Friday, 4 January 2013

Inside the Mind of Anne Boleyn: a portrait of a murdered Queen by Sarah Morris

The Le Temps Viendra Book Tour
Inside the Mind of Anne Boleyn: a portrait of a murdered Queen

Day Two.

My name is Sarah Morris and I recently published the first volume of ‘Le Temps Viendra: a novel of Anne Boleyn’.

I would like to thank Calum, alias ‘The Secret Writer’, for hosting the second day of this virtual book tour in which I hope to take you behind-the-scenes of LTV, to learn more about the making of this novel, the ideas developed within it, and a little about my own personal writing journey.

So let's continue the story in this blog post by looking at the process of character creation and how I attempted to bring LTV to life.

Anne Boleyn: an historical enigma
One of the most common, and I have to say most satisfying, pieces of feedback that I have had about LTV is how close people feel to Anne as the events unfold; almost as if they were a fly on the wall of history. This was certainly my intention when writing the novel. In fact Claire Ridgeway from the Anne Boleyn Files called LTV, a work of "fictional biography", rather than a standard piece of historical fiction. I really love this description because it puts into words exactly what I was trying to achieve through the writing. Through the process of what Hilary Mantel calls, ‘creative listening’, I wanted people to experience Anne, and some of the key protagonists in her story, completely afresh.
My feeling is that Anne and the other main characters that play upon the stage of her life are so often portrayed as archetypal figures: Katherine as the saintly, wronged woman; Thomas Boleyn as the Machiavellian schemer; Henry as a heartless narcissist and of course Anne herself as the whore and home wrecker. Of course, the truth of the matter is that human beings are far more complex than this. I'm not trying to suggest that these elements of their character did not exist, but that perhaps history has tended to fixate on one element of a person’s story and even amplify that according to the propaganda of the time. In LTV, I was desperate to step beyond many of these archetypes; and for no one is this truer than for Anne herself.
For me, Anne was an extraordinary woman trying to navigate her way through extraordinarily difficult circumstances – but she was just a woman nonetheless. She could be intemperate and fiery, haughty and proud, even ruthless when she was fighting for her survival and that of her daughter. But the evidence we have suggests that she was also creative and sensitive, fun loving and playful, courageous and fearless, fiercely loyal and with a huge capacity for love.


I also personally believe that the relationship between Anne and her parents is much misunderstood. We hear much of Thomas but little of Elizabeth. However, I don’t believe that this was a reflection of a cold and distant maternal presence in Anne’s life; just that as a woman, Elizabeth Boleyn’s thoughts and actions were not recorded. However, we have a fragment of evidence that suggests that if anything Anne's relationship with her mother was extremely close (Anne’s fears for her mother’s well-being seemed to have been one of the first things on her mind when she was committed to the Tower). At the same time, I also do not believe for a moment that Anne was manoeuvred like a helpless pawn in a game of court faction and family power plays by her father or the Duke of Norfolk. There is nothing in Anne's character to me that suggests that she humbly submitted to the will of the men around her. Anne had grown up in the Hapsburg and French courts surrounded by three redoubtable women who very clearly wielded considerable power over the men in their lives; Margaret of Austria, Louise of Savoy and Margaret of Navarre. More recent research that I have done on Anne's early life for one of my next projects has brought home to me just how Anne's impressionable young mind must have been thoroughly shaped by the example that these three women set. Throughout her story, it is clear that once Anne was in love with Henry, she was as committed to a successful outcome as Henry himself. It seems to me that to believe that Anne was a helpless victim, wholly manipulated by ambitious men, does her a considerable disservice.

Bringing Anne and the Tudor Court to Life
In terms of bringing the characters and events to life, I determined early on that I would research the detail of Anne's world as thoroughly as I was able; so that I could live Anne's life vicariously through her and with as much reality as possible. In my mind's eye, I wanted to bring to life the palaces in which she lived and the sights, the sounds and the smells of everyday Tudor court life. I have done my best to be as meticulous as possible in being true to the facts as we know them, (although, I am still learning and getting to the ‘truth’ is often complicated by the fact that there remains disagreement on certain events and aspects of everyday life - even by the most eminent of historians!).
To get into the mood, before each scene, my usual routine would be to play Tudor music (either authentic, or to listen to one of the soundtracks from the Showtime series, ‘The Tudors’, which I simply adore). Having done the research and established the facts pertaining to a particular situation, event, individual, location or artefact, and having determined the nature of the story that is needed to be told, I would then usually sit back and close my eyes. ..
This was a precious time indeed; a time to transport myself back as best as I was able and find myself standing exactly where the action was taking place. I would start by sinking into Anne's body, slender and lithe; I would feel the gown laced tightly around my figure, hear the rustle of the skirts as I moved and sometimes I would look down and see the rings upon Anne’s slender fingers. Oftentimes, I would taking a deep breath and recreate the scents surrounding me and filling my nostrils; the smell of London's filth as I rode through the streets on the way to the Howard family residence at Lambeth, the sweet smell of roses outside my window at Hever, the smell of beeswax candles lighting my room, and even the scent of Henry's clothes as he pressed himself against my body. Then of course there was touch, I would imagine the sensation of running my fingertip across the smooth oak table, or feel the warmth of the sun against my skin. With my senses alive, emotion would follow and I found that this would direct the conversation or action that needed to take place.
So writing LTV was a highly sensory experience, and perhaps it is because I so often felt as if I was there myself, that people resonate with this when they themselves read the book. I have to say though that I found writing in this way to be very evocative, and given Anne’s passionate and dramatic story, it was at times uplifting, at others, utterly draining – as indeed it was towards the end of volume II. I don’t know how other writers create their work. However, I do know that writing LTV exacted a high emotional / energetic toll. Yet, I don’t regret any of it for a moment and wouldn’t change a thing.


Tomorrow I'll be talking about why I believe Anne has become such a popular and influential character in English history, as well as exploring my perception of the ‘real’ truth about the relationship between Anne and Henry.
To be continued.
The virtual book tour continues tomorrow over at

Yesterday's 'Day One' post can be viewed by clicking 'here'

‘Le Temps Viendra: a novel of Anne Boleyn’ is currently downloadable on e-version here:

To follow Sarah on FB click here:, or to visit the LTV web site follow this link:

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. And I agree that Anne was a bit misunderstood throughout history. I'll have to continue with the tour to read more. :)


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