Please give a warm Murderous welcome to my dear friend Michelle Diener!!!
Thank you so much to Karin Tabke for inviting me here today, and a wave hello to Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin, as well!
My Tudor-set historical novel, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, released this week, and as there is a strong element of suspense in the book, and I’m visiting the on-line home of suspense here at MURDER SHE WRITES, I thought I’d talk about suspense in historicals, and all that that entails.
For a start, because this is an historical, and I use real people in my book — my main characters, Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, were real people, and many of the secondary characters were, too — and because I try to incorporate as much historical accuracy as possible, and won’t let my book deviate from what really happened, the suspense has to work in the context of real events.
Strangely enough, what sounds like a restriction turned into the most fun I’ve had writing. Because the real events of Henry VIII’s court in 1525, when my story is set, were wild enough, suspenseful enough, to carry any suspense plot I could think up. Weaving my made-up plot against the throne, which Susanna and Parker need to uncover while someone tries to hunt them down and kill them, with what we know happened during that time, worked perfectly. Even though I made the plot up, it could have happened. It didn’t, but it was possible.
It became a challenge for me to make sure the players involved were all people who had the motivation to do what they were doing, that the timeline of events worked in the context of my imaginary plot, but that I could still keep readers turning the pages.
My heroine, Susanna Horenbout, was an artist fromGhent(in modern-dayBelgium). She was trained as a painter and illuminator by her father, Gerard Horenbout, who was one of the most eminent illuminators and artists of his day. When Albrecht Dürer visited the Horenbouts when Susanna was only 18 years old, he wrote in his journal: ‘Never would I have thought a woman could draw so well.’ He was so impressed he bought one of Susanna’s paintings.
Now to our ear, Dürer’s praise may seem condescending and insulting, but given the time, and the role of women, that recognition shows just how good an artist Susanna must have been. Then, when she was around 22, it appears that Susanna was sent ahead of her family to Henry VIII’s court. The assumption has to be she was sent to work as a court painter, although no records survive as to what exactly she was commissioned to work on. That is very useful to me, as it gives me a great deal of freedom in the way I wrote the story of her arrival inEnglandand what happened when she got there. Suffice to say, I throw her into a great deal of trouble, and make her have to rely on John Parker, King Henry’s Keeper of thePalaceofWestminsterand Yeoman of the Crossbows, to protect her.
The most delightful part of this? The reason art historians know Susanna was sent ahead of her family to Henry’s court, given the lack of records of what she was there to do, is a record of her marriage to John Parker. That in itself seems mysterious. What was a powerful courtier doing, marrying a foreign artist rather than a courtier’s daughter in a political marriage? My imagination just had to come up with something.
I’d love to know, how important is accuracy to you? If you read historical suspense, are historically accurate events or social and economic context important, or in contemporary suspense, accuracy in where the book is set, or specific details of the place where the story happens? Do you care if street X doesn’t intersect with street Y, even though in the book it does? Or is that a deal-breaker for you?
Funnily enough, I’m so strict with myself on that score when it comes to my own writing, but I’m more than willing to give other authors leeway in return for a good story.
I’ve got a copy of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT to give away to one lucky commenter (US residents only, unfortunately!)
Michelle Diener lives in Australiawith her husband and two children. She’s worked as an editor, a publisher, managed a small IT business, and now writes full time. Her debut historical novel, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, is out with Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books this week, and the second book in the series, KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, is due for an early 2012 release. You can find out more about her at her website (http://www.michellediener.com), her group blog (http://www.magicalmusings.com) or follow her on twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/michellediener ) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelle-Diener/196593580366013 )
About the book:
Henry VIII’s most lethal courtier and his newly appointed artist become the only thing keeping him on the throne — and if they survive, neither will ever be the same.
John Parker is one of Henry VIII most useful courtiers — utterly merciless and completely loyal. But one small favour for his King will pull Parker into a deadly plot against the throne, one that will test his courage, his resolve, and most especially, his heart.
A commission from Henry VIII should have been the crowning achievement of Susanna Horenbout’s career, but before the beautiful and talented artist even sets foot inEngland, she finds herself in possession of a secret that could change its history. With Parker as her only protection against killers who will stop at nothing to silence her, Susanna has to trust the dangerous, enigmatic courtier. She’s used to fighting in a man’s world, but she never expected to be fighting for her life.
What people are saying about IN A TREACHEROUS COURT:
“IN A TREACHEROUS COURT is an action-adventure-mystery-historical that grabs the reader on page one and doesn’t let go. It reminds me of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE in the way it captures the “feel” of Tudor England, moving with equal aplomb from royal palace to refuse-cloggedLondon streetto leaky rowboat on theThames.” http://www.kateemersonhistoricals.com Kate Emerson, Author of BY ROYAL DECREE: Secrets of theTudor Court)
Awesome! History woven flawlessly into riveting fiction.” Tammy J. Schneider (Special Features Editor and book reviewer at “Affaire de Coeur” magazine)
“Just when readers think there is nothing new to be learned about Henry VIII, debut author Diener delivers a taut suspense . . . that will keep you turning the pages.” Kathe Robin
(4 star review in RT Magazine August 2011 issue)