Sunday, September 16, 2007

Writing about those Queens...

What is it like to write about Queens? For me, it seems like the natural thing to do. It's rather fun. Entertaining. Yes, those books to the right are mine...and that's just some of them. I picked up my first book on a royal at age 23, and couldn't put it down. It was called "The Woman He Loved." I couldn't get over that book--that story--which chronicled a King, who fell in love with an American, divorced woman. And it came to be that he gave up his Kingdom for her. After reading that I got hooked. Really hooked.

From there my interest grew and I'd bring home three and four biographies at a time and read. At first I started with that King and his immediate family and then I went to his parents, and then their parents---and then Queen Victoria. I bought my first Queen Victoria book while in England in 1988. I began reading the Stanley Weintraub biography in England on the train from London to Leigh-On-Sea, where my Great Aunt lived. And I bought more royal books...and even more royal books and tapes while visiting Buckingham Palace. I hurt my back lugging home those books to the U.S.--crates of them! But back in '88 you had no choice...we didn't have!! You grabbed the books while you could.

And I had relatives sending me information from the papers in England, and I went to book sales whenever I could and grabbed anything that looked like it pertained to nobility or royalty---it didn't matter what country the royalty was from. And now I have hundreds of books. And even now I'm not satisfied.

I've studied Josephine...and her daughter Hortense....Marie Antoinette.....Princess Diana...the Queen Mother...Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra and all of their children...Queen Victoria and all of her children and her aunts and uncles and the Regent and his daughter Charlotte...Russian Royalty...Princess Grace...Henry's wives...some of Spain's royalty, and now I've got a real old bookstore near me and I've found so many wonderful memoirs of ladies-in-waiting...servants...dignitaries and writers and poets to go along with the royal books. And of course I study families such as the Devonshires...and homes like Chatsworth.

Today I sat with four books on Queen Victoria, and a fabulous memoir and studied the timetable in the months right before she assumed the throne and right after. Why? Why, you ask? In this case its because I've got a work in progress---a novel---and it's important I get my facts straight because she---Queen Victoria!!-- is in the novel and the characters are interwoven into her life in the months just before and after Victoria took the throne. And the poor, young Queen was pushed to her limits...there was such pressure around her, and who could she really trust? (Oh, if you only knew!) There was practically no one. It's amazing really, that she did as well as she did during that beginning period on the throne. She was conceived and born to be a Queen and once she was---that was it. There was no looking back. She grabbed those reigns and did what she had to do. She had a will of her own and knew her own mind. She pushed away her forceful, domineering mother and took charge of not only her life, but the Kingdom.

The novel is about done. The fictitious characters I've added seem very real to me...and blend in wonderfully with the new "Court" at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle ...some characters help Victoria in her new role...other characters are out to hurt and to see what they can get. But no matter who they are, they strive to keep their dirty It just wouldn't do if the Queen knew everything about the friends she is closest to. But what is the cost of keeping these secrets from her?

Next month I'm going to a big writing conference and I'm quite excited. It's being held in New Jersey and many big, big names will be attending. I'm sure that I will learn a lot and make some new friends. Luckily it's only about 35 minutes from me so I can commute.

I do get requests from readers and authors....can you suggest a certain book on a Queen or princess? What new books are coming out? What do I know about Princess so-and-so? Do I think Queen X is interesting? And I enjoy responding and helping when I can. I don't know why I do what I do..but I must examine everything and find out every little detail. For some reason I really need to know what happened behind the "facade" of royalty. I search and search and read between the lines. I need to find the hidden feelings of the royals and what they really did in their private life. Things like this----something cute about Prince Albert...he had an odd sense of humor. If he was in a room with Queen Victoria and perhaps a couple of his children, and a maid or footman happened to trip over the rug---there would be gales of laughter from the Prince-- once the servant had gone-- and the whole family would collapse with laughter. I mean, the man thought it was the funniest thing! Now, I'm not sure if that silly piece of information will get me the best table in a restaurant or even make me a large sum of money. But, if I put it all together...well, maybe it might amount to something. It may be small--mind you---but it could amount to something.
I have one friend who loves to try to stump and test me. "How many years did so-and-so reign??" or "Explain WHY the throne went to a woman when there was a man in the family when the King died?" or "Explain the duties of a lady of the Bedchamber? Did they work in the bedroom?" he, the Ladies don't really work in the Queen's bedroom or bedchamber at all. A maid would do that. For the longest time, though, I imagined the Lady of the Bedchamber did work in the bedroom!! Well....we all have a learning curve, don't we?
Last night while I was researching, my husband made dinner and gave me my plate while I sat on my bed with my books. Later, I handed him the plate(with the food gone) and he took it. I said, "This is an important part of the research. I must feeeeel the part."
He lets me get away with a little bit.


Jennifer Linforth said...

Facinating posts. I found you through your myspace. I am a writer of historical fiction as well and find it next to impossible to find those juicy tid-bit into every day life of royality.

My historicals are set in Austria during the reign of Kaiser Franz-Josef and Kaiserin Elisabeth. There is a history rich with heartbreak and happiness. Currently my historical focuses on an autistic heroine and the grand duke she loves.

I will bookmark this blog. I think it will be great insight.

My best to you.
Jennifer (aka Mav)

Lisa H said...

Hi Sue,

I really enjoyed meeting you this weekend at the conference. Your website is gorgeous and filled with so much good stuff. The next time I venture in, I will have pen and paper to jot down some info.

I hope we can keep in touch. Let me know how it goes with the agent.

Lisa :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your lovely blog.

Have you ever researched/written about Queen Astrid of Belgium? She is one of my favorite queens. A gracious and great-hearted woman, devoted wife and mother, and beloved Queen. I think it was she who was originally given the title "Queen of Hearts." She also died tragically in a car crash, at the age of 29.

Best wishes,