Meet Victoria Lamb and get a chance to win her "The Queen's Secret" (read the giveaway details below) .
While studying Elizabethan playwrights at university, Victoria Lamb always dreamed of writing a series of novels about Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'. Now a busy mother of five, she has finally achieved that ambition after much research, fixing on the fascinating figure of Lucy Morgan as Shakespeare's Muse.
Victoria lives in Warwickshire, also known as Shakespeare Country, only twenty minutes from Kenilworth Castle where her novel, "The Queen's Secret", is set. The middle daughter of bestselling novelist Charlotte Lamb, Victoria grew up in the peaceful Isle of Man, benefitting from a vast library of thousands of books and a family of published writers from which to take inspiration. She is presently working on a new novel featuring Lucy Morgan and William Shakespeare.
Her other work includes several books of poetry published under the name Jane Holland, and a paranormal Tudor series for Young Adult readers as Victoria Lamb, launching with "Witchstruck" in summer 2012. Here is my interview with her.
Your debut historical The Queen's Secret is about Queen Elizabeth I and her spectacular visit to Kenilworth Castle in July 1575, the home of court favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. What drew you to this topic?
I live very close to Kenilworth and often visit the castle with my young family, so her visit there on annual Progress made a natural choice of subject when I decided to write a novel about the Tudors. It really put the rural county of Warwickshire on the map in 1575, and rather like Bilbo Baggins' party in Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring", its firework displays became the stuff of legend hereabouts.
Elizabeth herself has been an obsession for me since I first read Jean Plaidy's wonderful novel, "The Young Elizabeth", as a teenager. Elizabeth's bravery and intelligence in surviving the many obstacles between her and the throne made her an an unforgettable figure for me. Not only did Elizabeth go on to become a long-lived and influential Queen of England, but she is still a role model for women in terms of her political astuteness and independence. And although the cult of the Virgin that she encouraged is not particularly something to inspire us today, it did provide poets with a template for some powerful female characters, like Titania in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or Spencer's epic "Faerie Queen" herself. My own Elizabeth has as many passionate urges as cold political ambitions, and it's that complex of warring impulses that made her such a fruitful character to write.
Do you have a favourite scene in The Queen's Secret?
I have so many favourite scenes, I'm not sure which to pick. But one of my key characters is Lucy Morgan, a young black entertainer at the court, and the scene where she is almost attacked by a big black bear is one which I will always remember with affection. The bear gets loose and charges towards her, roaring and showing its teeth. Lucy is terrified, naturally enough, but bravely stands her ground. Her actions are noticed by Robert, Earl of Leicester, who immediately senses that this is a young woman whose courage the Queen may appreciate and even need, especially with her throne under constant threat from Catholic plotters.
In other words, this little episode may seem inconsequential on the surface, but it not only triggers Lucy's rise to prominence at court but is also the reader's first intimation that terrible danger may lie ahead for these characters.
Who might enjoy reading The Queen's Secret?
This is a novel which should appeal to a fairly wide range of readers, since it's partly a spy novel, partly an historical adventure, partly romantic fiction, and even partly political intrigue. The Tudor court was a highly complex and sophisticated world, and The Queen's Secret tries to reflect that in its narrative structure. There are three female point of view characters - Queen Elizabeth, her love-rival Lettice Knollys, and young Lucy Morgan - plus one male narrator, who is Master Goodluck, a theatrical-cum-spy who also happens to be Lucy's guardian. The novel stands alone, but there is a sequel coming next year which further develops the characters of Master Goodluck, Lucy Morgan, and the young William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare is a character in The Queen Secret, isn't he?
Yes, William Shakespeare appears several times in this novel, where he encounters Lucy Morgan for the first time and forges a friendship with her. He was only eleven years old in 1575, of course, but many historians believe that William might have travelled to Kenilworth Castle with his father that summer to see the queen and the lavish spectacles laid on for her Progress. Certainly there are hints of this influential visit in some of his plays.
What's next for Victoria Lamb?
Besides launching The Queen's Secret this month, I also have a Young Adult novel entitled "Witchstruck" due out in July. It's the first in a paranormal series about a determined young Tudor witch who risks her life - and her love - to follow her aunt into the Craft.
Thanks a lot Victoria for answering my questions and being such a kind guest
Many thanks for having me on Fly High!, and good luck to anyone entering "The Queen's Secret" giveaway!
To win the hardback copy of The Queen's Secret , leave your comment here and remember to add your e-mail address. The giveaway is open internationally and ends on March 2nd.