20 January 2008

Guest Blogger: Annie Burrows

Annie Burrows
Hi! My name is Annie Burrows and I'm here to blog about my new release from Mills & Boon, My Lady Innocent. It will be released in the UK in paperback on February 1st.

Set in 1486, My Lady Innocent tells the story of an heiress obliged to marry a stranger for political considerations, a common enough event in medieval times. However, Maddy's husband is no lord, but a commoner knighted for his services to Henry Tudor. What is more, Maddy herself comes from a family who fought against the king at the battle of Bosworth. This sets the scene for plenty of conflict!

My Lady Innocent by Annie Burrows
As the nobility jostles for the new King's favour, Maddy is all alone. Landless and friendless, she is now beginning to suspect that someone wants her dead…So she accepts a bridegroom she has never met, intending to find peace at home.

But peace is in short supply when Maddy marries Sir Geraint, a powerful protector and a passionate man. Fiercely loyal to the King, Geraint cannot trust his Yorkist bride--but neither can he resist her innocent temptation!
Where did you find the inspiration for the character of Sir Geraint?
During Henry's years of exile in Brittany and France, many people showed their support for him in various ways. He never forgot an act of kindness, and when he came to the throne, he made sure he rewarded everyone who had helped him, often with positions of honour. For example, Hugh Conway, who had only served as a messenger from Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort, was made the Keeper of the Great Wardrobe for life.

But even more fascinating was the story of the Paston family, who started out as serfs. After the devastation of the Black Death, many peasant families began to hire themselves out as labour was in such short supply. The Pastons managed to earn enough to send their son John to law school. He married an heiress, bought as much land as he could get his hands on, and eventually inherited a castle from one of his wife's noble relatives. So in two generations, the family had gone from being serfs, to living in a castle.

My hero, Sir Geraint, starts off the lowly son of a family of merchants. He serves Henry Tudor in his exile, and is rewarded with a knighthood, land, and the promise of a title for his heirs.

Shipton CastleWhat made you want to set a novel in this time period?
The nation underwent such a change during Henry Vll's reign. The battle of Bosworth ended the Wars of the Roses, and Henry's policies eventually established stability. But at the start of his reign, the noble houses still clung onto their former loyalties, and rebellion was always a possibility. This gave me the chance to introduce deeper elements of conflict to my two main characters, apart from the usual suspicions that can exist between the sexes. Yorkist and Lancastrian, nobility and commoner, male and female, Maddy and Sir Geraint have umpteen reasons to be suspicious of each other.

What was the most challenging part of writing this story?
Cutting it down to a word count acceptable to my publisher! I had so much to say about my characters and their background, that I submitted a manuscript that was ten thousand words too long! Fortunately, my editors saw the potential of the story, and gave me a lot of help in where to make the cuts, although there were tears shed along the way.

How did you go about doing the research for this book?
Because I am not a historian, I really wanted to make sure that I did not put anything inaccurate in this book. I hate it when I'm reading a story, and something crops up which I know is just plain wrong. It ruins the atmosphere for me, no matter how gripped I was before the error cropped up, so I was determined not to do this to any of my readers. I started in my local library, reading everything I could about the period running up to the time Henry VII came to the throne, for the background detail. Then I read everything I could find about Henry Tudor's life and background. I spent a marvellous weekend at a medieval re-enactment event held at Skipton Castle, where I learned about everyday life in a castle, as well as gleaning essential details about medieval field surgery which I put to good use in a scene where Sir Geraint is ambushed by rebels. I also trawled the internet to check facts regarding, amongst other things, breeds of fighting dogs, the science of quicksand, horse behaviour, and the regalia and ceremony connected with knights of the garter. Much of what I learned sits unused in a large folder…fodder for another story perhaps?

The cover looks very romantic. Did you choose this picture yourself?
No, but I have to admit I am very pleased with it. The hero looks like Sir Geraint as I imagined him, and the heroine is wearing exactly the sort of gown I would have pictured her in at that point in the story. I happen to know that, following the kiss they are contemplating here, they embark on what I think is one of the hottest scenes in the book. Because I know what is going to happen next, it makes me shiver every time I look at it!

Do you plan to write any other books set during the Tudor period?
Not immediately, but I would love to at some stage, if my publishers will let me. I have a couple of ideas for stories set during the reign of Elizabeth I, dealing with the difficulties faced by families who remained staunch Catholics. One of them involves a younger son of such a family going off to sea and becoming a pirate...

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a novella which will come out in a Christmas anthology in the States round about November 2008. It is set during the Regency period (sorry!) in England, and deals with a man who returns from the Peninsular war to discover he has been declared dead in his absence. A cousin has taken his title, his son has been declared illegitimate, and his "widow" is living in poverty.

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Thanks for dropping by! My Lady Innocent can be purchased through the Mills & Boon website or via Annie's website.

Annie is giving away one copy of My Lady Innocent. All you need to do is post a comment. Maybe you could talk about your favourite novel set in Tudor times or ask her a question about her writing and research. The winner will be chosen at random. Be sure to check back next week to find out who has won!

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