Friday, 14 August 2020

Join me in conversation with Historical Fiction author, Judith Arnopp #HistoricalFiction #Tudors #Anthology @JudithArnopp @SharpeBooks

A Conversation with Historical Fiction author, Judith Arnopp

Please give a warm Coffee Pot welcome to Historical Fiction author, Judith Arnopp.


Mary Anne: A huge congratulations on the release of Royal Blood: A HWA Short Story Collection. Could you tell us how you got involved in this fabulous collection of short stories?


Judith Arnopp: Hi Mary Anne, Thank you for inviting me on to your blog. The anthology is a collection of short stories set in the Tudor period written by David Field, Elizabeth Fremantle, Michael Jecks, Steven Veerapen, Peter Tonkin, Philip Gooden, John Pilkington, Michael Ward and me. All nine authors are thrilled with the success Royal Blood is enjoying. Sharpe Books already publish two of my twelve novels, Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr and The Kiss of the Concubine: the story of Anne Boleyn so when they approached me to be part of this project, I knew right away what I’d write and who I’d write about.


Mary Anne: All the stories in this collection are set during the Tudor era. Why do you think this period in history is still really popular with readers?


Judith Arnopp: I have loved the Tudors all my life. I can still just about recall how amazing the story of Henry and his wives was to me during my early teens. When the serious study came later, I found the Tudor world just kept giving. The fact that I am able to write about and attract new people to the royal court is still unbelievable. I think the era draws newcomers into history. It was certainly so for me. The Tudors have it all: romance, intrigue, passion, betrayal, treason and of course, a whole lot of horror which we all love.


I find it very satisfying when I introduce a young person to Henry and his wives. The stories are new to them and they have no idea of the years of pleasure ahead. I love to see the animation in their faces as they tell me what they’ve learned so far.


The Tudors are a gift for an author – it was a time of so much social change and there are many different perspectives and paths to follow: male, female, catholic, protestant, I could go on but lists are tedious.


There are those who complain the Tudors have been done to death but there will always be a new generation coming along for whom the 16th century is new and exciting. For me, Royal Blood is made special by the diversity of style: different authors, different genders, different points of view, different characters. Royal Blood is like a selection box of Tudor England that contains everyone’s favourite story.


Mary Anne: Your story in this fabulous collection, No Other Will Than His, is about Katherine Howard. As I am sure many readers will know Katherine Howard’s story has a very tragic ending. Why did you choose to write about the fifth wife of Henry VIII?


Judith Arnopp: I’ve written about most of Henry’s wives already, also his grandmother, mother and daughter Mary, but although she appears in one of my books, Katherine Howard has escaped my full attention. Now, having written, No Other Will Than His, I think she may find herself the subject of one of my novels quite soon. She is a fascinating woman.

As with every aspect of history, there are differing opinions on her true nature. Some see her as an innocent young girl whose abused childhood made her an easy target for Norfolk's political manoeuvres. For others, she was a woman of loose morals who knew exactly what she was taking on. We will never know the full truth; we never know the full truth of anything.


In No Other Will Than His I have taken the middle road, a mix of recorded history, myth and imagination. Katherine is a victim of abuse, relatively uneducated, enamoured of pretty things and lured into the royal marriage by the promise of riches rather than power. She seems to have been content enough at first, an old man's darling enjoying her new status but totally out of her depth politically. It is only when she becomes involved with the unscrupulous Culpepper that she realises she cannot remain faithful to the ageing Henry. Whether her lover, Tom Culpepper, was the romantic young lover often depicted in fiction or the corrupt rogue that historical research suggests, Katherine seems to have loved him.

I’ve often wondered how Katherine felt about stepping into her dead cousin’s shoes. She must have thought about her. She was an adolescent at the time of Anne's execution but the scandal and speculation about her life and death would have continued to circulate. Perhaps Katherine saw Anne as an innocent victim, perhaps she believed the allegations of treason and incest but surely, at some point leading up to her marriage to Henry, Katherine thought about Anne and wondered what her own future held.

People of the Tudor age were far more familiar with death than we are today. Our expectation is to live to old age but in the Tudor era infant death, death in childbirth, death from contagion was commonplace. Judicial death was also normal but the execution of an anointed queen is something peculiar only to Henry VIII’s reign.

In my story, Katherine is inured to violence. She has grown up with it. She believes unquestioningly in God and an afterlife. As was the case with so many others, her faith enables her to face death with a maturity and courage she lacked in life.

 I saw a pig slaughtered in the farmyard once. The butcher struck the sow on the head before hoisting its prone body on a rope. I peeked around the corner of the barn as he slit its throat, and I saw the blade of the knife slicing through the thick, rubbery skin as if it were butter. Crimson blood oozed into a bowl and when the body was empty, the wound gaped wide, like a screaming mouth. The butcher turned the corpse into chops and sausages but the mangled body of my cousin was hurriedly squeezed into an old arrow chest, her intelligent head shoved beneath her arm.

Despite the negative aspects of Katherine’s life and personality it cannot be disputed that although she was half her cousin’s age she faced execution as bravely as Anne Boleyn.


Mary Anne: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing Historical Fiction?


Judith Arnopp: The research. I spend months reading up on the subject, trying to make some order of the differing records, opposing accounts, contrasting opinions. I have to be aware of them all but when I begin to write I put all research aside and allow my character to relate their own story. It is rather as if they are giving evidence, explaining the whys and wherefores.


It is a constant battle between the fictional character wanting to do one thing while history dictates they must do another - this is where the character’s own opinion comes in. We know from history that they took a certain action but history can never fully explain why they might have taken it. It is all open to supposition.


Mary Anne: What advice do you have for aspiring Historical Fiction authors?


Judith Arnopp: I am tempted to say ‘don’t do it’ but if they have the heart and the thick skin to cope with the sometimes rather cruel criticism then that would be the wrong advice. I’d suggest they research thoroughly and keep as true as possible to the historical record; if they wander from the record then be sure to add an author’s note pointing out where and why.


My number one negative thing about HF, and the thing that will make me stop reading a book, is the demonization of historical figures. Take Henry VIII for example. Some of Henry’s acts were undoubtedly brutal, or they seem so today, but that doesn’t mean he was a monster – monsters don’t exist. They never have done. People do bad things. Rather than making your characters pantomime villains, dig a little deeper and consider how and why they became a ‘bad’ person.


I have no love for Henry VIII but I feel as an author I have to remain objective. I put aside my preconceptions. To my surprise Henry emerges as more tragic than evil. He was human and like all of us, he was flawed. He tried desperately to be the man and king his father and grandmother trained him to be. He needed strong sons but his failure put the Tudor dynasty at risk. With just one small boy to follow him, Henry knew from experience (the sudden death of his older brother Arthur) that one son wasn’t enough. When the sons failed to appear he grew desperate to secure his dynasty and in doing so struck out at those he loved. He killed his friends, men he’d looked up to all his life, the woman he had fought for seven years to possess and he brought down the church he once championed. The older and sicker and more desperate he became the worse his acts grew. It is a horrible thing to recognise failure in oneself and Henry, once so full of potential, died in the knowledge that he had failed in his primary duty as king. He had let the side down.


So in short, when writing about a known historical figure, try to worm your way into their minds and discover a human being instead of a cardboard cut-out. The result will be far more interesting.


Also please hire an editor. So many potentially great books are ruined by sloppy editing.

Mary Anne: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to chat with us!


Royal Blood

A HWA Short Story Collection

‘The drama, intrigue, and clashing contrasts of Tudor times brought vividly to life.’ Imogen Robertson

Immerse yourself in the Tudor period through a diverse collection of informed and entertaining short story narratives.

Read about some of your favourite characters from established series, or be introduced to new writers in the genre.

The stories in Royal Blood bring the Tudor era richly to life, presenting suspense, rivalry, espionage and historical drama.

This stunning new collection, brought to you by the Historical Writers' Association, also includes interviews with each author.

Find out more about their writing processes and what attracts them to the Tudor world.

Royal Blood is a must read for all fans of historical fiction.


Pick up your copy of

Royal Blood:

A HWA Short Story Collection

for only 0.99 on #Kindle for a Limited Time

Amazon UK • Amazon US

Add Royal Blood to your 'to-read' list on


Authors and Stories Featured in Royal Blood:

Judith Arnopp – ‘No Other Will Than His’ Katherine Howard

David Field – One for the Road

Elizabeth Fremantle – The Sum of Me

Philip Gooden – Exit Ghost

Michael Jecks – The Earl’s Purse

John Pilkington – A False Hawksman

Peter Tonkin – A Palpable Hit

Steven Veerapen – Lantern and Light

Michael Ward – The North-East Passage


Historical Fiction author, Rachel Wesson, new book — A Home For Unloved Children — is now available for pre-order! #HistoricalFiction @wessonwrites

A Home For Unloved Children

By Rachel Wesson


Her heart broke as she took in the scene before her. There were too many orphans and not enough beds. The rags they wore barely covered them and they hadn’t eaten in days. How could anyone let innocent children live like this? She picked up a tiny baby who’d cried as she moved past his cot. “I’ll be back soon, little one.”

Virginia, 1933: Lauren Greenwood was born to look pretty and land a rich husband. For her and her high-society family, it’s easy to forget that America is in the devastating grip of the Great Depression, where children run wild in the streets, endless queues for soup kitchens line sidewalks, and desperation hangs in the air.

But when a young servant comes to Lauren, pregnant and begging for help, her world crumbles. Someone she loves is responsible, and when she finds out the shocking truth she must decide: protect the Greenwood name or be cast out?

When the servant girl is thrown mercilessly into the street, Lauren knows what choice to make. Suddenly she is homeless and without a penny to her name––utterly broken by her family’s betrayal.

With nowhere else to go, Lauren takes the servant to a home for unwanted children. She is appalled to find orphans living in squalid conditions, their hunger keeping them awake and making them too weak to even play. The orphanage is on the brink of closure––and those it shelters may lose the roof over their heads…  

Yet Lauren refuses to allow such suffering. And when she sees an advertisement in the local newspaper, with an anonymous benefactor promising to donate money to families crippled by the Depression, it could be the answer to her prayers. Can she save the orphans––and her new home––in time for Christmas?

A heartbreaking yet hopeful tale about a brave young woman who gives up everything to help unloved children who have nothing. Fans of Before We Were YoursThe Orphan Train and Diney Costeloe will adore this poignant historical novel, which shows that a little bit of kindness can go a long way.


Pre-order your copy of

A Home For Unloved Children

AmazonApple BooksKoboGoogle

Released on October 26th 2020


Rachel Wesson

Rachel Wesson is the author of several best selling series including her latest based on the Orphan Trains. Having always been a fan of history, Rachel tries to combine her love of history with a good story. 

Rachel Wesson was born in Kilkenny, Ireland but considers herself to be from the capital, Dublin as that’s where she spent most of her life. Her dad brought Rachel and her two sisters out every Saturday to give their mother a break. He took them to the library and for ice-cream after. It took a long time for her sisters to forgive her for the hours she spent choosing her books!

She grew up driving everyone nuts asking them questions about what they did during the War or what side they were on in the 1916 rising etc. Finally her Granny told her to write her stories down so people would get the pleasure of reading them. In fact what Granny meant was everyone would get some peace while Rachel was busy writing!  
When not writing, or annoying relatives, Rachel was reading. Her report cards from school commented on her love of reading especially when she should have been learning. Seems you can't read Great Expectations in Maths.

After a doomed love affair and an unpleasant bank raid during which she defended herself with a tea tray, she headed to London for a couple of years. (There is a reason she doesn’t write romance!). She never intended staying but a chance meeting with the man of her dreams put paid to any return to Ireland. Having spent most of her career in the City, she decided something was missing. Working in the City is great but it’s a young person’s dream. Having three children you never see isn’t good for anyone. So she packed in the job and started writing. Thanks to her amazing readers, that writing turned into a career far more exciting and rewarding than any other.  

Rachel lives in Surrey with her husband and three children, two boys and a girl. When not reading, writing or watching films for “research” purposes, Rachel likes to hang out with her family. She also travels regularly back home – in fact she should have shares in BA and Aerlingus.


Connect with Rachel:






Check out Miranda Malins' fabulous book — The Puritan Princess #HistoricalFiction #ThePuritanPrincess @MirandaMalins

The Puritan Princess

 By Miranda Malins


The youngest daughter of Oliver Cromwell, eighteen-year-old Frances is finding her place at England's new centre of power.

Following the turmoil of Civil War, a fragile sense of stability has returned to the country. Her father has risen to the unprecedented position of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, and Frances has found herself transported from her humble childhood home to the sumptuous palaces of Hampton Court and Whitehall, where she dreams of romance.

But after an assassination attempt on the Cromwell family, Frances realises the precarious danger of her position - and when her father is officially offered the crown, Frances' fate becomes a matter of diplomatic and dynastic importance.

Trapped in the web of court intrigue, Frances must make a choice. Allow herself to be a political pawn, or use her new status to take control - of her own future, and of her country's...




30 January 1661


We stand together, shoulder to shoulder, skirt to skirt, like a chain of paper dolls, come to see our father's execution.


Our hoods are pulled low over our faces although, in truth, few in the crowd would recognise us without our finery: we grace no coins, no medals or prints, and it is hardly likely any of them would have seen our portraits hanging, as they had, in the palaces of Whitehall and Hampton Court.


A frosted blast of wind whips around my cloak and sends the three nooses hanging from the gallows before me swinging as if the condemned men already danced their deaths. I stare at the gibbet in blank horror. It is a terrible thing, vast and three-sided like a triangle, designed, Father once told me, to hold twenty-four souls at a time.

‘Why did it have to be here?’ I speak sideways to my sisters. It is somehow worse, much worse, that it is happening at Tyburn, the dirty, eerie crossroads outside London where they hang common felons: highwaymen, thieves, murderers. ‘Parliament settled on treason as the crime, so it should have been the Tower.’


‘They wish to make a point, I suppose,’ Mary answers. ‘Some warning against men rising so far above their station.’


Fear creeps up my back like a spider and I feel it crawl along my arm and onto Mary’s. She shivers against me.


‘We shouldn’t have come,’ I say.


Mary stiffens. ‘We were right to come, Frances. Father would want us to be here; we were his soldiers too.’


Her words conjure images of the russet-coated Ironsides of the old days and, as I watch them march through the air, I am surprised again by the resolve Mary has shown in these past days; it used to be me who was the brave one.


‘We are here for Henry too,’ Bridget says quietly on my other side, her voice breaking over his name.


And that is when we hear them coming. A slow drumbeat parts the crowds and a dragging, catching sound behind it takes me back instantly to my early childhood when the boys drove the ploughs up and down the marshy fields outside Ely. But this is no plough. I know, without turning, that it is a hurdle, a great gnarled gate on which the horses have drawn the prisoners all the way along Holborn; a strange route to take from Westminster Abbey but, once again, symbolic – a final pretence that the men had come not from the sanctified chapel of kings but from Newgate prison, as most come to Tyburn.


The crowd begins to swell forward, nudging us closer to the scaffold. I smile in the sudden memory of what my brother-in-law Charles had reported Father saying to General Lambert, the day their great army marched north to fight the Scots. There, upon Lambert remarking on the cheering, massing throng waving and wishing them success, Father had quipped that the crowd would be as noisy to see him hang.

How right he was.


But as I peer from beneath my hood at the faces around me, I realise that Father was only partly right. As many are here to see him hanged, it is true, but they are not cheering and bustling as they had been to see him lead his army. Nor are they laughing, drinking and pinching each other with the holiday mood that I understand usually accompanies public hangings. They are solemn, watchful, nervous.


For this is no ordinary execution. This crowd has come to witness something grotesque; an act outside the conventions of normal society, a violation of God’s law, a performance of pure, visceral vengeance by their so-called ‘merry monarch’. This would be a traitor’s death for men beyond the reach of the law, beyond the reach even of the king; a second death for men already with God.


For these prisoners are already dead.


They are not living men that the hangman and his assistants now unstrap from the hurdle and haul upright to stand, propped awkwardly beneath each noose, wrapped in their death shrouds. They are corpses, disturbed from their consecrated sleep, taken from their allotted square of earth. Robbed from their Christian graves.


John Bradshaw, president of the court that tried the young Charles Stuart’s father, the tyrant King Charles.


Henry Ireton, Bridget’s husband and the fiercest, cleverest man in Father’s army.


And Father, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell.

At the sight of Henry, Bridget’s hand creeps into mine and I think how, though she had taken a long time to accept Henry as a suitor, she had grown to love him deeply. Something in the gesture – in the childlike feel of her small hand in mine; her, my big, brave sister, so much older than me, so strong, so sure of herself and of her nearness to God – breaks me.


‘Father!’ I blurt out the word though I know better. ‘Our Father…’ Louder now. Heads turn towards us.


Mary seizes my hands and bows her head: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come…’


I remember myself and mumble along with her. The heads turn back to the gallows.


I watch, cold tears tumbling down my cheeks, as the hooded bodies are strung up with a great fanfare and a proclamation condemning the traitors is read to the crowd, the wind whisking the words away from all but those closest to the steps. The accused men cannot stand on stools to await their fate, of course, neither can they be hanged without their shrouds for risk of their bodies disintegrating on the scaffold. And so the swaddled, decaying bodies are hoisted up instead to swing aimlessly in the air, no kicking and jerking convulsing their shapes but instead a still, almost serene acceptance.


They are not there, I tell myself. They are with God. No-one can hurt Father now.


We stand there for hours, numb from the cold, until with the winter sun slipping towards the horizon they are cut down, falling with a dull, muffled thud onto the ground below. With the corpses at his feet, the executioner draws a huge axe from beneath the straw and instinctively the crowd pulls forward for a closer look. Still in their green-moulded death shrouds, the men are arranged like animals on a slab before a butcher. The executioner paces before the bodies, tilting his head to examine the angles and cuts which would produce the best joints. Satisfied and with a last stretch and cricking of his neck and shoulders, he sets to work.


The heads are struck off first, the swaddling grave clothes dulling the axe’s impact so that it takes eight violent attempts to hack off Father’s head, almost as many to remove Henry’s; each blow followed by a gasp from the crowd. The executioner holds each head aloft, not bothering to keep them at arm’s length, certain for once that no fresh blood will fall on his jacket. His assistants join in then and toes and fingers are attacked next, those nearest to the scaffold scrabbling forward for a grisly souvenir. Bridget grips my fingers with her own and we lace our bones together fiercely as if, by this, we can counteract the dismembering playing out before our eyes.


When, at last, the butchers grow bored by their labours, the three headless trunks are thrown unceremoniously into a deep pit on one side of the gallows, dropping through the air to land on top of one another with a hideous muffled thump like sacks of flour thrown down from a mill-loft. The heads remain above ground, spirited into a bag from which they will no doubt be taken to sit atop spikes in the time-honoured way. I watch in horror as the distance between the heads and bodies grows. I have been told that the old king was made whole again after his head was struck off: that it was carefully sewn back onto his body before it was lowered into the holy crypt of the chapel at Windsor castle. There will be no such happy fate for our beloveds, forced to spend eternity headless in an unmarked pit of thieves and murderers.


I can look no more, turning my eyes instead on the men, women and children pressed around me. Each face is caught, fixed in a moment of horror like a smashed clock. Could there be one among them who is not thinking of the moment on this same day twelve years ago when the traitor king’s head had been held out above the scaffold at Whitehall? Mary and I had not been told of it for months. We were mere children and a conspiracy of silence attempted to keep us that way; broadsheets were hidden, letters thrust hastily into pockets and servants hushed. I look across at Bridget. She had known of course – she had been a new bride then, starting her family with Henry. She had been in the gallery at the king’s trial and Henry had signed the death warrant; ninth on the vellum. Bradshaw first. Father third.


I close my eyes and savour the silence. When men come to write of this – the chroniclers, the gossips, the hacks and government newsmen who even now press against the scaffold, notes and pens in hand – they will say how the people cheered to see Old Noll, the great usurper, strung up and cut down to size; how justice was done and how God smiled on this day.


But we will know the truth. We are here too.


The Puritan Princess (Orion Fiction) is out now in all bookshops available in hardback, ebook and audiobook. The paperback will be released in February 2021 with a prequel to follow soon after.



Miranda Malins

Miranda is a writer and historian specialising in the history of Oliver Cromwell, his family and the politics of the Interregnum period following the Civil War. She studied at Cambridge University, leaving with a PhD, and continues to speak at conferences and publish journal articles and book reviews. She also enjoys being a Trustee of the Cromwell Association. Alongside this, Miranda works as a commercial solicitor in the City and began writing historical novels on maternity leave. She lives in Hampshire with her husband, young sons and cat Keats.


Connect with Miranda:




Thursday, 13 August 2020

Check out Cassandra Clark's fabulous book — The Hour of the Fox # HistoricalFiction #Thriller @Nunsleuth

The Hour of the Fox

 (A Brother Chandler Mystery)

By Cassandra Clark

As rumours spread that his ambitious cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, has returned from exile in France, King Richard’s grip on the English throne grows ever more precarious.  Meanwhile, the body of a young woman is discovered at Dowgate sluice.  When it’s established that the dead woman was a novice from Barking Abbey, the City coroner calls in his friend, brother Rodric Chandler, to investigate.


Who would cut the throat of a young nun and throw her naked body in the sluice where she could be found?  And what was she doing outside the confines of her priory in the first place?  Secretly acting as a spy for Henry Bolingbroke, Chandler is torn by conflicting loyalties and agonising self-doubts.  As King Richard’s duplicitous cousin marches towards London and England teeters on the brink of civil war, Chandler’s investigations will draw him into affairs of state - and endanger not only himself but all those around him.


Praise for The Hour of the Fox


‘The evil machinations in 1399 England are worthy of a particularly harrowing Game of Thrones episode.  Taking advantage of the absence of his cousin King Richard,  Henry Bolingbroke returns with his allies from exile in France in an attempt to seize the crown for himself. Brother Rodric Chandler, known to look out for Bolingbroke’s interests, is often called upon to question prisoners being tortured in the Tower of London:  he is ambivalent about his role and cynical about his lack of faith……(more)

The mystery is a slender thread woven through rich historical detail in this intriguing introduction to a conflicted hero.’


KIRKUS (starred review)


‘….This medieval mystery, the first in a new series, is set against the real-life backdrop of Henry Bolingbroke’s scheming for the crown and Geoffrey Chaucer, penning The Canterbury Tales.  The history is meticulously researched ad depicted with sprinklings of fact on almost every page, so much so that Brother Chandler’s sleuthing may appeal to non-fiction readers looking for variety in their reading just as much as the fans of Clark’s popular Hildegard of Meaux medieval mystery series.’




Pick up your copy of

The Hour of the Fox

Amazon UKAmazon US

Add The Hour of the Fox to your ‘to-read’ list on




Cassandra Clark

I ought to say a little bit about why I love the medieval period so much. It started when I was a small child and lived in what was really a medieval village with the church - built by the Black Prince, King Richard's father - at one end of the high street and the castle with its moat at the other. It doesn't need much imagination to make up stories about what might have happened in a place like that.


I gained an M.A. from the University of East Anglia and taught for the Open University on the Humanities Foundation course in subjects as diverse as history, philosophy, music and religion.


Since then I have written many plays and contemporary romances as well as the libretti for several chamber operas. I ran a lunchtime theatre in York above a medieval coaching inn, have written for street theatre groups and worked with installation artists on various projects.


Connect with Cassandra:

WebsiteTwitterFacebookAmazon Author Page.