The Tudor dynasty was probably my first historical love, and at the age of seven I decided I should sign my name the same way as Elizabeth I, with every painstaking squiggle. Needless to say, that didn’t last long in primary school! I’m really excited to sit down today with Tudor specialist Vivienne Brereton and talk about the inspiration behind her writing, and her 16th century historical fiction novel, The Phoenix Rising, the first in the series The House of the Red Duke. Thanks for the chat Vivienne!
What is the first book that made you cry?
I think it was ‘Gone with the Wind.’ After over a thousand pages, you’re so invested in the story and the characters that you’re caught up in every emotion. Every time someone precious died, I remember reaching for the hankies. Having a book and a movie was a wonderful bonus.
What music do you listen to when you write (or don’t you)?
I love music and I so wish I could combine the two. I envy people who can write with background noise but I’m one of those who have to have as near to silence as possible. I do all my inspirational listening outside the writing hours. As I am writing a Tudor novel, you might find me doing housework to Thomas Tallis.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
That’s easy. Worry less and get yourself out there however you can. Don’t worry about failing, if you enjoy doing what you’re doing, there’s a chance other people might enjoy it too.
What kind of research did you do, and how long did it take you?
As I sit here writing this, behind is my own little personal library I’ve built up over the years. I have read very extensively and visited the British Library in London which was great fun. I like to do research that satisfies all the senses. That means visits to castles and historic buildings, museums, art galleries, more outlandish events like jousts or Renaissance music evenings. I set up a mini Tudor kitchen downstairs which was greeted with cries of dismay by my family into the third week. ‘No, not Tudor again!’ (or words to that effect) was all I could hear when I announced dinner would include a special Tudor bread sauce. I wanted to include a few recipes in my novel as I thought it would be fun.
Did you have to make any ethical decisions when writing about historical figures within your book?
That’s a very interesting question, Liz. I am writing about Thomas Howard, a real character in Tudor history so I was conscious that somewhere out there he has surviving relatives, albeit eighteen times removed. Luckily, I really like Thomas so I didn’t have any problem conjuring him up in a way to which no one could object. I kept as close to the facts of his life as I possibly could. As anyone, including Liz knows, there’s often a paucity of facts which makes for very rich pickings for an author who rushes off to their internal imagination to supply the missing information.
What would you want readers to think when they reach “the end.”
I am writing the second book in the series ‘The House of the Red Duke’ and I would be thrilled to get a similar reaction to the one I had with a few people after finishing the first. ‘No-o-o, you can’t end it like that! I want to know what happens next.’ As any writer will agree, those words must be the most welcome criticism in the world.
Quick Q & A
Tea or Coffee
Dark or Milk Chocolate
When were you the happiest?
When my boys were born.
Favourite Children’s Book
Favourite Adult Novel
Green Darkness by Anya Seton.
Thank you so much, Liz, for inviting me today. I’ve had great fun with your questions and found them very interesting.
Thanks Vivienne. And given your last answer, I may just have to go and reread my copy of Green Darkness. It’s one of my favourites too.
Born between historic Winchester and Southampton in the UK, I have been passionate about the Tudors for as long as I can remember. This led to a degree in Medieval History at university, and the growing desire to write a novel. However, life took over somewhat and only after stays, short and long, in six countries I called home did I finally settle down to finish my novel. Words have always played an important part in my life, whether it’s been writing, editing, teaching English, or just picking up a good book. Having three sons came in very handy when I had to write about squabbles between the male characters in my novel. Not so handy when I took my boys to Hampton Court and one of them got lost in the maze!
Seeing ‘A Phoenix Rising’, the first book in the series ‘The House of the Red Duke’ in print for the first time was a moment of great joy for me. I hope anyone reading it will enjoy the end result as much as I enjoyed writing it.