06 January 2008

Guest Blogger: Annie Burrows

It's Sunday, which means we're featuring another fantastic author of Unusual Historicals.


Hi there! Carrie has given me this opportunity to introduce myself to you all today. My name is Annie Burrows, and I write historical romance for Mills & Boon.

Well, at least, I have had one novel published, and another is due to come out in February, but it is such a thrill to be able to describe myself as a writer after struggling to get anything accepted for years, that I tend to go a bit overboard! And I still get a real kick when I casually drop into a conversation, "My editor emailed me today..."

I have really enjoyed visiting this site since I discovered it, thanks to a recommendation from Michelle Styles. I love all things historical, and am constantly impressed by the depth of knowledge the various contributors to this blog display. In fact, you all know so much, you make me feel like a bit of a phony!

I studied English Literature at university, rather than history, but I have always felt the two were connected. In reading the literature of the past, I felt that I was learning how people felt about the times they lived in. Growing up in England, much of my holidays when I was a child, were spent in going round stately homes and castles with my family. On getting home, the first thing my sister and I used to do was invent stories about the places we had seen. If the weather was fine, we would romp round the back garden, being cavaliers and roundheads, or knights and ladies draped in costumes improvised from old sheets. If it was raining, we would go up to our room and draw plans of our ideal stately home, complete with dungeons, secret tunnels, and at least one maze in the grounds. I suppose becoming a writer of historical fiction is a continuation of those childhood imaginative games...

My next novel, which is called My Lady Innocent, is set in 1486. It is not easy to find stories set during this period, which seems a great shame to me. When Henry Tudor came to the throne, England had been in a state of civil war for generations. By the time of his death in 1509, he had virtually done away with the private armies maintained by the nobility, which had made their feuding possible, leaving his son in charge of a stable and prosperous kingdom. In one lifetime, he managed to turn around a whole way of life, ending what we think of as medieval England, and ushering in the Tudor period. And yet when people discuss the Tudors, they tend to focus on his son, Henry VIII! Even the recent HBO TV series called "The Tudors" plunged in half way through Henry VIII's reign, completely ignoring the founder of the dynasty.

I start my own story a few months after the Battle of Bosworth, while Henry is launching the various policies which eventually brought stability to his realm. My fictional hero is totally loyal to the king, whereas his bride comes from a staunchly Yorkist family. Their struggle to make their marriage work, against a background of treachery and suspicion, echoes King Henry's own attempt to inaugurate an era of forgiveness and reconciliation, by himself marrying the Yorkist Princess Elizabeth.

I had a fabulous time doing research for this book, persuading my husband that we needed to go round castles, especially when there was any kind of medieval re-enacting going on. We spent one memorable weekend scrambling round Skipton Castle, in Yorkshire, and even he was fascinated by the demonstration of medieval field surgery I dragged him to. I could tell, by the looks on the faces of the (other) little boys in the audience, that they wanted nothing more than to get hold of a mallet, a saw, and a sharp knife and have a go at sawing somebody's leg off, after having been told what a simple procedure amputation was! I also managed to have a go at firing a bow and arrow, and learned so much about how to weave patterns into ribbons, that I simply had to give my heroine her own ribbon weaving loom.

My Lady Innocent comes out in paperback in the UK in February and I will be holding a release party on this site on January 20th, when I will be offering a free copy to one lucky reader. I hope you will join me then!

Annie Burrows