We’re delighted to welcome author LAURA ANDERSEN to Romantic Historical Reviews, today, where she’s going to tell us a little about what inspired her decision to set her novels in an alternate version of history.
Laura’s first novel The Boleyn King was released earlier this year and received high praise for her skilful blending of history and fiction and the way she created an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable story around such an unusual premise.
The sequel The Boleyn Deceit has just been released, and, according to our review (which will be published tomorrow) is “even better than its predecessor … the stakes are higher and friendships are going to be tested further than ever.”
We’ve also got TWO copies of the book to give away!
Why I Write Alternate History
Historical fiction has always had an interesting relationship with fact. When writing about characters who lived, who did actual events on verifiable dates, whose relationships (at least outwardly) are matters of record, a writer must tread with particular care. History provides a rather strict framework within which interpretation and character development can run riot without being allowed outside the lines. And readers of historical fiction know their stuff—laziness in research and variation from fact (except where noted and well defended) is not tolerated.
Alternate history considerably widens that framework. By changing a key event in the past (the Nazis win WWII, say, or Franklin Roosevelt loses his bid for a third term or, in my case, Anne Boleyn delivers a healthy son rather than miscarrying), a writer of alternate history has greater freedom of movement to change further accepted facts. For instance, if Anne Boleyn had borne a living son and was never executed, then Jane Seymour never married Henry VIII. And if Jane Seymour didn’t become queen, then her brothers, Edward and Thomas, never held positions of power in their own nephew’s government and thus would not have been executed in their turn (at least not for the same reasons
That all sounds very precise and scholarly, doesn’t it? I’ll tell you the less scholarly reason I love writing alternate history: Because it gives me an out from the demanding nature of confining myself to historical facts. Not that I don’t love history—I would hardly write in this genre if I didn’t! But I also love the freedom to play with facts. Jane Grey didn’t become the nine-days’ queen in my world? That doesn’t mean her life is entirely her own. Guildford Dudley didn’t die for marrying the forced-into-usurpation Jane Grey? That doesn’t make him any wiser or safer in my world. One strand of story in THE BOLEYN DECEIT is the Duke of Northumberland’s arrogance and ambition, and how such traits bring him into conflict with the monarch. Different monarch in my world, and thus different details, but Northumberland is the same man and I find it wonderfully intoxicating to play with historical personalities in altered circumstances.
But there may be another reason I was drawn to telling an alternate version of Tudor history, one I had never considered until pondering this blog post. Bear with me, as I tell you a brief story.
I’m adopted. Always knew it, always grateful to have found my way to my family. And, when events led to meeting my birth mother in 2002, glad to have another piece of my history as well.
Probably all children daydream how their lives might have been different. Certainly, an adopted child has a perfect starting point for such imaginings. But for me, it was meeting my birth mother that directed those imaginings into a vivid picture of just how specifically different my life might have been if not for one personal and not at all history-shattering decision on her part.
Starting to sound familiar? Perhaps it’s my own history that led me to ponder the effect of Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage in January 1536. Pregnancy, childbirth, how a single child’s life can be changed and, if that single child is the son of a king, can change history itself. I’ve never been drawn to writing alternate history based on the changing outcomes of battles or political struggles on the world stage. No. The story that resonated with me began, like my own story, with a woman’s pregnancy.
So perhaps it’s true that a writer’s life informs every aspect of the stories she chooses to tell, whether she even knows it or not. Or perhaps I’m simply a romantic at heart and want everyone to have a happy ending. Or maybe I like the endless possibilities of What If?
Or maybe I’m just lazy and don’t want to be at the mercy of facts.
But now that I’ve discovered the pure pleasure of playing with the past, I don’t think I’ll be giving it up anytime soon.
Our thanks to Laura for stopping by. If you’d like to win a copy of The Boleyn Deceit, just leave a comment (and your email address) in answer to this question:
Who’s your favorite Tudor-era personality?
TWO lucky winners will be chosen at random on Friday 15th November.