“The Queen’s Mistake was certainly the most difficult and complicated story I have sought to tell in all of my eleven novels, and 18 years writing them, yet the journey I took getting to know Catherine Howard and her beloved Thomas Culpeper was also the more gratifying and emotional for me because of it.
My goal during the year I spent with them as my heroine and hero (on my office bulletin board, in detail notes about their lives, their hobbies, their friends, jotted down and tucked into the seats in my car, on legal pads, tape recorders and in endless research books— things my husband and 2 teenagers are well used to seeing!), was to make a seemingly foolish, sometimes selfish girl more of the complex human being she was. One, yes with faults and failures, yet with the same basic humanness as the rest of us, which I think in history and in fiction regarding Catherine Howard is somewhat lacking. My background in clinical psychology makes finding the humanness of each heroine about whom I write, for me, one of the most important elements in each of my novels. As I went to England and once again walked the corridors of rich, historical places like Hampton Court Palace, Hever Castle and The Tower of London, Catherine Howard’s short exciting world, while bittersweet, began to come to life for me, and I hope I was able to pass that on to readers with The Queen’s Mistake.
I think that the subject of any young woman who comes to a premature end can be an off-putting subject for some writers to tackle, as well as potentially for some publishers, for that matter. But I am blessed with an amazingly supportive, and I believe visionary editor, Claire Zion, who saw a glimpse of the young, beautiful and ultimately complex girl I saw as I took the subject on.
What I found as I delved deeply into her world, as I read about what she wore, what she ate, what sort of music and dancing she enjoyed, was that Catherine Howard was as much a vulnerable and naïve girl as anything else, absolutely thrust into the complicated and dangerous English court of the aging and cantankerous Henry VIII, where the stakes were enormously high, and failure to please him, and his many trusted courtiers surrounding him at all times, could be fatal. And, for a time, Catherine was able not only to succeed but to thrive there. Her missteps, while highlighted in history, are only a small part of who she was, and who she intended to be, and I really was driven to try to show that.
In the end, I personally found Catherine’s story, while certainly sad, also a fascinating tale about the pain of growing up, about choices, sacrifice and, ultimately, about different kinds of love one finds in a lifetime. Those same issues have crossed the centuries, and were as true then as they are today for any young woman. It is my dearest wish that it is those things a reader takes away from spending time with Catherine, Thomas and Henry in The Queen’s Mistake.