Congratulations to our own Katherine Longshore! Her third Tudor-era novel, and fourth published novel—Brazen—debuts 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 story—and 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.
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.
What 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.