More About the Author
When I was a child, my family seemed to be steeped in the love of historical lore.
I heard stories of my ancestors, the Dutch ship captain who eloped with a young French woman to settle in New York and Maryland. Another, who fought in the Revolutionary war at Valley Forge...but fortunately for him, in the summer.
My one grandfather told me stories of his Virginia grandfather, a Confederate cavalryman and showed me his sword with a once gilt tassel hanging from the hilt. My other grandfather recited a story of his grandfather who joined the Union army and lost a best friend, who fought for the south. For the rest of their lives, they passed in their little town on the opposite sides of the street and never spoke.
It's clear to me now that I was meant to be a reader and writer of historical novels from a very early age. My mother took me to the library when I was six to get my library card and to choose my first book. The one that most caught my attention was The Little Cave Boy and Girl, the first of a series about children through history. From that beginning, I continued to read historical non-fiction and fiction all my life, always fascinated by every aspect of earlier times. (Don't tell anyone, but I took books on my honeymoon and I can remember my husband's puzzlement when he saw me reading The History of Diseases. "It's interesting," I explained...difficult for a bridegroom to believe. He's since seen me read many similar books without surprise.)
I'm not alone. Most writers I know read curiously and voraciously as children, not realizing we're storing facts and ideas for future use. Sooner or later, some of us become enthralled with a particular historical period. Above all, I love British history and most particularly the Tudor period of the 1500s. Many women are drawn to Elizabethan novels. One of the strongest rulers in history, certainly the greatest queen, Elizabeth was also a woman we want to know and understand. We do know, she loved dancing, parties and handsome, well-dressed men and because of her personal charisma, she fascinated some of the greatest men of her era, even into, what was then, the ancient age of near seventy years.
She held Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester's love and loyalty until the day he died, carrying her own love for him in her heart until her own death. Of all her admirers, her Sweet Robin was most dear to her. Elizabeth was observed many times reading and re-reading his letters, mining the affection in them. Leicester waited for twenty years hoping to marry her before giving up and marrying Lettice Knollys, Elizabeth's hated cousin. She forgave him but banished Lettice, whom she called "that She-Wolf" from her court forever. Though he married, Robin's and Elizabeth's need for each other never ended and she kept him constantly beside her.
Elizabeth was a master at subterfuge, orchestrating many marriage proposals and contracts with the royalty of Europe as a way to keep England safe from attack. Yet, she never submitted to marriage in spite of the pleas of her Council, Parliament and people for an heir. Marriage to her meant sharing, or losing her power to a husband; marriage meant death either from his dissatisfaction (think of her father Henry VIII beheading two wives), or death in childbirth which killed many women. She would have none of it and used her brains and wiles to escape it. It was said of her that "Only her heart fluttered, not her head."
The public history of her reign is well-chronicled and many letters and state documents survive.
The private history is hidden, her personal letters to Sweet Robin destroyed in the English Civil War. We know little of what Elizabeth thought, what was in her heart and how she really felt about the major events and traumas of her life, or how they affected her.
That is where a novelist can help to fill in the gaps with what we know of a woman's responses to life. We can imagine her emotions through the eyes of others, her ladies-in-waiting, for example, as I do in The Virgin's Daughters: In the Court of Elizabeth I, coming in August 2009.
We can also come to know her through her long love and her heart's reaction to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Look for this story in my next novel of Elizabeth and her Sweet Robin, His Last Letter, Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester to be published in August 2010.
Elizabeth appears again in my next book The Spymaster's Daughter set in 1585-1588 the years when Sir Francis Walsingham and his network of Intelligencers slowly intercept incriminating coded messages from Mary, Queen of Scots. One of the queen's ladies is Walsingham's daughter, Lady Frances Sidney...who wants to be a spy despite her father's disapproval. Publication date for this book is August, 2012.
Read more about me at my website: jeanewestin.com