Thursday, November 1, 2007

Interview with Jennifer Ashley

I’d like to welcome our guest author today, Jennifer Ashley. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

Thanks! Love the chocolate. Godiva extra dark chocolate truffles for me, please.

I understand you have a new release that came out last month called The Queen’s Handmaiden. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

The Queen’s Handmaiden is a historical novel set in Elizabeth I’s childhood up through the time she takes the throne. It’s told from the POV of a young woman who becomes Elizabeth’s seamstress. My character tells the tale of Elizabeth’s struggles to regain her title as princess (she was declared illegitimate and out of the succession at one point), and then the incredible intrigue surrounding Elizabeth as she grew to womanhood.

Plots abounded both to put Elizabeth on the throne and to keep her from ever getting there. My heroine finds herself in the thick of things, and she also finds romance along the way with one of the conspirators.

The Queen’s Handmaiden is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

Elizabeth I had a governess, Katherine Ashley, who was probably the woman who loved Elizabeth best. Kat pretty much raised her, and Elizabeth never forgot that, even when Kat got herself into trouble (she was thrown in the Tower at one point, in Fleet Prison at another). Kat was Elizabeth’s right-hand woman, at least emotionally, and I thought The Queen’s Handmaiden would be a good title to reflect this. The story is told from the POV of Kat’s niece, the seamstress (who is a fictional character), who also becomes a “handmaiden.” My editor liked the title, so we stuck with it.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

Oh, my yes!!!! There is very little written about Kat Ashley, so it was a challenge to find that information. I read every biography of Elizabeth I could get my hands on, plus background material on the age (food, clothes, architecture, way of life, drink, dance, etc.). I read bios of the secondary characters in the story (Mary I, Jane Grey, Robert Dudley, Thomas Seymour, Catherine Parr, and many more).

I also read Elizabeth’s letters and documents about Kat Ashley’s interrogation in the Tower. I got a wealth of information from those letters, and I quoted some of them in the book. It was a fascinating window back into another time.

What character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I loved writing my POV character, Eloise. She is born at the same time as Elizabeth and grows up with her. Eloise is fictional, so I could do what I wanted with her.

Eloise observes everything around her with a dry wit, and she helps Elizabeth through some tough spots. She’s smart and funny, but she has a romantic streak. She falls in love with one of Elizabeth’s gentleman, who is in thick with conspirators against Mary I, and who has a dark secret of his own.

If your book was made into a movie, what actor would you like to fill your hero’s shoes?

Gosh, hard to say. I don’t watch many movies, so I’m never up on who the hunk of the day is. When I visualize my characters I never think of an actor or actress, because they’ll never look quite right to me. So readers are free to put whatever actor and actress they picture into my book. For Elizabeth I of course—Cate Blanchett!

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

I’ve been inspired by many authors through the years, and I continue to find new ones to inspire me. Authors I think have influenced me most are: Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Hambly, Terry Pratchett, Mary Jo Putney, Charlaine Harris, Amanda Quick, Judith Merkle Riley, Barbara Samuel. These are authors I go back to over and over again.

What books do we have to look forward next?

A slew of books! In November, The Black Dragon, book 2 of my Dragon series as Allyson James will be out from Berkley Publishing. Next year, I start off with Highlander Ever After, the third book in the Nvengaria trilogy by Jennifer Ashley (historical paranormal). And then, more of the Immortals series. Immortals: The Redeeming will be out in Sep. 2008. I will also appear, as Allyson James, in an anthology called Private Places with Robin Schone and two other wonderful authors in August.

Thanks, Jennifer!


Jennifer Ashley has lived all over the world, including Europe and Japan, with side trips to China and other exciting places. She is the USA Today and award-winning author of romances, mysteries, and mainstream fiction under several pseudonyms.

Check out Jennifer’s website at

Check out Jennifer's blog at

Buy The Queen's Handmaiden.


Carol Webb said...

The book sounds fasinating, Jennifer, especially with all the research you had to do. I can't wait to read it. I don't know about you, but one thing about reading historical fiction or romance, it always sounds so terribly romantic between the pages to me, but the idea of actually living during that time scars the bajeebers out of me. :)

Anonymous said...

What an incredible subject. I love reading about history through the eyes of a fictional character. It gives a whole different perspective about that era. Can't wait to sink my teeth into it.