The Burton Review is honored to have had the opportunity to ask author Julianne Lee a few questions regarding her newest novel, "HER MOTHER'S DAUGHTER: A NOVEL OF QUEEN MARY TUDOR". Keep reading for details on the giveaway sponsored by her publishers at Berkely!
Well, there are several reasons for choosing these subjects. Initially, it was a fascination with Scottish history that drew me to Mary Stuart. But when I studied her story, I saw that she'd been at the mercy of the men around her, who just didn't know how to be led by a woman. Her situation was impossible, and the question of whether or not she was a good queen was unanswerable, because she'd not really been allowed to be queen at all. She was seen only as a prize, and secondary to the prize of the crown which everyone assumed would go to the man who married her.
Then when I read about Queen Mary Tudor, I realized I was actually identifying with her a little. Divorced parents, life expectations trashed, sense of safety destroyed...as I read, I had glimpses of the terrified woman she must have been. I felt compelled to write about her, and it was one of the most difficult books I've ever written.
Upon setting out to write these novels, was your ultimate goal to convince your readers that these Queens were indeed vilified for no reason?
Not really. As a former journalist, I prefer to just tell the story and let the reader draw her own conclusions. With Mary Stuart, I truly didn't see the ending until I wrote it. And even then I don't think the character of Janet decided anything hard and fast. With Mary Tudor, it was more complex. She may have been misunderstood by history, but at the end of the day we're left with the fact that she did order the burnings of nearly 300 people. My only wish was to examine the psychology and circumstances that led to her decisions, without coloring her as evil or psychotic.
For your historical research, did you have the opportunity to visit Europe ? (If so, please tell us your favorite landmark!)
Oh, yes! I've written many books set in historical Scotland , and have visited the U.K. three times since '99, and Germany once. I finished the last 6,000 words of my first novel at the Glenfinnan House Hotel, with a view of the Prince Charles monument, and Ben Nevis off down the glen. In '03 I spent a week on Skye, taking an immersion course in Scots Gaelic. In '05 I drove with a friend up to Lewis, then back down to Wales . On Lewis we visited some standing stones, and spotted an ancient tower just off the road just before sunset, and were able to stop and visit it in the quiet of the day. We could hear sheep bleating in the distance, and the peace was overwhelming. It was difficult to leave.
I'm a huge believer in hands-on research. When I couldn't quite picture how to use a drop-spindle, I found someone who knew how to do it and could teach me. When I needed to describe a Scottish festival, I went to one. When I had characters cooking with fire, I hung a pot hook in my own fireplace and learned to use it. I've taken fencing classes, karate, and a couple of years ago I took up quilting by hand.
While writing "Her Mother's Daughter", did the progression of any of your characters surprise you? Or did you try and stick to the tried-and-true of each character?
I'm not sure what "tried and true" means with characters. They do tend to think for themselves sometimes. With Queen Mary, it was a process of discovery more like peeling away layers than the sort of observation one does with fictional characters. Fictional characters sometimes just walk around on their own with no help from me. Mary was an onion, which I kept peeling down and down. I did rather like Simon Renard, who turned out a little more dashing than I'd pictured him at first. He's an historical figure, and when I found a portrait of him I went, "Hm...pretty."
Did you enjoy a particular supporting character more than the rest?
Nicolo Delarosa, the lute player, was adorable, I think. He's completely fictional, and as he developed I just liked him more and more. And I felt sorry for him. He's one of those sturdy, dependable guys who suffer quietly.
Mary's half-sister Elizabeth plays a very small role in your story. Was this because you felt that they did not spend a lot of time together in general, or was it for the purposes of the plot line in general?
I may have ignored Elizabeth more than she deserved, and it was because there is so much written about her that I felt I didn't need to contribute to the enormous mass of it. The same is true about Anne Boleyn, who also doesn't figure largely in this story. I preferred to explore figures that were a little less known.
What are your assumptions regarding the relationship of Mary and each of her siblings?
When someone is your brother or sister, there's not much you can do about it. Even when your family is not close and loving, or when a member of your family behaves badly, they are still your family. During the sixteenth century, family was even more important to an individual than it is now, particularly for women. I think that Mary must have struggled with feelings for her brother and sister ranging from deep love to deep anger. I think she cared for her brother, but perhaps not so much for her sister. Of course, that is just opinion. Nobody can know for certain how Mary felt about Edward and Elizabeth at any given time.
What are your own thoughts on Mary's frequent illnesses and false pregnancies?
It seems to me that she had terrible psychosomatic problems. Possibly an ulcer. As much stress as she was under her entire life, it's no wonder her health was dodgy.
You also write historical fantasy novels; which genre do you prefer to write, and why?
I like to tell stories. To me, it's all good. One of the things I like best about writing historical fiction is that I get to show people that it's not all just dry names and dates.
Do you have any other historical fiction novels in progress?
My next project is about Jane Grey.
Besides the Tudor or Elizabethan eras, is there another time period that interests you more than others?
None more than others. I've done books set during the Jacobite Rebellions of the early eighteenth century, and the Wars of Independence in the early fourteenth century. I've done Glen Coe as well. One book that was published in Germany but not in the U.S. is set during the American Civil War. Though it was never published in North America, "Kindred Spirits" is now available on my website as a P.D.F. download. (http://www.julianneardianlee.com/kindredspiritsdownload.html)
For those wishing to read more on Mary Tudor, what books can you recommend to your readers that you used for your research?
Books about Mary Tudor herself tend to be a little spotty. There is some good information in Garrett Mattingly's book "Catherine of Aragon." Another book, "Bloody Mary's Martyrs" by Jasper Ridley is recklessly anti-Mary, but it has some excellent descriptions of the burnings and the victims. "Mary Tudor" by David Loades has some little-known nuggets, and of course Carolly Erickson's "Bloody Mary" gives a disctinctive perspective.
Thank you so much for your time!!!!
Thank you for your interest.
"Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Queen Mary Tudor"
Berkley, Dec 1. 2009
And now a question for my readers!!