Q&A with best-selling historian, Alison Weir, whose latest novel ‘The Marriage Game’ hit bookshops this summer

    The Marriage Game author, Alison Weir
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    Alison Weir

    The Discover Britain team caught up with prolific author Alison Weir, whose new novel ‘The Marriage Game’ paints a vivid picture of Elizabeth I’s trials and tribulations, in this stand-alone sequel to her previous work, ‘The Lady Elizabeth’. Full of intrigue, plots, scandal and tragedy ‘The Marriage Game’ leads the reader through the politics and pageantry of the Tudor court..

    The Marriage Game is published by Hutchinson, priced £18.99 hardback, and on sale now
    The Marriage Game is published by Hutchinson, priced £18.99 hardback, and on sale now

    Q Did you have a particular working method for The Marriage Game – how did you conduct your research?

     

    Inside Hever Castle, Near Edenbridge, Kent. Photo courtesy Hever Castle
    Inside Hever Castle, Near Edenbridge, Kent. Photo courtesy Hever Castle

    I had all the research to hand, having done reams of it for six non-fiction books on (or touching on) Elizabeth I, over many years, so I knew exactly where I was going with it.

     

     

    Q Do the former stately homes, castles and palaces of your Tudor characters inspire your writing – and do you spend much time visiting those places?

     

    They do inspire me, immensely, and I feel that it is important to visit them for the purposes of research, because there is nothing like being on the spot to learn about the ambience, atmosphere (particularly important for historical fiction), details and geography. You may also pick up a fund of local knowledge. I visit these sites for pleasure too, and professionally, for book events, and on the themed historical tours that I lead. I have many times had the privilege of visiting, staying at, and/or dining in many historic houses, palaces and castles. Hever Castle in Kent www.hevercastle.co.uk has to be my all-time favourite, but there are many close seconds!

     

    Q Do you feel Elizabeth I had a far more difficult time, being female, than any male monarch past or present?

     

    She had the disadvantage of being seen as hampered with all the perceived weaknessess and imperfections of her sex, and one of the reasons why she did not marry was because she feared the birth of a son who might be used to displace her; but she used her femininity to advantage, and stressed the qualities in herself that were seen as masculine, and therefore admired. Otherwise she faced the same issues as a male monarch would have faced, and coped with them well in her own inimitable way. She also had a talent for choosing brilliant, dedicated and loyal advisers. So I wouldn’t say that she had a far more difficult time, as queen, because of her sex. I think she rather revelled in that aspect!

     

    Q Which character in all your novels has been the most fun to write, and why?

     

    Elizabeth, without a doubt! What a character she was! And there is broad scope for humour, fascinating speculation, and psychological insights into a complex character who was honed in a dangerous and insecure world. The best thing is that there is a wealth of contemporary evidence, including Elizabeth’s own writings and speeches, on which to base the characterisation.

     

     

    Q What advice would you offer to any budding authors hoping to write historical fiction?

     

    I have learned so much from the brilliant editors with whom I have been lucky to work, but the advice that has stayed with me as a constant is ‘show rather than tell’, and weave the history seamlessly into the narrative and the dialogue, so that the reader doesn’t feel that they are in a lesson. Avoid anachronisms! Above all, enjoy your writing.

     

     

    The Marriage Game is published by Hutchinson, on sale now in the UK, priced £18.99, hardback. (The title is also now on sale in Australia and will be available in the USA from 2 October 2014).

     

    For more information on the author visit alisonweir.org.uk

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