Drake – Tudor Corsair.
I am honoured to welcome fellow Tudor author Tony Riches to my blog.
I talk to Tony about his new novel Drake – Tudor Corsair and writing in this interview:
Why do you write historical fiction?
I’ve written several non-fiction books, including Terra Nova, about Captain Scott’s Antarctic exploration ship, with help from his granddaughter, Dafila Scott. I now focus on biographical historical fiction, and bringing the true stories of the Tudors to life. Writing historical fiction is like travelling in time, as I enjoy immersing myself in every detail of the period, from the food they eat to the clothes they wear. In my new Elizabethan series, I had to understand what it was like to wear a ruff. (Francis Drake found his ruffs uncomfortable, and couldn’t wait to take them off.)
What draws you to the Tudor world?
I was born within sight of Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry Tudor, who later became King Henry VII and began the Tudor Dynasty, so I’ve always had an interest in his story. I found several biographies, but no novels which brought the truth of his story to life. The idea for the Tudor Trilogy occurred to me when I realised Henry Tudor could be born in book one, ‘come of age’ in book two, and rule England as king in book three. Since then, I’ve continued to follow the Tudor ‘thread’ all the way from Owen Tudor’s first meeting with Catherine of Valois to the death of Queen Elizabeth.
What inspired you to write a novel about Francis Drake?
I wanted to show the complex Elizabethan court from different facets for my new Elizabethan series. Francis Drake appealed to me, as he was a self-made man who became close to the queen despite his humble origins. I was also keen to learn the truth about his adventures – and found that most of what I’d been taught about his was wrong!
Did you make unexpected discoveries about Francis Drake while writing this novel?
Yes, there were many. I had no idea he was married twice, to such different women, or that even though he was the eldest of twelve boys, he never had any children of his own. He was devoutly religious, and liked to lead his ship’s crews in prayers at least twice a day. He’d read that Magellan executed mutineers on his voyage to the Southern sea – and ordered the execution of his own mutineer at the same spot, a decision which haunted him for the rest of his life.
What are you hoping readers will get out of reading Drake – Tudor Corsair?
I hope to set the record straight about Drake’s involvement in the slave trade, as he freed many slaves he found, and made his fortune through working in partnership with escaped slaves in Panama. A former slave saved his life on more than on occasion, and became Drake’s best friend.
How do you practice as a historical fiction writer? How much research do you need to do to tell a work of history fiction well? When do you know you have done enough research for your imagination to draw from?
I spend at least a year researching each book, and continue-cross checking facts and details as I write. I like my books to be as historically accurate as possible, and track down primary sources, such as original letters. It helps that I have spent ten years researching the stories of the Tudors and have visited many of the main Tudor sites.
Do you walk in the footsteps of your characters?
I always visit the locations in my books, ad followed in the footsteps of Jasper and Henry Tudor all the way from Pembroke Castle to their exile in remote Brittany. (See The Tudors Road to Bosworth) One of the most amazing ‘finds’ was Henry Tudor’s remote hideaway at Forteresse de Largoët in Brittany. Some distance up an unlikely looking track leading deep into the woodlands outside the village of Elven, I climbed a winding stone staircase into his private rooms and really felt I was walking in Henry’s footsteps.
For this novel, did you do any research that proved vital to the writing of this work?
Yes, I had a private tour of the replica of Drake’s ship, the Golden Hinde, in London, (see https://www.goldenhinde.co.uk/) and was amazed to see how small is was, at just 121 feet long. The visit gave me a real sense of the scale, and how cramped it must have been when the ship was fully crewed and laden with guns and provisions for long voyages.
What does writing about the past tells us about the present?
I’m often surprised at the ‘modern’ attitudes revealed in Tudor letters. I used to write about the Tudor plagues and the dreaded ‘sweating sickness’, which took the lives of Prince Arthur Tudor, and Charles Brandon’s sons, and be glad we are so much more knowledgeable. Now I see parallels in our responses to the pandemic and realise we are not so different from our ancestors.
We are told as writers to ‘write what we know.’ How does this work for you, as a historical fiction writer?
I’ve sailed in storms with twenty-foot waves, so have no problem visualising the many savage storms Drake and his crew encountered on their voyages. My experience of visiting many castles, well-preserved palaces, such as Hampton Court, the re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth, and the Tower of London, gives me direct insights into how the Tudors lived and died.
Do you find it challenging to write through a female point of view?
Yes, particularly when I have to deal with scenes of childbirth. My wife always reads the first drafts, and helps me find the right note. In my new Elizabethan series, I’ve chosen three men to write about – but I’m also planning books about three of Elizabeth’s women. They all knew each other, so there is good cross-over, and I enjoy being challenged as a writer.
What does your writing day look like?
I like to wake early, and ideally have my writing done by lunchtime, leaving afternoons free for research. I write on the new sixteen-inch MacBook Pro, which has wonderful sound quality, so I often have music playing while I’m writing. I usually keep the summer free for sailing and research visits, write through autumn and winter, then edit in the spring.
What are you writing on now?
I’m currently writing the second book of my Elizabethan series, whilst researching the third. Due to the extended lockdown in Wales, I was able to bring forward the publication of Drake – Tudor Corsair, and am already a third of the way through the second book.
Any advice for writers at the start of their writing journey?
I once read that if you can write a page a day that’s a book a year. Don’t worry about writing perfect prose, as you can always revise later, once you have something to work with. I also recommend finding a professional editor and sticking with them, so you both become used to each other’s way of working.
Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Tudors. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches
Writing blog: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com
Drake – Tudor Corsair
(The Elizabethan Series Book 1)
By Tony Riches
Devon sailor Francis Drake sets out on a journey of adventure.
Drake learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life in an audacious plan to steal a fortune.
Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy. Her unlikely champion becomes a national hero, sailing around the world in the Golden Hind and attacking the Spanish fleet.
King Philip of Spain has enough of Drake’s plunder and orders an armada to threaten the future of England.
About Tony Riches
Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony’s other published historical fiction novels include: Owen – Book One Of The Tudor Trilogy, Jasper – Book Two Of The Tudor Trilogy, Henry – Book Three Of The Tudor Trilogy, Mary – Tudor Princess, Brandon – Tudor Knight and The Secret Diary Of Eleanor Cobham. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches