WENDY J. DUNN: MY AMAZING GUEST BLOGGER
It seems accepted that writing a second novel is a more difficult feat than writing the first. For me, this was very true. There should have been a drum roll when I finally decided I had a second manuscript ready for the next step of Agents and Publishers.
Dear Heart, How Like You This?, my first novel, took two years to write and ten years of rejections and more editing and rewrites before it found its publisher in 2002. I thought then my world had turned to my heart’s yearning; finally, I had proved myself and would be free to write full-time, be the author I had wanted to be since I was eight-years-old.
But I discovered the harsh reality about how little most writers earn through the publication of their first book. I have a family to support and a large mortgage – commitments that need dealing with everyday of my life. I still have to face the necessity of a “real job,” employment that pays the bills, puts food onto the table and keeps us in a suburb and home we love. Many writers are in the same boat. I know I am luckier than most because I am married and my husband is more or less content to be the full-time wage earner, while I work as a part time teacher, which too often feels like a full-time job.
I started my second completed novel manuscript shortly after the publication of my first. Please note I wrote “completed novel manuscript.” Like I said, I am one of those writers who found that second novel a very hard task. On my computer, there are other novel attempts. I just couldn’t keep up the momentum to get them pass the half way point, perhaps, simply, because they had nothing to do with the Tudors. When I reach the promised land of being a full time writer, I’d really like to return to these projects.
The publication of Dear Heart gave me the impetus and encouragement I needed to write another Tudor novel. Sir Thomas Wyatt, the man and poet recounting the story of Anne Boleyn in my first novel, said about Katherine of Aragon:
I thought the Queen a very gracious lady, for whom I once was given the pleasure and honour of composing poems. And I, despite all the conflicts the future would bring, always thought most highly of the Queen, believing with all my heart that this saintly woman was great and noble. She did not deserve the terrible, most cruel future the fates held in store for her.
Yes - researching Anne Boleyn’s story left me equally sympathetic to Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, as to his second. This sympathy turned into a passion to tell Katherine’s story for my next Tudor historical. But where to begin? What Point of View to use? I tried a few different ways into Katherine’s story, but none of them left me satisfied. It was when I read about Maria de Salinas, best and lifetime friend of Katherine of Aragon, and her determined journey in winter to be at Katherine’s deathbed, that I finally knew the voice who would tell this story. I just didn’t realise the mountain of research I first needed to surmount, nor that to do Katherine’s story justice would take more than one novel.
Maria grew up with Katherine at the court of Katherine’s mother, the crusader Queen Isabel of Castile. Katherine experienced a very different upbringing than her future husband, Henry VIII. And not just because of her female sex. If I have achieved anything with this manuscript, it is the depiction of the forces that shaped Katherine into the woman that became one of the most beloved queens of England. Weaving a tale of strong-willed mothers and daughters, my new novel, Falling Pomegranate Seeds, sings a song to friendship and life.