Keeping it Real with April Taylor and Win a Book

Today, please join me in welcoming author April Taylor to Preternatura. April is dropping by to celebrate the release of her new book, Court of Conspiracy. Court of Conspiracy was released on May 26 by Carina Press and is the first book in April’s The Tudor Enigma series. The second book in the series, Taste of Treason, will be released in October and the third book in the series, Croaking of Ravens, will be released in February 2015. I’ve started reading this one, and it’s a terrific historic fantasy–think English royalty and magic!

April Taylor has been writing stories since she was a child. She lives on the Yorkshire coast in the north of England with her husband and a blind rescue golden retriever called Rufus. In her former life, she was an information professional working in public and prison libraries – the latter had some very interesting moments! Her last job before giving it all up for writing was as R&D Information Manager for a global pharmaceutical company and that’s where she met her husband. When she is not writing, she loves reading, counted cross-stitch, singing and playing the piano and walking Rufus on the beach. You can learn more about April by visiting her website, her blog, on Facebook and by following her on Twitter.

courtofconspiracycoverABOUT COURT OF CONSPIRACY: England is the prize. The death of a young king is the price. King Henry IX, son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, holds the very balance of European power in his Protestant hands. His numerous Catholic enemies have cast greedy eyes upon his crown and will stop at nothing to usurp the throne. An unassuming apothecary in the Outer Green of Hampton Court Palace is the Queen’s last hope.Luke Ballard treats the poor with balms and salves but is careful to protect his greater gifts. For Luke is also an elemancer, one of the blessed few able to harness elemental powers for good. His quiet life ends when Queen Anne commands him to hunt down the traitors, a mission he cannot refuse. Beset on all sides, Luke mobilizes his arsenal of magic and ingenuity to conquer the enemy. But as the stakes are raised in the uneven battle of good vs. evil, he knows this is only the first skirmish of a lifelong war. The welfare of the Tudors—and England—depends on him alone.

And now, let’s hear from April…

Keeping the history as authentic as possible when creating an alternate world.
By April Taylor

I’ve always felt poor Anne Boleyn had a raw deal and, to a greater or lesser extent, she has lived with me ever since my first encounter with her at the age of 14. When the phrase “Henry’s black-eyed boy” began to repeat itself in my mind, I started playing “what-if?” What if Anne had given birth to the boy she miscarried in 1534? What if he is now King Henry IX? What if Anne is still alive? What-if I use the rumors about her being a witch to create a fantasy story with magic, but also with as real a historical background as possible? I wanted to create a world which might have been true.

Henry VIII died in 1547, which would make Anne’s son 12/13 years old when he ascended the throne. But I didn’t want either him or his mother as a protagonist, which is why I chose Luke Ballard, the self-effacing apothecary in the Outer Green of Hampton Court Palace as my hero. To aid the fantasy, I would make Luke a magician, an elemancer who uses the elements to perform good magic, but the magic would be fairly low-key to aid credibility. He would be ordered in secret by Anne, also an elemancer, to foil any conspiracies that threatened to topple Henry IX. Why not use Anne herself? Because a woman’s position in society, even royal society, was the lowest of the low and would not have been convincing.

The confines of one blog post are insufficient to give more than a fleeting Av readingidea of how much research is necessary to convey the flavor of the time, I will confine this one to the social mores of the time and food.

The Statutes of Apparel were rigidly enforced. They applied to food, drink, furniture, jewelry and clothes and were used to control behavior and ensure the continuation of the class structure. Married ladies had a different dress code to unmarried ones. Only the royal family could wear cloth of purple silk or gold. Earls and above ranks could wear sable fur. The peasants wore wool, linen and sheepskin in brown, beige, yellow, orange, russet, green, grey or woad-dyed blue. Frequently the Statutes would be amended to support a failing industry. People were frequently exhorted to buy local wool if European trade was going badly. What happened if people transgressed the statutes? The offender was fined for every day he/she had disobeyed the law and the article of clothing was confiscated.

The statutes also applied to food. For example, the Lord Chamberlain could have 16 dishes at dinner, mostly meat including deer, boar, lamb, duck, swan and peacock. A household servant was limited to four dishes. In 1543, when there was an epidemic of cattle disease, the statutes were tightened. Anyone found breaking the law regarding the number of dishes was liable to a fine of 40 shillings – roughly £1000 or $1500 in today’s money – for every dish over and above the permitted number. That said, the perpetrator had to be caught and it was difficult to enforce what went on in the privacy of people’s homes.

The peasants might eat chickens they had raised. They were encouraged to kill rabbits, rooks and crows, all of which ate crops. Fish eaten included eels, pike or perch, but poaching from local landlords was rife. People ate fish instead of meat on two days a week. Initially, this was for religious reasons, but later it was to support the fishing industry.

Vegetables were mainly used in a stew called pottage or put in sauces. Frumenty, made with cracked wheat and with either broth or almonds and currents was a common staple food. Everyday vegetables were cabbages, leeks, onions, carrots and turnips and these frequently formed the basis of pottage. Every meal, for rich and poor alike, was accompanied by bread.

Even in well-to-do households, the mistress of the house was responsible for cooking. Working alongside her servants, she would make cheeses that might be sent to friends or her husband if he was away from home on business. Many people have a romanticized view of a dairymaid, but it was not for the faint-hearted. Even in Tudor times, it was known that the dairy had to be spotless to avoid tainting. Hours were spent scrubbing and scalding vessels. Churning butter is heavy work, too. Cream was used by the well-off for desserts and sauces. The poorer housewife would use cream for making butter. Any excess could be sold at market and it was accepted that the profits from the dairy belonged to the lady of the house.

Thus in the books of The Tudor Enigma, you will never find Luke Ballard wearing purple or gold or eating peacock!

If you would like to purchase a copy of Court of Conspiracy, click on the link below:

Thanks for stopping by today, April. Congratulations on the release of Court of Conspiracy and best of luck with the two books to follow. If you would like to win a copy of Court of Conspiracy, leave a comment!!

22 thoughts on “Keeping it Real with April Taylor and Win a Book

  1. I love it when an author does their research on historical info, instead of making it up! If you are writing fantasy, you can make up stuff, but when you have a strong historical basis, you need to do the research. I find these details facinating, I’d love to hear more. This book is going on my TBR list!

  2. i did learn a lot about history just with post, i love when a book mix real element with fantasy it make sme want to make some researh

  3. Thanks for sharing the statutes. I knew about some of them, but this was very interesting.

    • It is sometimes difficult to realize the rigidity of life in those times. I suppose the modern equivalent is North Korea where all the men have to have the same hairstyle!

    • It was a fascinating time in England and the final power play between church and state when Henry took the country away from Rome. He was still a Catholic, but an Anglo-Catholic instead of a Roman Catholic.

  4. It’s so much easier to accept and immerse yourself in alternate history plots if the author takes the time to make the basics accurate! Your research sounds fascinating, and it’s appreciated even though within the plot it’s all “show, don’t tell” and background detail.

  5. What a fascinating book! I love the combination of history and fantasy. Your extensive library experience must have been extremely helpful in your research.

    • I am posting on my FB author page covers of books I find essential. I became a librarian because I loved books and thought of all that time I could spend reading. Ha! What I did find fascinating, and still do, is finding information. It’s a joy and always will be.

  6. Suzanne, I want to thank you for hosting me on the blog. It was a delight to write, but the responses have been really uplifting and encouraging. Thank you, everyone.