It has been more than eight years since I started to write Succession and its sequels. Eight years and four months since I looked up at the angels in the ceiling of Manchester Cathedral and wondered who Margaret Beaufort was. Margaret Beaufort, I should say, is thought to have donated them.
So much has happened in my life since then. so much has happened in the world! I can hardly remember a time when I was not writing these books, or trying to get them published.
Now the paperback of Succession is due out on 31 July, and the first sequel, Rebellion, will be published on August 13th. I have just finished, and am editing, the third part.
I find it hard to imagine life without writing these novels – without all those characters who have unfolded slowly like Tudor roses in my mind. I know them as well as, or better than, my closest friends.
It seems superfluous to say that I’ve given it everything I’ve got. What writer doesn’t? There may be a few who write because they’ve discovered they can make money from it, but most authors are driven by their passion. I could say the same about all my books.
And yet Succession does feel different. Partly because, for five years of that time, I was doing nothing else. I worked independently as a writer, my sons had left home. There was just me and the books. If nothing else, I can say that I’ve learned what it is to dedicate myself wholly and exclusively to a creative project.
It’s not been an easy ride, but I wouldn’t change any of it. and I can’t explain, (can anyone?) what made me do it.
I can say that I was fascinated by Margaret Beaufort, who was married three times by the age of fifteen, declared herself ‘femme seul’ during her fourth marriage ‘not couvert of anie housbonde’ and who rose from a position of powerlessness to become the most powerful woman in the country.
I can also say that I was fascinated by the age she lived in; that period of epic strife now known as the Wars of the Roses. Margaret Beaufort lived through the reigns of six kings, the shift from medieval feudalism to early capitalism, the discovery of America and the birth of the printing press. Concepts of the universe changed during the course of her life, as did the concept of God.
I had no idea when I started that my subject matter would be so huge. For eight years I’ve tried to turn immoderate amounts of material into three novels. More than that, to do justice to a range of extraordinary events and characters. The whole project could be described as my acknowledgement of what these people suffered and achieved.
I will never know if I’ve done justice to any of this. It’s the author’s fate not to know, because who can tell him/her? Sales, awards, posterity? so many good books have been lost, at least during the course of the author’s lifetime, and the nature of ‘posterity’ seems to me to have changed entirely with developments in both global capitalism and the internet.
So the writer can only offer up what he or she does and try not to get too attached to what follows. Far from being an exercise in egotism, as some people still think the publishing process is, this seems to me to be the essence of humility.