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Mademoiselle Boleyn
Release date scheduled for late 2007

"A Conversation With Robin Maxwell" (Part 2)

Describe your method of story development.

As in all my book, I have had to piece the characters, places and events together in what sometimes feels like a linear jigsaw puzzle. I use the tools of "deep reading," extrapolation and expansion from history, a good bit of psychoanalyzing, speculating, and imagining. I stay as close to the facts as possible, never veering from those that are well-documented, but taking joyful liberties in the filling of many gaping voids in the historical record with what is "probable" and "possible."

The most magical moments in my writing life happen when I come across a tiny fact in a book, or online, that has been written nowhere else, that perfectly closes one of the holes in my story, explains a mystery or a character's motivation. One of the most exciting of these moments was the discovery that during the time Anne was an insider at Francois' court at Amboise, Leonardo Da Vinci came to live there, and became the French king's dearest friend. When I went back to my many biographies of Anne, there Leonardo was! Every book asserted that the two were at court together and that she had to have at least met him.

That Leonardo became Anne's friend and mentor is my invention though, I must admit, one of my very favorites. This is a perfect literary amalgam of a period that is chock-full of holes, an extrapolation of known facts, and a leap of imagination. I reasoned that the friendship could have happened, and there is no evidence that it did not.

Another wonderful historical "tidbit" became the foundation of two chapters in Mademoiselle Boleyn. While I knew that the Loire chateaux of Amboise and Cloux stood close to each other along the river's bank, I discovered on a website that in the early sixteenth century there was a secret, underground passage from one residence to the other, and that Francois, who visited Leonardo nearly every day in the manor house he'd gifted him, would often use the tunnel for their meetings.

My thinking went like this: A secret underground passage! Francoise often visiting his dear friend using the tunnel to get to Cloux. Francois, a playful prankster of a young man who enjoyed entertaining his inner circle at court.There had to be a "first time" he introduced his friends to the maestro.Could there be any more dramatic and magical a way to make that introduction than through a dark, moldering tunnel lit only by the flickering torches of the king's delightfully terrified courtiers and ladies?

There was another subject in Mademoiselle Boleyn that the history books mention only in passing that I fleshed-out into several important chapters, indeed, one of the major threads of the novel's narrative. I think it's an important aspect of what I consider the "job" of authors of historical fiction.

All histories and biographies of the period will tell you that while the Boleyn sisters were living in Francois I's court, the more beautiful of the two girls, Mary, became Francois' mistress, and was later "passed around" to so many of the king's courtiers that she came known as the "English mare," as so many men had ridden her. Later on, Francois really did publicly refer to her as an "infamous prostitute."

Yet you will never find more than those bare facts about why Mary ended up living a promiscuous life at the French court. If she chose it, or if it were chosen for her. If she was content with her reputation, or humiliated by it. If she enjoyed sex, or hated it.

And there is always "the morning after" a girl loses her virginity. I thought it would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall of Mary's private bedchamber when Anne confronted her that fateful morning. I wanted to know what Anne thought about Mary's situation, and if it had any effect or influence on the younger girl's life. That became one of my favorite chapters because we learned so much, not just about Mary's character and feelings, but about Anne's.

Click here for Part 3 of "A Conversation With Robin Maxwell"

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