Thursday, May 31, 2012

A BeingBess-Press Interview with Tudor Author Claire Ridgway!

Tudor author Claire Ridgway, 2012. Reproduced with permission.

I am delighted to welcome Claire Ridgway to BeingBess! Ms. Ridgway is an Anne Boleyn researcher, webmaster and a published author; She is currently on a book tour to promote her latest work, The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown.

The genius cover of Ms. Ridgway's latest; notice the powerful combination of Anne Boleyn's famous "B" necklace and the sword that ended her remarkable life. Reproduced with permission from Claire Ridgway.

Ms. Ridgway has graciously answered my questions about her book, her interest in Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I, and her fantastic websites, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Elizabeth Files.

And on a personal note, I would like to share that Ms. Ridgway's work has positively impacted my life; her websites are the first that I frequented on a weekly basis. I credit them with galvanizing me to create my own online presence with which to share Elizabeth Tudor's story with the world. It is safe to say that without the inspiration of Elizabeth I herself (of course) and of Ms. Ridgway's respective sites, there would be no BeingBess!

After you read the interview, I hope you will take the time to comment. As always, I love to hear my readers thoughts and I know Ms. Ridgway values feedback as well. But in this case there is extra incentive to share your thoughts, as Ms. Ridgway will be choosing one comment at random before 12 PM on Sunday June 3rd to award this Rainbow Portrait inspired Elizabeth I necklace:

This could be yours...

This clever necklace allows you to carry with you the power of the great Tudor queen in a chic way! Ms. Ridgway has generously opened this contest to people of all countries and will ship the necklace to wherever on the globe the winner is!

~Without further ado, please enjoy my exclusive 
Q&A with author Claire Ridgway!~

A portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn currently hanging in Hever Castle, after a 1534 original. Anna Bolina Regina is depicted wearing her famous "B" necklace, sported today by Claire and other Anne Boleyn enthusiasts the world over. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Q: You maintain two informative Tudor history websites, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Elizabeth Files. What first captivated you about the Tudor dynasty, and what about Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I inspired you to educate others about them?

A: I first came across the Tudors when I was 11 years old and I think what grabbed my attention then was the fact that Henry VIII had gone through six wives and had two of them executed! It was shocking, yet it had really happened. Tudor history has all the ingredients of an addictive soap opera, but it's true, and I think the drama of it all captivated me You have these larger than life characters who made a real impact on England, but who also committed such brutal acts.
A composite image of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Anne Boleyn just grabbed me. Firstly, I was struck by the tragedy of her story, and then she just reeled me in. I became annoyed with how she was represented in fiction and on TV, as opposed to who she really was and what she did, and so I became committed to researching her and sharing what I found. She is still surrounded by myths and misconceptions so I present the facts and attempt to challenge these perceptions.
Elizabeth I, like her mother, is a fascinating and captivating historical figure. She described herself as “the lion's cub”, referring obviously to her father, Henry VIII, but she was also her mother's daughter in many ways. Elizabeth was the Queen of PR and propaganda, an intelligent woman who would not suffer fools gladly, a charming woman with wit and a magnetic personality, and a woman who rose above her past, and overcame the many challenges life threw at her in her youth, to become the iconic Gloriana and Virgin Queen. I know that many people challenge the idea that she heralded in a Golden Age, but she was an amazing monarch in a time when women just weren't meant to be in control.

Q: Visitors to The Anne Boleyn Files can sign up for a free "Welcome Pack" containing some primary sources and a recommended book list. What is your favorite biography of Anne Boleyn and why? And what is your favorite biography of Elizabeth I and why?
A: My favourite biography of Anne Boleyn is The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives. It may be heavy going for people new to Tudor history, but it covers every aspect of Anne's life and is fully referenced.
My favourite biography of Elizabeth I is David Starkey's Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne. This book is on Elizabeth's early life, up until her accession, but it is incredibly detailed and highly readable. I've also enjoyed Alison Weir's biography and the ones by Anne Somerset and Alison Plowden.

Q: One of the best things about your sites is that not only are they content-rich, but they are further enhanced by the use of multimedia: a Tudor-themed product store, Amazon book-list widgets and more. How important do you think multimedia is for connecting to your readers and for teaching Tudor history?
A: Everything I have done is a result of people asking for it, so I've simply listened to what my visitors want. I think that is the key to having a successful blog. I've done videos, I do webinars for my Anne Boleyn Fellowship members, I use illustrations in blog posts, I added a forum, I reply to comments, I run competitions etc. and I think people like the community aspect of The Anne Boleyn Files and how it's become interactive, rather than being a static information site.
People learn in different ways - some people like to read, others like to listen and some are more visual and enjoy videos – I hope that presenting the information in different ways allows all visitors to learn about Anne and Elizabeth.
The Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London. Elizabeth I probably entered the Tower through this gate, though her mother, Anne, likely passed through the more distinguished Court Gate. One of these women would survive her imprisonment; the other was executed at the king's pleasure. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Q: You currently facilitate two exciting tours: The Executed Queens Tour and The Anne Boleyn Experience. What motivated you to undertake the project of developing, coordinating and running historical tours? I can imagine it is no easy feat! 
A: I kept being asked if there were any tours which focused on Anne Boleyn, so I researched and found that there weren't any. Tim and I then decided to organize one and that was the 2010 Anne Boleyn Experience. It was such a big hit that we decided to expand and add another tour in 2011, and that too was a hit. However, this year's tours are going to be our last, I think, because they take so much time to organize and I really need to prioritize my research and writing. I've loved doing them, though.

Q: You have written and published two books, The Anne Boleyn Collection: The Real Truth About the Tudors and The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown. How did the idea for these books come about? And what was the writing and publishing process like?
A: I have been researching Anne Boleyn for over three years now and have been working on a few different projects. What's funny is that The Anne Boleyn Collection was not one of those projects and was never meant to be! It came about because one of my regular visitors emailed me and asked me if I would consider publishing the most popular articles from The Anne Boleyn Files to celebrate our three year anniversary. I was unsure about it but I asked some other regular visitors what they thought and they all thought it was a fantastic idea. Tim (my techie husband) then found a way to list the articles by popularity, i.e. which had been commented on the most or shared the most, and then we compiled them, edited them, added some extra research and published them. I wasn't sure how the book would be received, being so different to other Tudor history books, and being a collection of articles rather than a flowing book, but people seem to like it and I'm happy.
The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown was one of my planned books. I felt that a countdown, a day at a time, to Anne Boleyn's execution showed just how fast things moved in spring 1536. Things went from Henry VIII tricking Chapuys into bowing to Anne and acknowledging her as queen on the 18th April 1536, to Anne being executed on 19th May 1536 and England having a new queen on 30th May 1536. I wanted to present information based on the primary sources but in an easy-to-read format, and I hope I've accomplished that.
The writing and publishing process has been quite a learning curve. Although I had an agent interested in one of my book projects, I decided to self-publish The Anne Boleyn Collection and The Fall of Anne Boleyn. Neither project would be seen as 'commercially viable' to a publisher and I also wanted control of when they were published and the retail price. I wanted my books to be read, so I wanted to keep the cost down for the reader. Obviously paperbacks have production costs and I have to cover those, but I have chosen to list my Kindle versions for a list price of $2.99 (under £2 in the UK) which I think is reasonable for an electronic book. It has been a challenge, as you have to find your own cover designer, copy-editor etc., but I've loved every moment of it.

Q: You are passionate about my two favorite historical figures, Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn. Why do you think people should know, as your website taglines say, "The REAL TRUTH about Anne Boleyn...The Most Happy" and "The REAL TRUTH about Queen Elizabeth I" ?
A: Because myths, stereotypes and misconceptions have no place in history. Some of the myths are so prevalent in books and online that people simply accept them as the truth and don't think to challenge them. I have lost count of the amount of times that I've read that Anne Boleyn was charged with witchcraft. 

Q: On The Elizabeth Files, your readers can sign up for a free report, The Myths Surrounding Queen Elizabeth I. What is the most frustrating prevailing myth you encounter concerning Elizabeth I? And Anne Boleyn?
A: When the movie “Anonymous” came out I was inundated with emails regarding Elizabeth I having an illegitimate son by Robert Dudley and whenever a certain programme comes on the National Geographic Channel I receive emails about the Arthur Dudley myth or Elizabeth actually being a man!
Queen Elizabeth I painted from life, attributed to Zuccaro. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
As far as Anne is concerned, I think the most prevalent ones, apart from the witchcraft charge, are that Anne was a Protestant, that her father used her to rise at court and that she was whore who used her sexual magnetism to lead Henry astray.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote from Elizabeth I or a favorite quote about her? And do you have a favorite quote of Anne Boleyn's or a favorite quote about her?
A: My favourite Elizabeth quotes are:
“And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.” -From the Golden Speech, 1601.

“I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.” -From the Tilbury Speech, 1588.
An artist's representation of Queen Elizabeth I addressing her troops with her iconic Tilbury Speech. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
For Anne Boleyn, I love the whole of her execution speech. I cannot read it without having the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I also love:
“She who has been the Queen of England on earth will today become a Queen in Heaven.” -Archbishop Cranmer, 19th May 1536.

“He's marrying the perfect wife for him [Jane Seymour], and he’s learned that he doesn't need an Anne Boleyn – another partner in crime to help him take over the world. He just needs a wonderful, supportive wife to take care of him when he comes home from a hard day beheading people.” -Actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers. 
I've always seen Anne as Henry's partner, rather than as the submissive Tudor wife, so I like the Jonathan Rhys Meyers one.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect for you of researching and educating others about Tudor history?
A: I love it when I receive emails from people who are relieved to finally find somewhere where they can talk Tudor without boring their friends and family. I know the feeling of having people's eyes glaze over when you start talking Tudor history and it is wonderful to find people who are interested in it as much as you are.
It's also very rewarding to be able to help students or people researching for a book, to be able to point them in the right direction for reputable sources and primary sources.

Q: Do you have any exciting new upcoming projects that you would like to share?
A: I'm working on a joint project (non Tudor history) with my husband, Tim, at the moment and that is due to be released in July. I'm also finishing up a Tudor themed project which I hope to release late summer/early autumn. It's more of a general Tudor history book and I will be sharing details a bit nearer the time.
The Chequers ring, the famous locket-ring commissioned and worn by Elizabeth I to commemorate her mother and unite the two as one (inside the "E" are two side-by-side portraits of Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn). Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
~Thank you for your time, Claire! 
It has been a privilege to interview someone as dedicated to Tudor history as you are! 
I wish you best of luck in your upcoming project, and I know I am not alone in saying that, 
"I cannot wait to hear more!"~

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For More on The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, click: