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Today I have the pleasure in welcoming Eve Edwards, author of the wonderful, The Other Countess, which I reviewed earlier today. Eve has a doctorate from Oxford University and enjoys researching historical fiction. She has visited Tudor houses, attended jousts and eaten Elizabethan banquets to get the sights, sounds and tastes right for The Other Countess. She currently lives in Oxford and is married with three children.
I have read and reviewed The Other Countess and thought it was a really wonderful book. You can read my review HERE. Also, don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post.
The Past is another country – but fortunately full of attractive young men…
When deciding to set a Young Adult novel in the Elizabethan period, one of the first things I did was to go looking for a hero in contemporary portraits. Thankfully, haircuts had improved vastly since the medieval pudding bowl cut that the noblemen of the Plantagenet period sported – it would’ve been hard to imagine a girl falling in love with someone who favoured that style. In fact, the more I looked at the Tudor pictures, the more I realized that many of the men of the period would still turn heads today. Take Walter Raleigh – there is a very attractive miniature of him that captures his wicked twinkle – quite the baddest boy at court for a time. That gave him an immediate all sectors pass in to my novel and he plays a key role in the plot. Hilliard’s famous ‘Portrait of a Young Man leaning against a tree’ captures a more wistful type, displaying an uncommonly long set of legs (the Elizabethans liked their shapely calves on the men and designed clothes to show them off). For the more serious, there’s the dark-eyed allure of Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s great love. For those who like their heroes rugged, Sir Francis Drake is the ultimate man-of-action. Sit back and enjoy!
The queen was jealous of her own role as the jewel at the centre of her court, so had many more men around her than women, which was partly why I chose to focus The Other Countess on a family consisting mainly of brothers: Will, the earl; Jamie, his military-minded brother (subject of the next book); and Tobias, the witty youngest brother. But as this is a romance, I had to dream up a heroine who could be an interesting match for my impoverished nobleman. The answer was Ellie – half Spanish at a time when tensions were building with that country, and saddled with a father who was more like a child than his own daughter. Reading books on the nobility of the period, I came across the obsession some men developed with alchemy – in particular, the belief that you could make gold from other substances. Families were literally ruined in this futile search for the secret formula. It struck me as being very like a modern addiction to drugs or maybe gambling with the sufferer losing all perspective in the hunt for the next ‘fix’. Put this in a context where a father had complete authority over his child, and Ellie is left in a very difficult place indeed – but a good place to start a story.
And what about the life at court? Did you know that jousting was still in fashion? No longer a serious method used in warfare (the firearm put an end to the superiority of the armoured knight), it had become an elite sport given all manner of gallant ceremonies, a lush backdrop for the first few steps in Will and Ellie’s love affair. I had great fun imagining what it was like to be a participant (Will’s feelings are somewhat mixed on the subject as he risks his neck to impress the court). Fortunately, I was helped in this endeavour by a local joust (yes, really) at Blenheim Palace – boy, does it look scary as they hurtle towards each other, even when you know it has been choreographed!
And my final bit of research was to participate in a Tudor banquet at Christchurch College – no forks, no ‘modern’ food like potatoes, and soup served in a ‘mess’ – shared between those in reach. Everything was surprisingly sweet – minced lamb with raisins for example – very tasty but very foreign to modern palates. I hope you get a sense of the sights, tastes, sounds and smells of the period if you read the book. Let me know what you think.
Thank you Eve!
I have 5 (FIVE) signed copies of The Other Countess to giveaway away courtesy of Penguin. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment for the author and then fill out this form! – how easy is that!
There will be five winners: 4 (FOUR) from the UK (sent direct from publisher) and 1 (ONE) International (sent by me). Ends Saturday 3rd July 8am GMT. Only one entry per person please – duplicate/multiple entries will be disqualified.
Next up on ’10 Fun Days of YA Fiction’: Review of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce tomorrow!