Today I’d like to welcome historical novelist Tony Riches, who writes full time in Pembrokeshire, otherwise known as Tudor Wales. Thanks for coming, Tony, and looking forward to chatting. To start with…
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
The second book of my Tudor Trilogy has Jasper Tudor take his young nephew Henry from Pembroke to exile in Brittany, from where they eventually return with an army and march to Bosworth Field where Henry claims the crown. My wife and I followed in their footsteps to the remote Forteresse de Largoët, outside of the Breton town of Elven. It was amazing to find Henry’s tower and to stand in the cobweb-filled room where he must have agonised about returning to England.
We continued our ‘pilgrimage’ back to Mill Bay, close to where we live in Pembrokeshire, then on to Bosworth. There is nothing better than following in your subject’s footsteps for gaining an authentic insight into the geography, distances involved, and what life might have been life for them.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections or themes between each book?
The short answer is both. I began the Tudor Trilogy with Owen Tudor, and have moved on one generation with each book to provide a continuous ‘timeline’ of the Tudors, and am now working on an Elizabethan series. I aim to make each book work as a stand-alone, which is just as well, as some readers have told me they’ve read them in random order!
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I’m a voracious reader, so there are plenty to choose from. A favourite which few people might have read is A Pair of Blue Eyes, by Thomas Hardy, which has a wonderful subtext, particularly if you know something of Hardy’s troubled love life.
What kind of research did you do for your new book, Katherine – Tudor Duchess, and how long did it take you?
There is a lifetime of research behind me newest book, as Katherine Willoughby knew each of the wives of Henry VIII, as well as his children. As well as tracking down primary sources, such as Katherine’s letters, I visited her home at Grimsthorpe Castle – and stood in her private chapel and the rooms where she spent her last days. I also visited her amazing tomb in the church at Spilsby in Lincolnshire – an emotional moment.
Did you have to make any ethical decisions when writing about historical figures within your book?
Yes, as Katherine was only fourteen when Charles Brandon, who was fifty, chose her as his wife. Although their age difference was not unusual for the time, eyebrows were raised because Brandon waited barely three months after the death of his wife. I decided to treat their relationship as sensitively as I could, without applying modern values.
Katherine also became a leading Protestant, so I was conscious of how her views might be received by Catholic readers. Again, I’ve tried to show there were two sides to the story, bit not flinch from the chilling reality of scenes such as the fate of Katherine’s friend Anne Askew.
Quick Q & A
Tea or Coffee?
I spent my childhood in Kenya, so a cup of freshly ground Kenyan coffee is perfect, although my writing is powered by mugs of Yorkshire tea.
Favourite Children’s Book?
Alice in Wonderland, although I never understood it as child (or now.)
Favourite Adult Novel:
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel.
You can find Katherine – Tudor Duchess on Amazon in eBook and paperback, and an audiobook edition is in production:
Find out more at Tony’s author website: https://www.tonyriches.com/ and visit his popular Blog ‘The Writing Desk’: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com/ You are welcome to follow Tony on Twitter @tonyriches (where he has over 31,500 followers), and his author Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tonyriches.author