Tonight, Jeannie and I saw Philippa Gregory speak at an event up in San Rafael, sponsored by Book Passage and the Osher Marin JCC. That's a drive of about an hour and a half from where we live, but from the moment I heard that Philippa was coming to the Bay Area I knew I had to see her, because she is one of my favorite and most frequently reviewed) authors.
She has two new books out this fall. The first is a continuation of her Cousins' War series, The Lady of the Rivers, which tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville's mother, Jacquetta. (The character appeared previously in The White Queen.) Her other book was co-written with two other authors – David Baldwin and Michael Jones - and it is non-fiction. The Women of the Cousins' War describes the lives of the heroines of the War of the Roses novels, perfect for those of us who wonder just where history ends and the imagination of the author begins.
This was probably the poshest author event I've ever attended. Instead of the usual rows of chairs at the back of a bookstore, we were led to a darkened room with little round tables set up in clusters before a projection screen. On each table was a little flickering lamp, which set up a lovely ambiance but made it nearly impossible to take photographs during the event. So all I have are a couple of depressing blurry pictures taken by Jeannie.
The author and her two newest books
Philippa Gregory's talk was really great. Most of the time, she talked about her work: why she chose Jacquetta for her latest novel, how she approaches a subject once she's decided to research it, and what impact her novels might have. One example she gave that I thought was really interesting was that prior to her novel The Other Boleyn Girl, historians would rarely mention Mary Boleyn or would dismiss her with only the briefest mention. Now, any book about Tudor history at the time will discuss Mary's connection with the kings of France and England, and interest has been renewed about her life – so much so that Alison Weir, another British historian/author, just released a biography of Mary Boleyn, which I reviewed not too long ago..
Interspersed throughout her talk were readings from her novels. Philippa had pre-taped her readings, so videos were projected on the screen behind her. I really liked this decision – not only did it give her a chance to rest her voice and take a drink, but she would read her excerpts at Renaissance fairs and in historic buildings, so the film clips were pretty cool to watch.
The last ten or fifteen minutes was devoted to answering questions from the audience. Let's see what I can remember:
1. Her next book will be a novel about Anne Neville called The Kingmaker's Daughter; it is done and will probably be released sometime next year.
2. The book after that will be about the She-Wolf of France, Queen Isabella.
3. I had read in the promotional materials about The Red Queen that the third book was to be about Elizabeth of York and called The White Princess. Obviously, this isn't accurate since The Lady of the Rivers is now for sale, but no mention of The White Princess was made tonight. I wonder if that book has been shelved?
4. One member of the audience asked if Philippa Gregory, being a proponent of strong women, would ever write a novel of Margaret Thatcher. Philippa's response was a very strong NO.
5. After she finishes with Plantagenets and the Lancasters, Philippa would not be opposed to going even further back in time, but at this time she doesn't intend to hop on the Eleanor of Aquitaine bandwagon and write a novel about that notorious queen.
After the questions were wrapped up, we queued up for autographs. Unfortunately, the staff were really rushing us through, so I didn't get a chance to say much of anything to Philippa beyond “I love your books! Please take a picture with me [and Jeannie]!” Sadly, the picture didn't turn out at all:
Alas, we tried. Jeannie, Philippa Gregory, and me.