I was lucky enough to achieve a teenage ambition today as Kathryn and I went to interview best-selling author Philippa Gregory.
I have to admit, I was very nervous because Philippa is my favourite author, I’ve read all her books and I really admire her work. The first novel I read was The Queen’s Fool as I was doing a section from it as part of my drama exam. I read book and I was completely hooked!
We were asked to come to The Berkeley Hotel for 2pm. When we arrived, Philippa came out to meet us and sent us up to the suite to set up whilst she finished her lunch. I’d like to think that I remained cool, calm and collected on the outside but unfortunately I think it was probably quite obvious that I was a bit starstruck!
Philippa came and joined us fifteen minutes later. She then took forty-five minutes out of her very busy day to allow us to interview her about the book itself, her success, the subsequent films and the reaction the Tudors have worldwide. It was absolutely fascinating. We now have a 36 minute interview which will be cut to about 45 seconds for our film. It feels sacrilegious!
Philippa spoke about how Anne Boleyn has become an icon and that it is incredible how her story experience resurgences for every generation. The book has been incredibly successful and is now sold in countries worldwide in multiple different languages. It has also been turned into two films: the BBC version and the Hollywood version. Philippa told us that when Scarlett Johannson played the role of Mary Boleyn, she went to the director with a highlighted copy of the book to say that certain chapters from the book had to be part of the film.
I asked Philippa whether she felt a sense of responsibility for how Anne’s image had been adapted. She told us about the lengthy research process that she undertakes for each book. For Philippa, there are two distinct phases- the research phase and the writing phase. She said that she doesn’t make any apologies for her work because she argues that it is very obvious that the work is a novel. She does also include an author’s note and a bibliography at the end of each novel so the information is there if readers wish to find out more.
I won’t spoil too much of the interview because we will be publishing it on this website, but it was absolutely fascinating. A huge thanks to Philippa for taking the time out of her busy schedule to fit us in, especially as she does not have time to do any more interviews with students and we were her last. She has also asked to host our final documentary on her website so we are very excited about that!
Historical researcher Claire Ridgway runs the website The Anne Boleyn Files from her family home with husband Tim and three children in Almeria, Spain. Kathryn and I made a very flying visit (literally!) out to visit them to interview Claire and find out more about the website.
After waking up in the painful early hours of Saturday morning, it was a relief to touchdown in sunny Spain, especially when Tim then picked us up and drove us through the beautiful Spanish mountains. We arrived to an idyllic mountainside village, one straight off the back of a postcard, and got to know the family on their rooftop terrace. It certainly made a lovely change from the English weather, despite Claire and Tim’s protestations that the weather out there was still cold. (My pink nose begs to differ!)
Claire’s passion for Tudor history shines through the second you start talking to her. The idea for the website came to Claire in a dream. In the middle of the night, she woke up her husband Tim and told him that in her dream she’d been at the execution of Anne Boleyn and she now had to set up a website, called The Anne Boleyn Files, to find out the truth about Anne Boleyn. The website started getting significant numbers of hits within months and it grew from there.
Claire recently published her first book called The Anne Boleyn Collection in February 2012. It sold very well, very quickly and made it to the Amazon bestsellers. Her second book will be out this month and it is the story of Anne Boleyn’s final days.
The Tudors have clearly influenced the Ridgway’s life in every way, even though when we asked the kids what they thought, they replied ‘boring!’ We were lucky enough to see the room from which Claire runs her Anne Boleyn empire and she showed us all the merchandise that is available to buy from the website. For our film, the best images by far are the dolls of Henry VIII and Anne and the Anne puppet!
We interviewed Claire about her website and her love for the Tudors. I don’t want to spoil what she said so check back here soon for the interview!
Have a look at these images, which were taken by Tim.
I’ve had some very exciting news…
It has been confirmed that we will be interviewing Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl!
I’d better get re-reading the book…
Ironically, Philippa is also being interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s The Book Club later that day on the same topic. Hopefully we will be good practice for her!
We travelled to Carshalton today in the glorious sunshine to interview historian and author Alison Weir.
Alison Weir on camera
Alison is the biggest selling female historian in the UK since records began in 1997. She has sold more than 2.3 million books with 1 million of those in the UK alone. She specialises in Tudor history and wrote The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn.
I was joined by lovely camera-woman extraordinaire Becca Attfield as we interviewed Alison in her very impressive library.
The interview was extremely interesting as Alison spoke with great passion and detail about why Anne has developed such a following. In her opinion, Anne has become a celebrity to the extent that surpasses any other historical figure.
However, Alison spoke about her worry that Anne’s legacy will be damaged by fans who hold her as a role model for young women. She said that it is impossible for a woman who lived 500 years ago in an extremely different society to be an inspirational figure. Alison also expressed her despair about how historically inaccurate recent portrayals of the Tudors have been.
Alison (and her very friendly cat!) could not have made us feel more welcome and it was a pleasure to meet her. It certainly satisfied the history geek in me as I’d used her books for my dissertation and read her novels on holidays. Alison also was kind enough to let us pick a copy of one of her books to keep for ourselves so I now have a brand new copy of Mary Boleyn. I think I was still grinning like an idiot for hours after meeting her!
We will post the interview with Alison on the website once it has been edited.
Alison’s new novel A Dangerous Inheritance will also be published this year, which is about Lady Katherine Grey. For more information about Alison, visit her website.
This post is slightly unrelated to our actual final project but it is still about Anne Boleyn so I feel as though it’s relevant!
Today mum and I went to see the English Touring Theatre’s production of the play Anne Boleyn, which was on at The Theatre Royal in Brighton. The production was originally on at the Globe Theatre in London and is now touring the country. I wanted to go when it was on in London but it was so popular that we couldn’t get tickets. When we saw that it was back on, I just couldn’t resist and the timing was brilliant!
This is the video on the Shakespeare Globe website:
The play is about the newly crowned James I of England, who becomes intrigued by the legend of Anne Boleyn when he finds William Tyndale’s bible in an old chest with her coronation gown. Time jumps back 70 years, when the witty and flirtatious Anne was in love with Henry, but also with the most dangerous ideas of her day. Conspiring with the exiled William Tyndale, she plots to make England Protestant – forever. The play continues to leap between Anne and James, showing how Anne’s efforts influenced James to create the King James Bible.
The play was written by William Brenton and the intelligent storyline means you have to be paying attention to keep up with the plot! Anne’s depiction is unlike any portrayal found in the 2000 hits of The Other Boleyn Girl and The Tudors television series. She is motivated solely by religion, her only desire being to convert England to Protestantism, and she was executed in the same year that William Tyndale was burnt at the stake. The blonde haired Jo Herbert brought Anne’s strong-willed determination to life but she also had an undercurrent of innocence and real love for Henry.
James Garnon’s portrayal of James I was genius. A mixture of a physical tourettes with lightening intelligence, the audience was never sure where Garnon would run, dance, skip to next. The pair made an electric combination with Anne’s sure footed assurance and James’s nervous jitters juxtaposing to give the best reflection of the unpredictability of sixteenth century religion.
The production is a must see and it will tour to 8 venues across the UK from the 15th March to the 5th May so all Anne fans should go and see it!