Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An Interview with Katherine Longshore, author of GILT

In the court of Henry VIII, who you know can get you in, but who you love can get you killed.

When her best friend marries Henry VIII, Kitty Tylney must learn to walk the fine line between secrets and treason, discovering that in the Tudor court, the price of gossip could literally be her head.

Thanks to all of our Lucky 13s friends for visiting us, and for posting! We'll be giving away a copy of GILT to one lucky poster today! ~ Jenn

1. Your debut debut novel, GILT, is all about the danger and intrigue--and romance!--of the court of King Henry the VIII. What was your inspiration in writing it?

My inspiration was the history itself. The Tudor era was a time of great change. Henry’s court in particular was full of people who wanted to make names for themselves. People who were jealous, who were clever, and would do anything to advance themselves and put themselves in the limelight. To me, it sounded like a combination of high school and reality TV. So I set out to write a book that reflected a modern experience, but was set 450 years ago.

2. GILT is a treasure trove of information and detail about the life and times King Henry the VIII and his court -- how did you do your research? And do you like research?

I read extensively. Popular historians with an eye for drama and detail–Alison Weir, David Starkey, Antonia Fraser. I immersed myself in the era. I double checked facts with the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII that have been translated and paraphrased and posted online. I visited sites described in the novel as well as houses and palaces from the same time period, to add texture and color to the settings. I love research. Can you tell?
3. I can! And the Tudor time period is such an intriguing era of English history. What do you like best about setting a book in that time period?

I love the characters. The people who populated the Tudor courts were vibrant and fascinating. There are some that we know very little about, and I love piecing together tidbits of information to create an entire character. And then there are others about which we know quite a bit, but still have to guess at their personalities, their whims and wishes, their loves and beliefs. I like taking a historical figure and making her believable.

4. What was the most challenging scene for you to write in the book... and what was the most fun?

The most challenging scene occurs quite early in the book, and involves a horrible, violent act. It was difficult to write, because I find the subject distasteful, but it was necessary to illustrate various character flaws in several key players. I also felt it was important because I've read historical fiction that tries to absolve the act, which is historically documented. Even 450 years later, I don't think it's pardonable.

The scene that was the most fun to write comes very late in the book, and I'd hate to spoil it for your readers. It's another that was historically documented, and the poignancy of it captured my imagination.

5. I think I know the scene! In GILT, you truly make the troubles faced by the characters in your book seem vivid and real. Were these emotional, intense conflicts difficult to write?

I've recently latched on to the term  “method writing”. It comes to the concept of method acting–becoming the character. I spent years in theater - studying for a while with a method actress - and this idea definitely relates to my writing. The challenge comes from becoming so emotionally involved that I have trouble extricating myself. And from the logical part of my brain desperately searching for a different outcome.

6. As a debut author, what has surprised you about your author journey so far?

The waiting! I'm not the most patient person, and even though I knew basic timelines, the stress of the waiting got to me.  This is quite a slow business, with lots of gaps between the steps. Query, wait. Revise, wait. Submit, wait. And so on. But I'm very lucky that I have more ideas than time, and always had something to write.

7. What do you like best about being an author?

That every day is different, that every day is a challenge, and that every day I get to do something I love. I can't believe I am so lucky.

8. I know I'm not the only one who wants to know... what are you working on next??

GILT is the first in a three-book series. All of the books will be set in Henry’s court, and each will feature a different young woman. Right now, and I am revising Book 2, currently titled TARNISH, and doing research and character studies for Book 3.
9. Those sound so intriguing! But before we leave GILT, though, I have to ask: Why did you choose Catherine Howard as the subject for your first novel?

My original reason for choosing Catherine Howard as my subject seems terribly superficial. She was the only one of Henry's queens who was a teenager when they married. And I knew I wanted to write for teens. So she was the obvious choice. But the more I read about her, the more I wanted to write her as a different character from the one so often depicted. Historical fiction and even historians often show her as innocent, ignorant, and vacuous. I wanted to write someone different. And that's where the fun came in.

10. Finally, in the spirit of The Lucky 13s, do you have a favorite superstition?

My favorite superstition is one from my theater days. I still cannot say the proper title of the Scottish play aloud, even when I'm not on stage.

Katherine Longshore

Katherine Longshore grew up on the northern California coast.  At university, she created her own major in Cross-Cultural Studies and Communications, planning to travel and write.  Forever.  

Four years, six continents and countless pairs of shoes later, she went to England for two weeks, stayed five years and discovered history.  She now lives in California with her husband, two children and a sun-worshiping dog.

Thank you, Katherine! And thanks again to everyone visiting us! Reminder: We'll be giving away a copy of GILT to one lucky poster today! ~ Jenn


  1. It was so fun to interview you, Katherine! Thank you very much and Happy Book Birthday to you!! I can't wait to read your second. :)

  2. The book sounds amazing, and I love the idea that Catherine Howard is center stage. It seems that Anne Bolyn usually steals the show with her tragic beheading.

  3. I love what you said, "That every day is different, that every day is a challenge, and that every day I get to do something I love. I can't believe I am so lucky."
    It is fantastic!!
    If your characters are a beautiful as your cover, I'm going to really enjoy this book!!

  4. I'm a history lover, too, and I've always been drawn to books set during this time period. Sounds amazing, Katherine. I can't wait to read Gilt!

  5. "I like taking a historical figure and making her believable."

    That is why I love reading historical fiction. I'm intrigued by your take of a not so wholly innocent Catherine Howard.

  6. Thank you Katherine and Jenn for a fabulous interview.

    I love the theater influence and the play superstition. As a Northern Californian, theater geek about to go on sub with a co-written YA re-imagining of a famous musical (complete with theater geek MC) - my kindred spirit is doing cartwheels. GILT sounds fantabulous!

  7. Katherine,
    I've recently learned that I'm a method writer as well. I think it can be a great advantage when writing deep POV, but it seems to take me a few weeks to get out of one character's head and into another. Which can be a disadvantage when you're working on multipule projects! ;-)
    GILT sounds fascinating! Can't wait to read it.

  8. I love to learn about the stories (real and made up) behind what we learned in history class, to speculate about what people must have been thinking and feeling...this book sounds awesome!

    Also, my sister-in-law is an artist, and as a wedding gift, she painted my husband and I as Henry VIII and one of his wives...not sure what she was trying to tell me by that...

  9. What a fabulous tagline - I love it!

  10. The court of Henry VIII as a reality show - sounds like a great book! Thanks to both Jenn and Katherine for a fun interview!

  11. Great interview. This sounds like a really interesting book. I know my sister, in particular, would love it as she was a history major and really likes reading books in different time periods. I'm resolved to start reading more too!


  12. Such a fun interview! I had no idea Book 2 was currently titled TARNISHED (i love it!)...I was able to read an ARC and am now curious which scene was her favourite to write! I love the idea that Kitty is comprised of pieced together tidbits, she was done so well. Thank you Jenn and Katherine!