Historical Novelist writing from a woman's perspective in the Tudor and Medieval period. Her Tudor novels include The Winchester Goose, The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart and A Song of Sixpence. Medieval novels are Peaceweaver, The Song of Heledd, and The Forest Dwellers. All In paperback and on Kindle. Judith also writes historical blogs and articles.
you might have heard my next Tudor novel A Song of Sixpence is due to be
released very soon and the Kindle version is available for pre-order now.myBook.to/asongofsixpence
It is my seventh
novel and there seems to be more interest in this one, I have had lots of
messages and emails asking about it. This could be the subject matter, or
perhaps my other books are now being more widely read and I have earned myself
some honest-to-goodness ‘fans.’ I’d like
to think so.
to answer some of the questions that have been asked about A Song of Sixpence: You
can read why I decided on this particular title in a piece I wrote about it for the English Historical Fiction Author's blog
Do I believe Perkin Warbeck
was really one of the lost princes?
simple answer to this one. I don’t know. We will never know. The main reason I
wrote A Song of Sixpence wasn’t to suggest that Warbeck was really Richard
but to examine the effect his claim might have had on Elizabeth. In order to
write convincingly I had to divest myself of my own personal belief and put
myself in her shoes.
Elizabeth seems to have been a very family-orientated
woman, staying close to her sisters and mother, and having a direct involvement
with the upbringing of her children. Richard was her younger brother, she would
have nursed him, played with him, read to him and, if she really had no idea of
what happened to them after they disappeared from the Tower, she would have
worried, and grieved. To have him, or the possibility of him, suddenly return
from the dead cannot have failed to impact upon her. Her own son, Arthur, was now
heir to the throne in Richard’s place – if Warbeck truly was her brother she
would have been facing a harsh choice; her conflict one of self-analysis – was she,
first and foremost, a princess of York or a Tudor queen?
Is Elizabeth depicted as
a witch in A Song of Sixpence?
Elizabeth of York
There is no evidence that Elizabeth or her mother believed themselves to be
blessed with magical gifts, that is a fictional device used so often that the concept
has permeated into our understanding of her. In A Song of Sixpence
Elizabeth is just a girl in the middle of civil conflict. She is faced with
some harsh choices, some unkind twists of fate. How she deals with them … I will
leave for you to discover.
Henry was an awful man
wasn’t he? How could Elizabeth stand to be married to him?
don’t believe Henry was an awful man, or that his mother was an awful woman. I
think they were two people in a very different world to ours, fighting for what
they believed in. Henry made harsh decisions because he was king and that is
what kings had to do. Elizabeth may have initially been reluctant to marry into
the Lancastrian line but I don’t believe she had anything against Henry
personally. The historical evidence points to the marriage being a happy one;
there were certainly enough offspring to suggest that one aspect of it at least
worked well. In my novel she has some conflict with Henry’s mother in the early
years but I think anyone might resent a mother-in-law who had as much
influence on their husband as Margaret had on Henry. There are no out and out villains
in my book because I don’t believe in them. I think we are all made up of
different degrees of light and shade and the interpretation of our actions
depends on who is viewing us.
How did you find out you
could write historical fiction? How did you get started?
I have always written stories since I was a child and studied creative writing
at university. Once I finished my master’s degree in Medieval studies in 2007 I
had to find a way of making a living. I live in rural West Wales where jobs are
few and since I don’t drive, travelling is out of the question. So I put my two
skills together. I already had the beginnings of a novel so I sat down and
finished it. Then I wrote another. My third was good enough to publish. I’d
established my ‘voice’ and I was getting in my stride. Peaceweaver didn’t make
much of an impact but I quickly followed it with The Forest Dwellers, and
Song of Heledd. It wasn’t until I released The Winchester Goose, my
first Tudor novel that I began to be noticed. Since it is about Henry VIII’s
most popular queen, Anne Boleyn, The Kiss of the Concubine drew more
readers and Intractable Heart a few more. I now have a steadily growing
readership. Once they’ve found me people seem to buy the whole back catalogue
and eagerly wait for the next book. This is still incredible to me. I am
blessed to reach so many people and provide them with a few hours escape. I value
my readers, new and old, immensely and owe them everything.
You seem to get right
inside your character’s heads: how do you do that?
am not sure. It just seems to happen. I
do an immense amount of research before I start writing so I know the character
as well as I can, then I just slip into their shoes. I think writing in the
first person helps, it makes their world more accessible and then I just move
through it, imagining how it might have felt to be there.
Is A Song of Sixpence available in print form?
will be very soon. I am just waiting for proof copies, then the book will be
available on Amazon and other leading book stores.
What is your next book
going to be about?
after a short holiday from writing (no, never actually happens) I plan to do
some more in-depth research on Margaret Beaufort. During the course of writing A
Song of Sixpence I came to understand that Margaret wasn’t the termagant
she is often depicted to be. It is tempting to see only an old pious lady but she was young once. She had a long, tough and ultimately successful
life; she put whole-hearted effort into establishing her son on the throne. She
may have had her faults but there is much to admire her for. You can read more
about her life in a blog I wrote some time ago.
Bishop Burnet, writing a century
after the event, relates a bizarre incident that took place in Henry VIII’s
reign during the aftermath of the six articles. The Six Articles was an act
that set out quite clearly and reinforced six points of medieval doctrine which
Protestants at that time had begun to undermine. The act also specified the
punishments due to those who did not accept them and was known by many
protestants as ‘the bloody whip with six strings.’ As a married man, Archbishop
Cranmer must have taken particular exception to Article Three which stated that
priests should not be allowed to marry.
He set down his objections quite
strongly, making detailed notes, all backed up with citations from the bible
and learned scholars, and it is believed he planned to present his findings to
Henry.His secretary, Ralph Morice, duly
copied the notes into a small book and set off with it to Westminster.
The king, meanwhile, was
attending a bear-baiting across the river at Southwark and, just as Ralph
Morice and company were passing in a wherry, the bear broke loose from the pit
and with the dogs in hot pursuit, leapt into the river and made straight for
the boat. Bishop Burnet goes on to relate that;
‘Those that were in the boat
leaped out and left the poor secretary alone there. But the bear got into the
boat, with the dogs about her, and sank it. The secretary, apprehending his
life was in danger, did not mind his book, which he lost in the water.’
You can just picture it, can't
you? Dripping wet bear, soaked dogs, terrified clerk, wildly rocking boat?
When Morice reached the shore he
saw his book floating and asked the bearward (who was not perhaps as ‘in
charge’ of the bear as one might hope) to retrieve it for him. But before he
could get hold of it, the book fell into the hands of a priest who, realising
what the book contained, declared that whoever claimed it would be hanged.
Burnet says that, ‘This made the
bearward more intractable for he was a spiteful papist and hated the
archbishop, so no offers or entreaties could prevail on him to give it back.’
In no little panic Morice sought
the immediate assistance of Cromwell who, on discovering the bearward about to
hand the book over to Cranmer’s enemies, confiscated it, threatening him
severely for meddling with the book of the privy councillor. Thus saving the
life of the Archbishop.
This all sounds rather like a
scene from a farce, far too unlikely to be true. I
cannot help but wonder what Henry made of the spectacle. I was so struck by the scene that I couldn't resist including it in The Winchester Goose, a short excerpt of which follows. Joanie Toogood, a prostitute from Southwark visits the bear-baiting where Henry VIII is watching with his new queen Katherine Howard.
“Come, come with us.'Twill be a
lark.” Peter’s laughter pulls me back from me thoughts and I reluctantly let
him lead me from the bear pit, knowing that he will want to use me later. Oh
well, he has an ample purse and it may save me the chore of turning out for
punters after dark.
As we near the river’s edge a great
cry goes up from the crowd and we turn, craning our necks to see what all the
fuss is. To our amazement, those gathered at the pit are scattering, men, women
and childer fleeing, wide eyed, half laughing, half afraid, their great shrieks
tearing the air while the tormented bear, who has broke free of his chains,
comes lumbering after.
The dogs are still following, baying
and yelping as they snatch at his bloodied fur with their lathered jaws. Women
snatch their bairns into their arms and hide in doorways as in a great, snarling,
madcap parade, they pass close to us. Peter the Costermonger gallantly pushes
me behind him and I cling to his goose-turd green jerkin to peer over his
shoulder, watching in astonishment as the bear lumbers past and casts itself,
with a great splash, into the stinking river, the yelping dogs not hesitating
to follow after.
With wild hoots of laughter the
crowd rush to the bank where the sudden appearance of the bear and his savage
train are causing a deal of trouble on the water.
Several passing barges are thrown into
disarray, rocking wildly in the murky waves. I see a man standing in the prow
of an abandoned wherry, the other occupants having leapt into the water. With
flailing arms they struggle for the shore. I nudge Peter in the ribs as the
dripping bear clambers onto the side of the barge, over-tipping it, dragging it
down so that it begins to fill with water, throwing the hapless cleric into the
drink. The air around us is filled with screeching laughter.
Peter’s arm is tight about my waist
and, with the sharp edge of the balustrade digging into my ribs and the sun
warm upon my back, I open my mouth to bellow insults at the struggling man who,
with his books and parchments floating rapidly downstream, cannot decide which
is the greater danger, the bear or the water.
He is a sorry sight, his robes
streaming water, his hat lost, his face turning blue with cold. The onlookers
roar with merriment as he wades up the bank, sits on the mud and begins to
empty his shoes of water. Then, on seeing the bearward preparing to lure his
charge home, he gestures to his treasures that are threatening to sink beneath
the waves. The fellow runs obligingly along the water’s edge to fish them out
with his stave and dump them some way up the river bank.
The spectacle has raised my spirits
and, in a better mood now, I follow Peter across the bridge. The hand on my
waist may not be the one I long for, but Peter is a merry lad and will warm me
for a while and help to keep a roof over my head.
I can be content with that for now.
You can buy a copy of The Winchester Goose by clicking Here if you are in the UK and Here if you are in the USA. Available at all Amazon sites.