In January 1536, doesn't know that she has less than four months to live. Thomas Cromwell, one of her closest friends, doesn't know that he will be the one to kill her. And Anne's maid of honour, Isabel Ascham, doesn't know that she's in for the ride of her life.
The Fidelity Trial is a triptych tale of the events that led to the destruction of Queen Anne Boleyn throughout the winter and spring of 1536. Isabel, in awe of the Queen and in love with the Queen's brother, is unwittingly conscripted into acting as a force in the Queen's destruction. Thomas Cromwell, secretary to Anne's husband, Henry VIII, must choose between his love for Anne and his own ambition. When a miscarriage, an ill-judged sermon, and a failed treaty lead Anne and Thomas from friendship to public enmity, one of them must fall, and Anne must reap the rewards – and the punishments – of being one of the most quick-witted and politically active consorts in English history.
2) What inspired you to write about Anne Boleyn?
I think everyone who knows Anne Boleyn's story falls a little in love with her - that's definitely what happened to me. It's a story that never gets old - and that's why it's been told so many times! I think what's new about The Fidelity Trial is that it explores those last, crucial months of her life, and this story has it all: love, conspiracy, murder, redemption. It was a joy to be able to recreate her, and the people around her, in the way I see and understand them, and I think The Fidelity Trial will resonate with a lot of readers, even the ones who think they know everything there is to know about Anne. She's a constant surprise.
I always feel that historical novelists have a bit of a cheat, because we're recreating ruins - there's always a template we can turn to if we get stuck. In that way I'm really very grateful for the research; it's a wonderful part of the process! I started the novel with what I knew - I'm a history geek, so that amounted to quite a bit. But the process of researching lasted throughout the first, second, and third drafts; it's not as though I do the research and then do the writing. I was constantly looking things up and learning - a remarkable byproduct of writing this (or any) kind of fiction.
Thanks to The Fidelity Trial, I learned to use some kind of outline. This novel actually began in the middle, and I fleshed out the end and the beginning from there. I tended to write in spurts before I really learned the discipline of sitting down to it every day; this made things a lot harder on me than they had to be! I knew the history involved in The Fidelity Trial so well that it never occurred to me to do an outline - I just wrote it until it was done (and then wrote it again, and again...). I suppose I used The Fidelity Trial, in a way, to hone what my process actually is. The experience was worth its weight in gold for that.
Publishing is the most complicated world I've ever tried to immerse myself in - more complicated than graduate school! - and Jenny has been absolutely amazing. She knows everything there is to know; her track record is unbeatable; and she's taught me so much about the business and about the process. It was Jenny who helped me to make The Fidelity Trial the best it could be, a process which - understandably - not a lot of agents would make the time or the patience for. I've learned more about building a story under her guidance than I could have learned just about anywhere else. She's a real believer in nurturing the careers and the talents of her clients. We all need agents to sell our work, but having Jenny's input on my writing has been invaluable. She's met and exceeded my expectations in every way, and I couldn't ask for better.