Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Less Tudor, More Seymour, and a Queen on Twitter: Interview with Janet Wertman

Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog author Janet Wertman, author of Jane the Quene, the story of Jane Seymour. Janet spent fifteen years as a corporate lawyer in New York, she even got to do a little writing on the side (she co-authored The Executive Compensation Answer Book, which was published by Panel Publishers back in 1991). But when her first and second children were born, she decided to change her lifestyle. She and her husband transformed their lives in 1997, moving to Los Angeles and changing careers. Janet became a grantwriter (and will tell anyone who will listen that the grants she's written have resulted in more than $20 million for the amazing non-profits she is proud to represent) and took up writing fiction.

Welcome to the blog, Janet. May I begin by asking:~ the Tudors are enduringly popular for readers of both fiction and non-fiction. What was your reason for choosing to write about Jane Seymour, in particular?

JW: Twenty years ago, I started to write about Anne Boleyn. I imagined a secret diary as read by Elizabeth, its lessons applied in her own life. I actually wrote more than a hundred pages of that book before Robin Maxwell actually published it (what are the odds that the universe would send the same idea to two people!?). Switching to Jane was initially just a healthy alternative to wallowing in self-pity for the rest of my life….but then I got more and more excited about Jane as a worthy topic all her own. 

Indeed, I now see Jane as the most fascinating of Henry’s queens. Jane was the last to really fall in love with him – the last to experience the vestiges of the golden monarch who was even then showing signs of the paranoid old man lurking beneath. That was a remarkable opportunity for an author – one that I took full advantage of by writing half the book in Cromwell’s point of view. That allowed me to turn Henry into Shroedinger’s cat, both good and evil at the same time, and let the reader decide who he really was. 

You were lucky as a child to visit the Pierpont Morgan Library and look at some books and letters of Elizabeth I. But in general, how easy was it for you to research Jane the Quene? Did you have access to documentary evidence?

I did indeed – but no more than anyone else. British History Online - I can’t say enough about that resource! They put you just a few easy clicks away from page after page of original documents, including the full Letters and Papers archives. That alone provides enormous detail – specific things that happened, where the Court was on particular dates, behind-the-scenes ambassadorial instructions…That was really all I needed!

That said, I have been fascinated by the Tudor era for a long time, enough to have done extensive background research before getting to the point of needing such detail. I have read a ton of books over the years and assembled a decent library of sources (my biggest find came at a tag sale in 1976, when I snagged the entire sixteen-volume set of Agnes Strickland’s Lives of the Queens of England). I’ve also been to England and visited many of the places that still exist (and I’m thrilled to be going back this Spring!). So I did have a bit of a leg up.

I think the thing that most helped my research was my timeline. I started it years ago as a way to amalgamate the important information from all the biographies I read. Historians tend to group events around themes and skip giving dates, so I needed to deconstruct and then reassemble the data. The resulting chronology was so helpful that it inspired the format I chose, where each scene opens with its date and even specific time. 

Jane Seymour - Holbein

The timeline will continue to be central to my writing – I’m expanding it right now in preparation for the next books. But I have learned to be more careful.  In the past, I just threw in every date I could find, with more or less detail depending on what I had or what I found interesting. I didn’t source anything, which means that when dates and facts conflicted (which happens all the time) I had no basis on which to judge accuracy (let’s just say that I know to significantly discount the Spanish Chronicle’s takes…). Now I am footnoting!

I don't think I'm revealing any spoilers to say that book 2 in the series will focus on events after Jane's death. As an author, how difficult was it for you to leave your heroine/protagonist behind and continue the series without her?

Surprisingly, not that hard. It’s all part of the territory – we Tudor fans accept that early/tragic/grisly deaths are part and parcel of Henry’s court.  What was harder for me was still having Thomas Cromwell in the new book but losing his thoughts (given that he dies a third of the way through, he was not a contender for one of the two voices I allow myself per story - another spoiler 😉 ).  

Edward Seymour

The good thing is, I knew it was coming. So I was careful to plan traits in Jane the Quene would make his downfall plausible. I’m doing the same thing now, knowing that I will lose Edward Seymour’s point of view in Book Three (I’m also setting up Tom Seymour to go crazy – I started to a small extent in Jane, making him vain and somewhat empty headed, I’m accelerating it now. I need him to get a whole lotta resentful before Book Three starts!) 

What do you think is the underlying reason for the continuing interest in all things Tudor?

These stories have it all: passion, power, betrayal – and for the ultimate stakes. Plus all the characters are archetypes. What a powerful combination!
It may also have something to do with the fact that the Tudor characters are a kind of a cultural litmus test. I recently saw a meme that remarked that you could tell al lot about a person based on what movie they know Tim Curry from. Well, you can also tell a lot about a person based on who their favorite Tudor character is…  

What will come next for you? Do you have anything planned for a new series of books?

I have three trilogies planned, two more after this one (!), that collectively will cover the entire Tudor era after Henry VII. The second trilogy will focus on Elizabeth, starting with Mary’s accession (the first trilogy ends on Edward VI’s death) and taking us through the Gloriana years. The last trilogy will circle back to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn – kind of like a Star Wars thing.  After that? I’m not quite sure. I do have some ideas for a few standalones…but I have plenty of time to figure that part out! 

Thanks so much to Janet for taking time to talk to me.
Find Janet on her Website on Facebook and on Twitter
also on Pinterest and Google +
Find Jane Seymour on Twitter (Yes, she does have her own account!)

Buy links: Amazon UK 

Since I spoke to Janet, her book has been reviewed by the HNS (Historical Novel Society) Congratulations Janet!

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