To start the week, I’m happy to present a fantastic interview with the amazing former actress and now acclaimed author, Barbara Kyle! Her newest book, number five in her Thornleigh series, recently published with the title Blood Between Queens, and I’ll have a review up for that later this week.
I hope you enjoy the conversation between Barbara and I as you learn her favorite women in history, why she thinks so many people love the Tudor time period, and what she thinks society can do to make the world a better place.
Hi Barbara! So nice to have you stop by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m looking forward to having you answer some questions. How have things been going?
Barbara: Thanks so much for inviting me, Erin. I really enjoy your blog. Things are going well. Readers have given my new release, Blood Between Queens, a wonderfully warm reception and if they’re happy, I’m happy.
Erin: So glad to hear you like the blog! And very happy to hear about your new release, can’t wait to hear more. Let’s pour a pot of tea and clear some time. Let’s get started!
Q: How did you make the switch from actress to writer? Do you visualize your scenes in your head?
A: The switch from acting to writing felt like a very natural one. My twenty years of acting in theatre and television productions gave me a kind of bone-deep sense of dramatic structure, and for getting deeply inside my characters’ motivations: their deepest desires and fears. And, yes, I do visualize scenes. My writing style is cinematic.
Q: I’ve just recently learned about your books! I am more far behind than my liking. If other readers are too, would you mind telling us about your other books and if they tie in together or can be read stand alone?
A: Blood Between Queens is book #5 of my Thornleigh Saga, which follows a fictional middle-class English family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. Each book’s story stands alone, so readers don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy one.
The first book, The Queen’s Lady, features young Honor Larke, a (fictional) ward of (the real) Sir Thomas More. Honor becomes a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, and the story follows Honor’s stormy love affair with Richard Thornleigh as she works to rescue heretics from the Church’s fires. The King’s Daughter introduces their daughter Isabel, who joins the Wyatt rebellion (a true event) to oust Queen Mary and hires mercenary Carlos Valverde to help her rescue her father from prison. The Queen’s Captive brings Honor and Richard back from exile with their seafaring son Adam to help the young Princess Elizabeth, who has been imprisoned by her half sister, Queen Mary, another true event. The Queen’s Gamble is set during the fledgling reign of Elizabeth who fears that the massive buildup of French troops on her Scottish border will lead to an invasion, so she entrusts Isabel Thornleigh to take money to aid the Scottish rebellion led by firebrand preacher John Knox, to defeat the French.
Blood Between Queens begins when Mary, Queen of Scots, flees to England to escape her enemies and throws herself on the mercy of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Mary, however, has set her sights on the Elizabeth’s throne, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects – the Thornleighs – to protect it. Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. Justine is appointed to serve as a spy in Mary’s small entourage, but she comes to sympathize with Mary, and when Elizabeth holds Mary under house arrest and launches an inquiry into the accusations that she murdered her husband, the crisis splits the Thornleigh family apart.
Q: I read that you love the Tudor Era. What do you feel makes it stand apart and leads to it being one of the most historical time periods written about?
A: The Tudor era fascinates people, and for good reason. It was a time of extraordinary energy that burst forth in a brilliant flowering of the arts and in bold naval exploration, but it was also a time of violence and savage religious persecution. One of the most fascinating characteristics of the period is its predominance of women rulers, from Mary I, known as “Bloody Mary” in her own time for the large number of people burned at the stake in her reign; to her half-sister Elizabeth I, who ruled with a firm hand for forty-three years; to their cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, whose dramatic life is virtually an opera.
Q: Do you do a great amount of research for your books? What has been your favorite find? Who is your favorite historical person to learn about and why?
A: Yes, I do a lot of research, because it’s so important to get the historical facts right, and also to give readers a sense of each scene’s sights and sounds and smells, whether it’s a royal banquet hall at Whitehall Palace or a tawdry backstreet in London. A favorite “find” was Mary I’s false pregnancy. Soon after she married Philip of Spain,
Mary joyfully announced that she was pregnant and passed the next months employing her gentlewomen to sew baby clothes, and sending ecstatic notices to foreign heads of state about the imminent birth. But her time came to deliver . . . and passed. There was no baby. It was a phantom pregnancy. Court gossip raged as Mary remained holed up in her private rooms, and foreign ambassadors wrote home about the situation with increasing astonishment as Mary willed herself to believe she really was pregnant right through the tenth month. (Some modern scholars have attributed her malady to uterine cancer.) This event became a pivotal one in my novel The King’s Daughter. As for my favorite historical person, that’s definitely Elizabeth I, for her cleverness, her religious tolerance, and her love of her people.
Q: In Blood Between Queens you feature the struggle between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth. Do you feel that Queen Elizabeth was justified in her spying escapades during her reign or was she overly paranoid?
A: Oh, I believe Elizabeth was fully justified in her wariness about Mary. Mary smuggled letters out to her supporters in France and Spain, actively encouraging an invasion of England that would depose Elizabeth and put Mary on her throne. In her famous letter that became the climax of the Babbington plot, Mary made it very clear that she was promoting an assassination attempt against Elizabeth.
Q: I found the story I read about how and why you changed your working title for Blood Between Queens. Would you mind sharing the story and what your intent was for readers with the title?
A: Yes, while I was writing this story I called it The Dangerous Queen, because I liked the idea of letting readers decide which was the dangerous one: Elizabeth or Mary. But neither I nor my editor at Kensington Books really loved that title. We discussed it, and she offered some other suggestions. For a while we settled on Blood Cousins, Rival Queens. Then she suggested Blood Between Queens and I thought: That’s it! I like the way it combines the two cousins’ blood relationship with an undercurrent of danger, their “bloody” rivalry.
Q: Why do you feel people enjoy reading historical fiction? What are some of your own favorites?
A: Being transported to another time via a story is always a thrill, especially when that time is fraught with the tensions of royal enmity, political danger, and adventure. Some of the historical novels I’ve loved are Edith Pargeter’s Brothers of Gwynedd novels beginning with Sunrise in the West; James Clavell’s magnificent Shogun; The Winds of War by Herman Wouk; Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With the Wind; and more recently Atonement by Ian McEwan and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell.
Q: If you aren’t writing about the Tudor Era, what other time periods or genres would you like to write?
A: I’d love to tackle a novelization of the famous mutiny on the Bounty and give William Bligh (who was a lieutenant at the time, not a captain) long-overdue credit for his stunning feat of seamanship. When the mutineers cast him and eighteen other men adrift in a small boat with meager rations, Bligh, in an epic forty-seven day journey, got all but one of his men across over three thousand miles of ocean to a safe landfall.
Q: What has your road to publishing been like? What were the challenges and the successes?
A: I’ve had eight novels published by three different publishing houses and have enjoyed good relations with all three. Before Kensington published my historical novels I wrote three contemporary thrillers under the pen-name Stephen Kyle for Warner Books (now Grand Central). Those books are now out of print so I’m re-releasing them under my own name as e-books, a format that has opened new vistas for authors and readers alike.
Q: What women in history intrigue you? Though we know times have a changed for women overall, even if still needing to be changed further, what do you feel have been the most positive advancements and what do you feel are important issues that society still needs to work on?
A: The woman who intrigues me most is Elizabeth I of England – a shrewd, almost Machiavellian ruler, yet a passionate woman who sincerely loved her people. As for issues of concern in our own world, I feel that the most urgent situation we need to tackle to is not gender issues but environmental ones. Other problems hardly matter if we go on abusing the planet, and therefore ourselves, to death.
Q: What traits do you feel that women from the Tudor Era displayed that helped them? What about what hindered them?
A: Education, in both cases. The royal women in Tudor times were exceptionally well- educated. Elizabeth I, for example, could converse fluently with foreign ambassadors in French, Italian, and Latin, and her writings are elegant and erudite. But the vast majority of ordinary women were ill-educated. Even women of the aristocracy were barred from universities and, of course, from all posts of official power: government, church, and military.
Q: What is in the future for you? What else will you be working on?
A: I’ve just finished writing the next Thornleigh book. It’s set in 1572 and features Adam Thornleigh joining the Dutch rebels who called themselves the Sea Beggars in their real-life fight against their Spanish occupiers. (I liken them to the Resistance in World War II fighting the Nazis.) After that, my publisher has signed me to write another book. So there are lots more adventures of the Thornleigh family ahead!
Q: How can readers connect with you?
A: I love hearing from readers and I reply to every email. So I hope your readers will get in touch. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter @BKyleAuthor.
Erin: Thank you so very much, Barbara, for your time in doing this interview. I know I’ll need to go back and read all your books, especially loving the Tudor Era as I do. I appreciate you for taking the time to come by the site and let readers get to know you and your work.
Barbara: It’s been a pleasure, Erin. Happy reading!
BLOOD BETWEEN QUEENS, Synopsis~
Following her perilous fall from a throne she’d scarcely owned to begin with, Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled to England, hoping her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, will grant her asylum. But now Mary has her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it.
Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But bearing the guise of a lady-in-waiting is not Justine’s only secret. The weight of her task is doubled by fears of revealing to her fiancé that she is in truth the daughter of his family’s greatest rival. Duty-bound, Justine must sacrifice love as she navigates a deadly labyrinth of betrayal that could lead to the end of Elizabeth’s fledgling reign…
Compelling and inventive, Blood Between Queens artfully blends history’s most intriguing figures with unforgettable characters, bringing to dazzling life the fascinating Tudor era.
Author Barbara Kyle, Biography~
Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Tudor-era “Thornleigh” novels Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady which follow a rising middle-class family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. She also writes contemporary thrillers. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries. In July 2013 Barbara will be a speaker at Ontario’s world-renowned Stratford Festival with her talk “Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: A Study of Leadership Lost and Won” about the cousin-queens Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots featured in Blood Between Queens.
Barbara has taught writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the US.
For more information, please visit Barbara Kyle’s WEBSITE.