Monday, August 26, 2013

Interview with Andrea Zuvich, author if His Last Mistress

Today Flashlight Commentary is pleased to welcome author Andrea Zuvich who has joined us to discuss her debut release, His Last Mistress. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Andrea. To start things off, please tell us a bit about His Last Mistress.
Hello, thank you so much for having me! His Last Mistress is a biographical fiction about the real life doomed love affair between the legendary Duke of Monmouth and his lesser-known last mistress, Henrietta Wentworth. Monmouth was a larger-than-life character, a Restoration rake, a bad boy, a favourite of the ladies, and admired by many. The story begins in 1675, during the reign of Monmouth’s father, King Charles II and ends with Monmouth’s death in 1685. I’m not giving the story away, because most of my target audience already know about what happened to the Duke of Monmouth, but very few know of Henrietta and their love story. The decade the book covers has political plots, assassination attempts, passion, the raging troubles between Protestants and Catholics, and concerns about who will inherit Charles II’s throne – his brother, the Catholic James, Duke of York, or his son, the Protestant James Scott, Duke of Monmouth.

What inspired you to write this story? What was it about the affair between James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Lady Henrietta Wentworth that convinced you this was a story that needed to be told? 

I came across this story during my research for my upcoming biographical fiction novel, William & Mary. I already knew that the Duke of Monmouth is and was a popular figure and that he led Monmouth’s Rebellion in 1685, which in turn led to his infamous execution. During the course of researching this fascinating Restoration rake, I came across a brief mention of Henrietta Wentworth in John Evelyn’s Diary, in which he referred to her as “that debauched woman.” The more I learned about Henrietta and Jemmy’s (Monmouth’s) love story, the more it pulled at my heart, and I wept when I learned more about them. I did feel that something that moved me so profoundly and was not well known, would be a story worth telling.

James Scott, Duke of Monmouth
What research went into His Last Mistress and what, if any, challenges did you face adapting your research to fiction? 
I am a historian specializing in the Late Stuarts, so I primarily draw upon primary sources, or documents that were written at the time of the events. During this phase of research, I create a timeline of events. The challenges of bringing the 17th-century to a modern audience are many. Views on morality, human rights, women’s rights, were almost the polar opposite of the views most people have now. I had to stay true to the time period in which the story was set, and I have tried to make all the characters speak and behave as they would have done then. Also, Henrietta and Monmouth were apparently in a relationship from around 1680, but I found that Monmouth fathered a daughter in 1682, so something happened! What I need to get across to readers who do not know the Stuarts is that they were an incredibly sexual dynasty; Monmouth had the same voracious sexual appetite that his father Charles II had, and very few Stuart men were faithful as a result of this. Monmouth fared a great deal better than others in his family, however, and ultimately settled down with Henrietta.

What scene was the most difficult for you as an author? 

Unquestionably, Monmouth’s execution scene was the most difficult for me, as I had emotionally invested in him as my hero; but I could not change history, and I wasn’t prepared to alter it for the book. I could have ended the story before the rebellion and given the falsehood of a happy ending, but that would have been just that, a lie, and history lovers would have been up in arms. Monmouth’s execution ranks as the one of, if not the “bloodiest in English history”. With that sort of macabre status, you cannot gloss over it, and so I wrote it to be as accurate as we are able to tell. So, when I was writing that terrible scene, I thought, it was a horrible, gory, painful, way to die, and people won’t truly appreciate how bad it was for him, unless I show how it was. Yes, it is very shocking to us in the 21st century, but it was necessary for that time. That is how it was. 

Toddington Manor by Dave Bushell
What is your favorite scene in the novel? 
I really love their scenes in the woods together. I got the idea for the bluebells because there is such lovely woodland in Bedfordshire (where some of the story takes place) and the way the countryside gets covered with this blue-purple flower is just so beautiful, and so romantic, that I wanted to incorporate that into their story. Also, though this has been criticized by some, I quite like the scene where Henrietta is combing Monmouth’s hair to remove the lice – some might say that’s gross, but it is a detail put in purposefully so that people remember the poor hygiene of the time, and lice was very common, and body odour generally quite strong! It’s also endearing to groom your beloved!

Obviously the book is about James Scott and Lady Wentworth, but do you see yourself in any of your characters and is there one of them you wish you were more like? 

I really felt close to Henrietta because she’s a quiet, shy, introverted woman, as I am. I definitely prefer Henrietta’s character to Eleanor Needham’s – for I wrote the latter to be a vain and hot-tempered sort of woman (since we don’t know much about her). Shyness is not weakness. Personally, I would like to see more shy heroines in historical fiction, as that’s more historically accurate, than say, a heroine who swordfights her way out of every problem. We have to remember that we cannot judge historical people by our modern eyes; it just isn’t feasible.

Lady Henrietta Wentworth
When all is said and done, the love affair is a tragedy. Did you find this an intimidating hurdle when composing the book and how did you work around it? 
There’s no question that is it a romantic tragedy, and yes, I was concerned about how people would react to the ending, given that modern readers seem to only want happy endings. Personally, I love tragic romances, and I grew up intensively reading tragedies such as most of Thomas Hardy, Wuthering Heights, the Arthurian legend tragic romances of Tristan and Isolde, Guinevere and Lancelot, and Shakespeare’s tragedies with love stories of Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida, etc. Henrietta and Monmouth are no different, and they deserve to be remembered, possibly even more so because they were completely real; they had joys and sorrows as we do today.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why? 
I’d take Monmouth by the cravat and say, “Don’t you dare invade England! Don’t be such a bananahead! Go to Hungary or Germany like your cousin William suggested!” Honestly, I would like to sit down to a cup of coffee (newfangled drink) with him and ask if he really thought that he was Charles II’s legitimate son, and - I can’t help it - I would like to flirt with him! 

The Morning of Sedgemoor
What do you hope readers come away with after reading your work? 
My aim in writing the novel was to make this unknown love story come to light. Everyone who reads this will learn about one important episode in English history. By reading His Last Mistress you will walk away with a pretty good understanding of the latter part of Monmouth’s life and of Late Stuart politics. And if I am able to spark a reader’s interest in the history of the seventeenth century, I will be well and truly pleased. 

Finally, what is next for you? Any new projects waiting in the wings? 
I have a historical horror due out in time for this Halloween called, The Stuart Vampire, which is full of witch trials, vampirism, and plague! Also, I am still waiting on whether or not William and Mary gets picked up by a publisher. Other forthcoming works include a HAPPY historical fiction/romance about Restoration actors, a non-fiction history of the Stuarts, and an adventure series about the dashing Prince Rupert of the Rhine! I intend to try to write something in every genre, but all set in the 17th-century, because I love it so much! 

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About  the Author: Born in Philadelphia in 1985 to Chilean-Croatian parents, Andrea Zuvich is a historian specialising in the Late Stuarts of the Seventeenth Century and is the creator and writer of the history website, The Seventeenth Century Lady. Andrea studied History and Anthropology at both the University of Central Florida and Oxford University, and has been independently researching the 1600s since 2008. Andrea is a leader on and one of the original developers of The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace, Historic Royal Palaces, and lives with her English husband in Lancashire, England. For more information, please visit Andrea’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

About the Book: Set in the tumultuous late 17th Century, His Last Mistress tells the true story of the final years of James Scott, the handsome Duke of Monmouth, and his lover Lady Henrietta Wentworth. As the illegitimate eldest son of King Charles II, the Duke is a spoiled, lecherous man with both a wife and a mistress. However, this rakish libertine is soon captivated by the innocence of young Lady Henrietta Wentworth, who has been raised to covet her virtue. She is determined to spurn his advances, yet she cannot deny the chemistry between them. Will she succumb? At the same time, the Duke begins to harbour risky political ambitions that may threaten not only his life but also that of those around him. His Last Mistress is a passionate, sometimes explicit, carefully researched and ultimately moving story of love and loss, set against a backdrop of dangerous political unrest, brutal religious tensions, and the looming question of who will be the next King.

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Check out all the stops on Andrea Zuvich's His Last Mistress Virtual Book Tour

Monday, August 26
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, August 27
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, August 28
Review at The Happy Booker
Thursday, August 29
Guest Post at The Happy Booker
Friday, August 30
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Monday, September 2
Review at West Metro Mommy
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, September 3
Review at One Book at a Time
Review & Guest Post at The Lit Bitch
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, September 4
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, September 5
Review at Historical Tapestry & The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Friday, September 6
Review at The Worm Hole
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

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