Interview with Simon Stirling

simon

Simon Stirling hails from Birmingham, England.  He went to Glasgow University, but left early to take part in a new play on the London fringe (written by John A. Bird, who went on to found The Big Issue).  Simon then spent three years training as an actor at LAMDA, during which time he got his first literary agent.  For the next decade or so he wrote scripts for theatre and various television drama series, picking up a Writer’s Guild Award for his work on “Between the Lines” and writing what is probably the rudest episode ever of “Casualty”!  In more recent years he has worked as a script consultant and scriptwriting tutor, and for two years he was Youth and Community Director at the Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury.  Many years of research went into his first two historical nonfiction books, The King Arthur Conspiracy (2012) and Who Killed William Shakespeare? (2013) – both published by The History Press – and his current project, “The Grail: Relic of an Ancient Religion” for Moon Books.  He now lives in Worcestershire, in the heart of Shakespeare country, with his wife Kim, who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon. They were married on the Isle of Iona in 2002.

Simon keeps a blog with regular updates on his research and adventures in publishing:

www.artandwill.blogspot.co.uk

Stephanie: Hello, Simon! Thank you for chatting with me today! As a Shakespeare enthusiast, I am always intrigued with anything to do with him and was delighted you wrote a book about him. Please tell me a little about your book, Who Killed William Shakespeare?

Simon: Hello, Stephanie!  “Who Killed William Shakespeare?” was first published last year by The History Press.  It’s my second book for them.  I’d spent a little over 25 years researching Shakespeare’s life and times – starting with a particular interest in the character of Lady Macbeth (where did she come from?) and then gradually widening out from Shakespeare’s middle years to take in his youth and retirement.  When I met up with my editor at The History Press to discuss the publication of my first book (“The King Arthur Conspiracy” – 2012) I was hoping we’d have time to chat about the Shakespeare project I’d mentioned to her.  We didn’t, but I did notice that she had written in her notes, “Who killed William Shakespeare?”

When I’d first mentioned the project to her, I’d outlined very briefly what I had discovered about Shakespeare’s life and the three stages (childhood and youth, middle age, retirement and death) which I was keen to cover.  The fact that she had zeroed in on his sudden death told me that this was what the publishers would be most interested in (although I still managed to cover the rest of his life in the book) and, whether she realized it or not, she’d given me my title!

who killed ws

Stephanie: That is really intriguing. Your research must have been quite extensive. Could you tell me a little about it? Was there anything you discovered that you did not know before?

Simon: The research started the traditional way: reading any books I could get hold of about Shakespeare.  But I found them all rather disappointing.  None of them really told me who Shakespeare was.  After many years, I began to realize that this is one of the great stumbling blocks in Shakespeare studies.  We know quite a lot about Shakespeare, but many scholars prefer to pretend that we don’t.  And that got my antennae twitching.

I combined what you might call “mainstream” or “orthodox” Shakespeare research with more detailed investigations into the region he came from – which also happens to be my home region.  Most Shakespeare biographers pop up to Stratford to look around and then head straight back to London.  They’re really only interested in Shakespeare-in-London.  But the best material about him, his contacts, his family network, his background, etc., is to be found in the Midlands.  For example: we know that the 18-year old Shakespeare was first given a special license to marry “Annam Whateley” of Temple Grafton (a parish near Stratford), and that the next day a license was issued stipulating that Shakespeare would marry “Anne Hathwey” of Stratford.  For years, scholars have insisted that Anne Whateley (his first betrothed) didn’t exist – but a search of local records turned up a will which names her.

The biggest surprise came in the form of a skull.  I had been chasing up a local story, published by a Victorian clergyman, which insisted that Shakespeare’s skull had been stolen from his grave in Stratford and ended up in a private family crypt under another church altogether.  But it was only when I’d started writing my book that I discovered that this skull really did exist.  What is more, it shows various injuries which match those visible on the portraits of Shakespeare.  And these injuries both confirmed and added to the theory I had already formed about how Shakespeare died.  So that was a shocking moment – discovering that the Victorian vicar was (partly) right.  Shakespeare’s skull is NOT in Stratford!

Stephanie: Now that is really interesting! How long did it take you to write, Who Killed William Shakespeare? And what was your inspiration?

Simon: I’m not really sure how long it took.  For years, I was trying to write a sort of detailed novel about Shakespeare in 1605-6.  It would have covered the Gunpowder Plot (to which Shakespeare was connected in a number of alarming ways), the birth of his illegitimate son, Sir William Davenant, and the writing of “Macbeth”.  Then, little by little, I extended the scope of the project and decided to write it as non-fiction.  There were dozens of false starts.  But the manuscript for the final book actually took about nine months to write.  Some of that time, though, was spent doing very detailed comparisons of the skull, the Shakespeare portraiture, and a death mask which was probably of Shakespeare and is now in Germany.  I reckon I must have spent about two months in all, studying the similarities of these various images and objects and creating graphics which point up the comparisons.

As for the inspiration, that’s kind of complex.  I ended up believing that an enormous injustice had been done to Shakespeare, and it continues to this day.  He wasn’t alone in this: many of his friends, relatives and associates were Catholic, and they suffered horribly.  So if anything drove me in writing the book, it was the desire to right a dreadful wrong.  Shakespeare was murdered (in fact, I’ve since discovered that this was anything but secret), and the facts of his life have been systematically covered up since in order to invent a false Shakespeare, a patriotic Protestant.  That’s why so many scholars pretend that we know very little about him.  The truth is more shocking – but it also explains the man and his work, as well as his violent death.

Stephanie: Well, I am glad you wrote it as non-fiction and that is no easy task. I can’t wait to read your book! I agree with you. I have heard many stories of injustice about him and it is infuriating at times, I admit.

Have you read all his plays? His sonnets?

Simon: One way or another, yes (including a “lost” play of his).  But for the book itself, I didn’t really bother very much with his history plays (they weren’t terribly relevant), and there are others I left out because they would have cluttered up the narrative.  A few poems (“The Phoenix and the Turtle”, for example) were also side-lined, but that was really just because of space, or the lack thereof.

Stephanie: Which sonnet is your favorite?

Simon: The sonnets are fascinating – they’re more personal than letters, though I sometimes felt that I was reading somebody’s emails!  Picking a favourite is very difficult: they cover such a long span (from about 1592 up till at least 1606), and the subject matter is so varied.  If I had a favourite, it would probably be Sonnet 126, which is “unfinished” (the final couplet was never published) and was, I think, addressed to his infant son or godson, William Davenant, who was illegitimate, but whose birth in late February 1606 made up for the death of Shakespeare’s son and heir, Hamnet, ten years earlier.

Stephanie: My favorite play is the Twelfth Night and Hamlet. Which one is yours and why?

Simon: I ought to say “Macbeth”, because that was the starting point for so much of my research.  But the fact is that it took me many years to learn how to enjoy reading Shakespeare (the key was to understand his latent Catholicism: suddenly, every poem and play became very readable, and intensely emotional, once I’d latched on to that forbidden information; I remember watching a very good movie version of “Titus Andronicus” and having my usual response of, “Well, that meant nothing to me” – and then spending a year or so researching Catholicism in Shakespeare’s England, and then watching the same movie again, and I was in floods of tears throughout).  The play I found myself enjoying the most when I was working on “Who Killed William Shakespeare?”, though, was “Pericles”.  I found it a really colourful, heart-warming experience.  It was the first of Shakespeare’s plays of reconciliation, the first of his “romances” or tragi-comedies, and it was hugely popular with the Catholic community.  I think I can see why.  It promises salvation, of a sort, after many horrors.

Stephanie: Now, about you and what you read for pleasure. Who are your influences?

Simon: Well, I’m a pretty big fan of William Shakespeare!  But while I was growing up, the stories of Alan Garner really grabbed me.  He always wrote brilliantly, and his stories became more mature as he went on (he’s still alive, I should add).  In my teens, I discovered his very short novel, “Red Shift”, which remains my personal favourite.  Nobody – apart from Shakespeare, perhaps – has ever managed to squeeze so much meaning into so few words.  That book taught me that you should never go overboard with description.  Keep it simple and to the point.  Too much description cheats the reader.  Less is more.

Stephanie: I agree about going overboard with description and less is more. It certainly is an art to write that way.

How often do you write and where in your home do you write?

Simon: I write every day, if I can.  Using a laptop, I can write pretty much anywhere.  But we only have a small house, and my main work station is in the main room.  I have my back to the television, but if I’m working late into the night I’ll often have the TV on in the background, just so that the room isn’t too quiet.

Stephanie: Coffee or tea?

Simon: Coffee in the morning, and plenty of it: strong and black (I broke my old cafetiere a few days ago, and my wife made sure she’d bought me a new one by the following morning; she knows how important it is to me!).  But in the afternoon or evening, tea.  I have a very big mug, about the size of two normal mugs, which I drink my tea out of.  And I only have a splash of goat’s milk in my tea.  Cow’s milk really isn’t very good these days.

Stephanie: Historical fiction or non-fiction? Or both?

Simon: Non-fiction.  Most of my reading is research, one way or another, and while you can soak up atmosphere from fiction, I prefer hard facts.  The other problem is that my background as a dramatist means that I still mentally “adapt” novels for the screen whenever I’m reading them, which is annoying.  But I suppose the main thing is that I see reading as ongoing education.  Novels are a form of escapism, which means that I don’t really trust them.

Stephanie: Favorite read(s)?

Simon: Depends what I’m working on.  Sometimes, it’ll be something scientific (Simon Singh’s “Big Bang”, for example, which is a brilliant history of cosmology; I wrote a script for the Open University, here in the UK, back in the 90s, and we introduced the nation to the COBE satellite and the discovery of cosmic background radiation – it was good to read about how that all fitted in to the history of our understanding of the universe).  I also find biographies intriguing, because they’re so difficult to do well, and so when I find one I think is really excellent (like Kate Williams’ “England’s Mistress”, about Emma, Lady Hamilton, or W.H. Murray’s “Rob Roy MacGregor”) I’ll tend to recommend it.  Also, I would always recommend Evelyn Farr’s “Marie-Antoinette and Count Fersen: The Untold Love Story”.  That’s a book I’d love to have written.

Stephanie:  What would you like to say to your readers?

Simon: The research (into King Arthur and William Shakespeare) isn’t finished.  I’m expecting to unveil a “new” Shakespeare portrait during a public lecture I’ll be giving at Goldsmiths, University of London, in March, and that portrait appears to confirm what my research has revealed about Shakespeare’s death.  Plus, we’ll be able to access the actual skull, later this year, so there’s a lot more news to come.  Both my books could be thought of as primers – they’re introductions to the subject, and they both present a very different story to what you’ve heard previously, but most exciting of all is the fact that, as the research continues, more and more details get filled in, and I really look forward to updating my readers on the outcomes of these investigations.  So if you want a head start – read the books, and you’ll be ready for the new information as it emerges!

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Simon: There seem to be quite a lot of places around the world that are stocking it – you can even buy it in Lagos!  But there’s always Amazon, of course, and it is available both in hardback and Kindle.

Jeannie Ruesch’s Facebook Launch Party for Cloaked in Danger

Cloaked in Danger book cover

What: Jeannie Ruesch’s Facebook Launch Party for Cloaked in Danger

When:
Monday, January 27.  3:00 – 7:00pm PST
About Cloaked in Danger
Publication Date: January 27, 2014 Carina Press eBook ASIN: B00F93X7ZI

Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London  society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological  treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill prepared for a  life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing in  Egypt, Aria must embrace the unknown. Armed with only the short list of  highborn men who’d backed her father’s venture, she poses as a woman  looking for a husband. She doesn’t intend to find one.

Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London’s strangest new  debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his  family’s secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn’t intend to enjoy it so much.

When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he  regrets nothing. But now, as Aria’s father’s enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own  secrets…before it’s too late.

About Jeannie Ruesch

Jeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to  destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in  marketing and design.

Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published  in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she  knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing.  (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in  Northern California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.

She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write, which you can find at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.

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Interview with Author Stuart S. Laing

Stuart Laing

Born in 1966 and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife. Stuart has been married to the love of his life for 20 years and they have blessed with a daughter. Completing the household is a cat which is also female leaving him heavily outnumbered. He has always been fascinated by the history of Edinburgh and has spends most of his adult life studying Scottish history in all its aspects but always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Stephanie: Thank you for chatting with me today, Stuart. It is always a pleasure. You have written so many wonderful stories. Today I want to talk with you about, The Children in the Shadows. Great title by the way. Tell me a little about your story.

Stuart: While Robert and his friends and family attend an engagement party the murder of a young girl casts a grim pall over the evening. Everyone seems convinced that the woman who carried the body into the town Guardhouse is guilty and no investigation is necessary. Robert is pressed to do what he can to help the woman and by doing so he opens up a can of worms that certain people in high office want closed for their own reasons.

The story also allowed me to shine more of a light on the female characters who come to the fore in this. I have always sought to allow them to be as strong and outspoken as they wanted to be and in TCiTS they seize the opportunity with both fair hands.

Alice Galbraith especially truly came into her own when she decides she is going to solve the crime. While this decision places her in great danger as she is kidnapped by the murderer she is not the type of girl who is prepared to set back and wait to be rescued.

Faith also plays a strong part in the book. It serves both as comfort at times of sorrow and inspiration to stay the course and bring the guilty to justice.

Stuarts book cover

Stephanie: What was your inspiration?

Stuart: There has been much said in the British media over recent years regarding ‘people trafficking’ and ‘economic migrants’ from Eastern Europe coming to our shores in search of a better life as though this was something new. Throughout the 18th Century people from the Scottish Highlands had been trickling southwards to find hopefully a better life in the cities of the central Lowlands. Glasgow and Edinburgh had probably hundreds of Gaels struggling to eke out a new life for themselves by 1745 alone. I took that fact and mixed it with my fictional creation of a heartless man who lures children from the Highlands with promises of a happy and wealthy future only to put them to work in the worst sort of brothel.

It was the sad fact that such places existed and the fact that the victims were hidden from sight that gave me the title. That and the fact that certain people wanted the children to remain hidden in the shadows so that their own sins would remain unseen.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about Captain Travers.

Stuart: Charles Travers is a young man aged 25. Formerly an officer in the regular army who sold his commission and returned to his hometown where he was able to secure the position of captain in Edinburgh’s Town Guard. He is looked upon as a popular figure but other than Robert has no’one he can call a true friend. His single interest is solving crimes and this has been to the detriment of his social life. He has allowed nothing else to come before that and it was through work that he first met and then became close friends with Robert. Romance has never really figured in his thoughts.

His parents died when he was a child and he had been raised by an elderly relative who passed away while he was in the army so has no family left.

It was while he was attending Kitty’s to make an arrest that he met Miss Estelle Cannonby who he fell in love with at first sight. He is convinced she is his soul mate and the woman he wishes to make his wife.

Stephanie: What is the most dangerous encounter that Robert Young, Captain Travers have had?

Stuart: For Charles it is when he corners the murderer in A Pound of Flesh in the climactic scene when he finds himself unarmed facing a desperate man armed with a pistol. He tries to persuade him to surrender but…

Robert has largely managed to avoid placing his life in real danger, although like Charles he is there when the killer is confronted in ApoF. However his luck runs out dramatically in The Children in The Shadows when he discovers the identity of the man responsible for exploiting children. Rather than wait for Charles and the Town Guard he attempts to capture the man himself trusting in his own skill with a rapier. His skills may not be all that he hoped however!

Stephanie: Out of all the characters you have written about, which one are you most partial to?

Stuart: Arghhh! Does it have to be only one? Obviously I have to say Robert Young himself as the driving force of the stories but I love his wife Euphemia who has to deal with worrying about him when he is investigating a dastardly crime while looking after two young children. I also have a real fondness for Sergeant MacIan of the Town Guard who believes in ‘traditional’ methods of policing while dear Captain Travers prefers a modern, analytical approach to a crime scene. One character who is always an absolute pleasure to write is Alice Galbraith, a high class prostitute who delights in causing mischief for Robert and Captain Travers whenever she speaks to them. She is not a malicious character in any way, more just a saucy minx with a wicked sense of humour. She really came into her own in the most recent book The Children in The Shadows where she revealed herself to be much more than just an amusing supporting character. Even as I wrote her scenes I was cheering her on.

Stephanie: Is there a scene you wrote where you burst out laughing? If so, do tell.

Stuart: There is a short scene in A Pound of Flesh where Captain Travers and Robert visit Kitty’s (a gentleman’s club for games of chance and meeting young ladies of negotiable affections) to arrest a dubious character. He is busily engaging with two ‘ladies’ in a bedroom and while they arrest him the women, naked as the day they were born, applaud their efforts while they cringe with embarrassment. It was just one of those little scenes that is both important as it leads to a break in the investigation and just amusing for the sheer awful embarrassment for the men as they try to arrest the villain while doing their best not to stare at the naked flesh on display.

Stephanie: Where in your home is your favorite place to write? Do you have a favorite coffee or tea by your side when you write?

Stuart: Normally my armchair with my netbook perched on my lap. I like the small size of the netbook compared to a full size laptop when I am writing. Now, coffee or tea? The eternal conundrum! I tend to stick with coffee when writing but a mug, never a cup, of strong tea is always welcome. Just don’t add sugar!

Stephanie: I write at my desk, living room, kitchen and sometimes in my bed early in the morning. When writing, what is your process?

Stuart: I generally work out the full plot from beginning to end before I write the first word, I even work out a chapter by chapter guide of who does what, when and where in advance. However…pretty much as soon as I get past the first chapter things start to move, if not in a completely different direction, then in a way which I had not planned in advance. Generally only the very beginning and the end will remain unchanged. The crime and the criminal will be as I planned but anything else between the first and last page tends to weave its own path. Characters have a bad habit of doing their own thing. When I am actually writing though I prefer to have the TV switched off and have music playing in the background. Mumford and Sons, Marillion and the Scottish band from the 1980’s Big Country all feature fairly regularly on my writing playlist.

Stephanie: Yes, I agree. Characters do tend to do their own thing. I have noticed a lot of writers like having music on while writing. I’m must be strange, because I need complete silence and no distractions. How many books a year on average do you read?

Stuart: A rough estimate would be somewhere in the region of 50-60 full length books a year on average. I generally read at least one novel a week and goodness only knows how many short stories!

Stephanie: That is about the amount I read. Good number of books. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try their hand at writing?

Stuart: Do it! Work out your basic storyline, plot and main characters and then just write. It doesn’t matter if you miss words or letters or even have gaps in the plot in that first draft, just get your idea down on paper (or on the computer screen these days) Once you have written that first draft then you can go back over it and catch the things you missed first time around. The single most important piece of advice I could possibly give is simply this. Do it! And have fun while you are doing it! Is that two pieces of advice? Do it and have fun!

Stephanie: Agreed!  

What is up next for you?

Stuart: I am nearing completion of the fourth Robert Young tale, so I think it is safe to say he doesn’t die when he confronts the cad in TCiTS. It has the working title of Major Weir’s Dark Legacy and is about an ongoing argument between two elderly booksellers. When one is murdered and the other found standing over the body with a knife in hand Charles is prepared to see things as an open and shut case. His attention is focussed on an upcoming wedding and he doesn’t want any distractions to get in the way of that. Robert, at his wife’s insistence agrees to do what he can for the accused. Meanwhile a sneak thief is plaguing the town, Robert’s adopted daughter Effie has discovered boys and a demon raising lunatic from the past haunts the dark rooms of an empty mansion.

 Stephanie: How exciting!  

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Stuart: I think the only message I would dare try to give to my readers is that no matter how grim things may seem at the moment, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. With some of my characters that light is provided by their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Others settle for the contents of a bottle! What I hope readers would take from my books is that our troubles, even on the darkest days can be overcome. I would suggest that faith was a better source of hope than a bottle though!

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Stuart: All three novels are available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. A short story featuring the regular cast is also available for the Kindle.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stuart-S.-Laing/e/B007B5H19U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

 

Interview with Author David Beasley

David Beasley

David Beasley was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and graduated from McMaster University with a BA in Arts. He worked, studied and wrote in several European countries for five years and then In Manhattan, New York for 35 years, where he worked as a research librarian in the New York Public Research Libraries for much of that time. He organized a union for library workers and used his experience to write a trilogy of mystery novels—The Jenny, The Grand Conspiracy, Overworld/Underworld. He earned a Masters Degree in Library Science and a PhD in political economics from the progressive New School for Social Research. He returned to Canada in 1992 and has been writing and publishing under the imprint Davus Publishing. He has written much fiction, including historical fiction novels, but has been recognized by the award of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his non-fiction and biographies. His blog on his website http://www.davuspublishing.com features the Major John Richardson Newsletter which gathers information on and controversies about Canada’s first novelist, whose biography he wrote. He returned to Canada in 1992 and has been writing and publishing under the imprint Davus Publishing in Simcoe, Ontario.

Stephanie: Hello David! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Sarah’s Journey.

David: Sarah’s Journey is historical fiction based on true events. Sarah, born on Brown’s Island in the Ohio River by the Virginia panhandle [now West Virginia] was the daughter of her owner, Colonel Brown and his slave whose father was a white slave named Kinney and a black slave. At 16 Sarah marries a black man, Lewis, who says he is a free man and is hired by Col. Brown. She has two children by him. When col Brown dies, her husband is captured by bounty hunters and taken back into slavery in Kentucky. Sarah and her children are sold to a neighbor who is a cruel taskmaster. Sarah is taken advantage of by white men including her owner and has three white children, with whom she escapes through Ohio to Upper Canada in 1820 where slavery has been abolished. A young Scots entrepreneur falls in love with her and brings her to Simcoe where she has his child. Her life and the lives of her children in that community of freed and escaped slaves take her through tribulations, including the Duncombe Rebellion, to her death in 1862. Her son by the Scots entrepreneur becomes one of the richest men in New York City.

Sarahs Journal

Stephanie: Many people are interested in this period of time in our American history. What inspired you to write your story?

David: I was inspired by the many aspects of slavery and freedom in the story. Sarah could pass for white and had three white children. Her black children had to be left behind but they escaped 18 years later on the underground railway, their conductor marrying Sarah’s black daughter and setting up a barbershop in Simcoe from where he could continue conducting escapees and fight bounty hunters. The relationships between the white and black communities, the loyalty of the blacks during the rebellion because of fears that American invasion would bring back slavery, the conflict among races in the mill town of Brantford, and the extraordinary success of Sarah’s youngest son, who being the son of a slave was a slave and had to hide his past.

Stephanie: I noticed this is considered, Literary Fiction. Was there any research involved? What are the factual events or people in your story?

David: The story is factual and most of the people are from real life, except for those who helped Sarah escape, who, of course, could not be revealed and whom I had to imagine. When the rich son died in an accident, curious New York lawyers discovered that he came from Simcoe and the affidavits and testimonies taken in Simcoe about the family were in the archives in the Norfolk county Museum across the street from my home. I went to West Virginia and found court records and interviewed descendants of Sarah’s owner. I also researched the history of the areas in Virginia, Upper Canada, and Simcoe.

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

David: I picked the illustration I wanted and my stepson Eric Rustan designed the cover.

Stephanie: What do you find most challenging about writing?

The hardest part of writing, according to Erskine Caldwell, is attaching the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. I have written for so long that it is not a problem now. But most challenging is knowing what you want to write will not be accepted by a publisher. Of course one can find out what a publisher wants and write to his measure but that is not the mark of the artist, rather of the hired man.

Stephanie: What is your next book project and will you self-publish again?

David: I have three future projects in mind and presently writing my memoirs. Since I have self-published about 20 books, I shall probably continue the practice.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

David: IndieBRAG discovered me, I think. Someone must have recommended Sarah’s Journey to it.

Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?

David: My favorite quote is a short poem by Ezra Pound:

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens
She is dying piecemeal of a sort of emotional anemia
Round about her are the filthy, unkillable infants of the very poor

They shall inherit the earth

In her is the end of breeding
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive

She would like someone to speak to her

And is almost afraid that
I will commit that indiscretion.

This is how I remember it. Pound gives one a hint of his meaning by the epigraph from the end of first line of a poem by the French Symbolist poet Albert Samain “. . . . en robe de parade.” The full line is “Mon ame est un enfant en robe de parade.” My soul is a child in a fancy-dress costume. Thus the artist’s soul.

But when a poem becomes too strange for a listener, I like to quote the Duke of Gloucester: “Another damned, thick, square book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?”

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

David: Readers can buy my books from my website: www. davuspublishing.com in paper
or as an e-book, some of which are on kindle.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview David Beasley, who is the author of, Sarah’s Journey, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Sarah’s Journey, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

The Life of Henry VII: Part I

As many of you know, I am currently writing a story of the Tudors, titled “Poison Letters” It is an alternate story about Prince Arthur of England. The story will be told in the present time but the letters revealed in the story take you back to the Tudor dynasty. But first, in order to learn  about Arthur I felt I needed to go back a little further and learn all I could about his father, King Henry VII, also known as Henry Tudor. Going forward, as I research the Tudors, I will be writing articles on this subject and I am honored to be able to share with you some of my discoveries. I will also be writing other articles about the Tudors that you might find interesting. To start off, I would like to say from the various books I have read, I find the different opinions historians/historical fiction writers have on the subject to be compelling, and gives the reader the chance to form their own opinions of the facts and what-ifs. It gives you the perspective that history is open to interpretation and is often told by the victors or the people in power as well.

Henry VII

Henry VII

There seems to be a diverse of information about Henry VII’s life and reign. For example, some say his mother Margaret Beaufort was the only one with royal blood. Others say both his parents could claim royal ancestry. Another example, Henry VII worked hard early on in his reign to build a myth claiming to be the rightful royal heir to England. (He wasn’t the only one to take the throne by force or questionable right. A prime example of that is Cnut and William the Conqueror. But out of all three maybe Henry had more justification then the two I just mentioned. Something I look forward to exploring.) Having to basically build the monarchy in his own right-he seemed obsessed –but who could blame him– with it and later on was described as a paranoid and suspicious ruler. But we won’t start with this intriguing speculation, we need to go further back.

On his father’s side, Henry’s uncle and grandfather, Jasper and Owen Tudor were staunch supporters of the Lancastrian cause. (If you want to know more about Jasper and Owen, read about the War of The Roses. A war between 1455 and 1485, fought between rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England. Or you can check my website for upcoming articles on them as well). By the time of Henry Tudor’s birth, power of the Lancastrian monarch was slipping, making the youngest member-Henry Tudor- a valuable pawn in some dangerous games of politics. But, wait a minute, you see there, here I go again getting ahead of myself! I will stop there and take you to the time of Henry’s birth, his early childhood and his mother’s side of the family.

Lady Margaret Beaufort and Son

Margaret Beaufort who was born on May 31, 1443 or 1441 (the year of her birth is uncertain) was a direct descendant of John Beaufort, first Earl of Somerset, who was the illegitimate child of John of Gaunt- Duke of Lancaster and the third son of King Edward III. Margaret was also a key player in the War of the Roses and matriarch of the house of Tudor.

Margaret Beaufort

Margaret Beaufort

The Beauforts were tainted with illegitimate blood but were legitimized by a statute of Richard II. However, in 1407, Henry IV wrote letters confirming their legitimacy, adding that the Beauforts could not inherit the throne of England. To this day it is still in question whether the Beauforts had the right to succession or not.

Margaret was just twelve years old when she married Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond in 1455. He got her pregnant soon after. Edmund died of the plague the year after in 1456, leaving Margaret a thirteen year old widow.  On January 28, 1457, Henry Tudor was born at Pembroke castle and spent his earliest years with his mother there, under the protection of Jasper Tudor.

The pregnancy birth was traumatic for Margaret, as a result of that, she only bore one child. It is no wonder, giving birth at such a young age is incredible. It is amazing she survived.

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Roughly two years before the time of Henry Tudor’s birth, Henry VI’s right to the throne was challenged by Richard Duke of York. Henry VI and Richard both laid claim to the throne as descendants of Edward III. York was respected and experienced in warfare and was considerably wealthy. Henry VI was to be considered a schizophrenic and was in and out of a depression. In 1450, Henry VI was basically useless in governing and in three years’ time was seen as unfit to rule, Richard became regent and began the work of changing the government. This did not last long, when Henry was- again- in his “right mind” so to speak, his authority was back in his hands and under the influence of his advisors. Richard feared he would be arrested for treason and in 1455 was summoned to appear before the King’s council, he began to raise an army in the north and this marked the first battle in The War of the Roses. Although, from what I am reading in my research, this conflict goes back even further.

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Pembroke castle one

In 1461 Edward IV became king and Pembroke Castle fell to the Yorkist. About this time Henry was four years old. With his Uncle Jasper now in exile, a Yorkist noble Sir Henry William Herbert gained control of Henry. He was well received in Herbert’s family’s home in Southeast Wales. This however was the start of a long separation from his mother. I can imagine how painful that was for mother and son and how confusing Henry’s childhood must have been for him.

Pembroke castle two

At this time, Margaret was grown and was known to be pious, a woman with a strong mind and character. She married Henry Stafford in 1464 and moved with him to England.  I believe not by her choice but duty. Henry’s separation from his mother had to be incredibly hard for both of them. Margaret’s separation from Henry makes me wonder if she may have been angry and resentful. However, I believe (and this is purely speculation) this marriage to Stafford was the start of her being treated as a person of royal blood and maybe sparked hope in her heart that her son one day would be king and as we know this hope changed the destiny of Margaret and Henry….

So there you have it. My first installment of a series of articles on the Tudors. Now, for all you history enthusiast out there, I know I have left out a LOT of detail.  It would take several books to cover all that occurred during that time. My goal is to give a series of small overviews of what I have researched and to share some of those findings hoping that this will intrigue many of you to want to find out more. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and I hope you enjoyed it!

By Stephanie M. Hopkins

The pictures of Pembroke Castle are courtesy  of Marsha Lambert.

A few sources I researched from: The Tudors by Jane Bingham; The Tudors by G.J. Meyer; The Tudor Age by Jasper Ridley; Winter King by Thomas Penn; Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir.

Disclaimer: I checked historical facts and crossed checked, some of what I wrote is solely my opinion and speculation. For example: There are different opinions on how Edmund Tudor died. I went with what I felt was factual.