Thursday, May 2, 2013

Historical Fiction Book Tours Author Interview: Sandra Byrd

What is it about the Tudor Dynasty that still keeps people fascinated after all of these years?

I think it's the high drama of it all.  The stakes were high, people were beheaded or burned to death at whim, but their children may go on to rule a nation.  The fact that Henry kept killing his wives, either passively (Katherine of Aragon) or actively (Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard) is shocking, as it should be.  But there were also love stories entwined, forbidden and unfulfilled love, such as that between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, and that keeps our attention, too.  The fact that Henry had Anne killed mainly because she did not produce a son, but then their daughter became one of England's greatest monarchs, is a delightful irony.  It's a family saga, really.  Most of us enjoy those.

What is the most interesting thing you discovered during the course of your research for your books?

There are so many interesting things for history nerds to discover that I don't think I can choose just one.  I would point out that we in the 21C are often horrified that fathers "pushed" their daughters into loveless marriages, and we see that as fathers climbing socially using their children as step stools.  But really, that's what good parents did.  They arranged marriages that were advantageous either financially or dynastically, or both, and in that way pushed the family ahead.  There was a great sense of stewardship for your family, especially middle class gentry and higher.  Although we don't use the same means today, parents still sacrifice so that their progeny can do better than they did.

What inspired the Ladies In Waiting Series?

I wanted to know the women behind the gowns and the  crowns, and that was my motivating factor.  To learn about the queens from a friend - not a servant, who would be too low born to hear secrets or be on scene in decisive moments, but not from an enemy, either, who would be predisposed to look at things from a negative point of view.  The ladies in waiting were really the queens' very closest friends, especially those that they appointed to be nearest to them.  When a person finds herself in perilous positions, as all of these queens did, who her friends were and how they helped and viewed her mattered. Seeing events from the ladies' eyes helped me to peer into the hearts of the queens.

What member of the Tudors would you have most liked to have known?

I truly love all three of the queens I wrote about.  I loved Anne's spark, and her daring, and that she knew she wasn't conventionally beautiful but didn't let it stand in her way.  I admire Parr's motherliness and steadfast faith, as well as the fact that she was a writer! And Elizabeth I, though I would have been intimidated by her, for sure, I would have loved to at least watched her in action.  I had a portrait of her hanging in my office as I wrote this book, and I felt the pressure to get her story right!  

What member of the royal family, past or present would you like to sit down to tea with and why?

I admire QE II very much for the steady way she carries on, for her sense of duty, and for her groundedness.  She serves and never diminishes the royal quality, but she also seems to have a sense of humor.  I like Prince William because he has both a royal and a common touch.  And he chose his wife well, I think. :)

What is the best book you've read recently?

Oh, I'm writing fiction now so that means I'm only reading nonfiction.   I'm spending time in the Oxford Dictionary online, which is fascinating, it really is.  I was looking up the phrase Snake in the Grass the other day and found out it originated with Virgil and then became widely used in English in the 17C, and there was even a series of sermons written on it. Where else can you find juicy information like that?

About the Author

Sandra Byrd has published more than three dozen books in the fiction and nonfiction markets, including the first book in her Tudor series, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn.  Her second book, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, illuminates the mysteries in the life of Henry's last wife.

For more than a decade Sandra has shared her secrets with the many new writers she edits, mentors, and coaches. She lives in the Seattle, Washington, area with her husband and two children. For more Tudor tidbits, please visit Follow Sandra Byrd on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


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