Thursday, June 21, 2012

Interview and Giveaway With Brandy Purdy

Let me start this post off by saying I met Purdy Online about two years ago when I stumbled across Vengeance is Mine which was the original tile of The Boleyn Wife. I sent her a desperate email because I wanted to read that book so badly and I had to find out how to get my hands on that book. Kindly, she responded to my email, and told me that it was published under the new title, and then she did something amazing, she offered to send me the book.

In that one moment of kindness, she made a lifelong reader. She not only sent me The Boleyn Wife, but also bookmarks to go with it. I still use one of those bookmarks and it is the longest that I have ever used a traditional bookmark (I was generally partial to ripped pieces of paper). I actually get really bummed out when I misplace it while on the couch reading (it only falls between the pillows). When I spent the summer in New Hampshire, I found myself excited when I saw her third book, The Tudor Throne on the bookshelves of the store. Naturally I bought it as my way of showing her that I still supported her and was interested in what she was writing.

So take this moment to get to know her, because she is a wonderful woman and writer. It will also behoove you to check out my Giveaway tab to see how you can find out all about this wonderful author.

Tell us a little about yourself.
There’s really not much to tell, I’m really rather boring. I lead a quiet life with my cat, Tabby; she’s my little girl and spoiled rotten with the prima donna personality to prove it, but I would be lost without her. I love books, reading and writing them, and I read anything that grabs my attention. I’m also a classic movie fan and love various kinds of music (if I were stranded on a desert island and could only have two cds with me I would want Mario Lanza and the Pet Shop Boys, that shows how eclectic my taste is), and I also like to bake red velvet cakes from scratch. I’ve been interested in history since I was about nine or ten years old, when I read a book of ghost stories and became captivated by the tale of Anne Boleyn’s ghost haunting the Tower of London, so I always try to include a ghost or some hint of the supernatural in my novels about the Tudors as a sort of homage to that moment of discovery of not one but two such fascinating subjects—history and ghosts—because it really did change my life. I come from a family that has zero interest in books or anything artistic so I’ve never really had anyone to encourage me, so if I hadn’t picked up that book by chance I might not be who I am today.

What inspired The Queen’s Pleasure?
Shortly after I read that book of ghost stories that awakened my interest in the Tudors, I read a book of unsolved mysteries by Rupert Furneaux, and it had a chapter on the mysterious death of Amy Robsart. I was intrigued and after that whenever I found a new book on the Tudors the first thing I would do was flip to the back, to the index, and see if there was anything about Amy. I was disappointed to discover how little is actually known about her. Even in fiction she is often overshadowed by the more glamorous and confident figure of Queen Elizabeth and her “did they or didn’t they?” romance with Amy’s husband, Robert Dudley. I always thought it was so sad that Amy seemed to only matter because of how she died, and the inconvenience it caused her husband and the Queen. And I decided at some point when I was still very young that if I ever wrote a novel someday I would like to try to give Amy back her voice, to let her have the spotlight for a change.

What made you decide to become a writer?
I think I always knew in a way that this is what I would do, but, for one reason or another I spent most of my life just reading and only dabbled with writing. Then, after my mother died ten years ago, I was an emotional wreck, for the first time in my life I couldn’t read, I remember picking up book after book, reading the same sentences over and over again, and not a single word registering. Then I picked up a book of royal scandals, it was one of those books that takes a fun, gossipy tone, and opened it at random, to the chapter about Piers Gaveston and Edward II. And I was able to read it. If I had ever heard the story before I didn’t recall it and I became very intrigued by Gaveston and I decided to write a novel. Of course no one took me seriously, but it was something for me to do, to keep me occupied while I recovered from my mother’s death. And I was very surprised to discover that I actually could do it, I never read a “how to write a novel” book or took a class; for me it was like these people you hear about who jump in the water for the first time and just start swimming, it was just there, I just knew how to do it.
I regard it as a gift, wherever it comes from, and I never take it for granted.

What was your favorite scene in The Queen’s Pleasure?
I’m sorry but I can’t tell without giving too much away, and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who might like to read it.

Was their any scene that was particularly hard to write? Was there one that you really enjoyed writing?
The scenes between Amy and Robert Dudley as their marriage disintegrates were the most difficult, depicting his dishonesty and duplicity, all the broken promises, his cruelty and chameleon-like qualities. And there’s a scene where Amy reads over the love letters he sent her during the early, happy days and sees them for the lies and meaningless, empty words they really are; that’s probably, so far, the hardest scene I’ve ever written. Let’s just say the Robert Dudley depicted in the pages of my novel is a composite of both real history and my own personal history with a liberal pinch of creative license thrown in.
The ones I enjoyed most were Amy’s final chapter and Elizabeth’s last narrated chapter. But I really don’t want to say too much about them since they are at the end; I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone.

What was your reaction when you found out that you were going to be published?
Amazement, of course!

Do you have an idea for your next book? If so care to spoil us?
I am currently finishing up a novel about the Grey Sisters—Lady Jane, Katherine, and Mary, told from the viewpoint of the latter. After that…It’s another Tudor novel, but I’d rather not say more until I’ve written an outline and my editor has approved it.

Where did you get the inspiration for it?
I found the differences between the three sisters intriguing and wanted to explore that.

Three out of your four books are about the Tudor kings and queens, what draws you to them?
I hadn’t originally planned to write so many books about the Tudors, there are so many interesting eras, lives, and stories from history that I would love to explore, and perhaps I will someday. But the Tudors are a fascinating family, it’s like a soap opera, only its real life and the personalities involved are so vibrant, it’s hard to resist being drawn in and captivated by them and their personal triumphs, tragedies, and dramas.

Which of your books would you like to see made into a movie most? Who would you like to see in them?
That would be a real treat for me, to have any of them made into a movie, since I love historical films. But I have no ideas about casting.

What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author?
There are so many, I don’t really have a favorite. Gone With the Wind, Forever Amber, Green Darkness, Through A Glass Darkly, The House of Gentle Men, and Stones From The River are some of my favorite historical novels that I would love to read again or have already read multiple times. My favorite biography is Bombshell, about the life of Jean Harlow, by David Stenn.

Who do you think has had the biggest influence on your writing?
I really don’t know if any particular person has influenced me, I’ve never had a mentor or anyone in my life who really encouraged or believed in me, but I sometimes think my love of classic films has played a very influential role. I am very visual, when I write I picture the story unfolding as a movie in my mind, sometimes the images are very clear and sharp, while at other times streaked and grainy like an old black and white silent film in dire need of restoration, and I have to strive to set down what I’m seeing in words and capture the mood and feelings, to try as much as possible to make the reader see with my words what I saw in my head at the time I wrote them. I’ve also had a strong interest in the history of fashion, I used to get books of costume history from the library and study the pictures when I still too young to read or comprehend the text. And I always have to have pictures of the people or their contemporaries and the fashions, furnishings, and places that I’m writing about.

Have you always wanted to be an author?
I think a part of me always knew I would be, but when I was a little girl I wanted to be a marine biologist, and to specialize in the study of squids and octopus, they’re fascinating creatures and I still love watching and learning about them. And I always say the first time I fell in love was when Dr. Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic, I remember sitting in front of the tv seeing those images of that beautiful ship, still regal even in ruin, and the old black and white photos from before the tragedy, and just falling in love, I’ve never forgotten it or lost my fascination with ships and shipwrecks, especially Titanic. But I never did learn to swim or scuba dive because of my ears it just wasn’t a good idea.

What would you say is your biggest achievement?
My writing, every time I finish a book, it is, for me, my greatest achievement. I don’t have the support system that many other authors are so fortunate to have, and I struggle with depression caused by loneliness, the fear that I will never find the right man, who will like and want me for myself, and can understand me and be encouraging, appreciative, and supportive of what I do, and not belittle or try to control it or to make me stop, because I can’t stop, writing is part of who I am. So every book I finish is a personal victory for me.

What do you do when you get writers block?
So far I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve never really had writer’s block. I have a rule that I do not allow myself to sit and stare at the screen, if I don’t start typing again within three minutes or so, I get up, I move around, do something, listen to music, watch a little tv, do word search puzzles, check my email, have a snack, just do something, and, somehow, when that pressure of the screen in front of me and keys under fingers that aren’t moving is off, the wheels in my mind keep turning and, sooner or later, whatever I need comes to me, and I go back and start typing again.

What genre of books do you find yourself drawn to?
I read all kinds of things—modern and historical fiction, horror, the paranormal, mysteries and thrillers both modern and historical, literary classics, biographies, history, archaeology, art, science, nature, I even subscribe to several magazines—just anything that grabs my attention. When it comes to books I am like a kid in a candy store, with the worst impulse control. If I go grocery shopping at Kroger I have to be careful because they have a book table and a wall of paperbacks, not just a little rack with a few mass-market paperbacks like the other local grocery stores do, because if I’m not careful I’ll end up blowing my grocery budget on an armload of books I don’t even know when I will find time to read.

Have you always had a love for history?
Yes, from the time I discovered it. And I still love learning about it.

What other time period would you like to write about?
Anything from Ancient Egypt to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Out of all of your books which one is your favorite? Were any of them more fun to write?
I still have a soft spot for my first, The Confession of Piers Gaveston, because that was the first and no one believed I could do it, even I wasn’t sure.  And that book taught me to believe in myself, to gamble on myself, when no one else would. In a way, my books are like my children, they’re all special to me, and each one means something different, each one teaches me something and surprises me in different ways, sometimes good, sometimes bad. 
I always enjoy writing about Elizabeth, she had her inner torments its true, but she was so confident, and I always hope some of that will rub off on me when I’m writing from her perspective. And “The Queen’s Pleasure,” finally getting to write about Amy Robsart, and to try to recreate her lost voice, meant a lot to me. But the most fun, for me, was Lady Rochford, The Boleyn Wife (published as The Tudor Wife in the UK), it always amuses and surprises me the way people take this book so seriously and pour over it pointing out inaccuracies and even being offended by certain extravagances and embellishments; the book is written from the viewpoint of a most unreliable and emotionally unstable narrator, an obsessive, angry, vengeful woman driven mad by jealousy. I even get hate mail sometimes from people accusing me of hating Anne Boleyn because of this book when the truth is she is one of the women in history I admire most, but in my writing I like a challenge, so I chose to write against the grain and tell her story from the viewpoint of the woman who hated her most.

What is your writing process like?
I generally write at night, it’s quieter, more peaceful, and there are less distractions and interruptions, I usually start around 9:00 or 10:00 and keep going until my eyes give out anywhere between 2:00-5:00 a.m. depending on how tired I am; when I get tired, I get sloppy, and that’s when I know it’s  time to stop. I live with an extremely difficult and temperamental elderly father so trying to write when he is awake usually doesn’t work well, so during the daytime I read, do research, take care of any correspondence, business, or promotional activities regarding my work, do errands and just try to live. Since being signed to a traditional publisher I’ve had to try to become more disciplined, if I take too many nights off I might come to regret it as the deadline clock keeps ticking all the time.  Music is a must when I’m working, though sometimes I vary it with a familiar movie (if it’s one I have never seen I get distracted and end up staring at the tv instead of the computer screen), sometimes I will play the same dvd over and over and over again during the course of a book, even though it hasn’t a thing in the world to do with what I’m writing about, but with music it depends on my mood or what I’m writing about that night. Because of my tinnitus I cannot stand to write in silence; I become too aware of the ringing in my ears. I also have to have a drink with caffeine in it, though I hate coffee, usually I have a cup of Swiss Miss Pick Me Up hot chocolate which has as much caffeine in it as a cup of coffee, and the number of times it goes cold on me and I have to get up and reheat it is a measure of how well the book is going.

How long does it take you to write a book?
If all goes well, I have ten months to write and two in which I combine rest and research before beginning the next.

What was it like trying to get published?
At first it was terrifying, putting my work out there before strangers and professionals and having to face their rejection. At first it felt very personal. And I’m not the most confident person in the world to begin with. The first agent who ever read my work told me I had no talent and was angry with me for the time she had wasted reading my manuscript. A few years later, when Vengeance Is Mine, the original print-on-demand version of The Boleyn Wife (The Tudor Wife) was published and I was already in the process of signing with Kensington, she emailed me and expressed interest in representing me.  But I said “No thank you.” I’m a very loyal person and I already had an agent who was willing to take a chance on me when no one else would. But I gradually learned, what I had known as a reader all along also applies to agents and publishers, books are like candy and not everyone likes the same kinds and flavors. I had to grow a little more thick-skinned, and to overcome some of my shyness, though I still have a long way to go, but I think, overall, it has been good for me and made me at least a little stronger.

How did you feel when you were asked to be Emily Purdy in the UK version of your books?
Concerned—I was worried about the confusion that might arise from this decision, that some readers might buy the book twice and react angrily, which I can well understand, though it still hurts when they do. I was a reader long before I was a writer, and I know what it is like to buy a book only to realize I have read it before under a different name, so I have always tried my best to make people aware of the different editions of my books. One of the wonderful things about the internet is that it puts the whole world at our fingertips, and people now have easy access to books, music, and knowledge they might have never known existed before, but when there are name and title changes for different markets confusion is apt to arise. 

What subject would you like to write most about?
Oh there are so many, but I just have to take it one book at a time, whatever one I am writing at the moment is the most important one to me, I can’t let myself get distracted by thinking of future works. I just keep a list of ideas and hope someday I’ll have the chance to turn them into books.

How much research do you do before you decide to start writing?
It depends on the subject, but usually two or three months, though because of time concerns I generally have to start writing before all the research is fully done.

Are there any tips you have for aspiring authors?
Do it because you love it, and don’t ever let anyone take it away from you or spoil it for you. Believe in yourself even if no one else does, and don’t be afraid to gamble on yourself if you have to. And always remember it is impossible to please everyone, so when you get rejection letters or a bad review, just remember like I always tell myself—books are like candy, not everyone likes the same kinds and flavors, what one person loves another loathes, and some can take it or leave it.

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