Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Author Interview: Jeane Westin & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed a terrific historical fiction book called THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTERS: IN THE COURT OF ELIZABETH I by Jeane Westin. I thought the novel was a fascinating look at not only the life of Queen Elizabeth I, but also the lives of her ladies-in-waiting. I am so fortunate that Ms. Westin took time from her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.

Booking Mama: You began your career as a journalist, how did you decide that you wanted to write books? How did you then make the switch from non-fiction to historical fiction books?

Ms. Westin: I switched to books because I was on an article treadmill, never being able to really get into a subject before I was off to another one. My friends thought I was crazy to quit and write books, but I sold the first one myself and then got an agent and just kept going from there.

After writing six non-fiction books, I got an itch to write what I read and I always read historical fiction.

Booking Mama: Your novel THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTERS is kind of a unique perspective on the life of Elizabeth I. How and why did you decide to approach your story in this way?

Ms. Westin: I knew I wanted to write about her and I was deep in research, trying to come up with a new approach when I read that she did not want her ladies-in-waiting to marry. She wanted them to emulate her and remain virgins, but quite a few of them rebelled at that. Also, the women's parents who sent their daughters to court in hopes they would add a title and property to the family weren't too happy.

Elizabeth did call her ladies her "daughters" because she thought she took a mother's interest in their welfare, thus the title.

From that paragraph of bio, I got the idea and with further research was able to flesh it out to become the basis for The Virgin's Daughters.

Booking Mama: You obviously conducted a great deal of research to write THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTER. How long did it take you to research and write this novel?

Ms. Westin: I research as I write...I was already well read in the Elizabethan era. It took a total of about eleven months of long days at the computer and evenings with my nose in biographies and histories. I didn't know it then, but I was also gathering material and ideas for my next novel, which I'm writing now.

Booking Mama: Did you learn anything while writing this novel that surprised you about Elizabeth I?

Ms. Westin: Yes, two things stand out. I came across a list of her illnesses. She was very ill, close to death, many times in her life. From reading this summery of her heath, I concluded she was possibly anorexic and also had a series of nervous breakdowns after a serious crisis.

Also, if you read her speeches and letters about her from foreign ambassadors and courtiers quoting her, you cannot help but come to the conclusion that she was very intelligent, perhaps a genius.

There are stories that she really didn't rule, that it was William Cecil and his son Robert or the Earl of Leicester who made all the decisions. If you read her own words, you cannot help but conclude that she was in charge all the way.

Booking Mama: If you would write about any person from any period in history, who would that be?

Ms. Westin: That's like putting me at eight years old in front of a candy counter. There are so many fascinating historical characters, especially women, that I would like to explore on the page to determine who they really were.

Booking Mama: I read that you are in the process of rehabilitating a two-story Tudor cottage. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that? What has been the biggest surprise you've encountered since you began working on the house?

Ms. Westin: I have a picture of it up on my website at www.jeanewestin.com. I suppose my biggest and continual surprise is how much authenticity costs. My latest project is finding Tudor chimney pots...which I've found, but now the hard part is finding someone who will climb my steep pitched roof to install them. Lighting is the easiest. There are many replicas of Tudor lanterns about.

Booking Mama: I can't help myself because I'm always curious about what books people recommend. I have to know, who are some of your favorite authors and what are some of your favorite books?

Ms. Westin: Some of my favorite historical authors are: Jean Plaidy, Anne Somerset, Philippa Gregory, all of her novels even the early ones, Liza Picard, Elizabeth Jenkins, Daphne du Maurier whose Frenchman's Creek I fell in love with when I was young, Norah Lofts, Rosalind Miles, Alison Weir, Karen Harper, whose wonderful Mistress Shakespeare I just finished, Sandra Worth, Kate Emerson and on and on, so many I can't name them all here. I've just fallen hard for David Liss, a historical writer who has carved out a new niche in historicals with marvelous fiction that explains the beginnings of economics and of stocks, bubbles, etc., but all through wonderful characters.

Booking Mama: What are you working on now?

Ms. Westin: I'm currently writing a book coming from NAL, August 2010, titled His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester.

After writing The Virgin's Daughters where both Elizabeth and Leicester were viewed by others, I wondered what it would be like to get inside their minds and hearts to discover them as real people we could understand. It's wonderful and difficult to try to do that. I'll let you judge for yourself next August if I succeeded.

Thank you for these interesting questions, Julie.

Ms. Westin has a fantastic website where you can learn more about her life, her books and even Queen Elizabeth I. She also has a special page just for book clubs where you will find discussion questions as well as a way to contact Ms. Westin to request an author chat.

I have two copies of THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTERS to giveaway courtesy of NAL Penguin Group USA. To enter my giveaway, just leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me your favorite fun fact about Elizabeth I. To double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this contest with a link back to this post. This contest will be open until September 22nd at 11:59 p.m EST, and I will notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only -- no p.o. boxes please. Good luck!


Karlie said...

My favorite fun fact about Elizabeth I is that she invented Gingerbread men cookies. I will have to remember that this year when I am making them with my stepson!

Pam said...

wow - I didn't realize that she wore the white makeup to hide her small pox scars. The ingredients in that makeup though (lead and arsenic!)!

melacan at hotmail dot com

bermudaonion said...

I don't know a lot about Elizabeth I, but I was surprised in this post when I read she was so ill. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Beth F said...

I too didn't know about the gingerbread men. I wish I had known this when I was younger -- too fun to bestow a cookie on my favorite boys! I think I'm going to tell my niece about this and she give cookies out next Valentine's Day instead of cards.


Beth F said...

Oops, I wanted to say that my husband does a lot of restoration work (he's a builder/carpenter) and I'm not at all surprised at the cost of authenticity!

I tweeted this giveaway

Anonymous said...

My favourite fun fact was the Elizabethan Perfume Garden. I'd love to try making the perfume if only I knew where to get the ingredients. How exciting that Queen Elizabeth I's recipe was found!
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Oregon Kimm said...

Fun fact: Elizabeth considered a high forehead (which she had) to indicate a high level of intelligence.


My email address is: oregonkimm (at) gmail (dot) com

Here's my blog entry:


I also tweeted the giveaway

Gaby317 said...

My favorite fun fact is that she had used pressed powder with lead and arsenic and was still so mentally astute!

thank you so much for the entry.

gaby317nyc at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

My favorite fun fact is that she
invented the Gingerbread boys. Who
would have thought that? I have
another favorite fact about her-she was able to play one leader
against another & keep them thinking they could overcome her.
She was quite brilliant in the way
she handled all those male egos.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Anorexic? I'm intrigued as hell.

No need to enter me, though (regrettably). I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book.

Linda said...

Not sure if this would be considered a "fun" fact, but I think the way she was able to string along so many suitors w/o totally committing herself to marriage is amazing.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have to comment about her 'gingerbread' history.

karen k

Anonymous said...

It's not fun but interesting that she was anorexic and had been so ill during her reign.

heatherzilla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heatherzilla said...

I find it interesting that she suffered so in the name of beauty; lead and arsenic on the face powder, sulfur and safflower petals in the hair color, and the idea that she was an anorexic.

chey said...

I think it interesting that Elizabeth did call her ladies her "daughters" because she thought she took a mother's interest in their welfare.

chey127 at hotmail dot com

chey said...

I think it interesting that Elizabeth did call her ladies her "daughters" because she thought she took a mother's interest in their welfare.

chey127 at hotmail dot com

Mom of 5 Boys said...

Those fun facts were all interesting! I knew about the deadly white face powder, but didn't know her wigs were also dangerous. I can't wait to read this book! I hope I win!

holdenj said...

I thought an interesting fun fact was that Elizabeth I invented Gingerbread men cookies! I'll have to remember that bit of trivia around Christmas.


lag123 said...

Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Bolyn.

Rachel said...

My favorite fact about Elizabeth I is that her birthday is also my friend's birthday. Thanks for the giveaway!


jpetroroy said...

I found it interesting that her powder had arsenic and lead in it.

jpetroroy (at) gmail (dot) com

Lee P said...

A fun Fact I learned was that the Queens many wigs are kept red by using a powder made of sulfur and safflower petals. Interesting! Thanks for this giveaway and please count me in.


Lee P said...

I Tweeted your giveaway:



Heather said...

Queen Elizabeth never met her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, even though she had her imprisioned.


throuthehaze said...

The queen's many red wigs were kept red by using a powder made of sulfur and safflower petals. The powder caused headaches, nausea and frequent nosebleeds, all of which Elizabeth suffered
throuthehaze at gmail dot com

Serena said...

Fantastic interview, Julie! I really love how one little crumb of information spurs people into writing novels, particularly historical novels.

The photos on her site are gorgeous!

I'd like to be entered.

savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

Serena said...

I've added a link to the giveaway in my sidebar!

Chèli said...

Count me in!

Fun Fact? The reason she needed perfume is for lack of bathing!


Cheli's Shelves

Chèli said...

I posted you on my sidebar

Cheli's Shelves

Simply Stacie said...

They kept her wigs red by using sulfur and safflower petals powder.

simplystacieblog (at) gmail (dot) com

Jenny N. said...

My favourite fun fact about Elizabeth I was learning about her perfume recipe. I want to try it one day and see what it smells like.


Unknown said...

Elizabeth I use to stuff her cheeks with rags to keep them from looking sunken in.

Added to sidebar


Asylumgirl said...

It's interesting that they powdered themselves white to look virginal. Nowadays, goths powder themselves white, but not to look virginal. lol

deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Fun Fact- "Elizabeth, at least in the afterlife, seems to have a liking for Windsor Castle. She has been “seen” standing at the window of the Deans Cloister and in the Royal Library, walking from room to room. She is always reported to be dressed in a black gown and a lace shawl. It’s true that Elizabeth preferred the colors black and white during her later years because in that time these were the colors of virginity."


Unknown said...

Oh I love Elizabeth I!!

I'd have to say my favorite Elizabeth tidbit is the fact that some of her enemies tried to spread the rumor that she was really a man (because of course a woman couldn't be that successful!).

I posted about the giveaway on my blog here:


robinbird_79 AT hotmail DOT com

Erin said...

Favorite fun fact: It was rumored that her father was not Henry VIII, but rather the lute player, Mark Smeaton. While she undoubtedly resembles Henry in appearance, this slander bothered her throughout her life.

This looks like quite an interesting book!

thecourtiersbook at gmail dot com

Annmarie Weeks said...

I love this fun fact: Next Christmas when you’re baking or eating Gingerbread Boys, remember that you’re taking a bite out of history. It is said Queen Elizabeth I invented them.

Annmarie Weeks said...

I tweeted! http://twitter.com/amweeks/status/3886931819

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I found this little factoid and thought it was quite funny: "She hated long sermons. If she disapproved of the pace of the sermon, she wasn't above shouting at the speaker from her seat to get a move on. If she didn't like the subject preached, she also yelled for a change." Can you just imagine yelling at the priest this Sunday to move it on? Haha.


A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I also tweeted:



Jo-Jo said...

I would love to be entered for this contest. I find it interesting that arsenic was in the face powder...yikes!
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Paula said...

I would love a chance to read this book. Your interview was awesome. My little known?!? fact is that she loved playing the lute.


Unknown said...

My favorite fun fact is:

Elizabeth's Cosmetics


Unknown said...




Unknown said...




Anonymous said...

I had no idea she was so ill. Funny what you do not learn.


Beth (BBRB) said...

This looks great! Please enter me!

I love that she invented gingerbread boys. Fun!

BethsBookReviewBlog AT gmail DOT com

BurtonReview said...

I had read several books about Elizabeth so the only fact that surprises me is Gingerbread Boy were invented by Queen Elizabeth I!
I had ordered this book but it got cancelled & I still need to get this into my library, I would love to win this. Thanks for the interview as well, I am glad that Elizabeth has intrigued the author enough to write another book regarding her. I will look forward to that one too. Her work in progress reminds me of another work I had read, "Elizabeth & Essex" by Lytton Strachey which was about the relationship with another favorite of hers.
marieburton2004 at yahoo dot com

BurtonReview said...

Posted This giveaway on my Sidebar at The Burton Review
marieburton2004 at yahoo dot com

BurtonReview said...

And i tweeted this here
marieburton2004 at yahoo dot com

cqueen2 said...

wow i never knew that Elizabeth invented Gingerbread men cookies

wow really neat fact

wadesherry@hotmail dot com

Unknown said...

The makeup she wore to cover her small pox scars is the same formula that Marie Antoinette and her court ladies wore that CAUSED pits on their faces. That's how they came up with the beauty marks to cover those scars.

Unknown said...

I tweeted, too! Here's the link.

Kristen said...

Please enter me. I think it's interesting that she wore so much black and white to signify her virginity given that the portraits I've seen don't necessarily depict her in those colors.

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

The most interesting fact I learned about Elizabeth I is that she wore the white face makeup to cover up the scars on her face from one of her many illnesses.

I would love to read more about her.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Unknown said...

I tweeted about this giveaway:

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Amanda said...

Thanks for the post and giveaway! Hmmm...I just read a fiction book regarding Shakeaspeare and there are conspiracy theories that Elizabeth I really penned Shakespeare's plays. Hmmmm...I don't think so though...

nycbookgirl at gmail dot com

Jennifer said...

I learned so much! "The queen's many red wigs were kept red by using a powder made of sulfur and safflower petals. The powder caused headaches, nausea and frequent nosebleeds, all of which Elizabeth suffered". I cannot imagine going through all of that suffering to wear red wigs. Wow.
Thank you for giving me this chance to win this brilliant novel.


i did not know about the gingerbread or her ghostly appearences! i love the later most of all.

spvaughan yahoo com





Misusedinnocence said...

I had no idea she was anorexic. Color me fascinated.


FlyFreeMyBooks said...

Please enter me for this wonderful sounding book. My favorite fun fact was the one about gingerbread men.
ludeluh at yahoo dot com

Marie (MUM) said...

I would love to win this.

Fun Fact: She was nearly bald

Tweeted: http://twitter.com/utah91960/status/4096832931


~The Book Pixie said...

I would love to read this book. It sounds really great.

My fave fun fact: The son (James) of Mary Queen of Scots, the cousin Queen Elizabeth beheaded for plotting against her life, is who succeeded the throne upon Queen Elizabeth's death since she left no direct heir. Talking about ironic.

Sidebar link: http://frombrianaspointofview.blogspot.com/


Unknown said...

Hi :)
Thank you for an AMAZING interview!
Thanks to Jeane Westin for sharing.
I learned so much I hadn't known before and I really want to read her book now.
Fun Fact has to be the gingerbread men for sheer fun/ingenuity.
All the best,
twitter: @RKCharron
PS - I'm rkcharron at gmail.com

SusanB said...

Would love to read this book. My favorite fun fact would be twofold: the gingerbread men and the white makeup.

Unknown said...

I love that Elizabeth had her bakers and confectioners makine elabortely dressed gingerbread men in the likeness of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and that her gingerbread men were soon given to men who were her favorites! lol


Unknown said...

I tweeted this giveaway http://twitter.com/Amestir/status/4111290601

Thank you!


mrsshukra said...

I'll always think of Elizabeth whenever I see and eat gingerbread men cookies which she had invented!


Book Sp(l)ot said...

"The queen's many red wigs were kept red by using a powder made of sulfur and safflower petals." ...I can really understand all the health problems it could lead to, though--wouldn't the sulfur smell drive you crazy? It would me.

book.splot AT gmail DOT com

Shawna L. said...

Shawna Lewis

She is redoing a 2-story tutor cottage!!

I tweeted http://twitter.com/theblindcupid/status/4135689808

Thanks for this chance to win this wonderful book

Jasmine said...

I have this on my wish list for Amazon.

I never knew that Gingerbread cookies were made in the likeness of Robert Dudley. I will have to remember that come Christmas time!


I also sidebar linked you on my own blog



MarionG said...

Hi My fav fun fact was the use of musk in her perfume and what it was derived from. Would love to read this. Cheers. polo-puppy-fluffy AT hotmail *dot* com

roxxyroller said...

My favorite fun fact about Elizabeth I is that she invented Gingerbread men cookies! Cool!! :)


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roxxyroller said...

I own CoolCanucks.ca, which is a Canadian Contest and Freebie site. This giveaway is shared here:



Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Chat - join us at http://forum.coolcanucks.ca/

roxxyroller said...

I tweeted!



Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Chat - join us at http://forum.coolcanucks.ca/