Tomorrow is the release day for Katherine Longshore's BRAZEN! I could not be more excited that this amazing novel will soon be available for everyone to read. To kick off the celebration I have Katherine stopping by for a Q and A today, and tomorrow I will be posting my review.
If you don't already know, here is a little bit about BRAZEN
Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?
1 This book closes out the 'trilogy'. Did you do anything special to celebrate finishing a full series?
While I was working on BRAZEN, my youngest somehow got the idea into his head that we needed to celebrate with pink champagne cake. So when I finished my final draft, that’s exactly what we did. More personally, I’m celebrating the publication by savoring every moment. The debut publication is rife with uncertainties and angst and the desire to do ALL THE THINGS, which makes it a little more nerve-wracking. This time around, I’m having a lot more fun, and making the moments count.
2 The previous two books featured women who were Henry's wives. What about Mary Howard made you want to break from that mold?
I wrote GILT as a stand-alone novel, never expecting to get a three-book deal, so all of my decisions on which characters to write about came from a very gut level. Catherine Howard was Henry’s only teenaged wife and I felt that scenario came with built-in conflict. I never intended to write about Anne Boleyn, but she hit me upside the head out of left field. I loved the idea of exploring the girl who became the queen. And through my research, I discovered the Devonshire Manuscript—a little book in which several different people wrote poetry and notes and possibly even coded messages. That book belonged to Mary Howard, and I loved that she belonged to this kind of literary brat pack who shared words in such a unique way. Her marriage at the age of fourteen seemed the perfect starting point. And, the Howard family is absolutely drowning in tales of intrigue, ambition and deception.
3 Part of writing historically based novels is the inflexibility the path these characters take. There are two heartbreaking moments in BRAZEN that are aching and tragic. Did you ever wish you could re-write these character's endings?
All the time! The scenes you mention were the most difficult to write. In fact, they weren’t in the first draft at all, because I couldn’t face writing them. And there was one point in every revision that I had to stop, close the document, and walk away. Every single time. Because I couldn’t believe I was going through with it.
4 The Anne Boleyn we meet in this novel is quite a bit different from the hopeful, driven woman we meet in Tarnish. This Anne is desperate, and at times frantic. The contrast is striking but the character we meet in Tarnish is still very evident. Did you have to get back into that character in order to show her natural progression?
One of the hardest things about writing the first draft of BRAZEN was that I couldn’t get the voice of Anne Boleyn out of my head. She kept trying to take over. Eventually, I had to cut all of her scenes, and put them in a separate reserve document. Only then could I focus on Mary’s voice. When I finally got Mary’s story straight, I brought Anne back in. She had changed a little—just like people do over time. I’m glad to know it worked!
5 With Reign burning up the television charts, historically based entertainment looks to be set to make a splash right now. What do you think draws people to these stories all these years later?
I think it has something to do with the fact that it reads and looks like fantasy or dystopian, but was written down as truths long before we got here. Sometimes, I read historical accounts and think, “you can’t make this stuff up.” Something like Reign—that adds fictional elements to enhance the story—or even Game of Thrones—which was inspired by the Wars of the Roses—only proves the point. The reality was so Machiavellian, so brutal, so emotionally spellbinding that no matter which way it’s framed—reality-based or fantasy-based or even science fiction-based—it can’t help but be compelling.
6 A big theme of this novel is regrets. Mary has to choose to act before she regrets not doing so. Anne shows signs of wistful regrets at choices she could have made. Was this theme something that shaped the novel (considering it's set during Anne's downfall) or was it something that happened as the novel came together?
I think it was a little bit of both. Because I began the novel directly after finishing TARNISH, the Anne in my mind had regrets. She was never the type of person to let them consume her–she was always looking forward rather than looking back. But in our bleakest moments our regrets catch up with us. So Anne expressed regrets early on. Mary’s interpretation of it grew from that as I went through revisions. It’s a balancing act we all have to practice—is the action worth the regret?
7 During your research for this novel did you find out anything surprising?
I did a lot of research on Anne’s execution. It was never the thing about her story that interested me most, and it was painful to imagine the demise of a beloved character. But as I read, I discovered that I could distance myself, and look at the various accounts with a more dispassionate eye. I had never known there were so many different transcripts of her final speech. Nor had I known that her women–the ones who accompanied her–were the ones to clean the body and carry her to the chapel. I found that fact so compelling and so tragic, and yet so appropriate that I had to include it in my book.
8 Can you tease anything about anything that might be next for you?
I’ll have a short story in the PISTOLS & PETTICOATS anthology edited by Jessica Spotswood (publication date tentatively set for Spring 2016). I’m relishing the chance to explore some American history for that one!
And I’m currently working on a contemporary novel. It’s fun to work with the same kinds of themes—love, friendship, self-reliance—in a setting that at first glance isn’t so restrictive. In modern-day America, women are not considered chattel. Children are not required to marry a much older man for the betterment of their family fortunes. But my characters still face great limitations imposed upon them by a society that doesn’t always see past the nose on its face. So where there’s freedom and dynamism, there is also seemingly insurmountable odds to growth and the life they crave. But there’s still intrigue and secrets. And kissing.
A huge thank you to Katherine for taking the time to answer my questions!
You can add Brazen to your Goodreads shelf, and the previous novels Gilt and Tarnish are also available to add while you're there!
You find Katherine on Twitter, her website, and more information is available on Penguin's website as well.
You can purchase BRAZEN from Barnes and Noble // Chapters