Yesterday, I reviewed a very entertaining historical fiction book about Catherine Howard called THE QUEEN'S MISTAKE: IN THE COURT OF HENRY VIII. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Catherine and all of her escapades! I am so glad that the author of THE QUEEN'S MISTAKE Diane Haeger is visiting Booking Mama today and has taken time from her busy writing schedule to answer a few of my questions.
Booking Mama: I read that you were working on your doctorate in Clinical Psychology when you decided to write a book. It seems like quite a jump from psychology student to historical fiction writer. Can you tell us a little bit more about how that happened?
Diane Haeger: Ah, certainly fate there! As a young girl and later as a college student, I wrote all the time as a hobby, never once considering that it was something I might make a living at. But while on my honeymoon in Paris, I discovered the story of Diane de Poitiers and Henri II. In France, we were drawn to the palaces in which they had lived, we saw what they had worn, we viewed his battle armor, his furniture, paintings--- all of it branded with the emblem he had designed to celebrate their legendary love, and I quickly became obsessed with telling their long and epic love story since it really had not been done for an American market. Unfortunately it was difficult to pursue two such huge goals at once, the doctorate and the writing of a first historical novel, so I took a year off from my studies to pursue what became Courtesan, and I never looked back. I do however like to think that my work in the field of psychology hopefully helps me to understand and more fully draw my characters for readers, so it certainly was not wasted eduction.
Booking Mama: I haven't seen many books out there about King Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard? What inspired you to write a book about her?
Diane Haeger: I am actually drawn the most to difficult stories with unpredictable characters, complicated emotions, and unexpected endings, as in my novels The Secret Wife of King George IV and My Dearest Cecelia, for example. In this instance, I liked the challenge of trying to make Catherine more of a multi-dimensional woman than merely draw her again as the clichéd, empty-headed girl she is most often portrayed as in fiction and popular history. That, and I just have an enormous creative passion for the Renaissance, starting way back with Courtesan. Those are the two biggest things that drew me to this project.
Booking Mama: It's apparent to me that you did a huge amount of research to write THE QUEEN'S MISTAKE. How long did it take for you to research and write this novel?
Diane Haeger: With my first novel all of those years ago, I took four leisurely but intense years to spend time in France, to research every aspect of the story, and then write and re-write it. But that was before the advent of the internet--- which certainly makes many aspects of the research process much faster nowadays for me. And I also wrote that book entirely long hand and transferred it myself with a typewriter onto hard copy, not via a computer so that definitely slowed me down. These days, I have a little less than a year contractually now in which to travel, research and write a book. While I still hand- write the entire thing first, then transfer it to my computer, I do have an assistant to help me with that. It is still a much more disciplined schedule that I adhere to in almost every way, but as this was my eleventh novel, I feel that I now have a certain system going in terms of meeting the goals and deadlines that are expected of me by my publisher without sacrificing the creative elements of the story I am committed to tell.
Booking Mama: What are some of the interesting or unique things you learned while researching this book?
Diane Haeger: I would have to say the most interesting thing was learning about the complex woman Catherine Howard actually was. While she certainly made mistakes, some of them obviously fatal, she developed near the end of her life, a certain depth and even a nobility, that I think is missing in most representations of her. I certainly hope that comes across in The Queen’s Mistake.
Booking Mama: What is your writing routine? Do you write at a set time every day or when the mood hits?
Diane Haeger: Ah, for the days when I could wait for the writing mood to strike me! No, I have two active teenagers, so my routine is very strict and regimented. I write every single morning once they are off to school. That way, I work with complete focus until my daughter, who is a high school senior, returns. Then I take off my writer’s hat and don my mom cap once again. I usually do some of the editing work late at night then once they are taken up with homework or have gone to bed. It is most definitely a juggling act but one I began before my daughter was born, so I am fairly accustomed now to that, and also to sleep deprivation!
Booking Mama: What is your favorite time period in history? Who are some of your favorite characters?
Diane Haeger: The Renaissance, certainly. And I do have a special fondness for the French Renaissance, since that was where this writing journey of mine began with my first novel, Courtesan. Therefore, Diane de Poitiers will always be my hands-down favorite character. But I love Catherine Howard and Mary Tudor, Henry’s sister, as well, who I wrote about in my last book, The Secret Bride. Mary was the one woman to go full force up against Henry VIII and keep her head, and that seems pretty noteworthy to me. That being said, all of my characters become very special to me after I have spent a non-stop year with each of them, delving into their lives, their loves, their heartbreaks and their losses. I also have a special fondness for Maria Fitzherbert, who truly was the secret wife of England’s king, George IV which is pretty amazing, and Nell Gwynne was certainly the most daringly fun to write in The Perfect Royal Mistress.
Booking Mama: What can we expect to see next from you? Are there any other projects/ideas in the works?
Diane Haeger: Yes, I am nearly finished with my next novel, which is the story of Bess Blount, the first real mistress of a younger, more appealing Henry VIII, and mother of his only acknowledged son, Henry Fitzroy who he showered with titles, money and land. Bess is a fascinating character, and it is proving incredibly fun learning the details of the life she led, both with Henry VIII and in her own right, especially since there has been so little written about her here in the U.S.
Booking Mama: I always ask this question of anyone I "meet." Who are your favorite authors and what are some of your favorite books? What are you reading now?
Diane Haeger: Favorite authors are a mixed bag. I love the classic authors naturally, since my bachelor’s degree is in English Literature but I am a huge fan of Karleen Koen, who wrote the epic novel Through A Glass Darkly. I also enjoy Allison Weir, Rosamunde Pilcher, and of course, Philippa Gregory. Right now, in addition to a stack of historical research books, for fun I am reading Virgin, a novel of Elizabeth I by Robin Maxwell.
This has been a pleasure. Thanks very much!
The folks at NAL are offering two copies of THE QUEEN'S MISTAKE to two lucky readers! To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment with a valid e-mail address. To double or even triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this post. This giveaway will be open until Friday, November 20th at 11:59 p.m. ET; and I will notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. mailing addresses only. Good luck!