TARNISH, Anne Boleyn, and Hearing Voices

Katherine Longshore 3 Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Back in the autumn of 2010, I was only playing with the idea of writing a book about Anne Boleyn.  GILT had just sold in a three-book deal and my mind was a whirl of ideas.  Characters like Arbella Stuart, Catherine Carey, Margaret Douglas and Catherine Willoughby all begged to be given voices.

Anne seemed the most obvious choice.  Even people unfamiliar with most English history have heard of her.  I considered writing about her life in France--even went so far as to ask my sister if she wanted to take a research trip with me.

When the deal was finalized, it explicitly stated, "Three books set in the court of Henry VIII."  Arbella Stuart was out (she served Queen Elizabeth).  France was out.

Anne stayed in my mind.  But I couldn't convince myself to delve into such well-traveled territory.  Philippa Gregory, Robin Maxwell and Carolyn Meyer have all written fictional accounts of her life, and many, many historians have covered her life in great detail.  How could I even begin to create something that felt fresh and compelling?

I was on a long drive (northern California is a big place!) and letting my mind drift over different ideas and scenarios.  I kept trying to redirect my interest to someone else.  But as I traveled up a winding mountain road, I "heard" a voice.

It wasn't quite a Joan-of-Arc-the-saints-are-talking-to-me voice.  I don't believe I was channeling ghosts and don't feel insane (most of the time).  But it was strong and vibrant and clearly not my own.  It was a character's voice.  A narrator's voice.  A writing voice.  I pulled into a rest area and wrote down everything that came to me.

The French Court:
French girls think only about clothes and fashion.
Queen Claude thinks only about God and piety.
King Francois thinks only about sex and debauchery.  And when he can enact them on my sister Mary.
And Mary?  Thinks of nothing at all.

The English Court:
English girls think only about boys.  
Queen Katherine thinks only about God and piety.
King Henry…thinks of humanism and theology.  Poetry and glorious music.  He is probably the most perfect figure of masculinity ever to grace the surface of the Earth.

But he, too, is screwing my sister.

The voice was brash, brassy, opinionated, irreverent.  And (I hoped) fresh.

These lines are not in the TARNISH that was published today.  Through the process of writing and revision, this character evolved, matured, mellowed and yet grew more bold and vibrant.  I loved writing her.  I loved her insolence and her vulnerability.  I loved how intensely she loved her siblings, and yet how competitive she was with them.  And I loved that those first few lines, scribbled hurriedly on the back of a grocery receipt, informed the entire novel.

I'm amazed that those scribbled lines led to something that will be on the shelves of bookstores and libraries and in the hands of readers.  And I am grateful to that voice for sinking its claws into my psyche and not letting go.  I hope she inspires you, too.

The "new" first line.


Happy book birthday, TARNISH!

And Katy, I love this glimpse of your first Anne jottings!

What a great first line! I love hearing how this voice "spoke" to you and what came of it. Happy launch to you and I look forward to reading this book!

Thank you, ladies! It's been a great day. :)

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