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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interview with Robert Parry, author of The Arrow Chest

Hello dear readers!  Please welcome Robert Parry, author of yesterdays book, The Arrow Chest and also of the novel, Virgin and the Crab, a book about John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor.

Hello Robert,

1.) Anne Boleyn helped to transform England and then was tossed aside and buried, literally. Besides this, what is it about Anne Boleyn that made you want to write her story?

We know so very little about her, and into this vacuum all kinds of intriguing questions inevitably arise. What was it about her character – what was it about her appearance and personality that made her special? I wanted to speculate on these things and about what might have taken place in the relationship with the King. A misplaced word or jest, a conversation misconstrued, a clash of personalities or temperaments. What was it? What went wrong? It is important to consider this, since it was a relationship that shaped history, plunged us into a Reformation of the Church in England and almost led to civil war.

2.) As you researched and wrote your story, has your opinion of Anne or Henry or Wyatt for that matter changed? For better or worse?

During the research and early drafts I became if anything even more sympathetic towards Anne, realising the dreadful predicament she must have faced at the time. I think she realised she was doomed fairly early on in the relationship with Henry – hunted down, so to speak. If she was also in love with someone else, not necessarily Tom Wyatt, but someone other than Henry, it would have made her feel even more desperate as time went by. I mean, how do you reconcile a love for someone else with an offer like that – of becoming Queen of England – with wealth and prestige beyond measure? It could well have torn her apart. It is an old story, too: Guinevere and Arthur, with Lancelot at the other corner of the triangle. It is surely also one that is lived out on a smaller scale everywhere, all over the world, in countless relationships and marriages.

3.) Did you consider another time period in which to base your story? If so, why or why not? (Although I must admit Victorian England is perfect for so many reasons.)

Naturally, I did consider basing it in the time when it took place, Tudor England. But in the end I thought it would be easier to explore the characters if they were all moved forward in time, a little closer to home in the Victorian era. I love the whole culture and artistic atmosphere of the Victorians – the revival of Gothic architecture, the Pre-Raphaelite painters, the extravagant fashions. It was easy to find surrogates for Henry, Anne and Wyatt there. Also, the Victorians underwent their own crisis of faith - the influence of Darwin and the threat this represented to the Church – just as the Reformation threatened the Church in Tudor times. Putting all that together, all those parallels, and it was easy to decide – it just had to be a Gothic romance.

4.) You have written about Queen Elizabeth and now Anne Boleyn. What other historical women would you like to write about? Any men perhaps?

There has always been a hero as well as a heroine in both these stories. It is through the male perception that the women are mostly portrayed – which, being male myself, is only natural I think. In my first novel ‘Virgin and the Crab’ it is the astronomer and alchemist John Dee who becomes the companion and mentor to Elizabeth – and we follow her story largely through his eyes. And in ‘The Arrow Chest’ it is the painter Amos Roselli who becomes the ‘Tom Wyatt’ or ‘Lancelot’ figure, the 3rd corner of the triangle and who experiences the life of the heroine – her name is Daphne – through his own perceptions. I think us boys need to tread carefully if we attempt to tell a woman’s story entirely from a woman’s point of view. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just pretty difficult, and there are lots of wonderful women novelists who do the job perfectly well already.

As for my next heroine – well, she might be someone without a famous name. Though, to be sure, there are plenty of marvelous candidates among the history books for any author, male or female, to chose from.

5.) With respect to writing, have you always wanted to be a writer, or is it something that you realized later in life?

I have always wanted to either write or to paint, and have always done one or the other. You could say that writing is painting with words – though it is also much more than just that. Every good painting should also tell a story, too, perhaps. For me, they are very similar.

6.) Who are some of your favorite authors or what are some of your all time favorite books?

My tastes are not really all that exciting in this respect. Like most writers, I’m fond of the classics – so Shakespeare, Dickens, the Brontes - stuff like that. And I usually enjoy any writer who pitches a deeper message into the mix. So I have a soft spot for the spiritual dimensions of a Herman Hesse or the atmospheric intensity of a Daphne DuMaruier or Virginia Woolf. Anything with depth and intensity of colour. (There you go, painting again!) I don’t have any favourite books, either. Just whatever I happen to be reading at the time.

7.) Did anyone or any specific work inspire you to start writing?

To be honest, I really don’t think so. Not that I can recall, anyway. Just normal people from history and what we know about their lives - and great music, too, these have always inspired me to write. Looks like my inspirational wires are all crossed, aren‘t they!

8.) When you are not busy writing, what else do you like to do? What are some of your other hobbies?

I’m very fond of gardening. To build and to maintain a garden is not only a great way to keep fit, it is also one of the most spiritual things one can ever undertake. It is something that requires creativity, dedication, humility and patience. You can tell so much about a person by looking at their garden. It might be nothing more than a window box, or it might be the grounds of a palace, but it’s the way they tend it that reveals the person within. Alternatively, it might be nothing at all – no garden. And that speaks volumes, too.

9.) What can we expect to see from you next?

Thank you for asking. It will be an historical novel, for sure. That’s what I enjoy writing about most of all.

Robert thanks so much for joining us today.  Please be sure to visit Robert's website to stay up to date on all his projects.
Thanks again to Teddy of Premiere Virtual Author Tours for coordinating this interview.