I'm pleased to welcome author Sandra Byrd today to answer a few questions about her writing and her recent release, The Secret Keeper.
I’m always interested in how authors became writers. How did it come about for you?
I knew that I wanted to be a writer at six years old, as soon as I'd learned to read the Bobbsey Twins books. When I was a kid I wanted three careers: to be a hair stylist, to be a waitress, and to be an author. After I mohawked my Barbie I knew I wasn’t cut out for the hairstylist career. I actually was a waitress in a deli when I was a teenager, and I worked for a caterer. Writing, however, was the real passion. And it stuck.
I went to college on a writing scholarship, but got scared. Who could get published? How would I make any money? I switched majors to real estate, but within a few short years I ended up working for a textbook publishing house. I eventually became an editor, and when my second child was born, I left to write full time.
As the writer of historical fiction you must have an interest in history. Was there something in particular that sparked that interest?
I have always loved history, even as a girl. I think those of us who started out on the Little House books were introduced early on to how wonderful it could be to read about the past. Then I found Jean Plaidy and it was all over. When I was about 12, I remember reading either a Plaidy or a Victoria Holt book, and my grandmother took it from me and flipped through the pages. She was looking for "language" and when she came across the word "base-born" she gave her nod of approval!
During your research for The Secret Keeper did you discover anything unusual or unexpected?
I loved learning more about the mystery of Mary Seymour. So very many lower-born children who'd died in the era had their death documented; it just didn't seem plausible to me that she'd died but had warranted no mention, anywhere. It was tough to read the details of Anne Askew's racking. And I found out just how much personality Kateryn Parr had, and how it's been kind of buried under the impression that she was little more than a kindly nursemaid to Henry.
I have a fascination for book covers. What do you think of the cover for The Secret Keeper?
I love the colors, and I love the way that the Art Director is able to convey emotion and relationship. I know there's the head/no-head debate, but I have to admit when I see a cover of Anne B and it's not a picture of her that I'm used to seeing, it puts me off the story a little. So I'm probably a partial head kind of girl. Also, I've found that we imagine people differently. I've often provided pictures of people who I think represent my characters only to have readers tell me, oh, no, that's not at all who I pictured! So I want to leave room for imagination.
Have you had the opportunity to travel to the places you write about and if so, what has been your favorite place to visit? If not, where would you most like to visit?
I am a proud American and wouldn't want to live anywhere but my beautiful Washington State, but I adore London above all places to travel to. I will be returning there soon for another visit and am counting the days. I've been to France a few times, and Germany. I would love to visit Japan, especially Kyoto. I love Japanese culture and history, too.
If you could be one person in history for a day, who would it be and why?
Eleanor Hibbart, aka Jean Plaidy, aka Victoria Holt, etc. I want to know everything she knows about British royalty and I want to figure out how she could write so many good books so fast!
What do you like to read for “fun”?
I'm a nerd. I read nonfiction a lot, I love it: historical, biographies, self-help, you name it. I read novels of almost every genre. I love magazines. I love cookbooks. I think I just love to read. I really was the kid who read the cereal box every morning.
When you aren’t writing or doing research, what else do you like to do?
My husband and I just joined the Y so I am supposed to be working out. And with good music, I enjoy it. I love spending time with my kids when they are around. I love to cook and hang out with friends.
Who is your favorite character from your books? Your least favorite?
I don't know that I can honestly say I have a favorite. Meg Wyatt in To Die For was easy to write, because she was very sweet, the foil to Anne Boleyn's spiciness. Juliana St John in The Secret Keeper I wanted to mother, because she needed it, and she was the girl who needed her strong backbone, the foil to Kateryn Parr's softness. My least favorite are the people who wielded ugly power over others with little conscience. But they existed then, and do now, too.
Can you tell us what you are working on next?
I'm finishing up the final edits for the third Ladies in Waiting book, Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I. I have read so much about Elizabeth over the course of my life, but very little about the real lady in waiting from whose point of view the story is told. It was great fun to research and get to know her, and I hope that readers will feel that way, too. The book will be out next April, and the cover is being shot this week!
Thank you Sandra! If you would like to win a copy of Sandra's latest book, The Secret Keeper, please complete the form below by midnight, July 15, 2012. Contest is open to US/Canada only.