Thursday, October 4, 2012
The Tudors and the Modern Reader
Greetings my well regarded readers, I hope that in the north hemisphere you have all enjoyed a wonderful summer packed full of those particular seasons pleasures; boating on the river, strawberries and champagne or just soaking up the glorious sunshine.
Today I have a few announcements before we move on to the body of the blog. Firstly the state of play with writing and publishing, in the Indie world. As an indie writer of historical mysteries and historical fantasy I tread the rocky road of balancing writing with publicity. No doubt a far few of you have seen at least one of the squillion adds for writers, promising them instant success and fame if only they sign up for these course/advertising regime/buy this book/subscribe to these online classes. Oh dear if only it were so easy…
Essentially I am my own promoter and to be honest I can either spend lots of time ‘promoting everywhere on the internet or write more stories. Realistically I much prefer to write and leave the PR to appreciative readers, one honest review is worth more than gold (ahem, very small amounts of gold that is). So if any of my dearest readers like my work I encourage nay implore you to leave a review on Amazon show your good judgement or else the field will be left to hateful trolls and PR flunkies.
In the meantime I have a few suggestions of current historical writers on Amazon whom you may find interesting Susan Higginbotham, R. W. Gortner, Paula Lofting, Gillian Bagwell, M.M. Bennetts, Jess Steven Hughes, Helen Hollick, Jane Steen. Their style and periods vary, but I’ve found them all to be good quality writers in their genres and can highly recommend a perusal. And remember if you like it leave a review.
Now the meat of the day,
Tudors and the Modern Reader
Over the past few months I’ve had a few rather strange reviews, now apart from being struck to the quick and mortified, as any delicate sensitive writer I paused, and I hope sensibly refrained from responding. After which I took a quite look around my fellow writers to find that there seems to be a craze of ‘trolling’ and sock puppeting currently spreading plague like through Amazon. Now I’m not about to dismiss my critics as one of these, though at least two I suspect fit in that category. But it made me reflect on exactly what some readers may think they are getting in their quick trip to Tudor land.
Delving into the mind of the average Tudor is not the easiest of tasks. For one there’s this five hundred year gap, with all the embedded attitudes and assumptions in our modern society it is not so easy to compare them to those of Henry VIII’s England. Horrible Histories and the like doesn’t really count though they are a lot of fun. I believe that TV series like The Tudors have opened up the field a little while also giving the public a very slanted and re imagined (if not complete fantasy) view of the past. We see the Tudor figures, they say the lines, huff and puff, bonk the current wife/mistress/rent boy and that seems to be it. After which the viewer picks up a period historical novel and (or so it seems) gets peeved that the written visit to the Tudor Age isn’t exactly like it was on the tellie.
Errr, what can I say? If the writer I any good and does a reasonable amount of research, which to my eye appears to be most of the current crop of hist fic writers both indie and published, then the work will be a good facsimile of the era. However bear in mind it is just that a facsimile where the writer takes on an adventure into the past both entertaining and interesting. On the whole it will be presented in a style and form that is acceptable and understandable to our current society, with all its many differences in thought, culture and hierarchy. After all do you really want your hero to regularly beat his wife and children, remember that it was both legal and accepted custom then, but mostly (thankfully) not so now. Teachers were even encouraged to beat their students or be regarded as not conforming to proper standards of behaviour and risked dismissal. How do you frame death and violence, which was an everyday occurrence according to court records in Tudor England, should it be sanitized, ignored, glossed over or given the graphic treatment? Then we come to the vexing matter of religion both belief and practice that’s were description and depiction can get into a lot of difficulties. And that’s a real can of worms even if you only stick to the main Protestant-Catholic line without any reference to the frequent schisms or doctrinal differences. For instance I’ve had to put a piece in my novels having to explain that my main character’s moral dilemma and decisions use the plot device of an angel and a daemon at his shoulders. Why you ask, because in so many period journals, writings and theological discussion that is exactly as they frame their struggles with temptation or religious motivations. Sigh
See attached section.
A brief note on views of religion and spirituality in the Tudor Age as portrayed in the Red Ned Tudor Mysteries. In this modern secular era, it is sometimes difficult to encompass how deeply religion was embedded in the words and thoughts of our ancestors. The church was for good and ill part of every day life, its parish and cathedral bells announced the time of day and the whole pattern of the year was structured around the calendar of religious festivals. Every individual in the kingdom understood this, starting from birth with the urgent importance of baptism to death and the saying of perpetual masses for the souls of the departed. At this point we have the emergence of the concept of ‘indulgence’ and the ability of the Pope to remit sins via payment and we know were that led to with Martin Luther. In all of this the Latin Vulgate Bible was the fount of authority and knowledge for both the King, the Catholic church and all levels of society, which is why its translation into the vernacular was believed to threaten the very foundations of ‘their christian society’. The sways to and fro in the Tudor Age were equally about power and belief, with the two sometimes so intermixed it was difficult to separate them, especially in the figures of Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey and their Sovereign Majesty Henry VIII.
To make a valid attempt at presenting this internal and external conflict we have Ned viewing his conscience as two distinct entities his daemon and better angel. This kind of division of moral thought and reflection represents how those in the Tudor period saw and justified their decisions. Ie ‘the devil sorely tempted me and I gave in’ or my good angel or patron saint steered me clear of the peril of sin’. Based on my reading of the religious writing of the times this is my interpretation for fiction of this inner debate for decisions regarding advantage, moral questions of conscience and action.
So I’ve stated my case in my novels, I will try for as accurate a depiction as is possible within the parameters of the storyline and available research without straying into the fakery of Hollywood. I hope that my efforts both entertain and inform my readers and at the very least prompt them to reach for another work of historical fiction.
Ps if I’ve missed any hist fic writers in this round of names don’t worry lots more articles to come.
Regards Gregory House