Monday, September 22, 2008
Last Thursday evening I was delighted to visit the venerable Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island, the kind of independent bookstore that makes you want to get lost in the stacks for days.
What a lively, intelligent crowd! After I read from ROYAL AFFAIRS, we had a terrific Q&A about some of the royals themselves, about my writing process, and whether I prefer writing nonfiction or fiction. For the record, I love both; each presents its own set of challenges and rewards.
This coming Monday I'll be speaking with one of Dianne DeFonce's book clubs at the Borders in Fairfield, CT. I'll make another appearance at her Borders location in November, as part of a panel on historical fiction, wearing my nom de plume'd hat as Amanda Elyot.
And in October, I'll make the happy journey to Camden, NJ to speak with a book club hosted at a local library.
I absolutely love visiting book clubs and speaking with readers, whether in person or online. If you belong to a book club, I'd be delighted to hear from you. If it is located in the NY Metro area, it would be lots of fun for me to chat with your group in person. Feel free to get in touch with me here, and we'll take it from there.
In the meantime . . . happy reading . . . and remember to support your local libraries, if not with your pocketbook then with your vote. Nothing could be more patrotic than echoing our nation's founders by keeping the First Amendment a cherished right.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204)
Edward II of England (1284-1327[?])
Monday, August 11, 2008
Prince Michael, 66, who was 16th in line to the British throne before he married the Catholic divorcée in 1978, was photographed at the ballet last month with attractive, Danish-born Marianne Krex, 36.
The princess, 63, claimed to Britain's Mail on Sunday that Krex was just a family friend.
"At the last moment, the princess couldn't accompany him that evening, and so, says the princess, she suggested her husband take Marianne in her place," columnist Richard Kay reported.
Princess Michael has "extramarital interests" as well, Columbia writes, and was photographed with Russian billionaire Mikhail Kravchenko last year in Venice, where they had adjoining $4,000-a-night hotel suites.
Princess Michael also earns money by giving lectures. But demand for her speeches plunged in May 2004, when The Post reported that she told a table of high-spirited black diners at Da Silvano in Manhattan to "go back to the colonies."
Monday, July 21, 2008
A couple of months ago I wrote an article for a web site that focuses on women's empowerment issues. The site's creator, Barrie-Louise Switzen, was interested to know how royal mistresses' lives tied in with her theme. I maintain that in many cases royal mistresses had more options open to them than the queens whose connubial prerogatives they usurped . . .
One thing that struck me as I researched the lives of the royal mistresses who are profiled in ROYAL AFFAIRS was that for the most part, these women were not “victims” who were thrust into compromising relationships with men they didn’t love. On the contrary, they were clever women who, given the legal and social constraints on females during their day, had the rare opportunity to shape their own destiny—and grabbed it with both hands.
Now, I can’t say that many of the mistresses I “met” during my research were “nice girls.” Many of them were greedy and grasping, with their hands in the treasury, the privy purse, and the pockets of those who sought to gain patronage from their royal lovers. King George I had two German mistresses who exemplify this type. Lady Castlemaine, one of Charles II’s favorite mistresses and the mother of several of his children was renowned for her relentless greed. But that’s not to say that these women didn’t passionately—and occasionally too passionately—adore their men. And, no matter whether you’d want to have lunch with them, these women—all of them—were significantly more empowered in their day than just about any other women of their era, including the queen-consorts, their “rivals” for the monarch’s affection. In general, a queen-consort was little more than a well-dressed womb whose job was to produce the requisite “heir and a spare” and remain otherwise chaste, maintaining a stainless reputation in order to avoid all suspicion that her children might not have been spawned by her husband, the sovereign.
Some of the women profiled in ROYAL AFFAIRS had careers of their own before they met their royal lovers. Nell Gwyn, Mary Robinson, and Dorothy Jordan were the most celebrated actresses of their day. However, they lived during a time when being an “actress” (even if you performed the works of Shakespeare and other “serious” dramatists) was tantamount to being a prostitute. Actresses displayed their bodies on the public stage—for money! They were notoriously considered loose-moraled, supplementing their salaries on the gifts (monetary and otherwise) that came from their various “admirers.” But my research into royal affairs led me to a great hypocrisy, which should not have surprised me, I suppose, yet as an actress myself, it made me shiver with anger.
The double-standard I discovered was that acting was considered a disgraceful profession for the reasons I cited above, yet the royals thought nothing of (even if they were married—or if the actress was married), consummating a passionate and frequently adulterous affair with them. However, if they wished to become the prince’s or king’s mistress—before such extra-connubial canoodling could take place, the actresses were requested by their royal lovers to put aside their “disgraceful” and “shameful” profession—the career that had gained these women recognition and renown (as well as an independent income—a rare thing for a woman before the 20th century).
My Forward to ROYAL AFFAIRS includes a paragraph about royal mistresses and how many of them they were able to parlay their unusual opportunity into a life-changing event:
And what of the mistresses? During the earlier, and more brutal, eras of British history, a woman didn’t have much (if any) choice if the king exercised his droit de seigneur and decided to take her to bed. Often, girls were little more than adolescents when their ambitious parents shoved them under the monarch’s nose. However, most of the mistresses in Royal Affairs were not innocent victims of a parent’s political agenda or a monarch’s rampaging lust. They were clever, accomplished, often ambitious women, not always in the first bloom of youth and not always baseborn, who cannily parlayed the only thing they had—their bodies—into extravagant wealth and notoriety, if not outright fame. In many cases, their royal bastards were ennobled by the king, making excellent marriages and living far better than their mothers could have otherwise provided. Eventually taking their place in the House of Lords, the mistresses’ illegitimate sons went on to become the decision makers who shaped an empire and spawned the richest and most powerful families in Britain.
Having talked about other women’s stories, I’d like to share my own with you. I spent many years in “pink collar” jobs making other people money before becoming a full-time writer and my own boss. I worked in several fields, including journalism, marketing, and law. When I toiled for lawyers, I was usually employed by solo practitioners. More often than not I was their legal secretary, legal assistant, receptionist, bookkeeper, and office manager. I ate lunch over my keyboard. I took home barely enough money to make ends meet. Scratch that—I dipped deep into my savings to support myself, even as a single woman in NYC living in a rent-stabilized apartment. I got my assignments done as quickly, thoroughly, and efficiently as possible, so I could leave myself time in the workday to write. Thank God for Windows programs where one can quickly switch screens! My employers never had cause to complain about my work ethic or my output—though of course when I left the jobs they would cite my writing during business hours as an issue! Naturally, I challenged them on this point: if they knew what I was doing and had a problem with it, why, during the entire course of my employment, had they never raised the subject?
In June, 2003, I was downsized from a secretarial position I’d held for half a year, By that date I had had two novels published and another one in the editorial pipeline. In fact book #3, TEMPORARY INSANITY, was about my experiences in day-job hell. But rather than jump back into the survival-job pool and seek a new position working for yet another boss who undervalued my skills or company that had made me feel miserable, and had systematically sapped my soul, I chose to become the mistress of my own destiny. I decided that come hell or high water, from then on I would make my living as a writer. I would enrich myself, literally and spiritually for the first time in my life. Serendipity had offered me the chance to choose to follow my bliss.
And I did. This year, 2008, my 10th and 11th novels were published. I have written 7 works of contemporary women’s fiction under my own name, and 4 works of historical fiction under the pen name Amanda Elyot—all of which have been published since 2002. ROYAL AFFAIRS marks my nonfiction debut and I have just entered an agreement with my publisher for another nonfiction book, currently titled NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES. This volume will spotlight many of Europe’s most famous royal couples (including Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Ferdinand and Isabella, and Napoleon and Josephine—up through the centuries all the way to the marriage of Charles and Camilla—seen through the prism of the wife’s point of view).
I’m my own boss now. I make my own hours, and you have no idea how fabulous it feels to be finally enjoying a fulfilling career (instead of a frustrating job). And sometimes I like to joke that instead of all my hard work making some jerky boss rich, now I’m the “jerk” who gets to enjoy the fruits of my labors.
I can’t emphasize enough that any woman at any stage in her life can take charge of her destiny and pursue her passion, no matter how long she has neglected it, or her own needs. Impractical? Imprudent? Unrealistic? Unattainable? Somehow, once a woman sets her mind and focuses her energies on empowering and enriching herself, the economics seem to take care of themselves.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
In the grand scheme of things, it's been a relatively short gestation period, but the labor was the most difficult I've ever experienced in my writing career thus far. For one thing, ROYAL AFFAIRS is nonfiction. And I'm accustomed to making stuff up for a living. Actually, I did encounter a few things in historical biographies written by some rather well respected scholars that were inaccurate, and what I call "bad history" that was regurgitated over the years from bio to bio, or is repeated as fact on the Internet. And it was a difficult task to extract the real "truth" from some of what's been reported as such through the ages.
But all that said--ROYAL AFFAIRS became a joy to write. I'm a history geek and I love to learn new things. My research process became a crash-course in over 900 years of British history.
A side effect of all this new knowledge and perspective was that I became quite spoiled. It's impossible for me to watch a film or TV version of the royals' lives (unless it's a documentary) without going nuts about all the things they "got wrong"--from the historical facts themselves to the costumes or weapons. And in some cases, the casting. Don't get me started about The Tudors!
On the other hand -- please do get me started on The Tudors. Millions of people find this series to be wildly entertaining. In ROYAL AFFAIRS I unveil their true sex scandals -- for your delectation and amusement.
Let's dish about The Tudors!
Do you care that Henry VIII was actually big and brawny and redheaded? He was a real hunk until he reached his 30s, by the way. He wasn't dark and small and churlish-looking.
Do you care that his younger sister was actually named Mary and not Margaret, and that at age 18 she married the elderly (he was 52!) king of France--not the king of Portugal? Do you care that the real Mary Rose Tudor was a beautiful, willowy redheaded teen and not a raving bitch -- and that she did not smother the king to death? And that the love of her life, Charles Brandon, was actually about a dozen years her senior, which meant that being older and wiser, he should have known better than to flout the king's expressed wishes?
Do you care that Anne Boleyn waited until Henry made an honest woman of her, rather than shtupping (or "tupping" as the Tudors and Elizabethans would have put it) the king in a forest glade. I watched this scene slack-jawed -- with disbelief - at the travesty of history in the name of good old family entertainment. Well, maybe not the entire family. While I was thinking "nice boots" as I gazed at Anne's black leather footwear, most of the men in the audience were probably gaping at something a bit further north and thinking "nice boobs."
I encourage you to read ROYAL AFFAIRS, where sex and politics, plotting and betrayal, make for titillating bedfellows, not only for the real Tudors, but for their predecessors and their descendants as well.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Want to hear about the real Mary Boleyn (1499-1543), her affair with Henry VIII (1491-1547) and her relationship with her relatives?
Francois I (1494-1547)
(Henry VIII 1491-1547)
Anne Boleyn (1500 (?) - 1536)
Her ostracism was probably a blessing; Mary was well rid of the vipers’ nest of the Tudor court. She rusticated with her small family at Rochford in Essex while Anne and their brother George tasted the full measure of Henry’s rough justice. Mary did not visit her siblings as they waited in the Tower for the executioner’s blade to end their lives. Perhaps she was cannier than she’d been credited; she deliberately remained as far from the madness as possible, the better to avoid getting swept into the bloody dustbin of her family’s history.
Mary died at home on July 19, 1543.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I'm so excited to finally be able to post the finalized cover for ROYAL AFFAIRS.
Insatiable kings. Lecherous queens. Kissing Cousins.Wanton consorts.
Welcome to nearly 1,000 years of Naughty Behavior.
Royal unions have always been the stuff of scintillating gossip, from the passionate Plantagenets to Henry VIII’s alarming head count of wives and mistresses, to the Sapphic crushes of Mary and Anne Stuart right on up through the scandal-blighted coupling of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Shoved into loveless arranged marriages for political and economic gain, many royals were driven to indulge their pleasures outside the marital bed, engaging in delicious flirtations, lurid love letters, and rampant sex with voluptuous and willing lovers.
This nearly pathological lust made for some of the most titillating scandals in Great Britain’s history. Hardly harmless, these affairs disrupted dynastic alliances, endangered lives, and most of all, have fed the salacious curiosity of the public for centuries.
Peek between the covers…
The title will be released from NAL Trade on June 3, 2008. If your book club chooses this title, I'd be delighted to arrange a special "tryst" just for your club where, on a mutally agreeable date, I'll answer any questions individual readers may have and we'll have an interactive chat about the book, my research and the affairs themselves. We can even chat about the ones I might have omitted and why. I look forward to hearing from my readers!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Dodi Fayed, under the Brooklyn Bridge
Care to chime in? We know almost as much as everyone else does--which is next to nothing--but it doesn't prevent anyone from airing their opinions. Do you think Di and Dodi were close to marriage at the time of their deaths?