For those who have read my posts you will know I’m a huge fan of Tony Riches so was delighted when he agreed to join me here on my blog.
Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Tudors.
What was your first book published and what inspired you to write it?
I’d already written several non-fiction books before my first novel, Queen Sacrifice. Inspired by my love of chess, the narrative follows every move in the queen sacrifice game, known as “The Game of the Century” between Donald Byrne and thirteen-year-old Bobby Fischer in New York on October 17th, 1956.
I set it in 10thC Wales, between the ‘Gwyn’ (Welsh for white) and the ‘Du’ (Welsh for black.) I enjoyed thinking up ‘back stories’ for the thirty-two characters, (and gave some of them wives, to have more female characters). I also had some interesting plot challenges, as for example, when in the actual game a bishop ‘kills’ a knight, or a queen ‘takes’ a pawn. My first novel taught me a lot about writing – and helped me choose historical fiction as my preferred genre.
You’ve published two trilogies, The Tudors and The Brandons, can you tell us a bit about them?
I was born within sight of Pembroke Castle, but only began to study its history when I returned to the area as a full-time author. I found several accounts of the life of Henry Tudor, (who later became King Henry VII and began the Tudor Dynasty) but no novels which brought the truth of his story to life.
The idea for the Tudor Trilogy occurred to me when I realised Henry Tudor could be born in book one, ‘come of age’ in book two, and rule England as king in book three, so there would be plenty of scope to explore his life and times.
Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor, nursed him during his last year. Her little brother, (Henry VIII) married her off to the dying King Louis of France, and I realised her story would be a perfect ‘sequel’ to the Tudor trilogy. I then became intrigued by her second husband, Charles Brandon, and finally wrote about the fascinating life of Brandon’s last wife, Katherine Willoughby, (who knew all six of Henry VIII’s wives).
I’ve noticed from your blog you’ve travelled to many places for research, which was the most memorable and why?
There are so many – but one of the most amazing ‘finds’ was Henry Tudor’s remote hideaway at Forteresse de Largoët in Brittany. Some distance up an unlikely looking track leading deep into the woodlands outside the village of Elven, I climbed a winding stone staircase into his private rooms and really felt I was walking in Henry’s footsteps.
Which of the Tudor and Brandon individuals were the most difficult to write about?
Owen Tudor was by far the hardest to research, as he left few primary sources – and so much of what is written about him was made up centuries later. I made it harder for myself as I was reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall at the time, and decided to rewrite Owen in her first person, present tense. (I’ll not try that again, but Owen is still an Amazon best-seller, with 671 reviews in the US, so all that hard work was worthwhile.)
Your latest book Katherine: Tudor Duchess is based on Katherine Willoughby, she was very young when she married Charles Brandon, do you think she resented this age gap or do you believe she came to love him?
Yes, I agonised with my editor about this, as I didn’t want readers to judge this by modern standards or read it for the wrong reasons, so had to take care in some scenes. Having read her letters, I believe (like most Tudor women) Katherine made the best of her first marriage – and married for love after Brandon’s death, a good result!
If you could have a conversation with any individual from history who would it be and why?
I’d love an hour with Owen Tudor – and can I have his wife, Catherine of Valois, present as well? There are so many questions regarding Owen’s life which I had to make an informed guess about, including the details of his marriage to Catherine.
Which individual from history do you think has an unfair reputation and why?
Henry Tudor is still called ‘dull’ and ‘miserly’ by those who don’t know better, yet he spent a fortune on clothes and parties – and loved to gamble (often losing at cards). Worst of all, his victory at Bosworth in 1485 is still seen as ‘lucky’, with Henry standing well back from the fighting, instead of heroic – with him at the heart of the action. In fact, Henry’s strategy allowed him to face overwhelming odds and take the crown for the Tudors.
Name a book everyone should read
The first one which comes to mind is quite new – Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort, Tudor Matriarch, by one of my favourite authors, Dr Nicola Tallis. As well as being the first serious biography of Margaret Beaufort, it lays the many myths to rest and places her firmly as the mother of the Tudor Dynasty.
What can your readers look forward to reading from you?
I’m now working on three books for my new Elizabethan series, which will continue and complete the story of the Tudor dynasty. Thanks to lockdown (stricter in Wales than England) one book is with my editor, I’m writing the second, and researching the third. I’m enjoying showing different facets of Queen Elizabeth through the eyes (and ambitions) of her courtiers.
Any advice for budding authors?
There is a recent post on my blog about how a page a day is a book a year: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com/2020/06/a-page-day-is-book-year.html?m=1
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tony-Riches/e/B006UZWOXA
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Tony-Riches/e/B006UZWOXA
Writing blog: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com/
Thank you to Tony for answering all those questions and providing some fabulous answers and photographs. I totally agree on the book everyone should read, having recently read this it was incredible! I would also like to be a fly on the wall for that chat with Owen and Catherine. I am certainly looking forward to more of Tony’s work, please have a look at my reviews if you’d like to read what I thought about the books (they’re all fab)! Don’t know about anyone else but I’d really like a trip to Brittany now to walk in Henry’s footsteps.