Today we are so lucky to have debut author Michelle Diener here to talk to us a little about her newest release In A Treacherous Court, the first in her Susanna Horenbout and John Parker Series from Simon & Schuster. The series will continue on with it’s second release scheduled for February of 2012.
Michelle, Thanks so much for being here!
Book Pushers: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Michelle: I’m the kind of person who was a writer from the moment they could pick up a pen. I’m the oldest of five children, and I spent a lot of time weaving elaborate stories for my brothers and sisters. I was the in-car entertainment on long trips. 🙂 I was born in London, but grew up in South Africa, and I now live in Australia. So I’ve done the rounds of the former British Empire :). I went in to publishing when I finished my MA, and then into information systems. I only started writing seriously when I suddenly realised my dream was slipping away and I wasn’t doing anything about it.
Book Pushers: What do you have in store for Susanna and Parker in the future?
Michelle: I feel sorry for Susanna and Parker. I throw a lot of trouble their way. In KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, Parker bears the brunt of it, but Susanna has her turn in book three of the series, title as yet undecided (although I do have one I like).
Book Pushers: The rich description and setting of In a Treacherous Court focused on different aspects of court life/world, did you have a difficult time in your research discovering the gritty and minutiae details?
Michelle: Fortunately for me, there is a lot out there. The Letters and Papers of Henry VIII are exactly that, letters and papers between Henry, Katherine, and their staff compiled into massive volumes which are fortunately available online. It makes searching for something so much easier. All kinds of minutiae crop up there, as well as the big things. And historians like Alison Weir, in her HENRY VIII: A KING AND HIS COURT, really go down to the most basic level. The amount of research Weir did is staggering, and I have it all beautifully put together and at my fingertips, thanks to her. I used a number of research books, but Letters and Papers and Weir’s Henry VIII are the two I used the most.
Book Pushers: Why do you think the Tudor setting is so popular in historical fiction? What about this time is so riveting in your eyes?
Michelle: Henry VIII was a man who had a vision for England as the leader in all things, fashion, art and music included. He spent a lot of money trying to make his vision a reality. He hired artists and musicians from the continent, he dressed beautifully, he tried to emulate the ways of the Burgundian Princes, and loved pageants and plays, and the ideal of courtly love. But through-out this, he also had a huge succession problem on his hands, and of course, this was the Renaissance, so there was change, and new ideas and new ways of thinking coming from all directions. With all that going on, who wouldn’t find it exciting?
Book Pushers: The mix of mystery and romance is not as typical as most people think. What do you think is the appeal of this match up, and why aren’t more author writing in this sub-genre?
Michelle: I must say, I don’t see In a Treacherous Court as a mystery, so much as thriller or historical suspense, because we know well before the end who the villain is, it is really more the tension of who will win the day, the villain or Parker and Susanna. But mystery, thriller, suspense or just straight fiction of any kind, I love some romance in everything I read. It adds an extra zing, and makes the book so much more enjoyable to me.
Book Pushers: As a reader, mysteries seem to be so involved and are probably difficult to plot. Are there any essential rules an aspiring mystery author should follow – the DOs and DON’TS of mystery writing according to Michelle?
Michelle: I can only say, do as I say, not as I do, LOL, because I often scrap chapters of work at a time when I realise I have either painted myself into a corner, or taken the obvious road. I’m really tough on myself. I don’t want to settle for the well-worn groove. If it seems obvious, then I try to think of another way. And I never, ever do something just because it’s convenient to my plot. That has made me have to think of some pretty innovative ways out of trouble for my characters, but that has always strengthened the story, in my mind. As a reader, I don’t like to see an obvious plot device just so the hero or heroine can escape, or so something can happen that the author needs to happen. If it isn’t logical, but it would help, tough. I just won’t have convenient ‘co-incidences’ or serendipitous events for the sake of the plot.
Book Pushers: What appealed to you to write about and base your books on Susanna and Parker. And did their romance take you by surprise?
Michelle: This whole series started because I read about Susanna in a history reference book for the young adult market, Uppity Women of the Renaissance by Vicki Leon. It was just a short page of information on her, but that was all I needed to pique my interest. I did more research, and I just knew I had to write her story. The idea of a woman who was acknowledged by the best artists of her day as exceptional, at a time when she was competing with them in a field of expertise that was considered the sole preserve of men, excited me. And it made me so sad that nothing remains of her work, save for a brass plaque which can be found in All Saint’s Church in Fulham, London. Even that is not definitely by her, but it is extremely likely. When I learned that she had been sent ahead of her family to Henry’s court, and had met and married one of his courtiers, well, I just had to come up with a really wild and thrilling adventure for her.
As for her romance with Parker, to me, that’s such an interesting part of the story. Parker held a powerful position, even though he wasn’t a nobleman, and it seemed strange to me that he would have been allowed to marry her, rather than Henry arranging a marriage for him with one of the daughters of another courtier or nobleman – something Henry did to bind his courtiers to him. Susanna would not have come with land or a large dowry and she was unusual and different to the other women in Henry’s court to say the least. It had to be true love!
Book Pushers: Do you have any plans or ideas percolating to write in a different genre or new characters and setting?
Michelle: I just did a huge dive off the deep-end for charity, and contributed a short contemporary paranormal with some romantic elements to an anthology which should be out in September. So, completely different to historical fiction. The anthology stars a host of amazing authors, and I’m proud to be among them. Some of the names include such bestselling authors as Jennifer Estep, Allison Brennan, Karin Tabke and Cynthia Eden, among others. All the proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It is going to be an awesome anthology, and all for an amazing cause.
As for my historical fiction, I have another Susanna and Parker book lined up, but just to keep things fresh, and to get down onto paper a story I’ve been mulling for at least five years, I’m writing a book set in 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars. It’s a bit darker than my Susanna and Parker books, but I’m loving it, and I know I can go back to the Tudor period completely refreshed after my foray into the streets of London nearly 300 years on from when Susanna and Parker walked the cobblestones.
Book Pushers: We have to ask you this question! If you had the power to to invite five famous people from the past for a dinner party, who would they be and what kind of dinner party game would you all play?
Michelle: Oh, no question: Susanna Horenbout, Henry VIII, John Parker, the Cardinal Wolsey and the Duke of Norfolk. And then I’d make them play a game of truth or dare :).
Book Pushers: While researching Parker’s role as a servant to the King, what was the most interesting/weird duty that you came across?
Michelle: There are so many, but this is a fun one. There was a very set ritual performed around Henry’s daily schedule. Part of it was that each night, when they made up his bed with fresh linen, one of the Yeomen would pierce the bottom straw mattress of the King’s bed with a dagger to route out any hidden assassins. Every single night, as a matter of course. Talk about making sure there were no bogey men under the bed!
Thanks so much Michelle for coming to talk to us today!
Michelle has offered to giveaway a copy of In a Treacherous Court to one lucky commenter. Just leave a comment or question for Michelle in ordered to be entered. Open to US only, ends on August 1st. Please read our giveaway policy for more details. Good Luck!
34 thoughts on “Interview + Giveaway with Michelle Diener”
Thank you for the interview and giveaway!
After writing historical fiction, was it hard to switch gears and write contemporary paranormal? Do you have plans to write more paranormal works in the future?
Great interview. In a Treacherous Court sounds good I love the cover. Thank you for the giveaway.
Nice interview, i have two questions, how did you get interested in writing about historical fiction books? And when you invite those five famous peple, what would you ask each one??
Thanks for the giveaway!
I’m always looking for ew authors to read, sounds good! tWarner419@aol.com
I love books about court intrigue, and this one looks like a good one! Thanks for a great interview and giveaway 🙂
jwitt33 at live dot com
Sabrina, thanks for stopping by! It was strange, rather than hard, to switch gears from historical to contemporary. The one huge benefit, which I hadn’t really thought of, was that I didn’t have to do any research. I am obsessive about getting my facts straight, so I’m always double and triple checking things, so writing a contemporary felt weird, without that.
As for writing more paranormal, well, that short story definitely lent itself to more. I can see the characters from that story in a book, and I’m definitely playing with the idea.
Thank you, CrystalGB. I love that cover, too. Lisa Litwack, who is the head of the art department for Gallery Books, did an amazing job!
Hi Lissette, I’ve always been fascinated by history. I studied it at university and I have always read historical books, both fiction and non-fiction. The stories that came to me as a writer were always historical or historical fantasy, and I went with what felt right to me.
As for that dinner party, I’d ask them to tell something about themselves the others don’t know. Now THAT would be an interesting round of conversations :).
Thank you, Teresa.
It’s a pleasure, and thank you, Julie.
In a Treacherous Court sounds like a wonderful read and I also like the idea of the anthology coming later this year and will be keeping an eye out. Thank you for the lovely interview and giveaway opportunity today – there is just something about a historical with mystery that sound so appealing.
Thank YOU so much, Denise. The anthology will be called ENTANGLED. It’s going to be an ebook only, and for sale for $2.99 (a bargain! Why wouldn’t anyone buy it when every cent goes to charity?), and it will contain ten short stories by a wide range of authors, most of them paranormal and UF bestsellers. I’m the odd one out as the only historical author in the mix, but I was so happy to be invited to contribute. I’ve lost three close family members to cancer, and one of my two critique partners is going through her 8th round on chemo right now, so it’s a cause very close to my heart.
I work at a cancer center so I just love when people come up with ways to help out families affected by cancer.
On a book note, I love anything to do with the Tudors and that time period. I blame Showtimes series the Tudors, so now when I read books in this time period I can picture the dress and scenes! Your book sounds wonderful and intriguing as I haven’t heard of Susanna before and it appears she was quite a woman.
Thank you for a chance in your giveaway!
Lexi, I love the way people are so innovative with fundraising, too. I was thrilled to be invited to contribute to ENTANGLED, and my hat goes off to the organizers, authors Edie Ramer and Misty Evans. This was their brainchild.
Susanna WAS quite a woman. I loved so much that she was a real historical figure. I’m sure if I’d made her up, people would have told me someone like her couldn’t have existed! 🙂
The cover for your book is lovely, and I am very interested in your characters. I wonder how hard it is to write a work of fiction about people who actually lived. Do you find yourself changing events or behaviors to fit the story or do you feel limited by the facts?
Thank you for the compliment on the cover, Dolores, I love it, too :).
When I first decided to write In a Treacherous Court, I was a bit nervous about the fact that most of the characters would be people who were real historical figures, but to be honest, there is so little information available, particularly on my two main protagonists, that I felt completely unconstrained in the end. For more well-known figures, like Henry VIII, I tried to keep what is known about him in mind all the time, so that his actions and dialogue are as consistent with what we know as possible. As for historical accuracy, I tried to be as accurate as I could be. I have an author’s note at the end of the book which gives details on which occurrences in the book were real, and which I made up. I play with the facts, but I stick to them as much as possible.
The book sounds really good. Thanks for the interview and giveaway!
Thanks for stopping by, Terri.
Wow, what an intriguing book! When I read the review for it yesterday, I immediately went to Amazon and put it on my wish list! Looking forward to it! Thanks for the lovely interview and giveaway!
Thank you for the giveaway and interview. I would love to read your books. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com
Thank you, Erin.
Michelle, your book sounds like an excellent historical novel, and I really cannot wait to read it! I would love to win a copy, so thanks for the great giveaway, too 🙂
jwitt33 at live dot com
I enjoy some romance in my stories too.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com
Thanks for a really interesting interview. I don;t read a lot of historical novels, but when I do, this time period is always a favorite. I loved the series “The Tudors” for that reason. gotta love all of the palace shenanigans and political intrigue!
marajbrandon AT earthlink DOT net
It’s a pleasure, Julie, thank you!
Maureen, romance, even just an element of romance, definitely adds that X factor, doesn’t it?
Thank you, Mara, and I agree. The Tudor period is endlessly fascinating. There is so much going on.
I love the cover! I enjoy paranormal fiction so looking forward to this one!
Thanks MaryBeth. ENTANGLED, the paranormal / UF anthology, will hopefully be out at the end of September.
I’ve read oodles of historical fiction but I don’t think any of them could also be categorized as suspense or a thriller, so this one just went up on my wishlist.
This looks like a great book and a great series. I hope it’s not too late for questions!
You probably get asked my first question often, but I’ll ask anyhow. You mentioned that the research was relatively easy for this book. What was most challenging about writing this book, and how, if at all, does it differ from the challenges you typically face when writing?
Secondly, do you ever find your characters doing something unexpected after you begin writing them, or are they usually well-behaved? If they do take you in a somewhat different direction, how chagrined are you, or do you always expect a certain amount of deviation from your plan/outline?
Thank you, Lisa. I hope you enjoy!
Hi Rosie. Research wasn’t that easy, because it was so hard to find information on my characters, but it was enjoyable and fascinating, so I didn’t mind the struggle 🙂 . The challenge was to make sure that everything that did happen could have happened, given the events, personalities and mores of the time. I wanted to keep it real the whole way through, even though the plot was fictional.
Because I only have the vaguest idea of what will happen next, outside of the historical events which I have to stick to, I’m interested to see what feels ‘right’ as I write. But I do sometimes have an mental image of a character, of their personality, and then as I’m writing, they don’t stick to that, I find them behaving in a different way. I’m usually happy to let it go and see where it leads.