Author Interview with
Claire Ridgway is the founder of The Anne Boleyn Files, Tudor Society and Tudor Life Magazine. She is the bestselling author of many books about the Tudors, including several books on Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat, Sweating Sickness: In a Nutshell and Tudor Places of Great Britain. Recently Claire wrote “Illustrated Kings and Queens of England” published with MadeGlobal Publishing.
I am delighted and honoured to have been able to interview this enormously busy author and thank Claire for her time to answer my questions.
Could you share with us a little about the process of writing your latest book?
Thank you, Debra, for inviting me to your blog today, I'm so happy to be here. I was inspired to write this book after I bought an antique set of John Cassell's 19th-century History of England. I wanted to combine giving readers a “taster” of the lives and reigns of England's monarchs, while also bringing to life some of the engravings which illustrated Cassell's books for a new audience. I focused on the research and writing aspect, consulting various books, blogs and archives, while my husband Tim and daughter Verity focused on adding colour to the engravings of the monarchs. For later monarchs, we had an artist create engraving-style images from photographs of them. It was a fun project.
What was the most difficult challenge in writing this book?
Obviously, you could write full-length biographies on each of these kings and queens, so it was a challenge to condense their lives into just a page for this book. I don't know how many times I rewrote and edited this book! The ones I found hardest to condense were the Tudor monarchs, with Tudor history being my specialism, and monarchs like Charles I with the Civil War happening during his reign. What can you leave out? It was so tricky to strike the right balance.
Have you travelled to research your books? If so, which places did you visit?
I've used my research as an excuse to travel to historic sites in the UK (Hever Castle, Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace…), here in Spain and even in France (Paris and Amboise), but I haven't had to travel to research my books. Most of the documents I use for my research have been transcribed and digitised or reproduced in books, and others I've been able to order copies/photos of from archives like the National Archives and British Library. I've definitely travelled back in time by immersing myself in primary sources, though!
Who is your favourite person of the 15th Century and why?
Hmmm… so many to choose from! Thomas Boleyn was born in the 15th century, so I'd have to say him. So many people think of him as a “baddie”, someone who encouraged his daughters to sleep with the king so that he could rise in favour, but that's not what history tells us. Thomas Boleyn was already a royal favourite before his daughters were even at the English court and he certainly had no reason to “pimp” them out to the king. He fascinates me because of his Reformed faith and the way that he appears to have been a patron of reformers, his incredible career and faithful service to two kings, and the way that he gave his daughter Anne the opportunity of finishing her education on the Continent. He was an enlightened man, and I find it so sad that he is maligned the way that he is.
If I had to step out of my zone and choose another historical figure from the 15th century, then I would choose Jasper Tudor. To most people, if they've even heard of him, he's simply the uncle of Henry VII, but he was also a skilled soldier, and I think his knowledge and expertise definitely helped Henry become king. I love your biography of him, Debra!
What sparked your interest in history and the 16th Century in particular?
Good teaching. I covered the Tudors in primary school and then at A Level my history course was divided into two – British History, covering the Tudors and Stuarts, and European, which included a unit on the European Reformation. Then, at University, as part of my course on Religion, I covered the Reformation again. I was very lucky with the teachers and lecturers I had for all of those, they brought the period to life and piqued my interest. It is so easy for children to be turned off history, to see it as a dead subject but a good teacher passes their passion on to their students.
Although I'm known for my work on Anne Boleyn, my first love was actually the European Reformation. Even now, the aspect of Anne Boleyn that fascinates me the most is her faith. I love reading the religious texts that I know she read, works like those of Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples.
If you had the power to change the past and re-write anything that happened, which event would you choose to change?
I really wouldn't want that power as I think that things happen for a reason. Obviously, I wish that Anne Boleyn hadn't been executed in May 1536 but changing that might have all kinds of unforeseen consequences. Then what about things like the Holocaust, the slaughter of indigenous people, the rules of dictators, wars, massacres, global warming, the extinction of beautiful animals, disasters? I wouldn't want to play God, not at all!
If you could ask any historical person a question, who would you ask and what would it be?
I'd give Henry VIII some kind of truth drug or hook him up to a lie detector and then ask him if he was behind the plot against Anne Boleyn in 1536.
Do you have a favourite historical place?
You do ask some tough questions! I'm torn between two. I love Hever Castle. I know it's quite far removed now from the home and gardens that Anne would have known, but there are elements that are the same, and I love wandering around it and touching the wall and thinking “the Boleyns touched this”. I was lucky enough to stay at Hever Castle for a few days, and we dined in the castle dining room, and I was in my element. There was a roaring fire, we were surrounded by tapestries and portraits, and we even had a Henry VIII to entertain us! That was quite special, and I kept thinking about the Boleyns enjoying family meals in that same room. Hever is where Anne spent her childhood, where she had happy times away from court.
My other favourite place is Kenilworth Castle. It holds fond memories for me as I spent my student days nearby and would often visit the castle. But the thing that really strikes me now is that parts of it stand as a testament to the love of Robert Dudley for Elizabeth I. For her visit to his castle in 1575, Dudley built a new block of state apartments and a new gatehouse, he ordered the creation of a new privy garden and pleasure grounds and all kinds of lavish entertainment. The gatehouse still stands today, and some parts of the apartments, and English Heritage have recreated the privy garden, and visiting there always makes me very emotional. It's like his love for her is stamped on those ruins and speaks to me down through the ages. I'm such a silly romantic sometimes!
What was the last book you read?
I'm reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon at the moment and am loving every minute of it. I think I'm on the fourth book and I'm forever telling my daughter “Dinna fash yourself, Sassenach”! I think I might be hooked, so the series will keep me busy for a while.
What is your favourite book?
This is an impossible question, so I'm changing it and making it plural – sorry! My favourite books are The Bible, To Kill a Mockingbird, the whole of the Harry Potter series, and Anne of Green Gables. I would choose Little Women, but that was just too sad, traumatic really.
What three new skills would you like to learn?
Knitting, talking to bears (my favourite animal) and writing blockbuster fiction.
What do you like to do outside writing?
Reading and playing board games. We're board game addicts in our family – Risk (I've just discovered Risk Legacy!), Pandemic, The Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Trivial Pursuit, Small World… you name it, and we play it!
Describe for us a day in your life when you are writing?
I don't think a day goes by when I don't write, but my usual weekday is made up of me writing and publishing my “on this day in history” posts on social media, which come from my book On This Day in Tudor History, and then I will divide my time between researching and writing for blog articles, magazine articles and book projects. I work from breakfast until about 3 pm when we start to cook lunch – our children get back from school at 3.30 pm and lunch is eaten then in Spain – and then I get back to it while the children do their homework. I'll work until about 7/7.30 pm and then I'll relax, sort out a late tea for the family and just veg really.
What does your writing space look like?
A mess! As I sit here writing this, I am surrounded by open books, pads of paper, an empty bowl (it had nuts and dried fruit in it), and a cat who is trying to take over my desk. I have a laptop and an extra screen, as I like to be writing on one and looking at a document or source on the other. My computer is also a mess – I have so many tabs open as I use so many different sources and tend to multi-task too. It's all a mess, but an organised one if you know what I mean. I know what I'm doing and where everything is, but nobody else would!
My husband, Tim, who owns MadeGlobal Publishing sits diagonally opposite me, and we fight about who's going to put the kettle on, let the dogs out or answer the door! Opposite me, on the wall, is a vision board with pictures of things I want to do and achieve. I like to look up at it now and then and just dream.
Are you presently working on a new project?
Yes, lots of them. I've been working on The Fall of Catherine Howard: A Countdown for a number of years but had to keep putting it to one side to get other projects done, so I'm back working on that now. It will be a day-by-day telling of Catherine's story and I think that format shows just how quickly she fell from being the woman described by Henry VIII's council as “a jewel for womanhood” to being condemned to death as a traitor. I'm also planning a graphic novel and another Anne Boleyn Collection book of articles. What with running The Anne Boleyn Files, the Tudor Society and helping Tim with MadeGlobal, I'm kept rather busy!
Claire Ridgway is the author of best-selling books including:
* ON THIS DAY IN TUDOR HISTORY
* THE FALL OF ANNE BOLEYN: A COUNTDOWN
* THE ANNE BOLEYN COLLECTION
* INTERVIEWS WITH INDIE AUTHORS: TOP TIPS FROM SUCCESSFUL SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS
* THE ANNE BOLEYN COLLECTION II
* GEORGE BOLEYN: TUDOR POET, COURTIER & DIPLOMAT
* TUDOR PLACES OF GREAT BRITAIN
* ILLUSTRATED KINGS AND QUEENS OF ENGLAND
Claire was also involved in the English translation and editing of Edmond Bapst’s 19th-century French biography of George Boleyn and Henry Howard, now available as TWO GENTLEMAN POETS AT THE COURT OF HENRY VIII. Claire worked in education and freelance writing before creating The Anne Boleyn Files history website and becoming a full-time history researcher, blogger and author. The Anne Boleyn Files is known for its historical accuracy and Claire’s mission to get to the truth behind Anne Boleyn’s story. Her writing is easy-to-read and conversational, and readers often comment on how reading Claire’s books is like having a coffee with her and chatting about history.
Claire loves connecting with Tudor history fans and helping authors and aspiring authors.
Claire Ridgway's books are available through all the Amazon sites.
"Illustrated Kings and Queens of England" is now available in HARDBACK and PAPERBACK.
To buy the book with discount directly from the Publisher click HERE.
Click on the buttons below to visit Claire's author pages on Amazon UK or Amazon US