About Elizabeth I
It is 1588, and the showdown between England and Spain has finally come. Elizabeth and her island kingdom stand alone against the strongest country in Europe. Yet after that triumph, she cannot rest. There are many other challenges to her, and the ever-hanging question of the succession to the childless queen. Surrounded by such larger-than-life characters as Drake, Shakespeare, the Earl of Essex, Raleigh, and Francis Bacon, the queen proves bigger than all of them.
Her cousin and rival, Lettice Knollys, mother of the Earl of Essex and widow of Robert Dudley, who was Elizabeth’s love and soul mate, provides a dark counterpoint to the glittering aura of Elizabeth’s legend. Bound together in a love-hate relationship, the two women pursue their linked destinies.
Margaret George answers some questions about the writing life.
Q: Biggest Pet Peeve about the writing life.
A: It has hijacked the pleasure of reading for me. I have to spend so much time reading required books that I have little time for true leisure reading, where I can read purely for fun. It’s like having a perpetual exam to study for! Yet I became a writer because I loved to read—Catch 22.
Q: Worst rejection you’ve ever received?
A: The silliest one was an editor who turned down “The Autobiography of Henry VIII” because he said the single narrator didn’t work. Considering that there were two narrators, and the one that wasn’t Henry VIII opened the book, I’d say he wasn’t paying much attention.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I plan to do a novel about the clash between Boudica of Britiain and Nero, her enemy in Rome. Boudica was queen of a tribe in Britain that was betrayed by the Romans. She gathered a huge army against them and wrecked havoc in southern England, destroying Colchester and St. Albans and London. Nero, busy with his lyre-playing and chariot racing, was taken completely by surprise and had to direct the counterattack. Boudica came very close to driving the Romans out. How different history would have been if she’d succeeded!
Q: Writer’s Block – If you have ever experienced it – how did you resolve it?
A: I have a mantra that I learned in a screenwriting course. In Hollywood the motto is: “Don’t make it perfect and make it later, make it good and make it now.” It does not have to be perfect, it only has to be good. I keep repeating that to myself. I also tell myself the important thing is to finish—I can clean it up later.
Q: Have you ever abandoned any books/novels in progress?
A: I abandoned one in the middle because I had to move, and by the time I went back to it, I had lost interest. I’ve also lost interest in certain subjects I thought I would pursue, after I learned more about them. Or learned that it would be impractical to try to write—either it’s been done too many times, or it would require research in a dangerous or inaccessible place, or I couldn’t think of a way to organize the material.
Q: How did you feel holding your book in your hands for the first time?
A: Unbelievable and hard to comprehend that I actually wrote it. I had had a lot of thoughts and I wrote them down and then they turned into a book—a real one, with real pages and a cover. Wow. Later when I met a reader she said, “What a big book to come out of such a little person!” It did seem like a miracle.
About Margaret George
Margaret George is the author of six epic biographical novels, all New York Times bestsellers, featuring larger than life characters like Henry VIII and Cleopatra. Although painstakingly accurate historically, their real focus is the psychology of the characters. We know what they did, we want to know why. Her latest release is Elizabeth I.
Margaret’s research has taken her from the islands of Scotland to the temples of Upper Egypt, with experiences that include snake-keeping and gladiatorial training.
She lives in Wisconsin and Washington DC. Interests include reptile conservation efforts, Middle Eastern dance (aka bellydancing), and archeology.
You can visit Margaret George’s website at www.margaretgeorge.com.
Find Margaret George at her tour page at Pump Up Your Book!
Read an excerpt!
The whip cracked and snapped as it sought its victim.
I could see the groom cowering in the bushes, then crawling away in the underbrush as the whip ripped leaves off a branch just over his head. A stream of Spanish followed him, words to the effect that he was a worthless wretch. Then the face of the persecutor turned toward me, shining with his effort. “Your Majesty,” he said, “why do you keep my whip?”
It was a face I had thought never to see again—that of Don Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador I had evicted from England four years earlier for spying. Now he rounded on me and began fingering his whip as he walked toward me.
I sat up in bed. I could still smell the leather of the whip, lingering in the air where it had cracked. And that smirk on the face of Mendoza, his teeth bared like yellowed carved ivory—I shuddered at its cold rictus.
It was only a dream. I shook my head to clear it. The Spanish were much on my mind, that was all. But . . . didn’t Mendoza actually leave me a whip? Or did we just find one in his rooms after he hurriedly left? I had it somewhere. It was smaller than the one in the dream, useful only for urging
horses, not punishing horse grooms. It had been black, and braided, and supple as a cat’s tail. Spain’s leather was renowned for its softness and strength. Perhaps that was why I had kept it.
It was not light out yet. Too early to arise. I would keep my own counsel here in bed. Doubtless devout Catholics—secretly here in England, openly in Europe—were already at early Mass. Some Protestants were most likely up and studying Scripture. But I, their reluctant figurehead, would commune with the Lord by myself.
I, Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England for thirty years, had been cast by my birth into the role of defender of the Protestant faith. Spiteful people said, “Henry VIII broke with the pope and founded his own church only so he could get his way with Anne Boleyn.” My father had given them grounds with his flip quote “If the pope excommunicates me, I’ll declare him a heretic and do as I please.” Thus the King’s Conscience had become a joke. But out of it had come the necessity of embracing Protestantism, and from that had grown a national church that now had its own character, its own martyrs and theology. To the old Catholic Church, I was a bastard and usurper queen; thus I say that my birth imposed Protestantism upon me.
Why must England, a poor country, be stuck with subsidizing three others—the French, the Dutch, the Scots—and facing Spain, the Goliath champion of Catholicism? God’s teeth, wasn’t it enough for me to defend and manage my own realm? The role was a sponge that soaked up our resources and was driving us slowly but inexorably toward bankruptcy. To be the soldier of God was an expense I could have done without.
Soldier. God must be laughing, to have handed me his banner to carry, when all the world knew—or thought it did—that a woman could never lead troops into battle.