My very first paperback cover!
And the publication date has moved up to January 2009!
I'm very pleased with it. I didn't want what I call a "half-naked-couple-in-a-clinch" cover even though a good friend of ours reminded me, once he heard I was writing, that "shagging sells!"
My publisher assures me that the runes top and bottom roughly spell out my name and the title and not something like "Halfdan was here...."
The other highlight of the day was the visit to Bowes Museum to hear Phillippa Gregory speak as part of the Durham Literary Festival. She is smaller than I imagined, and spoke very well for over an hour. Mary Queen of Scots she'd always avoided as a heroine because everybody's done her, and besides she'd always thought her an idiot. Mary had claims to three crowns and lost them all. She had three husbands and lost them too. Well, to lose one is unlucky, to lose two is careless and to lose all three must mean she was an idiot.
Phillippa went on to explain how she'd come to realise that most of the original documents were written by Polydor Virgil and deliberately biased. There are one or two letters, but they are suspect. No one wrote of Mary until the Victorians took her up, and they too were biased, though in a different way. They saw her through a blinkered male perspective and the resultant histories made her sound romantic but idiotic. (I rush to get this down before it all fades away. If you get the chance to hear Ms Gregory say it, do go and listen. She says it all so much better!)
So she read My Heart is Mine Own by John Gay and began to see Mary in a different way, began to do the research, visit the locations, and walked around the house talking to herself until she felt she had grasped Mary's "voice"- how she felt, how she was - and then began to write. The tale begins once Mary leaves Scotland and instead of finding herself at the head of an army ready to take back her Scottish throne, is quietly taken to Bolton Castle and locked in. Her jailor is Lord Shrewsbury, married only 14 months to Bess (of Hardwick fame) and inevitably, he falls in love with Mary. To make matters worse, Bess is a self-made woman of frugal habits. Can you imagine anything worse if you were Bess than having this Queen thrust upon you, demanding not only 32 courses at dinner every day but white wine too - not to drink, but to wash her face?
There was much more and all of it entertaining. Such as why Ms Gregory uses the first person - to really get inside each of the three protagonists - and why she does not write of Mary's death -
because the sixteen years of Mary's imprisonment were filled with plots to escape and that would have been too tedious to recount. So the book covers only a portion, and uses the Duke of Norfolk's execution as a forerunner of Mary's own death.