Friday, September 2, 2011

Blog Tour Interview: To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Sandra Byrd

Please join me in welcoming Sandra Byrd to Let Them Read Books! Sandra's latest novel, To Die For, is on a blog tour and Sandra graciously agreed to sit down and answer a few burning questions for me!

Hi Sandra! I really enjoyed To Die For, and I've got a few questions I'd like to ask to help me and my readers gain a little more insight into you and your novel!

Hey Jenny! Thank you so much for reading and liking my book, and for inviting me onto your blog!

How long have you been writing? To Die For seems to be a bit of a departure from your previous books. Have you always wanted to write historical fiction?

I've been writing novels and nonfiction books full time for 17 years - it's easy for me to keep track of that because I began when my youngest child was a baby. Before that, I was an acquisitions editor for a textbook publisher. I've been in publishing for more than twenty years.

It is a bit of a departure for me to write historical novels, but a natural step for me. When I read for pleasure, I choose historical books 8 times out of 10. So it's a delight for me to write where I read, and yes, I've always wanted to write historical fiction. It's a dream come true for me to finally be able to do so!

I was drawn to the idea of reading Anne Boleyn's story from the point of view of someone who loved her rather than of a rival or an enemy. Not much is known about the women who accompanied Anne to the Tower. Did you have any real-life inspiration for Meg Wyatt and her love interest, Will Ogilvy?

I, too, have been drawn to Anne since I was a girl, curled up in a beanbag chair, dog-earring books about her as I read and re-read them. Because she seemed like a friend to me, I wanted to write her story from the point of view of one of her real friends. I would certainly rather my life be recounted by one of my friends than by a rival or an enemy!

My research journey took me to Meg Wyatt. It began, as all treasure hunts do, with one solitary clue, an offhand comment in a link that said that a Wyatt sister attended Anne Boleyn till her death, and that, at the end, Anne Boleyn had given her friend her prayer book, a very personal gift indeed, and just before her execution whispered something in her friend's ear.

There were many men during that period who struggled with both the desire to marry and the desire to follow a religious calling, among them Martin Luther, Thomas Cranmer, and John Rogers, real men, all. So Will's story was drawn, loosely, from some of their lives.

I've read my fair share of fiction about Anne Boleyn, and To Die For stands out as being the only one to really show me how central Anne's role was in the reformation of the church for the good of the people. I don't think I'd ever thought of her as being a religious person before. Have you always had such a clear vision of who Anne was, and did you face any challenges when writing her character?

I'd read a lot of Anne fiction, too, and hadn't seen too much about that. Faith was a critical part of everyone's life at the Tudor Court, and we as human are certainly three dimensional: physical, intellectual/emotional, and spiritual. I felt that I wanted to bring out that side of things, too, this in this series.

The facts about Anne's role in the reformation are certainly present in her biographies, including the gold standard written by Eric Ives. They just hadn't made it, in large part, to the fiction.

I think the challenge for me in writing Anne is to portray both sides of her character without veering too far one way or another. She wasn't vixen or victim, but a strong, independent and ambitious woman who was also loyal, loving, witty, and kind. The answer, I think, is to write her as a true friend would see her. Our friends see us as we are and love us in spite of our faults.

What kind of research did you do to prepare for this novel? Did you get to do any traveling? Did you come across anything that surprised you?

I have been reading Tudor era fiction and nonfiction for most of my life, so I started with a fair amount of background into the stories. I avoided reading fiction set in the time period while I was developing and writing the books so I wouldn’t commingle my thoughts and story lines with anyone else’s, but I did read a large amount of nonfiction. Books, articles, websites, perhaps several dozen of each! I would outline and highlight each source, and then place them on a timeline so that when I was writing I could keep my facts straight. The research was an engaging labor of love though. For some reason, each book in the series has required more research than the one that came behind it. Maybe it’s a case of the more you know the more you realize what you don’t know!

While I was in England I visited many of the castles and palaces where scenes in the book are set. Hampton Court Palace, The Tower of London, and Hever Castle were among the many enchanting places I got to visit. It’s nearly like a pilgrimage for me to have trod on the ground many of the people I have long admired and read about once walked and rode. If you’d like to visit some of them “virtually,” please visit the "Castles and Palaces" page on my website where there are lots of wonderful photos.

I see your next novel will be about Katherine Parr. She is such a fascinating woman, and my favorite of Henry's wives. Can you tell us a bit about what to expect in your novel?

I, too, love Kateryn Parr. I'm eager for you to read that book, too! I wrote in my Author's Note for the book, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, "My deep desire is to add to the effort to rescue Kateryn from the only thing she is popularly known to have done, "survived." She did much more than that. She was a warm and loving wife and stepmother, a generous emotional and financial benefactress, a learned and devout woman whose extraordinary books sold tens of thousands of copies and went back for many printings; they still resonate with today's readers. She was also a beautiful woman who had a blind spot for a bad boy, a wry sense of humor, and was known to make mistakes and lose her temper a time or two. In short, Kateryn Parr was a woman many of us would have liked as a friend."

The novel is told from the point of view of one of her ladies, as are all of the books in this series, and centers around the secrets we know, the ones we keep, and the ones we must share in times both dark and light in order to survive.

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
Check out my sidebar for more great giveaways!

Thanks so much, Sandra!

Wasn't that a great interview?
Want to win your own copy of To Die For?
I've got one up for grabs and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your email address by 11:59pm on Tuesday, Sept. 13th. This giveaway is open to residents of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand!

And Thank You to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for inviting me to participate!
Check out the rest of the tour schedule for more events and chances to win, and check out Sandra's website!


  1. This book sounds great!

  2. I love all things Tudor! Count me in on this one for sure! Thanks!


  3. I would love to win this book. Please count me in!

  4. This book sounds great! Please enter me in the giveaway!

  5. I'm ready to go back to the Tudors...would love to win this one!

    misadventuresofmoppet [at] googlemail [dot] com

  6. This bok is on to read list, so I'd love to win it,
    sonflower277 at gmail dot com

  7. I wow I can't believe I am just now finding your blog!

    Anne Boleyn is probably one of my favorite historical figures ever so I have to enter this giveaway! :)


    amber.hrkns at gmail dot com

  8. You are a great interviewer and I loved being a guest on your site. Thanks again and happy weekend!

  9. Thank you for the great interview - Anne Boleyn is one of my favorite historical figures! I can't wait to read this
    rlawrence110 at yahoo dot com

  10. sounds like a book that I would really like

    amhengst at verizon dot net

  11. Would love to try this book. Thank you for including me. =)
    tiredwkids at live dot com

  12. This book looks good. Thanks for the chance to win!

  13. This looks fantastic. Thanks for the chance to win! *hug*

  14. Sounds very cool! Thanks so much!

    lhoffpauir at gmail

  15. I am really interested in reading a new take on the Anne Boleyn story. Please enter me in the giveaway!

  16. Thanks for the giveaway! I love historical fiction!

    mictsu613 AT gmail DOT com

  17. This book sounds really interesting. Thanks for the giveaway!

  18. Love historical fiction!!!!! Book sounds amazing!

  19. I, too, have always had a facination with Anne Boleyn. I look forward to reading this.
    sweetstaker at yahoo dot com

  20. Loved the interview :) Thank you very much for the chance to win, I love history. edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom

  21. This book sounds good. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    GFC follower: June M.
    manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

  22. Thanks for the giveaway!

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. Please count me in; this book sounds like a great read! :)))

  25. Lovely interview! I really like the idea that TO DIE FOR is written from the point of view of a friend of Anne's. It's a fresh perspective. Looking forward to reading this one. Thank you for the chance to win a copy!

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com


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