherine Howard really an insipid, promiscuous blonde? Was Anne Boleyn really a conniving gold-digger? And how can we take the historical record at face value? I like digging for other possibilities.

From Laura Golden: What’s the most interesting piece of information you happened across while researching for your books that you couldn’t use right away but definitely stored for a rainy day?

While visiting Hardwick Hall, I came across a little display that contained the book that had been discovered by conservators working on the paneling in the dining room. A catechism (with handwritten notes in it, if I remember rightly). No one knew how or why it was there, but I found it so compelling, I wanted to include it in a story. As yet, none of my characters have been able visit Hardwick, because it was built during Elizabeth’s reign. So yes, I’m saving it for later.

From Jessica Spotswood: Are there any characters who appear in GILT, TARNISH, & BRAZEN that you really enjoyed portraying / exploring at different times in their lives?

Anne Boleyn. I never set out to write a book about her. So many people already have, and there’s so much information and discussion out there already. But when GILT sold as part of a three-book deal, I began to wonder if maybe there was a possibility. In GILT, Anne is already dead. But she affects the way Kitty and Cat look at the world. How could a wife of Henry VIII ever look at marriage as anything but a high-risk venture? In TARNISH, Anne is still fairly malleable and not quite the woman that we know and love, but ready to become her. And in BRAZEN, she faces her own downfall, and possibly regrets decisions that she made before. It was wonderfully challenging to approach the character from diverse angles and inspiring to think about how we all display contrasting facets of our personalities to different people at different times of our life.

Gilt_CATFrom Sharon Biggs Waller: Your Tudor series has beautiful jewel-like covers. Can you tell us what each one represents?

tarnishWhat an excellent question! I wish I knew, but I can only guess. Looking at them on my shelf now, I can see some symbolism. The GILT jewel is an oval–an unbroken line. Perhaps that represents the circle of friendship. The jewel on the TARNISH cover is in the shape of the diamond. I think this refers to how Thomas Wyatt told Anne to catch the light. And the jewel on the cover of BRAZEN is a teardrop, which to me feels absolutely perfect.

From Cat Winters: Congratulations on the release of your third Tudor novel and your fourth YA novel. What would your debut-year self find surprising about the publication of one’s fourth novel? Do you feel seasoned and experienced? Or are there still surprises?

Thank you, Cat! I think there will always be surprises—just as there are with the writing of every novel. This is an unpredictable business! My debut self would probably be surprised to find me so relaxed. At this point, I know that I have to put a lot of work into promotion and marketing, but I know that the success of those efforts is relative. During my debut year, I felt that I had to do all the things, and if I didn’t, I would blame myself if the book didn’t do well. I still do all the things, just without that added pressure. So I’m allowed to enjoy it more. It also gives me time to appreciate how lucky I am. I am so grateful for everything this series has brought to me and for all the hard work that my editor, my agent and the talented team at Penguin have put into it. It really is a joy to see this book on the shelf.

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EVERY DAY AFTER Paperback Release Celebration!

It’s here at last! EVERY DAY AFTER will officially release in paperback tomorrow. I can’t believe it has been an entire year since the hardcover debuted. It has been one heck of a journey. I’ve learned tons, met phenomenal people, and feel far more relaxed about my second book’s release (scheduled for sometime in 2015) than I did about EDA’s release. I’m grateful. That is all there is to say. So…for my official paperback release post, I’m going to give a wink to the relaxed me, let the serious go, and have a bit of fun.

I was born in 1980, and I admit to being partial to the 80’s. I love teased bangs, leg warmers, and acid-washed jeans. Oversized sweatshirts paired with tight leggings and chunky accessories. Films by John Hughes, music by New Kids on the Block, and books recommended by LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow. Though I’d rather not dwell on it, the decade is now considered historical, so I suppose that makes an 80’s-themed post relevant to this blog. Oh, my.

So let’s dive right in and have a flashback to the 1980’s! Do you remember…

the original Nintendo?

the original Nintendo?

 

blowing into the cartridges to help them work properly?

blowing into the cartridges to get them to work properly?

 

Trapper Keepers? How about the Lisa Frank variety?

Trapper Keepers? How about the Lisa Frank variety?

 

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Care Bears? I loved Cheer Bear and Friend Bear. Who was your favorite?

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dot matrix printers and paper?

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The Charmings tv show? No one ever remembers this, but I loved it!

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Alphie educational robot? I still remember changing his front cards and the sounds he made when he was “processing” my responses.

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Pound Puppies?

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any of these cassette tapes?

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the Get-Along Gang? I kept three Get-Along Gang books that are currently sitting on my sons’ bookshelf. I kid you not.

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Teddy Ruxpin? I even had a Teddy Ruxpin VHS tape that came with a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hey, what’s not to love about that?

Atari? I remember playing Pac-Man and Pole Position. What about you?


Thundercats? Epic.

Thundercats? Epic.

 

He-Man Master of the Universe and She-Ra Princess of Power? Also epic.

He-Man Master of the Universe and She-Ra Princess of Power? Also epic.

 

I have oodles of memories I’d love to post, but I’ll stop here. I was young during the 80’s, and if you were born before 1980, I’m sure you remember completely different things. What are they? I want to know! Let’s reminisce together. 

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Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression and STANDING TALL ON MULBERRY HILL, another middle grade about Klan uprisings and true friendship beyond color lines in 1949 Birmingham, AL. Find out more about Laura and her books by visiting her website or chatting with her on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

What We’re Reading

The Corsets gang is reading some cool stuff this month!

Stay Where You AreFrom Susan Hill Long:

I’m reading STAY WHERE YOU ARE & THEN LEAVE, by John Boyne. First World War, London. Alfie Summerfield’s milkman dad has gone — away on a secret mission, says Alfie’s mother, but Alfie knows he must be dead. But when Alfie learns that his father is in a hospital treating soldiers with shell shock, he resolves to rescue him. Excellent historical fiction from the author of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS.

From Sharon Biggs Waller:

I just this morning finished reading Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang.  It’s a fascinating book about the former concubine who ruled China through two weak emperors. My novel is set in 1860s China, after the Opium Wars, so I wanted to find out what China was like then, how it was ruled, what the mindset was toward the West after those horrible wars. Because I (sadly) can’t time travel, I seek out books like Chang’s to help me. I certainly wasn’t disappointed in this one. Jung Chang’s beautiful writing and truthful rendition of this controversial woman’s life was riveting.

we-were-liarsFrom Cat Winters:

I just started reading E. Lockhart’s WE WERE LIARS, after hearing quite a bit of hype about the novel’s stellar plot. The book involves a wealthy family that gathers every summer on a private Massachusetts island, and there seems to be some KING LEAR overtones. Because I just dipped my toes into the first chapters last night, all I know is that the main character suffers a mysterious accident, outsiders enter the family, and the group of teens at the center of the novel call themselves the Liars, so it will likely be hard to figure out which characters can be trusted. I’ve heard the ending is stunning, so I think I might be racing through this one to see if the novel continues to live up to all the buzz—which, so far, it’s doing.

From J. Anderson Coats:

My fiction read is CHERRY MONEY BABY by John M. Cusick, about a girl named Cherry who’s swept into the confidence of a celebrity filming a movie in her dumpy little town. I almost didn’t pick this one up because the premise felt too ordinary, but the story quickly zags when you expect it to zig, and I absolutely loved Cherry and her zero-BS, unstarstruck, authentic teen voice. My other read is a memoir, TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST by Richard Henry Dana. It’s an account of an ordinary sailor’s first voyage on a merchant ship in the mid-nineteenth century, and it’s usually considered one of the first “crew’s eye view” descriptions of working life aboard ship in all of its physically taxing, violent, arbitrary glory.

the hitFrom Katherine Longshore:

I’m reading THE HIT by Melvin Burgess. I read his first novel, JUNK  (titled SMACK in the US) when it was published in 1996 and was left breathless by the powerful voice and dark realism. THE HIT takes on a more futuristic dystopian setting in which the drug of choice gives the taker one amazing, week-long high, but leaves him dead at the end. I haven’t read far–it’s the kind of book I need to take in small doses, so to speak–but Burgess’s writing is amazing and the situation is bleakly compelling.

From Elizabeth May:

The book I’m reading now is A WEEK TO BE WICKED by Tessa Dare. I devoured my first Tessa Dare book, A NIGHT TO SURRENDER, in mere hours yesterday and immediately bought this one. Readers who love intellectual, proudly geeky heroines will adore the heroine, Minerva, a geologist determined to present her findings at a symposium for the Geological Society (who all believe her to be a man). To get there, she enlists the help of Colin, who is a shameless rake. Sparks fly, and the writing is witty, fun, and absolutely refreshing. Adore!

lost symbolFrom Jennifer McGowan:

I’m reading Dan Brown’s THE LOST SYMBOL for inspiration on how to weave mysticism into a typical thriller backdrop. It’s a great reminder of how everyday symbols and rituals exist all around us, and fabulous inspiration as I jump into editing my third Maids of Honor book, which is chock-full of Elizabethan mysticism. 🙂 I’m enjoying it very much!

From Jessica Spotswood:

I just finished THE WINNER’S CURSE by Marie Rutkowski, which might be my favorite read of the year so far. It’s a gripping, high-stakes fantasy with an impossible love story and an incredibly complex heroine.

What are you guys reading? Tell us about it!

On Writing Strong Female Characters (Make Them Human)

harkavagrant

Couldn’t resist. Copyright Kate Beaton at Hark! A Vagrant.

I have a lot of thoughts about how to write strong female characters, but first I wanted to address the idea of “strong.” For female characters, strength tends to be equated with physical prowess. Think of “strong female characters”, and most people will immediately list the Buffys and the Xenas, because they are warrior women with superior fighting skills. But in creating strong female characters, it’s also important to look beyond the physical. The Sansa Starks of fiction are not any less strong than the Arya Starks just because they can’t pick up a sword and slay their enemies. There are the Felicity Smoaks of the world who find strength in their intelligence, and the Cersei Lannisters who use manipulation and cunning to drive their enemies to their knees.

To quote Neil Gaiman on this subject:

The glory of Buffy is it was filled with strong women. Only one of those strong women had supernatural strength and an awful lot of sharpened stakes. And people sort of go ‘Well yes, of course Buffywas a strong woman. She could kick her way through a door.’ And you go ‘No, well that’s not actually what makes her a strong woman! You’re missing the point.’

 

By defining “strength” as physical, people are pigeonholing the roles of women in fiction. Real women are not limited to “strong ladies” and “everyone else who can’t fight.”  All women are different, because all humans are different. In fiction, we should be celebrating differences in women. We should be celebrating creating realistic, diverse characters.

One of my favourite female characters is Mako Mori from the movie Pacific Rim.

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While Pacific Rim has been the subject of a lot of feminist debate, Mako Mori is a great example of a well-realized female protagonist whose entire character arc is separate from supporting the main male character’s story. She’s a character whose Japanese upbringing shapes her personality but does not define her; she’s a loyal friend; she’s respectful; she’s a survivor whose PTSD is something she shares with the male protagonist, Raleigh Becket, and she is forced to overcome it in order to help save the world.

She’s not strong just because she’s great with the quarterstaff…

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…she’s strong because she’s sensitive, intelligent, but she is also a rookie to helming a Jaeger and makes her first mistake when she “drifts” (connects minds) with Raleigh. His PTSD triggers her own and she is drawn into the memory of watching her parents die during the destruction of Tokyo. It is a great example of hero/heroine sharing weaknesses and also sharing strengths. They are drift compatible because they are equal, and they are also equally vulnerable to the effects of their pasts.

Characters like Mako Mori are strong ladies because their humanity — their realness, including their vulnerabilities — is emphasized over badassery. Just like how Katniss Everdeen is not “strong” or “badass” because the bow and arrow she carries makes her so, she is both because she shows compassion in the face of adversity (her friendship with Rue during the Games), and because she is a survivor, and yet her survival does not come without a mental cost — because Katniss is human first.

Physical prowess should not solely define a “strong female character.” Women have many types of strength.  Indeed, characters are strong when they are strongly written and fully realized. And I think the most important thing when writing any female character isn’t necessarily “how can I make her strong?” It should be: “How can I make her feel real?” Women are people, so write female characters as human beings first. A character’s strength comes from what they do and how they act; it is a combination of all their other characteristics, including their weaknesses.

Write a realistic, human character who just happens to be a woman. Strength will follow.

 

Quick and Dirty: The Crusades

(We’d like to welcome guest poster Rima Jean, the author of the delicious YA historical fantasy KNIGHT ASSASSIN! ~ eds.)

KA11smallToday I’ll be giving you the low-down on the Crusades—namely, why they happened. Why the Crusades, you ask? Good question. My YA historical fantasy, Knight Assassin, takes place in Syria and Jerusalem between the Second and Third Crusades, and while the heroine is a Syrian Assassin, the hero is a Knight Templar. The mixing of cultures and peoples made for a complex and fascinating period in history.

Not that I would want to live back then.

As if living in Medieval Europe wasn’t enough of a pain in the butt, the armies of Western Europe went on a series of Crusades between the 11th and 14th centuries to take back the Holy Land from the Muslims. The knights and nobles of Europe were constantly fighting with each other over land, so they were thrilled when, in 1095, Pope Urban II went on tour (like a rock star) to urge those knights and nobles to turn their excessive testosterone against the Muslims. At that time, the Seljuk Turks, who were Muslims, were in the process of beating the crap out of the Byzantine Empire (in Asia Minor), which was Christian. To sweeten the deal, Pope Urban offered an indulgence to those who went to liberate Jerusalem, which was basically a way for Crusaders to have all their sins forgiven.

CrusadersIf that’s not a sweet deal, I don’t know what is.

Folks went running, let me tell you. The first band of Crusaders consisted of peasants led by a preacher named Peter the Hermit (clearly, he stopped being a hermit for the occasion) who tore through France and Germany plundering towns and killing Jews, only to arrive in Constantinople in bad shape. Needless to say, the Turks handed the Crusaders’ asses to them. This got the knights moving, and the first “official” Crusade was led by celebrity knights and nobles: Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, who was made leader of the Crusader armies; Hugh of Vermandois, the little bro of the king of France; Robert of Normandy, the son of William the Conqueror; Baldwin of Flanders and his brother Godfrey of Bouillon, the Duke of Lower Lorraine; and also Raymond of Toulouse, an experienced warrior who had fought the Muslims in Spain.

HauberkThat’s when things really started to suck for the knights: The Holy Land was friggin’ hot, way hotter than Europe, and the men wore serious layers of armor, including a gambeson, which was a thickly padded tunic, a hauberk over it, which was a chainmail coat, a metal helmet… Dudes must have been cooking under the desert sun. Of course, what was a disadvantage in the heat was an advantage in battle – when the knights would charge the lightly-clad Muslim forces, they were lethal.

After finding what the Crusaders believed to be the lance that had pierced the side of Christ during the Crucifixion (riiiiiiight), the Crusaders defeated the Turks at Antioch and trudged on to Jerusalem (finally!) in June 1099. The Crusaders pummeled the city for only a month before they were able to capture it. The capture of Jerusalem was a wholesale slaughter – Muslims, Christians and Jews were massacred, and their corpses were piled outside the city higher than the gate itself.

BaldwinOf course, the Crusaders’ problems weren’t finished yet; now they had to decide who would be the ruler of this new Christian state. Needless to say, they all wanted to be king. Go figure. They finally settled on Baldwin, who took the crown of the new Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was also called Outremer. Sadly, war did not end there. In under 50 years, Jerusalem fell again to the Muslims and the need for another crusade sprang up…

Okay, so there was a lot of killing going on in the name of religion. Still, a fascinating period of history that would trigger the imagination of any history lover, and one that provides fertile grounds for a great story.

Rima Jean received a degree in archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. After a dismal law school experience, she floundered a bit before accepting her calling: storytelling. She resides in Houston with her wonderful husband and two beautiful daughters, where she writes, edits, and dabbles in digital art. Her debut YA historical fantasy, Knight Assassin, is out now.

Website/Twitter/Goodreads