A trained student of classical theater, Barbara Kyle spent two decades acting on stage and television
A wife, mother, and now grandmother living in Ontario, Barbara sets a high bar when it comes to detail and realism. And rightfully so, because her latest offering, the fifth book in the series, is “Blood Between Queens,” a story chronicling the deadly rivalry between Mary Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England. Readers simply would be unforgiving at any slip of contemporary tongue, “Would you prefer decaf?” or surprise appearance by a plastic cup, to use extreme examples in making my point.
Unlike some authors, Barbara isn’t shy about incorporating real life figures into her fiction. Her debut historical novel “The Queen’s Lady” featured Sir Thomas More banning books and burning men at the stake while his fictional ward Honor tried to save More’s victims. Honor ultimately enlisted roguish Richard Thornleigh to aid her in her quest. Naturally, in part due to Barbara’s strict discipline to detail and adherence to plot proper for the era, readers craved more. “The King’s Daughter” soon followed with the daughter of Richard and Honor taking center stage, and a continuing saga was born.
Barbara’s prose is wonderfully precise with the conversations carrying a realism I suspect is due to the author’s classical training. The settings are so believable that a reader will not have any trouble envisioning the happenings, costumes, the waft of stale drink, or dank castle corridors. If you’re a fan of historical romance and/or suspense and intrigue, Barbara Kyle is an author you should definitely invest in.
Q) I must mention that you have also written a contemporary suspense novel; “Entrapped.” You developed an early passion for historical novels as a child, so, why the divergence, and will we see more forays into contemporary?
A) I live in Canada where there's a sort of war going on in Alberta between landowners and Big Oil. Entrapped was sparked by the true story of a farmer there whose family suffered from a company's nearby toxic "sour gas" wells, so he sabotaged the wells. His story moved me, and the environmental issue is so timely, so I used it as a springboard for a novel of suspense, a thriller. I don't have more thrillers planned at the moment, because I'm at work on the next "Thornleigh" historical novel . . . but I have learned to never say never.
Q) You have made mention of how you find parallels between the intrigue of the Elizabethan period and our own time. What did you mean?
A) Tudor England was a time of extraordinary energy that burst out in bold voyages of exploration and a brilliant flowering of literature. But it was also a time when English people were gripped by fears of invasion by either France or Spain, the two great powers of the day. Religious paranoia fed a lot of the fear, since Elizabeth's England was Protestant while most of Europe was Catholic. So alongside the extraordinary positive energy ran a deep mistrust about foreigners, an atmosphere in which networks of spies infiltrated suspect groups and authorities imprisoned and tortured suspected enemies of the state. Sounds to me a lot like our own time.
Q) In interviews you stress that authors should not allow their research to overshadow the story. You obviously conduct hours of research to paint an accurate picture of the era. How do you control your dedication to detail and keep the backdrop where it belongs and the characters and plot in the foreground?
A) It's quite a paradox. To write effective historical fiction the writer has to do a great deal of research, making reams of notes, but readers don't want a history lesson, they want an exciting story about characters they care about, so the writer pares down all those notes to just what's essential. I must admit, I find the research so enjoyably engrossing I have to cut myself off at a certain point so I can just write.
Q) Religious persecution in the 1500s has played an important role in some of your stories. What is it
A) Religious persecution is born of simple tribalism, a fear of outsiders coming to do harm and destroy one's way of life. That paranoia fascinates me. The fact that English Catholics and Protestants were killing each other over religious beliefs in the 16th century seems irrational to us today, and yet an irrational fear of outsiders, especially of other religious groups, still plagues our society.
Q) Mary and Elizabeth’s feud is legendary and has been portrayed in books and film many times over. Basically, you are treading on what some might view as dangerous ground by going there. So, why tackle a pairing many readers are familiar with, and what creative edge do you believe you have injected into their relationship to make it fresh?
A) I've found that people are endlessly fascinated by the lethal feud between these two queens who were cousins. They were utterly different. Elizabeth's upbringing was one of uncertainty and fear, since her father, Henry VIII, beheaded her mother, Anne Boleyn, when Elizabeth was three, and as a young woman she lived in constant fear that her half-sister, as queen, would execute her. This experience molded Elizabeth, so that when she came to the throne at age twenty-five she governed with Machiavellian forethought and care. Mary Queen of Scots on the other hand was impetuous and impulsive. She grew up in the French court, the most glittering court in Europe, where she was pampered and petted by the French royal family. She married the French heir to the throne and thus became queen of France at sixteen. As queen of Scotland, she was ruled by her passions, and rashly lost her kingdom - twice. Mary had three husbands before she was thirty; Elizabeth never married. As for a fresh approach to their story, Blood Between Queens tells it through the eyes of a new character I introduce to my fictional Thornleigh family, Justine. Deeply loyal to Elizabeth, she accepts a mission to spy on Mary, but then falls under Mary's charismatic charm.
Q) Any parting comments for fans and potential new readers?
A) A big "thank you" to all the readers who've written to me about my books! Hearing from readers makes my work a joy, and I always reply to emails. So if anyone wants to get in touch, please visit my website www.BarbaraKyle.com and follow me on Twitter @BKyleAuthor.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net