Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blog Tour Interview + Giveaway: The Secret Keeper

Please join me in welcoming Sandra Byrd to Let Them Read Books! We're celebrating Sandra's newest release, and the second novel in in Ladies in Waiting Series, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr. I read this last week and highly recommend it! (Click here to read my review.) Sandra generously agreed to sit down and answer a few questions for me, and she's brought along a copy of The Secret Keeper to give away, too!

Hey Sandra! Thank you so much for sitting down and talking with me about your new release, The Secret Keeper!

Thanks for having me on your blog!

Your first novel in this series was about Anne Boleyn. What led you to choose Henry's last wife, Kateryn Parr, as the subject of this novel?

I felt that while a lot of attention had been given Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, there were relatively few novels out that covered Kateryn Parr. She's often described as the wife who "survived," but she was a dynamic woman in her own right, with a powerful story, and I wanted to tell it.

In my author's note, I explain that I found Kateryn to be 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. 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. I think she would have made a great friend.

Where did you draw your inspiration for Juliana St. John's character?

I think that friends are often foils for one another. So, in my first book, Anne had the more outgoing character and Meg had to fall back a bit more to make that friendship work. In this book, Kateryn is a more easy going queen and that allowed Juliana to be a bit more of a whip. In a lot of ways, this is a coming of age story for Juliana. I wanted to explore motherhood, in all its many forms, and Juliana allowed me to do that. I drew from what I knew of women of the time, and while the other two books have ladies in waiting protagonists that actually lived, for my Mary Seymour story arc, Juliana had to be a fictional composite. It was great fun to write her as she matured from girl to woman.

Thomas Seymour is a historical figure who seems to be shrouded in controversy. How did you form your conclusions about him as you were crafting his character?

I started by thinking about what I knew of the two women who loved or cared for him--Kate Parr and Elizabeth Tudor.  Both women were sharp, emotionally honest, insightful, and smart. I just didn't believe that both of them would have fallen for or had affection for a complete dolt. And the fact is--Seymour did seem to have waited to marry Parr. If he had been the ambitious climber he's popularly described as there were a number of high born women he could have married before the age of 39. The fact that he was prepared to marry her as Lord Latimer's widow, showed his affections for her, I think. I believe he got caught up in the power that the Seymours wanted when their nephew was King; I think he had sibling rivalry with his older, more certain brother, Edward. If he couldn't get the "official" power he thought he deserved was going to get it through the back door through the royal children. That was his downfall.

In The Secret Keeper, the Countess of Sussex also has prophecies. Is there historical basis for this aspect of the story?

Absolutely. Her name is Anne Calthorpe. Although I found a few sources, one quick bio of her can be found at Kathy Emerson's terrific webpage of Tudor women:

Emerson says that Calthorpe, "was at court when Katherine Parr was queen and shared her evangelical beliefs. Along with other ladies at court, she was implicated in the heresy of Anne Askew. In 1549 she was examined by a commission "for errors in scripture" and that "the Privy Council imprisoned two men, Hartlepoole and Clarke, for "lewd prophesies and other slanderous matters" touching the king and the council. Hartlepoole's wife and the countess of Sussex were jailed as "a lesson to beware of sorcery."

I extrapolated from that, and what I knew of the time, for my story. Women have traditionally had very active prophetic gifts, something that the church at large has overlooked during centuries of male dominance. I wanted to bring that forward in a book wherein women were actively using their intellectual and spiritual gifts as well as whatever power they had at hand.

What kind of research did you do in preparation for this novel?

I read dozens of books, biographies, abstracts, articles. I visited England--when I was at Hampton Court Palace, the royal chapel had on display a copy of the marriage vows that Kateryn took when she married Henry, promising to be bonny at bed and at board! I engage a wonderful historical research assistant, Lauren Mackay, who is a Tudor scholar in her own right, to read the completed manuscript and point out any errors or historical discrepancies. I truly care about getting the history right.

Do you have any advice for aspiring Tudor fiction writers?

It's a crowded field with new Tudor books coming every year. But when we writers are passionate about a topic, it comes through on the pages and the reader catches that enthusiasm, too. So write what you love, but find a new angle.

What are you working on now?

I am finishing up a manuscript for the third Ladies in Waiting book, told through the voice of one of Elizabeth I's principle women, someone I knew very little about before I researched the book, but came to love. I hope the readers will love her, too!

Thanks, Anne!

And now for the giveaway!
I've got one copy up for grabs!
To enter, simply leave a comment or question for Anne along with your email address. That's it!

This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada and ends at 11:59pm on Friday, June 22, 2012. Winner will be selected at random. Thanks, and good luck!

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected. Stay tuned for more giveaways!

The Secret Keeper is on a blog tour!
Click here to view the tour schedule!
Visit Sandra's website!


  1. Q: What other historical periods interest you?


  2. As I've read blog posts about this novel I've wondered why the author chose to spell the queen's name as Kateryn rather than the move common Katherine or even Catherine. I'd love to win a copy of this novel. thanks for the giveaway.

  3. I love your books Ms. Byrd! Tudor times are fascinating! I am wondering if you ever came across (during your research) who would have caught Henry VIII's eye while he was married to Katherine Parr. I know he was looking for a way to get 'rid' of her when he died, so is there any evidence of someone he was hoping to replace her with?

    Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  4. I have only read two books about the Tudors. In my case, what book, besides this one, would be a great one to start with? I really enjoy the amount of intrigue and secrets in Tudor history!


  5. Very nice interview. I'd love to read the book!

    niteofblu at gmail dot com

  6. Oh, I love historical fiction, and I especially love this time period. I've read Philipa Gregory's books and I would love to read these. I really should buy and read the first one though. lol
    Lauren @ Mommabears Book Blog
    Lmackesy @ gmail.com

  7. I had never seen Catherine Parr's name spelled "Kateryn" (though I've seen it spelled Katherine and Catherine). I wonder what historical documents/research the author found that showed it that way. It's unique!

    I'd love to win a copy of this book.

    lafra86 at gmail dot com

  8. I love all things Tudor so I would love to read this! Thanks!


  9. Hey there! I'm going to answer these in short blurbs 'cause gmail is acting up on me! Susan James, who is Parr's principle biographer spelled it Kateryn in her first edition of the book (see here): http://www.amazon.com/Kateryn-Parr-Making-England-1500-1750/dp/1840146834 I suspect she changed it because few could find the book by title ... something I thought about later.

    If you visit this site: http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2012/04/13/the-queen-katherine-parr-quincentenary/

    You can see one of Parr's documents in which she signs as, "Kateryn the Queen, KP." All of the documents I found in her own hand were signed that way, which is why I chose to spell her name thusly!

  10. Amanda - I love to read everything historical, but mainly books set in England, France, Japan, or China. As for writing, for the moment I'm mainly interested in writing British-set historicals. Thank you for asking! Tiffany, there were rumors that Henry was interested in Katherine Willoughby, who was a friend of Parr and also the widow of Henry's friend Charles Brandon, among others. But I think he was really getting old and ill at the end and was more concerned about Edward's safe succession.

  11. Thank you for the lovely compliment Tiffany!! And Jenny, thanks so much for hosting this. I hope it was okay to jump in and answer those questions!

  12. Elizabeth Gayle FellowsJune 12, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Sounds like a wonderful book, would absolutely love to read it... I read just about all the historical books and historical fiction books I can get my hands on.... especially European Historical Fiction... My thanks goes out to all the authors who have the time and manage to write for us all. Thank you....

  13. I love your point, Sandra, about aspiring writers of Tudor historical fiction continuing to write about what they love but to find another, possibly undiscovered or underdiscussed point of view to tell the story from. I just devour books about the Tudors but my favorites are always ones from a different perspective (such as To Die For, for example :)). It breathes new life into the subject! I can't wait to read the new book as well and am anticipating the third!

  14. Please Sandra, answer away!

    These are great questions, guys! Keep 'em coming!

  15. I love everything about the Tudors and can't wait to get my hands on this book! Thanks for the giveaway!


  16. I am a historical fiction fan and would love to read and win this book. Thank you for posting this interview it was not to read.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  17. Anne, how do you feel you identify with Anne Boleyn?


  18. This is a historical period I want to read more of especially fiction stories. I am fascinated with Anne Boleyn's story but also the other wives as well. Kateryn Parr sounds like an interesting character not only as a survivor but person.


  19. Love historical fiction, love this period, love unknowns. Thanks for the chance to read it for free.

    nanze55 at hotmcail dot com

  20. This historical fiction is fascinating and compelling. thanks for this giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  21. An interesting interview and a wonderful giveaway. This era is captivating. Many thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  22. Thanks for the giveaway!


  23. I know very little about Kateryn Parr so this looks like an interesting story.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

  24. You have a fabulous blog! I’m an author and illustrator and I made some awards to give fellow bloggers whose sites I enjoy. I want to award you with one of my homemade awards: the Best of Romance Blog Award. There are no pass along requirements. This is just to reward you for all the hard work you do!

    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.

  25. I'm a Tudor addict and I can't wait to get my hands on this book!
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  26. That was a very enjoyable interview! I've always shrugged off Kateryn Parr when reading about the Tudors, so this is definitely going on the TBR. It'll be something new for me. :-)

    pherlaithiel (at) gmail (dot) com


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