Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Questions and Answers on A Song of Sixpence

Judith Arnopp
As 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.

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  here.

Perkin Warbeck
Do I believe Perkin Warbeck was really one of the lost princes?

A 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
No. 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?

Henry Tudor
I 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?

Well, 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 then The 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?

I 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?

It 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?

Margaret Beaufort
Well, 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.

So, just to recap the kindle version of A Song of Sixpence is available to order NOW myBook.to/asongofsixpence  . The paperback will follow shortly.

Illustrations from Wikimediacommons.

For more information on my books please visit my webpage: www.juditharnopp.com
or my Amazon page: 



  1. "a mother-in-law who had as much influence on their husband as Margaret had on Henry" please, show me a proof that Henry listenned his mother instead of his wife? first Philippa Gregory, then you. Henry and Elizabeth had a loving marriage! he never had a mistress and was devastated when she died, he listenned to her instead of his mother (as letter from the Pope proves it), she even worte a love poem about her life with Henry... i am so SO tired of people twisting fact to fit their fiction. I just hope that your fiction will be better than the ones i read before (always the same: Elizabeth trapped in a marriage without respect, Margaret being commanding, and Henry cheating on his wife... of course, all of this ABSOLUTELY not based on fact).
    i will give a try to your book, and hoping for a nice moment :)

  2. I agree with the above comment. I would like to read your book but I hope the relationship of Henry/Elizabeth is portrayed more realistically than it was in Gregory's book. All of the non fictions I have read state that it was a close and happy marriage as the evidence that it was is compelling. They genuinely appear to have liked each other's company and to depend on each other. Many fictional portrayals of the couple have been unfair. It is a nice love story-they married out of necessity but it worked out. So I hope that is portrayed in the book! I do think the Perkin situation is very interesting. Did Elizabeth wonder if he really was her brother? Did she hope he was? She loved her brother but her loyalties were obviously now to her husband and son, and her son's inheritance.

  3. Perhaps you should read the book. I present a difficult relationship that ultimately blossoms. There are countless interpretation to be placed upon it. I always research thoroughly and never demonise anyone - if they behave in a negative fashion I show the reason for it. I was mainly concerned with the effect Warbeck might have had on Elizabeth. The book is from Elizabeth's point of view, she makes mistakes and ill judgements but matures as a woman as the novel progresses. It is fiction, as I state in the author's note at the end of the novel.

  4. What a fascinating premise for a novel! I love your work, Judith and I look forward to reading this one too!
    If he was her brother the emotional, political, and familial implications would be enormous! Fascinating and entertaining! I love how we can dive into the 'what ifs' in fiction! :D Keep up the good work! x