Characters in Motion with Derek Birks

From the Rebels and Brothers series… may I introduce Lady Eleanor Elder – the she-wolf who never stops moving.

As Paul Bennett, of the Hoover Book Review, remarked on Facebook recently: “Eleanor Elder has to be one of the toughest women in fiction.”

Eleanor has proven to be one of the most popular characters in the Rebels and Brothers series, set during the Wars of the Roses. Perhaps that is because she embodies the fighting spirit but also because the reader just knows that, when Eleanor is there, something unpredictable and exciting is going to happen. She is prone to outbursts of spectacular anger but she is also frighteningly and somehow, endearingly, loyal.

With stark red hair and piercing green eyes, hers is a stunning, but harsh, beauty. It is indeed a mesmerising beauty, but it masks a tortured soul for Eleanor is a fundamentally flawed character. Eleanor is fierce, that’s the only word for it. Even if you are on her side you would reckon that fierce is a pretty appropriate description.  In her relentless determination to survive and protect her own, she will shrug off any amount of physical pain and she will overcome even the most heart-breaking of losses. Throughout the series, Eleanor’s capacity for survival is tested about as far as it can be and there are times when only courage and sheer willpower keep her and other members of the Elder household alive.

Feud BRAGWhen the Rebels and Brothers story begins in Feud, she is only fifteen years old and the youngest of four siblings. She is motherless and soon to be fatherless and everything she has ever heard about her mother suggests that she takes after her. She is a wild child who has run with the boys for so long that she is almost out of control.

When we first encounter Eleanor near the start of Feud she is already very much in motion as she tries to evade a group of men led by a member of the rival Radcliffe family:

She seized upon their doubts, running at them, twisting this way and that and turning her blade on any man who got too close. Several tried to disarm her but clutched handfuls of air as she moved rapidly around them, stabbing at them and using her swift, lithe movement to wrong-foot them. Cornered once more on the edge of the riverbank, she thrust out towards an unprotected neck and was rewarded by a spurt of blood splashing onto her face. She smiled grimly as her victim fell to the ground, blood pouring from his wound as his comrades tried to wrest her lethal blade away. She broke from their grasp once more, her confidence growing.

One man caught her arm and she raked the knife across his chest. They were chasing shadows but there were so many of them she couldn’t get clear. An outstretched foot tripped her to her knees but she rolled and hacked at the forest of legs that surrounded her. She raised the knife to strike again but a boot kicked it from her hand and she stared up into the face of Richard Radcliffe. At once she sprang to her feet and threw herself at him, clawing at him until he punched her hard in the chest and stomach. Only then did she drop to the ground but she leapt up again and snarled at her adversaries like a wounded she-wolf, blazing eyes frantically seeking an escape route. She looked desperately towards the river but the blows rained in upon her from all sides and, with a final, bitter scream, she succumbed.

So, not only does she know what to do with sharp, pointy things but she is more than ready to do it.

A Traitors Fate BRAGAt the start of the second book, A Traitor’s Fate, Eleanor has been through the mill and the reader knows it. At the age of twenty, she is more self-aware, but no more cautious. She has returned to her roots in the Yorkshire dales and likes nothing better than to roam hillside and beck in the valley of her birth.

Eleanor Elder stood naked on the ledge staring down at her reflection in the still waters of the pool below. Thank God for a place she could be alone, just herself – well, almost alone. She was twenty years old, unmarried and the mother of a two year old son. For a lady of gentle birth, this should have meant misery but Eleanor cared nothing for such matters. What did cause her some concern was what she saw in the stark reflection: thick, flabby thighs and a slack belly – how far was she now from the lithe, sleek girl she had been only a few years before? She forced herself to look down at her breasts, scarred forever by the slash of a Radcliffe sword. There were other wounds too, any one of which might have killed her, yet here she was, still alive.

She shivered, took a breath and dived into the pool.

Kingdom of rebels BRAGEleanor’s relationship with her older sister, Emma, is a little complicated. They are chalk and cheese: where Eleanor is brash and unconventional, Emma is quiet and organised. She has run their father’s household from an early age and sees Eleanor as a nuisance – a piece that does not fit. As time goes on, the sisters often find themselves in rival camps but yet they are still sisters and can call upon each other for help. As Eleanor says in book three, Kingdom of Rebels:

“I always thought that we were poor friends, but rather better sisters…”

By the final book of the series, The Last Shroud, Eleanor has a taste of peace and happiness:

Eleanor Elder dozed contentedly outside the cottage, drinking in the scents and sounds of summer. Bees hummed around the flower heads, a pair of blackbirds scratched in the long grass and from the nearby forest came the rhythmic echo of Ragwulf’s axe upon oak. She fancied the stroke of his axe matched the lazy beat of her heart and smiled a guilty smile.

He had been away in the morning, further up the Cover valley, and she had picked up her sword for the first time in months. He would be furious with her but the feel of the hilt against her palm reminded her of all that she had once been. When she drew Will’s old blade from its worn, stained scabbard, she found the edge was bright and keen. That brought a smile too for Ragwulf must have honed it.

The last Shroud  BRAG I

Now she was tired – glowing with rude health – but tired. He had told her to rest but had she not rested for months whilst her wounds healed? She hated having to sit still – God’s blood, she would waste away from all this rest! She knew he worried about her and, now that her belly swelled with his child, he worried all the more. She would do all she could to allay his fears: she had been careful this morning not to overdo it… just a few guards, a few moves, a little exercise with a blade in her hand, feeling its balance, its weight… And it felt good, this guilty pleasure.

Ragwulf would change her if he could. So here she sat, outside the tumbledown cottage where they squatted, obediently taking her ease in the warmth of the sun… like the lady he wanted her to be.

Though she grows ever wearier of war, when the fur starts to fly, you just know that Eleanor will be in thick of it, scratching out the eyes of anyone who endangers her family.

In the first book of a new series, Scars from the Past, Eleanor Elder returns. The new story begins in 1481 and she is now approaching the age of 37, though she has aged well and retained much of her beauty. The Elder family is led by matriarchs and Eleanor is one of them but her concern now is for the future of her children and those of her brother Ned.

She remembers with bitterness when she was their age, fighting for her life in the feud with the Radcliffe family. But England is at peace in 1481 and all seems well. The days of family feuds and struggles for the throne are over – aren’t they?

Eleanor does not know the meaning of defeat. When I write Eleanor I often listen to the song Try by Pink and I find inspiration for Eleanor in the lines:

“Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try”

We will have to wait to see if there is still a fire burning in Eleanor’s breast… but don’t expect this character to stop trying… ever.

About Author:

Derek Birks BRAGDerek was born in Hampshire in England but spent his teenage years in Auckland, New Zealand, where he still has strong family ties.
For many years he taught history in a secondary school but took early retirement to concentrate on writing. Apart from his writing, he spends his time gardening, travelling, walking and taking part in archaeological digs at a Roman villa.
Derek is interested in a wide range of historical themes but his particular favourite is the late medieval period. He writes action-packed fiction which is rooted in accurate history.
His debut historical novel, Feud, is set in the period of the Wars of the Roses and is the first of a series entitled Rebels & Brothers which follows the fortunes of the fictional Elder family.
The fourth and final book of the series, The Last Shroud, was published in the summer of 2015.

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Characters in Motion: Bestselling Author Margaret Porter

A Pledge of better timesLady Diana de Vere, the heroine of A Pledge of Better Times, was born into an aristocratic and prominent family of the late 17th century. Her father is an earl, a courtier and trusted advisor to Charles II, a position he retains—for a time—under James II. The landscape of Diana’s life, therefore, consists of the royal palace of Whitehall in London—her extended family’s dwellings lie within the palace complex. In a very real sense she’s closed off from the common citizen, from ordinary life, apart from her interaction with servants. Her world is one of opulence and privilege, and also one of restricted movements. A large part of my research was visiting sites were familiar to her during her lifetime, which allowed me to envision her in the actual spaces she had occupied and to imagine her in the ones that no longer exist.

Her father, Lord Oxford, welcomes her questions and provides supportive guidance. Her mother, despite a scandalous past as a courtesan, is far less tolerant of what she perceives as Diana’s faults, and she’s determined that her daughter will achieve a wealthy and advantageous marriage. As a maid of honour to Queen Mary II, my secondary heroine, Diana finds a sort of freedom living away from home, following queen and court from Whitehall to Hampton Court to Kensington and back. Not only does her position remove her from her mother’s orbit, it enables a semi-clandestine courtship by Charles Beauclerk, son of King Charles II and actress Nell Gwyn. As married woman and duchess, Diana’s intelligence, independent spirit, and tendency to speak her mind create conflict on more than one occasion.

Diana’s habits and pursuits are typical of an aristocratic female of her time—needlework, music, dancing, and drawing. Religious instruction in her early life takes firm root, and her faith is a source of strength in difficult times, and supports her during life’s soul-searing tragedies. Her fondness for gardens and sewing and devotional writings make her the ideal companion for Queen Mary, who shares and fosters these interests.

Diana’s personality is a mixture of calm serenity, attractive to the troubled and often agitated Queen Mary, determination, and occasional tempestuousness. In her youth she has convictions but lacks empowerment, but as she matures she gains a certain amount of agency. She will exert herself to control or to remedy a situation, and then faces the consequences with resignation. Her loyalty to her queen, her duty to her family, and her fidelity to her husband are ruling attributes. But she can be prejudiced as well, and finds herself unable to warm to King William—she sees firsthand the distress he causes his wife through his frequent absences. Yet her husband secures His Majesty’s favour, and retaining it is paramount to him.

Diana’s greatest antagonist in early life is her own mother, who values her as an asset to exploit for the family’s advantage, and who hopes to sever her daughter’s relationship with “Nelly’s brat.” Queen Mary’s antagonist is her sister Princess Anne, who causes much grief and anger from insubordination and through her relationship with her confidante Sarah Churchill, the Countess and later the Duchess of Marlborough. The latter is not only an antagonist to the queen, she pulls strings to shatter one of Diana’s most cherished hopes. Sarah was born a commoner, and her unkindness towards Diana—an aristocrat from birth—arises from jealousy.

Charles, Diana’s suitor and eventual husband, faces antagonists at court and on the battlefield—as does her father. For them, the greatest personal antagonist is King James II. Each man strives in different ways to cope with the stubborn and imperious monarch, with varying degrees of success. King James, a Roman Catholic convert, is so fanatical about his religion that he disregards Parliamentary laws and protocols, and thus brings about his destruction. Lady Oxford, Diana’s mother, is antagonistic towards Charles, mocking him in public and in private. In her opinion, he’s an unworthy husband for a de Vere and lacks the money needed to restore the family’s fortunes.

My characters’ self-image is of great significance, with powerful impact upon plot and conflicts within the story. Royal blood flows through the veins of Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Ablans: his father and grandparents and prior ancestors were kings and queens of England. Yet his mother was the lowest of commoners. Nell Gwyn, raised in a brothel, sold oranges in the theatre and was an actress before the king made her his mistress. Charles can never feel completely comfortable at the royal court, especially after his father’s death. He chooses instead a voluntary exile in order to become a soldier. As an army officer, he believes, he can rise to prominence on his own merits. This ambition is unexpectedly undermined, and when he discovers by whom he does not react well.

As for Diana, she is a woman of sterling reputation and great depth, but most people in her world (and down through history) regard her primarily as a court beauty. The greatest painter of the day painted her—repeatedly—and she retained her looks till her dying day. Her mother believed that the girl’s lovely face destined her for a brilliant match rather than a match based on passion, affection, and compatibility. As a married woman, Diana wonders whether her beauty alone attracts her husband instead of other qualities she values in herself. Her beauty, like Charles’s bastardy, is isolating, troublesome, and a source of inner conflict. She tends to judge others as critically as she does herself, but that judgment is usually tempered by an effort to understand…something her husband is slower to do.

Lord Oxford, Diana’s father, has lived long and seen much. He tends to regard himself as a relic of the past, yet he’s pragmatic enough to be progressive when necessary. During the Civil Wars he was Royalist—twice he was imprisoned by Cromwell on suspicion of being a spy—and believes himself forever loyal to the Stuarts. When James II tests this loyalty in unexpected ways, his lordship’s conscience as a member of Parliament and as a Protestant force him to turn against his king and support the Williamite cause.

Queen Mary, for a variety of reasons, has low self-esteem and a poor self-image. Her uncle King Charles married her off to her Dutch first cousin, a complete stranger. But her dread and sorrow at leaving England for a foreign court gave way to a true and lasting love. She’s tortured by guilt over her repudiation of her father the King when her husband seizes the crown for himself. Although her claim to England’s throne is stronger than William’s, she regards herself as his inferior, unfit to rule, and willingly cedes all authority to him. Yet it is she who is—most unhappily—left in control of the nation while he’s away fighting his endless wars. At the same time she must deal with her recalcitrant sister Anne and the problematic Lady Marlborough. Adding to these woes is her husband’s infidelity, and the fact that his mistress is a courtier—and much less attractive than Mary.

For me, writing biographical historical fiction requires the weaving of three necessary strands to form a plot. First there’s the factual biographical record of the individuals depicted—gleaned from period diaries, newspaper accounts, portrait sittings, memoirs, family genealogies, and other primary sources. Then there’s the factual historical record of their times—what significant events did they participate in, how were they affected by events near or far, with whom were they likely to interact on a regular or irregular basis. And lastly, but in a way the most important for a fiction writer, is the imagination, the creative component that enables the author to invent.

The bare facts of biography can’t really reveal how a real-life individual felt at any given moment. The private aspects of life—personal opinions, passions, deepest feelings about self or others—are concealed areas of past lives, the least accessible aspects of the individuals. Especially if the characters are relatively obscure, as Diana and Charles are. I must therefore invent conversations, reactions, consequences for my characters. I have to draw conclusions from research that I hope bear a semblance of accuracy, but I can never lose sight of the fact that I am telling a story for the purpose of entertaining—informing about history and enlightening about the human condition are wonderful side benefits. That combination of elements made me love historical fiction in childhood, and they’ve kept me writing it throughout my adulthood!

A Pledge of Better Times

“Porter’s ambitious novel of 17th-century England is brimming with vivid historical figures and events . . . rigorously researched and faithfully portrayed.” ~  Publishers Weekly

“A true delight for fans of monarchy. . . Porter does a sensational job portraying the time period . . . the relationship between Charles and Diana is complex and interesting.” ~ The Examiner

“Elegant prose and vivid detail…sweeps you into late Stuart England.” ~ Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris and Girl on the Golden Coin

margaretporterthumb1Because I was born into a family of readers and writers and scholars and travelers, there’s no mystery about how or why I found my profession. From a very early age I invented characters and composed scenes and stories in my head. At about 10 years old I first saw my own words printed–in the grammar school newsletter that I co-founded, typed, and published. Around the same time I decided to combine my theatrical and my writing ambitions, and adapted all my favourite youth novels into scripts.

Since then many, many more words have been published: novels, nonfiction articles on British history and travel and theatre, website content, book and film reviews, my M.A. thesis, advertising copy…and more.

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Twitter @MargaretAuthor

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Characters in Motion with Alison Morton

AURELIA BRAGMeet Aurelia Mitela – woman and warrior

Aurelia Mitela, archetype Roma Novan, came to life when I was writing the first Roma Nova book, INCEPTIO. Then, she was the clever, experienced grandmother of Carina, the book’s heroine.

Let Carina tell you in her own words of her first impression of Aurelia:

“She’d been so concerned for me, but not in a soppy way. Direct and ‘no-nonsense’ fitted her perfectly, but her smile had been warm. I couldn’t help speculating how it would have been to grow up with her instead of the Browns.

I started tapping the keys, surfing for Roma Nova while I was drinking and thinking. I couldn’t leave it alone. My grandmother’s name shot out at me. Fascinated, I loaded the English translation. The screen displayed a list of her business interests. Sketchy on detail, it gave some personal stuff at the end: head of the influential Mitela family, senator and government advisor, cousin to the current imperatrix. She really was a big hitter.”

In PERFIDITAS, we see Aurelia, the cool ex-Praetorian, holding the family together after they’d been falsely arrested:

“[Aurelia to Carina] ‘I’ve been through a great deal worse. I’m not a little old lady out of some genteel novel.’

No, she truly wasn’t. She’d been PGSF [Praetorian Guard Special Forces] in her time, even led the attack to retake the city during the civil war. Although now in her mid-seventies, she definitely belonged to the “tough gals” league.

She gave me a close description of the arresting party. What a difference it made when the victim was a trained professional and could give you precise, detailed information. She’d printed off her statement and signed it already.”

 Throughout the first three books, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO, we catch glimpses of Aurelia’s early life, but even more, a whole range of questions are thrown up. What did she do in the Great Rebellion nearly twenty-three years before the time of INCEPTIO? Why is she so anxious when she compares the villain in SUCCESSIO to Caius Tellus, the brutal ‘First Consul’ who instigated the rebellion all those years ago? Who was the great love of Aurelia’s life that Carina only learns about in SUCCESSIO?

In AURELIA, the fourth book which takes us back to the late 1960s, Aurelia is accused of murder while on a mission to Berlin, and while in remand undergoes a (hostile) psychological assessment. Here’s the report on her:

Subject is highly rational, quick-minded and a natural leader. She sees nothing is impossible given enough time and resources. Subject has the confident personality and willpower to pursue and implement her goals, easily bringing others with her. A dominant personality.

 Strategic thinker, curious, innovative, able to grasp and deal with problems with determination and precision. Energetic and excellent communication skills, happy to confront and negotiate with others. Intelligent enough to recognise other people’s talents, and work with them. Requires challenges and even failures, or her self-confidence could easily turn into arrogance and condescension.

 Personalities of this type cannot tolerate inefficiency or those whom they perceive as lazy or incompetent. They can be chillingly cold and ruthless when the situation arises, operating purely on logic and rationality.

 They interact very well with others, often charming them to their cause, and paying attention to other people’s feelings – or at least pretending that they do. Most mature and successful personalities of this type are genuine in this aspect to some extent, even though their sensitivity may hide a cold and calculating mind.

 This is a slant on the classic ENTJ personality profile from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric test system popular in business to indicate psychological preferences about how people perceive the world and make decisions. I needed to make the report negative for the story, but positive aspects of this type of personality are that they are conceptual and global thinkers, able to see connections where others don’t, and to think ahead. Couple this with the intuition and sense of fair play many ENTJs possess, it can make life frustrating for this personality when people around them don’t grasp things the way they do. Of course, this conflict is a gift for a writer…

In essence, Aurelia is a blood-and-bone Roma Novan whose values are based on traditional ancient Roman ones; tough, loyal with a strong sense of duty and fully aware of her responsibilities as head of a great family. But her desire to keep all the balls juggling in the air with precise timing leads to her being riven by guilt if she doesn’t perform a hundred per cent.

Aurelia has one vulnerability, her love for her frail daughter, Marina. This vulnerability, and willingness to sacrifice everything for Marina, is also her greatest strength, along with her determination to serve her country.

Is she sympathetic? Yes, because under all that resolution and toughness, she is still a human being who experiences fear, love, despair and grief. She bitterly misses the strong comradeship of her earlier military career, and is exhilarated when going back into action. And then, there is her devotion to her life-long love, elusive though he sometimes is…

AURELIA is the fourth book in the Roma Nova thriller series,  BRAG Medallion Honoree and currently a finalist in the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award

Watch the AURELIA trailer

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site

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Twitter  @alison-morton

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About Alison

AURELIA BRAG MedallionEven before she pulled on her first set of military fatigues, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre all over the globe.

So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…

But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women.

Alison holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history. Her memberships include: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists’ Association. Represented by Blake Friedman Literary Agency for overseas and ancillary rights, Alison lives in France with her husband and writes Roman-themed thrillers with tough heroines.

 

 

Characters in Motion: Behind the Mask of Self-Image by Laurie Boris

Laurie BorrisWhether I’m reading or writing, I’m a sucker for flawed characters trying to do the best they can with what life has dealt them. Maybe I love these people a little too much—my novels are full of them. Sometimes I even throw additional obstacles in their paths. I don’t enjoy torturing my characters—most of the time—but I like to see what they’re made of and how badly they want to redeem themselves. Not only do their flaws and demons make for rich, honest writing material, but it’s also more fun for me to work with someone who isn’t a “perfect” hero.

Even more telling about broken characters is what they choose to tell the world about themselves. In real life, it takes a lot of courage to admit when you’ve screwed up big time, when the path you’re on is no longer working, when you’re in too deep and feel like there’s no way out. Who hasn’t been tempted to mask private agony with a smile and tell everyone that everything’s fine? Who hasn’t hidden behind a brave face, at least until the trouble passes or the weight becomes too heavy to carry alone? Since the fiction I write often draws from reality, I’m fascinated by self-image—the faces my characters decide to show the world, and how that changes over the course of the story.

A Sudden Gust of GravityAs I began working on my most recent novel, A Sudden Gust of Gravity, I realized I had another cast of characters spinning their self-images to cover their pain, their grief, and their weaknesses. Christina, the claustrophobic magician’s assistant, is consumed with looking like she’s got it all figured out, that she’s in control of what is sometimes an out-of-control life. And all her plans depend on her ability to keep that mask fastened tight. Devon, the surgical resident, compensates for his greatest failure with a driving desire to rescue anyone who will let him. And Ralph the magician, hiding behind his stage name and his charming smile, tap-dances around his misdeeds like he’s been played as the innocent victim all along—because what antagonist really believes he’s the bad guy?

Don’t Tell AnyoneI faced a slightly different problem when I wrote Don’t Tell Anyone, the story of what happens when a big, fat secret (or three) lands in the middle of an already dysfunctional family. An unrelated medical emergency reveals Estelle’s breast cancer, a secret she’d been keeping from her children since she discovered the first tumor. Daughter-in-law Liza strives to be her champion when everyone else seems to be deciding Estelle’s fate for her. Estelle’s elder son Adam is angry and lashing out; his brother Charlie lightens the mood with dark humor. But while each of the principal characters are freaking out in their own way, each has a self-image to maintain. Liza’s mantle of practicality and super-competence covers her doubts about the future and her private disappointment that her mother-in-law never liked her. Adam’s shield of anger wards off his fear. Charlie’s humor lets him hide from his own pain.

But similar to real life, there’s only so long characters can keep up the façade. They are discovered, or provoked into dropping their guard, or it’s just too much work propping up all that pretense. I love that moment of vulnerability when the secrets come out and a character decides how to play it. There’s great potential for growth and change. And maybe that’s one of the reasons I gravitate toward flawed people. In that moment when the window opens on the pain, the anger, the shame, the doubt—that’s when these fictional people become real in our heads, when we recognize our loved ones in them…and ourselves.

Bio:

Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of six novels, including two indieBRAG medallion honorees. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework.

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Characters in Motion with Janet Wertman

I’d like to welcome Janet Wertman to Layered Pages today. Janet is taking part in my characters in Motion series and talks with us about her earliest draft of Jane the Quene. Be sure to check out her links below and click on her website to learn more about her.

*******

Janet WertmanFirst, let me thank you for this series and the opportunity to discuss Characters in Motion. It was a fun exercise for me – especially since it was a topic I struggled with. I didn’t get to create the story from my characters, I had to create my characters from the story…and likable ones at that!

My debut novel, Jane the Quene, is the story of Jane Seymour, the third wife for whom Henry VIII executed Anne Boleyn. A lot of people know the basic facts, and virtually all of them are Team Anne.  But there is a way to tell Jane’s story that highlights its natural poignancy. That’s the story I wanted to tell, the one that would give Jane a team of her own – or at least acceptance.

The earliest drafts of the novel failed to do that. I wanted to make sure I got the story factually right, so I established my markers – very specific dates on which things happened – and I filled in the characters based on how they were reported to have acted at that time (I did have some wiggle room thanks to conflicting reports from inconsistent chroniclers, which let me pick and choose from a tapestry of stories that many had heard before, and reinterpret them in the way that felt right to me). As my writing books suggested, I told each scene from the point of view of the person most impacted in it …but that led to me giving voices to eight people – Jane, Henry, Edward, Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, Anne Seymour, even Mary. Jane’s voice and experience were lost, and the story was flat.

Then I found a great developmental editor who told me that I needed to forget the objective story and make it all about Jane’s personal experience. I could keep my timeline but I had to drastically cut the POVs. She originally suggested keeping only Jane’s voice, but I knew I needed a second someone to tell the other side of the story, someone who could detail the actual plotting that was taking place. Cromwell was the perfect choice – he was another vilified character with a poignant story (though the poignancy does not emerge until the close of this book), and he allowed me to reveal more of Henry (Jane saw him as good, Cromwell saw him as evil).

jane-the-queen-book-cover

From there, everything just fell into place. Since everything I wanted to say had to be filtered through Jane or Cromwell, I found myself showing more and telling less. Making each scene unfold slowly, with sensory details to anchor it. This was fiction after all and I was able to layer in the imagined private moments of Jane’s journey.  The September 1535 meeting in the gardens, the April 1536 hunting trip where Jane learns that Anne will die…these were the key pieces of the narrative. Invented, but still loosely based on facts (like the fact that Henry loved concocting medicines…the fact that hunting involved unmaking the deer and sharing the “good” organs on the spot…).  I had almost free rein with these, except for one particular pivotal scene: The December 1536 confluence of two blessed events (Mary’s return to court, London gathering on the frozen Thames to cheer on the royal procession to church) with two tragic ones (Jane’s father dying and another miscarriage). Luckily, everything worked (assuming a relatively speedy messenger!).

I’m finding the same challenges in the sequel: I am currently working on The Path to Somerset, which is the story of Edward Seymour (another vilified character with a poignant story…I have a pattern!) during the second three-set of Henry’s wives (Henry’s crazy years). Jane was about morality, Somerset is about power and risk. I am really enjoying getting to motivation in between the things we know happened…though I have to say I look forward to the editing process as I already know some places to be smoothed out a bit!

Janet Wertman

Author Links:

LINKS

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

For more information on Janet and her book Jane the Quene, go to her wonderful website, where she blogs on Tudor history.

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Jane’s Twitter (yes, she has her own – and tweets different stuff than I do!):

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Be sure to check out Nancy Bilyeau’s  interview with Janet!

 

 

 

 

Characters in Motion with Hunter S. Jones

Deb Hunter

PHOENIX RISING by HUNTER S. JONES

What are the common movements your characters make?

For PHOENIX RISING, I wanted to write a something different about the Anne Boleyn story. As an American, I knew there was no way I could compete with UK historians or fiction authors, so I looked for a way to take a very English story and giving it an American slant.

PHOENIX RISING is the story of the last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life, as told by an astrology chart. The chart is explained by the contemporary American descendant of King Henry VIII’s physician, Lady Bliant, who drew the chart for the king in order to calculate the best time for the queen’s demise. The chart is broken down into the movement of various characters at court, based on the interpretation of the chart and the planetary aspects at that moment in time, 19 May 1536.

What are the habits of your protagonist?

Queen Anne Boleyn is going through various stages of shock, disbelief and hope. As we can all understand, looking back from this point in time. Unfortunately, little remains of her last weeks because Henry VIII had almost every vestige of her existence removed. I had to go on what was reported by Kingston from the Tower of London, and what was written by Chapyus to the Spanish King. I did find a few obscure folkloric references which stated that if someone could get an herb concoction placed in the wine of those awaiting beheading, it would act as a tranquilizer, and calm the victim. To me, that explained Queen Anne’s behavior in the Tower. History reports she would go from being completely manic, as we call it now, to surprisingly calm and even accepting of her fate.

It doesn’t seem to far fetched really. Everyone knows that if someone could place gunpowder into a pocket of a burning victim, it would kill them before they were actually burned at the stake. Those were harsh, brutal times.

Anyway, I digress. Anne went from being queen to being a prisoner in the Tower of London in a matter of hours. Within weeks she was tried and executed. Reports state that until the end of her life she comported herself as bravely as possible. She chose her clothes with precise and immaculate detail, as she always had. She meets death very much a Queen of England.

Who are your five top antagonist? Talk about each one and what motivates them.

PHOENIX RISING

PHOENIX RISING has the following antagonists. All are historical, although I have used a great deal of creative license in the story simply because we just don’t know, do we?

King Henry VIII, is shown in a surprisingly different manner than the usual mode.

Sir Francis Bryan is presented as wanting Queen Anne removed because he believes she has risen above her ranking, no longer serves the King’s wishes, but serves her own selfish needs and that Jane Seymour will give the king the male heir the king desires. I have him as Jane’s godfather in PHOENIX RISING, and feel this is true, based on the fact that she referred to him as her uncle. This remains a term of endearment in some English/British households for one’s godparent.

Lady Jane Seymour is portrayed as ambitious and jealous of Queen Anne Boleyn. She feels she is the only person in England worthy to be Henry’s queen and give him a male heir. She was being fitted for her wedding dress at the time of Anne’s execution. This is historically accurate and I just don’t believe it reflects as a ‘nice’ person, now or five hundred years ago, do you?

Chapuys is portrayed as a gossip more than a royal ambassador.

The Court in general is an antagonist. We have to remember, they had no television or mode of entertainment therefore life was their spectacle. Generally, Anne was disliked–a great deal of the court favored the Princess Mary, and the court really didn’t know what to think about the king’s infatuation with Jane Seymour. I wanted the uncertainty, the unease of the court to be captured.

What is the mood or tone your characters portray and how does this affect the story?

Each character is captured in the last hour of Queen Anne Boleyn’s life. Some are happy, others aren’t.

How is your character(s) influenced by their setting?

At this moment in history, there was so much weighing in the balance, wasn’t there? A Queen of England had never been executed. It gave me an ideal setting for an ensemble cast in a fictional story.

Often times the best inspiration comes within us. How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

There is so much we don’t know about that last hour. That is why I found it to be an ideal spot for fiction. I could allow my imagination to play with the characters and the setting.

What are the emotional triggers of your characters and how do they act on them?

We can only imagine what happened in that last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life. There were plots, intrigues and conspiracies underway that played themselves out in that hour, week, month and even years later. Her execution left an impact on the English monarchy. I wanted to place the reader where a few of the key players, and a few fictional characters, might have been.

Self-image is important in your characters, how is this important to your characters?

It isn’t a stretch to say that Tudor England is a gold mine when it comes to grandiose individuals. Theatrics played a major part in the reign of the Tudors, and the members of the court. How they were seen and the legacy they left to the world may be a major reason why they remain so fascinating to us today.

How do you/Or talk about how you flesh out the moment of greatest sorrow in your characters?

PHOENIX RISING involves the readers; they get a glimpse into each character’s thoughts and motives. It’s based on a form of storytelling which makes the ‘audience’ part of the story and shows how everyone plays a part during their lifetime. From there, the narrator allows each character to give their story from their POV.

A few characters are ready for the end of Queen Anne Boleyn, but I attempted to look into the emotional motives of all concerned.

Talk about the courage and strength of your character. -and possibly the isolation your character may feel with these attributes.

Phoenix Rising is brief. Think about an hour when your life changed and how quickly the time passed. I had to capture that in each individual. Each one had their own agenda at that moment which changed the course of England, and history, forever.

There are as many answers to this question as there are characters in the story. In other words, this is a fantastic question.  Thank you for featuring me on your blog today. As always, you are an absolute delight to work with.

About Author:

Deb Hunter writes fiction as Hunter S. Jones, publishing as an indie author, as well as through MadeGlobal Publishing. She is a member of the prestigious Society of Authors founded by Lord Tennyson, Historical Writers’ Association, Historical Novel Society, English Historical Fiction Authors, Atlanta Writers Club, Atlanta Writers Conference, Romance Writers of America (PAN member), and Rivendell Writers Colony which is associated with The University of the South. Originally from a Chattanooga, Tennessee, she graduated from a private university in Nashville and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her Scottish born husband.

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Characters in Motion with Alan Bray

“How is your character influenced by their setting?”

by Alan Bray

The Hour of Parade

When I wrote The Hour of Parade, I wanted a story with interesting characters who were also living two hundred years ago—an historical setting. I had to decide whether these characters were or were not different from people alive now, and if they were different, in what way, and how much of it should be shown.

Since I’m not a historian and have no time machine—except arguably by flying across time zones—I had to rely on historical records and fiction from the time for answers. There are many wonderful memoirs from the period, in English and translated, and a huge amount of fiction. I read things slightly before the time, like Julie, and I also read books written several decades later, on the theory that fiction writers tend to write about things several decades in the past and not the present. It’s hard to see the absolute present clearly.

And memoir. Of course, you have to figure that people writing about their lives tend to show things in a good light.

I decided that people are largely the same creatures, but there were particular things that were different and should influence my characters.

In early nineteenth century Europe and America, people were presented with ideas that came to be called Romanticism, ideas that were expressed in literature, music, theater, and politics, and that seemed exciting and new. They emphasized individual experience and valued emotion over eighteenth century rationalism and materialism. Impulsive, heart-felt action was admired. So were intense walks in nature, storms and encounters with ghosts.

Napoleon was an archetype of Romanticism, a hero who seized control of his own destiny by defying conventions about class. He was an inspiration to many who hoped to escape the rigid class boundaries of the eighteenth century. The writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who had died by 1800, remained wildly popular, especially the novel Julie that is at the heart of Hour. Julie idealizes passion, love, and friendship.

So, in writing Hour, I wanted to have the characters and story express Romanticism against the background of the Enlightenment.

Like I said, it’s hard to see clearly the ideas that influence our time. Maybe one is that technology can solve any problem. Maybe we tend to value rationality over emotional expression. If you had a character in a story set in 1800 who thought emotion was bad and that technology could solve any problems—a sort of very chill Mr. Spock—it wouldn’t be wrong, just unusual, and that unusual quality would have to be accounted for somehow, I think.

In Hour, I tried to show the characters expressing Romantic ideas—more or less. Marianne, for example, is very practical. I don’t see her valuing emotion and love much at all. But she’s not expressing Enlightenment ideas either, she’s just pre-occupied with survival. Valsin, with his internal wrestling over love vs. career, is very Romantically self-focused, as he is in his valuing friendship with Alexi.

Anne-Marie is also a practical person because she has to be, but she expresses Romantic ideas about the importance of passion and emotion in making decisions. Instead of accepting what fate brings her, she seizes control of her destiny—not always, of course, with the best of results.

Alexi is meant to be Mr. Romantic. He defies convention and his father to focus on himself. Another way to say it is that he’s a character who came out of the Enlightenment and embraced Romanticism with both hands. He’s ready to change his career, the military, because it no longer allows him the room to express who he is. (that’s a pretty modern idea). He likes to go for long walks that allow plenty of time to brood. He values his thoughts and feelings, and he values love and passion. He blurs boundaries in several ways because emotion is more important, that is, he befriends Valsin, his enemy, and he loves Marianne and Anne-Marie, who are both from different classes and countries.

Of course, there were other more concrete differences between now and then. A less developed technology meant that, with poor lighting and a lack of media, there wasn’t much to do. Many men and women at that time worked like dogs and collapsed at night from exhaustion, but the characters in The Hour of Parade were more privileged and didn’t have a lot to do moment to moment. Alexi can’t stay in his rooms all day—although he expects his mistress to—he has to get out and walk. After the event of military parade, Valsin and the other soldiers are free to do whatever they can afford. The significance of the title—The Hour of Parade—is that important things occurred during this time when others were occupied. Boredom and how it’s handled is always a significant issue for humans.

Alan BRAY

I was born in 1954 in Detroit, Michigan, the only child of a sales representative for a railroad and a schoolteacher. I grew up reading books, which at that time, meant adult books, as the availability of children’s books was limited. I read a lot of things I didn’t understand, but it helped me to grow and gave me a love for literature, for the power of imaginary worlds so much like real life but with something extra.

I didn’t start writing fiction till I was in my forties. I had just moved to rural New Hampshire, my father had recently died; in short, I was ready for something new. I’m fortunate to be able to devote a lot of time to writing and to reading which I think is equally important.

I like to write about people going through a transition because of something that happens to them, something that resonates with memory and their past.

I’ve worked as a professional musician, record store clerk, psychotherapist and factory worker. I have a son and a daughter, and a wonderful wife.

To me, writing is a positive and intense pre-occupation.

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B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree