Thursday, June 7, 2018

Blog Tour Q&A: Forsaking All Other by Catherine Meyrick

Please join me in welcoming Catherine Meyrick to Let Them Read Books! Catherine is touring the blogopshere with her debut historical novel, Forsaking All Other, and I recently had the chance to ask Catherine some questions about the joys and challenges of writing fictional characters in Elizabethan England. I also had the pleasure of designing the book's cover! Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of Forsaking All Other!

Love is no game for women; the price is far too high.

England 1585.

Bess Stoughton, waiting woman to the well-connected Lady Allingbourne, has discovered that her father is arranging for her to marry an elderly neighbour. Normally obedient Bess rebels and wrests from her father a year’s grace to find a husband more to her liking.

Edmund Wyard, a taciturn and scarred veteran of England’s campaign in Ireland, is attempting to ignore the pressure from his family to find a suitable wife as he prepares to join the Earl of Leicester’s army in the Netherlands.

Although Bess and Edmund are drawn to each other, they are aware that they can have nothing more than friendship. Bess knows that Edmund’s wealth and family connections place him beyond her reach. And Edmund, with his well-honed sense of duty, has never considered that he could follow his own wishes. Until now.

With England on the brink of war and fear of Catholic plots extending even into Lady Allingbourne’s household, time is running out for both of them.


Hi Catherine! Welcome to Let Them Read Books!

What drew you to this time in England's history, and what makes it such a good backdrop for fiction?

While I have always read historical fiction and history, it was not until I started university and took a first-year subject in Early Modern British history (almost as an afterthought) that I discovered a love of the Elizabethan period. Lectures were an absolute joy and beyond the scholarship, the political machinations, the dates and the great men and women, I developed an intense sense that the people of the past were very much men and women just like us with similar hopes and dreams.

There is so much in the Elizabethan period that a storyteller can draw on – a period of exploration; great art, music and literature; the growth of the middling sort and a period of upheaval, both exciting and terrifying. Although there were no foreign invasions, the Elizabethans’ fears were very real, with multiple plots against Queen Elizabeth by her own subjects, as well as the close call that was the Spanish Armada. When Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth in 1570 and absolved her Catholic subjects of their allegiance to her, many Catholics went from being able to quietly practise their faith, albeit by paying recusancy fines, to being seen as potential traitors with family relationships and friendships strained or even shattered. Life could be dangerous even for those who did not go seeking adventure. We know a great deal about this period but still there are gaps that permit the novelist’s imagination to take flight.

Were your characters inspired by real people of the time?

No, all the major characters are entirely fictional, though I have drawn on incidents in the lives of a number of roughly contemporary women as inspiration for Bess’s situation. Following the death of her first husband, Elizabeth ‘Bess’ Hardwick was denied her dower rights and therefore had no income to live on. It took several years of litigation for her to receive what was rightfully hers. Unlike Bess, she had the support of family and influential friends in this. Parents sometimes chose spouses for their children with scant regard for their children’s wishes. Although drawn from a slightly earlier period, Elizabeth Paston’s experience is an example of this. In 1449 she refused to marry the man chosen for her by her mother and so was kept under lock and key, unable to see anyone outside the household and forbidden even to speak with the servants. She was beaten once or twice a week. Elizabeth held her ground and the marriage plans eventually fell through. The story of Elizabeth Paston convinced me that although this was a time when duty and obligation were valued far more highly than personal wishes, people still wanted some say in their lives, some with more success than others.

What was your favorite scene in the book to write? 

I think the scene where Bess and Edmund meet at Lady Hopeton’s banquet is possibly my favourite because an unplanned character, George Raynsford, sprang to life, fully formed. He is a vibrant character, larger than life (I see him as a younger Brian Blessed) with an already complete history and he altered the way some later scenes developed. It was the first time I had had something like this happen, although I have had a similar experience with my current work in progress. I cannot explain how these moments occur but it gave me the sense that writing a story is more than simply carefully placing words on paper.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel?

At times I thought the whole thing was an impossible challenge but the aspect that caused me the most angst was the struggle to get the language right, to achieve a balance where the prose had the flavour of the 16th century yet at the same time was fluent to the ear of an early 21st century reader. Language has changed over the intervening four hundred years and English has been enriched by acquisitions from other languages and the coining of brand new terms. My aim was for the prose to be unobtrusive – a vehicle for propelling the story, not an end in itself. I tried to achieve this by avoiding words that would make the reader pause or pull him or her out of the story. This meant being careful not to use words that are thoroughly modern or overly archaic. While I have used some 16th century terms not common now, they are easily understandable in context. I found the online version of the OED invaluable in doing this. I also discovered that the odd Australian colloquialism had crept in but I think I managed to root all those out – they certainly would be anachronisms of the worst kind.

What are you working on next?

I am currently revising a novel called ‘The Bridled Tongue’, set in England again, a couple of years later than Forsaking All Other, with an entirely new set of characters. It is the story of Alys Bradley, an unmarried woman in her late twenties who is pressured into an arranged marriage. I wanted to explore the way a relationship could develop where the partners to it were not ‘in love’. It is set against the treat of immanent invasion by the Spanish in 1588 – the Spanish Armada. Once again, the underlying themes are marriage and a woman’s attempt to find a life that has meaning for her. It touches on issues such as sibling rivalry, jealousy, witchcraft accusations and the way the past can affect the present.

About the Author:

Catherine Meyrick is a writer of historical fiction with a particular love of Elizabethan England. Her stories weave fictional characters into the gaps within the historical record – tales of ordinary people who are very much men and women of their time, yet in so many ways not unlike ourselves.

Although she grew up in regional Victoria, Australia, she has lived all her adult life in Melbourne. She has worked as a nurse, a tax assessor and finally a librarian. She has a Master of Arts in history and is also a family history obsessive.

For more information, please visit Catherine Meyrick’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Forsaking All Other is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 paperback copies of Forsaking All Other! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Forsaking All Other

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic interview, thank you Jenny & Catherine! Thanks for hosting the Forsaking All Other blog tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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