Last week, Toronto’s Al Green Theatre played host to best-selling historical fiction novelist Philippa Gregory. In town to promote her latest book, The King’s Curse, this new novel follows the life of lady-in-waiting Margaret Pole during the reign of King Henry VIII. Thanks to the lovely people at Simon & Schuster, I had the opportunity to give away a ticket to the event – which coincidentally was won by my usual partner-in-crime, Jenn @ Lost In a Great Book. (Though, full disclosure, while it was a random draw, the odds were VERY high in this giveaway! ;))
Greeted with a warm welcome, Philippa took the stage as she discussed her new book. She talked about her research process and how the first year of planning a novel is reading and researching non-stop. It was incredibly interesting to hear Philippa talk about the “big 5” in historical fiction (ie. Mary Queen of Scots, Anne Boleyn, etc.) and how she wanted to feature the lesser known women in history. That someone walking by would have a story just as interesting.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact context to which Philippa said this but it certainly gave all of us a good chuckle.
“I’m not a people person. I prefer working with people who are dead.”
In a novel way, to me at least, we experienced a book reading by Philippa that was pre-recorded in the most beautiful of settings. This was actually quite a brilliant way to do this and I’ve never seen it done before. In this way, she wouldn’t tire of reading the same passages through all her speaking engagements during the tour, and the fans get a sense of the setting with the gorgeous locales in each of the three passages. She discussed the criticism of writing historical fiction and the assumption that it’s the easier way out but, in fact, it is far from it. “[Historical fiction] is the science of history, the art of a novel”.
As this Toronto stop was the end of her book tour for The King’s Curse, she told the crowd about her string of bad luck that she’s had throughout this tour from her assistant falling ill and having to leave her behind in the U.S. to an editor, in a cab on their way to see her earlier that day, getting into an accident. To that, she wished us all to get home safely and one fan in the front row taught her a saying and gesture from the Italian culture to ward off bad luck! After fielding some more questions from the audience on her writing and research process, we lined up to get our copies of the book signed.
A thank you to the staff at Al Green Theatre, Simon & Schuster and the lovely Philippa Gregory for a fantastic evening!