Readers -- today I am blessed to have Sandra Byrd here on Austenitis! She's coming to talk about her newest book, Secret Keeper. Make sure you read my review from earlier today!
Welcome, Sandra! I’m so glad to be talking with you about your book, The Secret Keeper. Could you please give us a little auto-biography?
Here it is, from my website!
After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd persevered to publish more than three dozen books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a finalist for the Christy Award, as was To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2011. Sandra's YA fiction has also been recognized within the industry. Asking for Trouble, the first in the London Confidential series, was a finalist for the ECPA Medallion of Excellence award.
A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra is also a non-fiction writer and author, with articles in numerous publications and periodicals. Sandra is also passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.
Sandra resides in Washington State with her husband Michael, a chaplain, their two children, and a circus dog named Brie.
Please tell us a little bit about the plot of The Secret Keeper.
Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father's business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.
Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his concerns with Juliana's father's estate and sees instantly that Juliana would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in Parr's household for "finishing" and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly.
For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king's daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.
As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII's court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will undo everything she holds dear.
Such a great book. Now, I’m curious…why did you skip from Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife (on whom To Die For was focused), to Kateryn Parr, the sixth wife?
Jane Seymour had a very short life after her marriage, there wasn't enough to interest me, personally, in writing her story. Anne of Cleves has had little written about her but she was not in the Tudor Court for very long, so the book would have been focused well away from the "action." Katherine Howard was a very young woman when she caught Henry's eye. I find her situation to be sympathetic, but she hadn't lived long enough by the time she was beheaded to provide the kind of historical tapestry I wanted.
Then again, Anne, Kateryn, and Elizabeth are my personal favorites. I spend a long time with these ladies, researching and writing, so I needed to make sure I wanted to be in their company for years!
Is it hard to write while sticking to the historical facts?
No, I find it a thrilling challenge to be able to craft a fictional story around well known facts. It makes me feel like, "This really could have happened this way!" I hope it makes my readers feel that way, too.
What was your favorite part of Secret Keeper to write?
The ending. I write about life as it really is, and that includes some painful parts, both to live and to read. But I'll always Happily Ever After endings in every book.
Is there any special story about the cover?
We wanted to put a garden on the cover because the Tudors were rightly proud of their lovely gardens, and there aren't very many Tudor book covers with them on it. Also, Sudeley Castle, which is where Kateryn Parr gave birth to her daughter, and which is the home most often associated with her, is well known for its lovely gardens.
How long did it take you to write Secret Keeper?
It takes me about a year to write each of my books, including the research.
I saw you have a title for the next book in the Ladies in Waiting series, Roses Have Thorns. And another amazing cover! Would you like to tell us a bit about the book?
Here's the publisher's blurb:
Sandra Byrd has attracted countless fans for evoking the complexity, grandeur, and brutality of the Tudor period. In her latest tour de force, she poses the question: What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage—or your life?
In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiancé has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen’s downfall, Helena is forced to choose between her unyielding monarch and the husband she’s not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.
Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.
Your biggest fan and supporter is...
My husband, for sure. I couldn't write without him. He does everything from encourage and admonish to hand translate entire books from Swedish to English for me. What a man!
What is your favorite time period to read about? How about to write about?
I love to read about almost anything, but I prefer history and ethnographies to almost all other reading. Historical England is my favorite setting for reading and writing, but I also love Japan and India.
What is one thing you dread doing?
Getting reviews. :) Even when they're good, there's a certain amount of anxiety attached. And when they are less-than-favorable, I learn something, but it always stings a little.
I can definitely see how that’d be something to dread! If you could visit any country, continent, or place, where would you go and why?
England is my favorite place to visit, followed by France. I have not yet been to India, but I would love to visit.
Which of your book covers is your favorite?
Oh, I love each of the covers in this series, the Artistic Director is really gifted. He conveys both the period and emotions so well.
I agree! These covers are amazing. Thanks so much for coming, Sandra! How can our readers learn more about you, or contact you?
Thank you so much for having me; I love to visit your blog. I also love to hear from readers! Please visit my website at www.sandrabyrd.com; poke around the Tudor Hall for a bit and then send an email to me and let me know what you think!