fashion_piranha (fashion_piranha) wrote,

Guest Post: Jeane Westin, author of His Last Letter

I am just finishing up His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester, and I'll be sharing my review of it in my next post.  I had a chance to ask the book's author, Jeane Westin, about her writing process and how she 'time travels' back to Elizabeth's court.

I asked,
I've often wondered what steps an author takes when she write about events from another country, about cultures so foreign from our modern world.  What can she do to transport herself to a proper time and place?  What challenges does she face?  How does her American culture affect her view of the English court?
Suzi, this is a new question for me, and one that I"ve now given some thought.  His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester is my sixth historical novel, the last two and the next one set during Queen Elizabeth's reign.  She is an always fascinating woman as were so many in her court were, all great characters, both repellent and wonderful.  I've read deep into Tudor history for many years so that I come to my work with stored knowledge...never, never enough, but a great deal.  When I start writing, I need to be absolutely alone and in my head.  I use soft Elizabethan music to set the mood and because of my research I don't find it too difficult to sink into another very different time.  I think it must be very much the same for  actors who disappear into their roles, taking on a persona that is, sometimes, quite different from their own. 
The writing process for me is almost one of seeing the scene(s) I'm working in as a movie.  It becomes very visual.  I'm not being melodramatic when I say that I am there.  I try to be very disciplined in that I write in the same place and at the same time every day.  I believe this whole process is important to me.  Other writers are different, but we all must have a way of getting into our characters and scenes.
My bigger problem is shedding 16th Century English culture once I leave it.  I find myself using phrases and words that are definitely not of this current time, or of the U.S. west coast where I live.
I try very hard to not allow my own culture to intrude into the action or characters I'm writing about.  What I would consider cruel or silly or dangerous today was not prevailing thought four hundred years ago.  So I find those challenges interesting, not daunting, because they add to the story.
It's all about writing a good story as close to historical fact as I can make it while never forgetting that I'm writing fiction for the 21st Century reader and not a dissertation for the schoolroom.  That's what makes writing historical novels so fascinating for me: wondering what might have been and making that seem very real.
Thank you for asking such an interesting question.  I hope I've answered it.
-- Jeane Westin
The Virgin's Daughters:In the court of Elizabeth I, August 2009  (Fashion Piranha review here!)
His Last Letter:Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester, August 2010

Thank you so much for your time, Jeane!  I look forward to discussing His Last Letter some more!
Tags: author bloggers, author pov, guest post, jeane westin
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