I am delighted to welcome Judith Arnopp who has just released her Tudor novel about Anne Boleyn – The Kiss of the Concubine. I was interested to find out from Judith about the endless appeal of the Tudors, and about how she has welcomed them them into her writing life.
Q What is a typical writing day for you?
My writing day usually starts before I get out of bed. I check my email, scroll through Facebook, sharing links to other writer’s blogs and special offers. Then I let the dog out, have breakfast, look at the mess on the carpet and the dust, and decide I really don’t have time to sort it out. Sometimes I promise myself I will just work for an hour and then clean the house or garden in the afternoon but usually I get so involved with what I am doing that I don’t realise the time until my other half comes home from work. Often, especially if I am writing, I sit at the computer for so long that my bottom is totally numb when I get up. A day of research is more leisurely because it doesn’t take hold of me like the creative process of writing does and I don’t come away from it exhausted. Depending on the season, I usually decamp to the sofa or the garden and make copious notes to be transcribed onto the computer the next morning.
Q. To develop your writing style did you do any courses or read any books on writing? How has your writing style developed and what has influenced it most? Does it vary for different books?
I have a degree in English and Creative writing so much of my style developed at university but I have been writing privately for so long that my ‘voice’ was pretty much established before I began to write seriously. I have been to a few writing courses but to be honest I am not very sociable and like to be in bed by 10pm. I find all that chatting in the evenings to be quite tiring and then I don’t write well the next day.
Reading plays a big part in learning to write, I think. A writer subconsciously adopts a favourite style. I’d say my biggest influences are classical writers. My old mates Shakespeare and Chaucer certainly helped with the shaping of Joanie Toogood and her sisters in The Winchester Goose. I don’t think my style varies in different books but I hope my voice does. I think my skills have developed by never being satisfied that my writing is quite good enough and striving to improve it. I will never stop doing that. I will never be good enough.
Q. Your books involve massive amounts of research. How do you structure your research and what sort of resources do you use?
I use the university library at Lampeter and Aberystwyth which have a wonderful array of books and research material. Aberystwyth has the national library which can acquire just about everything I need.
I read around the subject as widely as I can, taking on board all the varying opinions and theories and then I find my own way. History is not so much a matter of ‘fact’ but of ‘opinion’ and I always bear that in mind. I have data bases on my pc of all the historic characters but since I’ve studied it so long I now rely on my instincts for the ‘world’ in which I write.
I write in the first person and my husband was intrigued at how well I grasped the voice of the 16th century whore, Joanie Toogood in The Winchester Goose. I just hope I can pull off the voice of Anne Boleyn so well in The Kiss of the Concubine which is out now. J
Q. You made the decision to publish your books yourself, and they have done well. What are the advantages of going it alone, and what is the hardest part about self-publishing?
I have no regrets at all about ‘going it alone.’ I can work at my own pace, make my own decisions, choose my own title and book cover, and I don’t have to share the royalties. I am not great at marketing and may not sell as many as those authors with a mainstream publisher but neither do I have the associated hassles. I make a modest living, have a lovely team of people; proof readers, a splendid editor and a cover designer who seems to understand that all I require is simplicity.
The hardest thing about self-publishing is overcoming the stigma and putting up with prejudice from people who refuse to even open the cover of a self-published book. My books have mostly 4-5 star reviews, as do many other independent authors that I know, but there are still people who refuse to accept that self-published authors are worth reading. Of course, there are those that are not so good but these aren’t exclusive to the world of self-publishing and there are many traditionally published books riddled with typos but sadly, these books are not subjected to the same disdain.
On my journey I have discovered that Indie authors have to stick together and I’ve met some fabulous writers from many different genres, all of whom have the talent, the dedication and the work ethic required to produce excellent books. People who avoid self-published authors are missing out, read one of mine and see.
Q. Although you are a medieval history expert, you also seem to have a bit of a thing for the Tudor period. What excites you personally about this era?
I’m not sure ‘expert’ is the right word. I have a Master’s degree in medieval studies which covered the Tudor period. I try to ensure that I produce an even weave of authentic history and fiction. When I began to write seriously I thought there were too many Tudor novels out there and people were getting tired of them and so my first novels were set much earlier.
Peaceweaver is set the years surrounding The Battle of Hastings, and The Forest Dwellers just after covering the period from 1068 -1100. My third novel The Song of Heledd is set even further back in the 7th century. Quite early on in my career I published a pamphlet of short stories called Dear Henry: The Confessions of the Queens which isn’t a serious historical story at all but rather a consideration of the experience of being married to Henry VIII. The response was startling.
It was a bit like marmite. Some people loved it, others hated it but I had so many emails asking if I’d written any full length Tudor novels that I obliged with The Winchester Goose. And since that went down so well with readers I followed up with The Kiss of the Concubine.
And I’ve discovered that I really feel at home there. There is no denying that the Tudors are endlessly fascinating. I love the intrigue, the romance, the clothes, the politics. With each book I research I discover something new, some new twist in the tale. Because I write in the first person I am able to imagine the workings of their inner minds and provide possible explanations as to why they behaved in a certain way.
For instance, when you study Anne Boleyn solely through historic channels she comes across as proud and cruel but it is important to remember that the chronicles concerning her were written by her enemies. It is only when you add human sentiment and some rationality to the story that a possible explanation for her actions emerges.
We all do bad things and, when we do, we always rationalise our behaviour to ourselves. In The Kiss of the Concubine Anne is genuinely in love with Henry, very insecure as queen and desperate to keep both him and her position. To give the illusion of confidence before the court she dons her pride like armour but all her enemies see is arrogance. Desperately afraid of Catherine of Aragon and Mary she treats them badly but I think there are many second-wives out there who have treated their husband’s ex negatively.
Anne is human and she tells her own story honestly and while she doesn’t come across as purer than snow, her impatience and sharp tongue are given context. Good lord, if I were ever judged on my sharp tongue alone I’m sure I’d not come out very well at all.
Find out more on Judith’s Blog
Many thanks Judith for such frank and interesting answers and best of luck with your new release! Deborah