So if you caught my post on Monday it was a review of Brazen by Katherine Longshore. OH MY GOODNESS. Please tell me it’s on your TBR. If you like fun historical novels or the show Reign…get on this. And if you are not NORMALLY into historical fiction…I vote giving this one a chance. Given my love for history and this book, you can imagine how excited I am for this interview with Katherine Longshore ALL about Brazen, her research and more!
1. Describe Brazen in 6 words or less.
I think the tagline does it well in three: Duty. Loss. Rebellion. Though I’d have to add two more: Love and Friendship.
2. In Gilt and Tarnish you wrote about a bit more well known figures in King Henry VIII’s court, what drew you to Mary Howard to write from her POV in Brazen?
One of the first things that drew me to Mary was that she never remarried. This was something almost unheard of in the Tudor court, and definitely frowned upon by the men in her family who were looking to capitalize on her gender, looks and status in any way possible. I wanted to know why. I could only figure that out for myself by getting inside her head for a while.
But probably the most compelling thing that inspired me to write about Mary was the Devonshire Manuscript. I came across a reference to it when I was researching Anne Boleyn and Thomas Wyatt’s relationship, and found the idea utterly compelling. It is a real leatherbound volume in which many different people (including Thomas Wyatt, and some say, Anne Boleyn) wrote poetry, comments and cryptic notes. It was apparently passed around the court for several years. Two of the most consistent hands were those of Madge Shelton and Margaret Douglas, and the initials stamped on the cover were M.F.—Mary (Howard) FitzRoy. I latched onto the idea of this literary brat pack roaming the galleries of Hampton Court and Henry’s other palaces, and took off from there.
3. How do you balance the historical facts and the fictional liberties when writing? How do you choose what remains completely accurate and what doesn’t?
I have always felt that when it comes to the Tudor court, truth is stranger than fiction. The raw material (the tyrannical king, the manipulative advisors, the six very different wives) is irresistible. Because of this, I try to be as accurate as I possibly can with the facts: who, what, where, when. If my characters birthdays were noted, I cannot make them older or younger. If there wasn’t solid evidence that Henry VIII had an affair with someone, I don’t include it. If Anne Boleyn was at Hampton Court on such and such a date, that’s where I keep her—even if it might suit my story better to have her somewhere else. Thus the long stretches in BRAZEN when Mary and Fitz are separated—he wasn’t at court. Period.
It’s the how and why that I get to play with, and this is where the fictional liberties come in. Why did Mary never remarry? How did she and Fitz feel, being married at fourteen and not allowed to consummate? I also get to do my inventing around the gaps in the historical record. There aren’t any complete lists of the ladies at the court during Anne Boleyn’s time as queen. There is no record of Mary Howard being at court, but then again there is no record of her being anywhere else. It suited the purpose of my story to have her be close to Anne, and there is mention of it in the historical record, so I followed my instincts to the (possibly) fictional conclusion.
My biggest departure from known facts again revolves around the Devonshire Manuscript. I wanted the book to be the touchstone I imagined it to be, but couldn’t find enough evidence in the book itself to suit my needs. So I invented extra pages where the three girls (Mary, Madge and Margaret) wrote lists of attributes of the men they might fall in love with. These lists don’t exist, but it made the story so much richer to include them.
4. It’s obvious from reading Brazen how much research you did…what was the most interesting or mind-blowing things that you came across in your research about King Henry VIII’s reign or life in general then?
One of my favorites is something I came across very early on, when I was just reading history out of interest rather than researching for a book. The Tudors drank wine and beer almost exclusively—never water. They thought water was poisonous to humans and, of course, at the time, it was because the rivers were both garbage dumps and sewers. The boiling and fermenting process in brewing beer killed the bacteria, making it potable. In their defense, however, the Tudors didn’t spend their entire lives inebriated, as they often drank what they called “small beer”, which contained very little alcohol. However, unappetizingly, it sometimes had the consistency of porridge.
5. There were so many compelling figures that were just brought to life in Brazen. Mary Howard aside, who was your favorite to research and to write?
I’m fascinated by Margaret Douglas. She is such an enigma. Daughter of the dowager Queen of Scotland and the Earl of Angus, niece to the King of England, royal and yet she had little political power. She was raised in part with Mary Tudor, who became Mary I, and I can’t help thinking that some of Margaret’s opinions and feelings would have been colored by that association. Margaret appeared on the outside to be the perfect courtier, and the obedient niece to Henry VIII, except for these (excuse the pun) royally imprudent love affairs that got her thrown in prison more than once. She spent her later years in and out of court (and sometimes as a thorn in the side of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth), finagling to get herself and her progeny closer to the throne—and succeeded when her grandson became James I. How’s that for tenacious?
6. If you were transported back into the reign of King Henry VIII, what 3 attributes do you think you’d have to survive King Henry’s court?
Discretion—I know when to keep my mouth shut.
Education—If I got transported back with all my faculties intact, I’d have the heads up on things like reading and writing, as well as basic hygiene. Not to mention the foreknowledge of what happens next and to whom.
Imagination—I’ve had some experience telling stories and making them seem absolutely true.
7. Kiss, Marry, Kill Brazen style — Henry Fitzroy, Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard?
I’d kiss Thomas Wyatt (I imagine he’s pretty good at it!), marry Henry FitzRoy (hello! Son of the king) and regrettably I’d have to kill Henry Howard (who historically made things difficult for himself—Henry VIII agreed with me and had him executed in 1547).
Thanks for such thoughtful answers, Katherine! After reading and loving Brazen, your answers were SOOO interesting to me! Especially the fact that the notebook passed around was real!!
So, I’m really jealous of what Penguin Teen is offering up for giveaway for you guys because I WANT IT FOR MYSELF. I am dying to read Gilt and Tarnish after reading Brazen (two other books set in King Henry VIII’s court — seriously a young Anne Boleyn is the MC is one!!) and Courted is the paperback bind-up of those two. I’m also going to personally throw in Brazen (which will be fulfilled by myself) because I LOVED it so much and want you to read it!
So what you will win:
* A copy of Courted (bind-up of Gilt & Tarnish) —-> prize fulfilled by Penguin Teen
* A hardcover of Brazen —–> prize fulfilled by me!
Ends 7/17 11:59pm
About The Author
Katherine Longshore (www.katherinelongshore.com) is the author of Gilt, Tarnish, and Brazen. She lives in California with her husband, two children and a sun-worshipping dog. Follow her on Twitter!
Be sure to follow along with the rest of the blog tour to find out more about Katherine Longshore, her books, and some of her favorite historical hotties!
Midsummer Romance Blog Tour Schedule:
Tuesday, July 8 – Good Books & Good Wine
Thursday, July 10 –Perpetual Page Turner
Tuesday, July 15 –Alice Marvels
Thursday, July 17 – I am a Reader
Tuesday, July 22 – Novel Sounds
Thursday, July 24 – Starry-Eyed Revue
Tuesday, July 29 – The Midnight Garden
Thursday, July 31 – Novel Thoughts