Saturday, February 20, 2016

On This Day. . . Edward VI Is Crowned King

Make way for THE KING!

Let's take a trip back to Tudor England, when on this day, February 20, a nine-year-old boy was crowned the king.

No pressure.

Yep, let's talk about Edward VI (also known in MY LADY JANE as "Poor Dear Edward," "Eddie," "Eddikins," "Sire," "Your Majesty," "Dennis" (read it--you'll see) "boy" and "Hey, you." In our book, Edward is quite the character--he's snarky and filled with teenage ennui and wants more than anything to kiss a girl (possibly with tongue) and have a real adventure before he dies.

We love Edward. We also did a ton of research to make sure that the details of Edward's life lined up pretty well with that of the real-life Edward.

So here's how our book-Edward and the real-life Edward ended up being alike:

They're the only legitimate sons of King Henry VIII, and they both became king on this fine day in 1547. They both knew Lady Jane Grey (obviously) and named her the heir to the throne. They were both once briefly betrothed to Mary Queen of Scots (shudder). They both got sick in the year 1552.

And . . that's about where the similarities end.

In real life, historians think it was most likely tuberculosis or a secondary infection from pneumonia that eventually killed Edward VI at the tender age of fifteen. Which was a total bummer.

In our book, he just may have been poisoned by a nefarious villain.

Also, in our version (spoiler alert!) Edward doesn't actually die. We've changed history (because that's what we, like, do, isn't it?) so that it's not only Jane who gets a less tragic ending. Edward deserved a better ending, too, in our opinion.

But the biggest difference between the Edward of real-life and the Edward of MY LADY JANE mostly has to do with their personalities. Because the real-Edward was brought up, from infancy, to be the greatest king who ever lived.

No, seriously. He was. From the moment he was born, the entire country knew that Edward would be king after Henry VIII died. Henry, for his part was overjoyed that he'd FINALLY had a son (sorry Mary and Elizabeth--too bad for you) and heir to the throne.

That's Henry VIII on the left, pointing to say, "Make this dude the king."
The people in power in England were overjoyed too, but for a different reason--if they played their cards right, they could shape this new boy-who-would-be-king into the best kind of ruler. Whereas Henry was a little, er, bad-tempered at times and did crazy things like creating his own church and chopping his wives' heads off, now they could have a king who was temperate, studious, pious, and wise. So they set about bringing Edward up to be just that. He had all the best tutors in the land, who worked relentlessly to make sure that Edward was well educated in history and politics and philosophy and pretty much anything else you can think of. He was required to pray for hours every day, so he would be religiously sound. He learned to fence and dance and hold his pinky finger just so when he drank tea. They wanted him to be the BEST at everything.

Like we said before, no pressure. But mostly Edward was just brought up to be . . . good.

And, by all accounts, Edward VI was good. He was kind. Smart. Even-tempered. And he took the job of being king very seriously.

This is not the face of a person who cracked a lot of jokes.

Our Edward, because we were writing a comedy, arrived on the page as a bit of jokester. His smirk, we claim, is one of his most finely-honed royal skills. Our Edward isn't sure he even wants to be king. He yearns for a life outside of the confines of the palace. He wants to be free. He just wants to have some FUN, for crying out loud.

Our Edward is funny. (At least we hope you'll think so.)

So today we want to lift our glasses to toast both versions of Edward VI--the real and the fictional, because we love and admire them both so very much.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again:

Long Live the King!

Friday, February 12, 2016

On This Day . . . Jane's execution

462 years ago today, Lady Jane Grey was taken from her prison in the Queen's House in the Tower of London and executed on Tower Green.

Well, that's a sad way to start this post, isn't it?

Usually we aim for funny around here, but we do have our serious moments. One of those was when the three of us went to the Tower of London and actually saw Jane’s execution site, and then the place where she was buried.

For months, we'd been writing about Edward, Jane, and Gifford (Guildford). Of course, we'd researched our socks off, learning as much about them, their time period, and their circumstances as was humanly possible, but after spending so much time with their fictionalized versions, they were our characters. Funny, adorable, and ours. Going to the Tower of London (and other Jane-related places!) was a real push back to reality -- a reminder that they aren't just characters in a story, but real people, too.

When our tour guide pointed to the memorial built where the scaffold had once been, we all looked over and . . . I think we all felt a chill. (In part because it was cold outside.) That was where Jane stood. That was where Jane died. We definitely made pained, sad-kitten noises that drew curious looks from our tour guide. And the other tourists. And the Tower ravens.

Later, we went into the chapel and where the guide told us about the bodies under the altar, and that Jane was one of them. Cue more sad-kitten noises, because Jane hadn’t even been given a proper grave. When the tour was over, we three gathered as close as possible and just looked at the stones -- at least until the guide asked us to please leave because another tour would be coming through.

So we went over to the memorial and looked at her name thereinstead.

Jane Grey was such a fantastic person. Smart, passionate, devoted to her country -- what's not to love about her?

Now, 462 years later, we want to save her from her fate. Even if it’s just in fiction.

Memorial for Lady Jane Grey, on the place where she died

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Lady Janies Have a Conversation about Setting.

Cynthia: Every now and then, we Lady Janies plan to have a little craft talk. . .

Jodi: I love crafts! Let me get my yarn and knitting needles and I’ll be right back!.

Brodi: I suck at crafts. I don’t even own a glue gun.

Cynthia: No, no, no, you guys (er, ladies). I don’t mean a craft talk like popsicle sticks and glitter. I mean a craft talk like CRAFT, like the writing craft, like how we do the writing that we do.

Jodi: Oh right. Writing.

Brodi: Ah, yes. Glue guns.

Cynthia: So this time we’re going to talk about SETTING. As in, how does one write about setting? How do you use setting in a novel?

Jodi: I actually really love writing setting. I’d describe characters’ surroundings all day if you let me.

Brodi: (Please nobody let her). I would rather write dialogue. Setting is hard for me! But I learned to love it by preferring to hate it but not being able to write a book without it. :)

Cynthia: I love writing about setting too! Maybe a little too much. . . I can get carried away with the setting. So, let’s go around and talk about how we’ve used setting in the previous novels we’ve written, and what we learned from that, and then we can talk about how we wrote about the setting in MY LADY JANE.

When I was first learning how to write I didn’t use setting at all. I was scared of it. I didn’t think anybody would be interested in the places I knew well enough to write about. And because of this, most of my early attempts at stories felt a little lifeless. It was like my characters didn’t have enough atmosphere to breathe. The first time I ever wrote a story with Idaho as the setting, which was a place close to my heart, everybody reacted with such enthusiasm that I began to finally understand the impact that writing a good setting can have on a piece of writing. After that I paid pretty close attention to setting. By the time I wrote UNEARTHLY thinking about the setting was a vital part of my process.

Jodi: I find that I really use setting to set the mood of the entire scene. I like to make setting in my book reflect what the character is feeling by choosing things she would notice if she were feeling happy or sad or melancholy, and describing them in a way that reflects her mood. So if she’s sad, she’d probably notice . . . um . . . maybe starved, pathetic squirrels with no nut stash for the winter. But if she’s happy, she’d probably notice a kitten or something.

No kittens were harmed in the taking of this picture. 
Cynthia: Yep, happy people definitely see kittens! I do this too, to an extent, although sometimes I try to do the opposite, for contrast. Like I’ll write a beautiful moment into an ugly place or have a terrible moment happen in a really beautiful place. That’s fun.

Brodi: I love the advice I once got, which was to imagine someone walking along a sidewalk, and what that person notices depended on who that person is. A gardener might notice grass and flowers. A child might notice cracks in the cement, and jump over them. An architect might notice the buildings along the street. The point of view of the setting is a way to add layers to your character.  

Jodi: So what about how we approached the setting in MY LADY JANE? Was writing setting in this book different from the others you’ve written?

In MY LADY JANE, I actually found myself writing less setting! I think because the narrator voice did so much of the work to set the mood. I found that I used setting mainly to sketch the immediate surroundings and moved on from there. (Though sometimes I definitely had to go back and cut the mundane things I tend to add to my early drafts. Yes, Jodi, the bedroom probably has a bed.)

Cynthia: Hee hee. I agree. I think the setting in the first draft was pretty England-in-the-movies in my head.

Brodi: But then we actually went to England. I thought it was going to be a “research” trip, with air quotes, meaning less “research” and more “trans-continental party.” But it turned out to be an actual research trip. Or more like a RESEARCH RESEARCH ALL-THE-RESEARCH trip. Fish and chips on the side.

Jodi: I think the Genuine English Setting that most affected me was Bradgate Park (which is where Jane Grey grew up). Or the Tower of London (where she died). Or the fudge.

Brodi: Mmmmmmm. The fudge. I loved that setting.

I also loved the stark contract between Jane’s home of Bradgate park (now a gorgeous wilderness) and Gifford’s home of Dudley (now a creepy zoo.)

Cynthia: Yeah, our trip to England was when the details really started to feel alive for me. I mean, we were right there, standing where our characters had stood, seeing what they had seen. It felt so special and emotional.

Jodi: Someone cried.

Cynthia: *raises hand* *points at other two*

But what we also got from the trip was just these wonderful little details that could find their way into our novel. Like the way the trees looked at Bradgate. Or the rolling hills there. Or the deer.

Jodi, reverently: The same deer that Jane saw.

Jane fed these deer. To repay the kindness, the deer braided Jane's hair.
Cynthia: Rrrrrrright. Those were definitely the exact same deer that Jane saw.

Brodi: So, these are some of our thoughts on setting. We hope you enjoyed! And if you have any tips, please share in the comments!