Today I’m bringing to you an interview with the Tudor fiction author, Judith Arnopp. Judith as a number of books inspired by the Tudor era, and I’m sure you’ve seen her books on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. She’s very active on Twitter and Facebook! Judith has also contributed to ATWC, which you can read by clicking here. She has some great advice in this interview for inspiring authors!
Interview with Judith Arnopp
When, and why did you begin writing? Was it something you always did, or did you take it up later?
I have always written. As a child I wrote stories and read them to my dolls and teddies, then as a teenager I made up tawdry romances that I read to my best friend and no one else! As a young mum I wrote kids stories with my children as protagonists, mad tales about them being terrific sportsman or adventurers, heroes and princesses. When my youngest began secondary school and I was at a loose end, I enrolled as a mature student at university where I studied English and Creative writing – I loved the student life so much I stayed on longer and took a MA in medieval studies.
When it was time for me to leave and I had to think of a way to earn a living, I decided to try and write professionally. It wasn’t easy but I’ve never been one to give up. It took a while to be noticed. My early books were set in Anglo Saxon/early medieval period and then someone suggested I wrote a book set in the Tudor era, which I did and the rest, as they say, is history – ha ha!
How long do you typically spend writing?
I write all morning, four days a week, and if I can I spend the afternoons researching or gardening or sewing, depending on the weather. There was a time when I’d write all day long but my eyes and my back protest against that these days. There are not enough hours in the day for me to get through all I need to so I am constantly juggling
How do you approach writing when you begin a novel?
I just force myself to sit down and start. Once the first chapter is written it gets easier. Of course, I have an immense amount of research to do before I begin and sometimes the hardest thing is to leave off note taking and start writing the actual book. I wish I could be more organised in my approach but no matter how strict I try to be with myself, I end up with a tatty pile of scribbled notes and a very messy desk. I get there in the end though … or I have until now.
What was your inspiration in wanting to write in the Tudor period?
As I mentioned earlier, my first three novels were set in Anglo Saxon and early medieval period but although readers enjoyed them and the reviews were encouraging, I had so many people ask if I’d ever written a ‘Tudor’ novel that I decided to give it a go.
The Winchester Goose was my first Tudor era novel and a best seller for a long time; it topped the Amazon kindle chart for quite a while. It did so well that I decided to remain in the period and I now have nine Tudor titles. I am inspired by the strong women of the period who until now have been marginalised in history. I like to try to answer unanswered questions, solve historical mysteries. I don’t just write about the upper classes though. The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart, The Beaufort Chronicle and my latest, The Heretic Wind (out soon) are about royal women but The Winchester Goose presents Tudor London from the perspective of a prostitute, and Sisters of Arden is about the effects of the dissolution of the monasteries on a house of nuns. I like to keep things varied.
How did your character change from when you began writing to when you finished?
In most cases my characters start out from a secure place, then they are thrown into some sort of chaos (usually caused by Henry VIII) and sometimes unfortunately, in the case of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, they end up on the scaffold. The Beaufort Chronicle (three book series) follows the very perilous path of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of King Henry VII and of all the books I’ve written, I think she goes through the worst trials but at least she is lucky enough to die of natural causes as a mature woman. But most of my characters start off young and untested, and grow stronger as they age and grow in experience and wisdom. They all know what they want and how to get it.
What are you hoping readers get from your novel?
Escape, I think. Although my books are very well researched, they are fiction. I try to offer my readers a flavour of life in the period, let them feel the uncertainty, smell the odours, taste the treachery, experience the hardship … the dangers.
Every day, I have messages and emails from readers telling me how much they’ve enjoyed themselves in my Tudor world. Of course, nobody alive knows what it was really like, so I might have it totally wrong but it seems to work.
Who do you look up to as a writer?
My number one is Hilary Mantel. I love the sense of period she procures, the depth of character. I also admire the way she gets away with breaking so many literary rules, proving the old adage that rules are made to be broken. She is a genius really, and stands at the top of the writing tree. I can only aspire to be as clever.
What is your advice to someone who would like to write their first novel?
If it is historical fiction, get to know your period. Don’t over-elaborate on description, and write the book you’d like to read. You need to shut yourself away, do as much research as you possible can, and live the story you are writing. It is hard, it is sometimes very lonely but worth it in the end.
When you’ve reached the last page and typed The End, don’t think you have finished for that is when the hard work begins. It is a good idea to leave the wip alone for a few weeks, then go back to it when it is cold. Be ruthless, cut unnecessary words and clutter, make sure your story is tight, and your characters as accessible as someone you might meet in your local pub. Then find a critique group, a few beta readers, and a very good editor (preferably not your auntie).
What do you feel is the biggest obstacle when it comes to writing?
Marketing. It is so hard to be an author these days because you need to wear so many hats. Most aspects of a writer’s life are fun but I find it difficult to promote myself. I always feel I am ‘showing off.’ But, even the big guns have to market their own books, and the more books you write, the harder the task becomes. I dream of becoming rich enough to hire a team of marketing experts so I can sit at home and just write my books, until then I suppose I must get on with it myself.