11-25-2009 04:53 PM - last edited on 12-07-2009 10:26 PM by Kevin
I am thrilled to welcome Philippa Gregory to CenterStage!
Philippa is the New York Times bestselling author of several books, including The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance. A writer and broadcaster for radio and television, she lives in England. She welcomes visitors and messages at her website, www.philippagregory.com.
Her most recent book is The White Queen. The description of the story is as follows:
Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.
The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.
11-30-2009 10:52 AM
Philippa Gregory has written over a dozen historical fiction novels. I'm linking to several of them below:
12-06-2009 06:03 PM
We were so excited for Philippa's visit, we couldn't wait to ask her a few questions. I'm looking forward to seeing what you all come up with to ask her. Don't forget - her visit starts tomorrow!
CS: Tell us about how your new novel fits in with OR stands out from your body of work/previous work.
PG: The White Queen is the first book in what will be a series about the Plantagenets, the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors. Here is a family just as fascinating as the Tudors, perhaps more so. Certainly, they are more complicated, more wicked, and more passionate -- takers of great risk. I think people have been put off this period because it has been so well studied by military historians that it has been regarded as being just about battles. But there is so much more to it than this! The history of the women of the period has been very neglected because of this emphasis on battles and thus the male leaders. My research has introduced me to some incredibly brave and determined women who took this time of chaos and took advantage of it for their own ends.
CS: What's the most interesting thing a reader has ever asked you?
PG: On the last tour a reader asked me if my study of Melusina, the water goddess, had introduced me to a sense of another reality – the spiritual world which is so close to the medieval mind. Her smile when she asked me told me that she guessed that the answer would be yes.
CS: What's the one thing no one has ever asked you that you are dying to make known?
PG: I’m a very private person. There is nothing I want to make known.
CS: Whose books would you like to have written if not your own?
PG: I should love to have written the books of EM Forster. He has such delicacy and restraint and a sense of what is truly important.
CS: If you weren’t a writer, you’d be?
PG: I do love journalism and radio broadcasting, but history is my greatest passion. I think I would be an historian.
12-07-2009 11:25 AM
Can you tell us a little about The White Queen, and where Elizabeth Woodville ranks among your favorite female historical figures? Was it hard to research her? Was there as much in the historical record about her as there's been with your other historical leading ladies?
12-07-2009 11:55 AM
Hi from incredibly wet grey and rainy England.
Elizabeth Woodville is not prominent in any of the histories - she has one fine biography about her by the historian David Baldwin, but other accounts are very much affected by the Tudor propaganda which had to diminish the claims of the Plantagenet family - since it was there to support the Tudor claim to the throne. There's a new and very interesting book called Selling the Tudor Monarchy by Kevin Sharpe which shows just how powerful a propaganda machine the Tudors were. One of the many consequences of their dominating this period is that the story of the former royal family, the Plantagenets, has been obscured, Richard III of course condemned as a villain, and Elizabeth the Queen blamed for many of the difficulties of her family. As a woman harshly judged by history she is of particular interest to me, since I am interested in women and since I believe that the account of women is often unfair or prejudiced against women.
She was an extraordinary woman and thus a great favourite of mine. I think of her very much on a par with Katherine of Aragon or of Mary or even Anne Boleyn, as a woman of her time who was nonetheless determined to try to make her own destiny. Whether it was marrying a man astronomically higher than her on the social scale, or masterminding a rebellion against a king, Elizabeth was able to reach beyond what was expected of women in the society she lived in. As such she is a tremendous model for modern women and a very inspiring character for me.
12-07-2009 12:30 PM
That's interesting that her history is obscured, because she seemed so vibrant and important as I was reading that I wondered why she's not more well known. I felt the same about Edward - you always hear about Richard III but not as much about his elder brother.
The other striking thing about the book, to me, was the romantic nature of their marriage, the fact that Edward was so taken with her that he'd marry in secret, and also admit and enforce the marriage! I assume that most of this is factual.
12-07-2009 04:07 PM
It's a real thrill to have you here! Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you write every day? Any advise to us would-be writers?
12-08-2009 02:45 AM - edited 12-08-2009 03:13 AM
I am so excited that I found this discussion! You are by far one of my favorite Authors.
My questions are:
How do you know who to send your book to for publication? Who can you trust? Should you have it copyrighted first? ...... The book I am writing is also set during the wars of the roses, are there certain publishers who would be more inclined to like that certain time period then others? How do you go about editing your book? Is it necessary to have an agent?
And any advise you can give for new writers in progress would be great too! Thank you so much for your time !!! Have a great day.
P.S.. Sorry, I kind of went a little question crazy lol. I have tried to research this online but there are so many options and viewpoints, it is a bit overwhelming.
-a place for historical fiction at its best!
12-08-2009 02:56 AM
I just had another quick question.
After all of your research for writing The White Queen, what is your opinion on Richard III ? Do you believe him to be the horrible villain of Shakespeare's play or do you believe that to be a result of Tudor propaganda?
-a place for historical fiction at its best!
12-08-2009 09:04 AM
my writing process is very informal and happens anywhere and everywhere. I carry with my a very light laptop and I write when I am travelling, or at home, in my study, or even in bed. Each day I try to make sure that I read what I wrote the day before and edit it - so that I am never too long away from work in progress, and then generally I write some more. I should think I write about 5-10 new pages a day, and they are constantly rewritten and reviewed on the following days. An 'easy' book takes about three complete drafts The Boleyn Inheritance was written like that. A 'hard' one can go through more than ten drafts. Ideally, at the end of that process they will both be equally complex and researched, it just happens that some characters flow more easily than others, and some histories are easier to research too.
Advice for writers would always be to write the very best you can and read the very best there is. Too many writers read material that they would describe as 'junk' or say genre or say light or say lite fiction - and then try to write like that thinking this means popularity and success. I would always suggest that people read the best writing there is - the great classics - and then try to find their own voice bearing in mind the clarity simplicity and sometimes beauty of the classics.
None of this describes my research process which is the other half of the job - or the magic of inspiration which is another key ingredient!
12-08-2009 09:32 AM
your question frenzy made me laugh.
They were How do you know who to send your book to for publication? Publishers get a huge number of unsolicited manuscripts and they read them rather briskly and reply very late. Ideally, you want to send it so that they will be certain to look at it. One of the ways to do this is to get an agent who will send it in to the right person with his/her recommendation. Another way is to approach an editor directly as you know someone who knows them, and the third is to pick an editor who you know works with someone whose work you admire which is similar to yours. So it would make sense in your case to look for the editor for either my books, Sharon Penman, Anya Seton etc (dead authors are republished and their books are edited). The editors you would want are listed in the authors and writers year books which are available in big libraries.
Who can you trust? er nobody, of course. Though people are more likely to lose your manuscript than steal it. Always keep a photocopy and if you can send it recorded delivery then at least you knew it got there. Book publishers are most unlikely to steal an idea, but you do hear bad things about tv and film treatment people -
Should you have it copyrighted first? by putting your name on it you have established a claim to copyright - worth remembering that all material published with a name on is the intellectual property of the author and so you cannot quote without permission.
The book I am writing is also set during the wars of the roses, are there certain publishers who would be more inclined to like that certain time period then others? Hmm a rival! Any good publisher has a historical fiction section but you can see that some have made the effort to publish some of the best authors - you know they understand and like the genre.
How do you go about editing your book? When the book is written to your satisfaction then it goes to the publishers and they appoint an editor to suggest changes to you as necessary. This can be a wonderful learning experience. Then it is copy edited when they pick up the small typos and spelling errors.
Is it necessary to have an agent? It's very helpful to have an agent. An agent would answer all of these questions and more, but they will charge you up to 15% of your income so it is quite an expensive friend. They will know the publishers and the editors and who is buying and doing well, they will advise you about your manuscriipt, and some even help with the research/writing or editing process. They will prepare the contract which the publishers will offer and collect the money, and they will negotiate for you if you and your publishers fail to agree. Some people say it is as hard to get an agent as to get a publisher, for they too are busy people and have many manuscripts sent to them.
12-08-2009 09:36 AM
I don't think anyone who has read any of the history could buy the Shakespeare view of Richard III who is a quite crazed villain from birth. More than that, I found I become very sympathetic to Richard who does find himself in a quite difficult position believing that the new young king (who would be Edward V) is bound to be heavily influenced by his mother's family and knowing that they hate Richard. Even so, the usurpation was illegal but that does not prove that he went on to murder the princes, and my belief is that he did not. What did happen to them is, of course, the subject of The White Queen - and subsequent books in the series.
What did you - or anyone else - think of the description of Richard in The White Queen? And in particular the scene where he tells Elizabeth that he has 'lost' her sons?
12-08-2009 10:55 AM
Philippa, can you talk a little bit about the role of magic in THE WHITE QUEEN? I know that Elizabeth's mother was accused of witchcraft, but how much of the actual magic in the book was your invention? This was one of my favorite aspects of the book! And the first scene between Cecily and Jacquetta - I read it three times. What a great showdown between two powerhouse women!
12-09-2009 08:13 AM
The showdown between Jacquetta and Duchess Cecily is imagined, but we know that Cecily objected so strongly to Elizabeth as a daughter in law that she lived estranged from her son Edward IV and perhaps volunteered the information that she thought he was married to someone else. She did not publicly deny that he was a bastard (and she thus an unfaithful wife) when her youngest son Richard claimed this - so either she was silenced, or her enmity was pretty powerful. An extraordinary couple of women indeed.
The witchcraft element just occurs and recurrs with Jacquetta and with her daughter Elizabeth. There was an early and long-running belief that the marriage had taken place as a result of witchcraft and then Jacquetta's trial (probably a show trial) at the hands of Warwick is recorded. The sentence was set aside by Edward IV when he was restored to the throne. The actual working of the magic is imagined, as of course it would have to be, but it is based on folklore, legends, and traditions. I also think that in those days, when there was a prevailing belief in magic, alchemy, spiritualism, and what we would not call superstition - that if you thought you could do something by wishing it - you would do so. A lot of my thoughts on this are based on the classic Keith Thomas Religion and the Decline of Magic.
12-09-2009 09:49 PM
I first want to thank you so much for all of your help, it definitely helped, and I am glad that my "question frenzy" made you laugh lol. Also, when I read "Hmm a rival!" it brought a smile to my face, what a thought! The possibility of that would be amazing and if someday it is true, well that would be a great honor to me!
"What did you - or anyone else - think of the description of Richard in The White Queen? And in particular the scene where he tells Elizabeth that he has 'lost' her sons?"
I really enjoyed the descriptions of Richard. It was amusing to have him always going up North all pouty because there was no war to be fought. He seemed like a cranky, quiet man, but at the same time he felt like a lovable character.
The scene where he confesses that he "lost" Elizabeth's sons was brilliant. I felt completely connected with Richard. His agony, stress, and uneasy predicament was perfectly displayed. It showed a side of him that I think is closer to the truth then what is generally known. The point when Elizabeth said she did not believe Richard and he replied with how he would only be remembered for this crime he did not commit, was a perfect way to sum up what happened to him. He could not prove anything while alive, and certainly not defend himself against his Tudor victors who built upon it and completely slandered his name. When "He nods, as if to accept an unjust judgment" it makes me think of how it is today. Those who believe the marred history of Richard are like Elizabeth not believing him, and he can not do anything about it.
As you can probably tell by now, I too have become sympathetic to Richard. After doing so much research on him I find it hard not to be that way. I agree completely with the views of him that you posted.
Thanks again for your time and help. It has been a pleasure conversing with you!
-a place for historical fiction at its best!