Please welcome Steve Veerapen to All Things Tudor. Like most great relationships, we met on Twitter. He is from Glasgow, my husband’s home town, and it has been wonderful working with him. Recently, he took a few minutes to share insight into his fascinating career as a writer and historian.
What prompted you to choose to write about Mary Queen of Scots & Lord Darnley in your first book?
In my case, I was following the old strategy of ‘write what you know’. I’d been researching and teaching this period for years and it seemed fertile ground for trying fiction. Once I knew I wanted to write about Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, the choice of characters dictated the period.
What is your approach to researching your novels? Has the process changed over the years?
A great question! My approach is generally to start with a setting or event and then narrow research down to books and articles which cover those days, weeks, or months in depth. I try to also dip into research material which covers lifestyles in the period more generally. I’ve always tried to approach researching fiction in the same way I approach nonfiction (though I can get away with more in the former!). Academic study really teaches you to narrow in when researching.
Which other historical novelists do you admire?
There are loads. My friend Marie Macpherson (who has worked wonders in bringing John Knox to life), E C Fremantle, Paul Walker, John Pilkington, Patricia Finney, Anna Castle. And of course my favourite author, Daphne du Maurier, was no mean historical novelist.
When first sketching out an idea for a novel, which comes first – the protagonist, plot or history?
Protagonist and broad plot usually come had in hand (sometimes one or the other skipping ahead) and history last. Once I know what’s going to happen and to whom, I fit it into specific historical contexts.
Do you have a daily routine as a writer?
I don’t have a daily routine per se, but when I have a book on the go, I tend to write every day for a few hours. Each book seems to bring its own routine!
If you could choose to meet any historical figure from your period, who would it be and why?
I think it would have to be Mary Queen of Scots. I’d love to find out exactly what she knew of her husband’s murder (and what she really looked like – for the same reason, I’d love to get a glimpse of Anne Boleyn!).
Find Steven’s works here:
About Steven Veerapen
Steven Veerapen was born in Glasgow and raised in Paisley. Pursuing an interest in the sixteenth century, he was awarded a first-class Honours degree in English, focussing his dissertation on representations of Henry VIII’s six wives. He then received a Masters in Renaissance studies, and a Ph.D. investigating Elizabethan slander.
He writes historical fiction set in the early modern period, covering the reigns of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and James VI and I; additionally, he has written nonfiction studies of Mary Queen of Scots’ relationship with her brother; Elizabeth I and her last favourite, the Earl of Essex; and an academic study of slander and sedition in the reign of Elizabeth.
He has also published a variety of academic articles in literary and historical journals and magazines and teaches English literature at the University of Strathclyde. Steven remains fascinated by the glamour and ghastliness of life in the 1500s and 1600s, and has a penchant for myths, mysteries and murders in an age in which the law was as slippery as those who defied it.
Steven’s latest work is The Queen’s Gold: A Christopher Marlowe Spy Thriller
The Sparrowhawk, one of Drake’s lost treasure ships, is found wrecked in Devon. Rumours spread through England of its booty, including a mysterious treasure: El Sol Dorado.
Thomas Lewgar, the resentful roommate of aspiring playwright Christopher Marlowe, hears of the rumours. He discovers, too, that the boastful Marlowe is engaged in a web of espionage.
Intrigued and repelled by the irreverent Marlowe, Lewgar joins the poet in seeking the lost treasure. If they can find it, they will be richly rewarded by queen and court.
But they are not the only ones hunting the prize.
A crooked courtier, Henry Howton, has also heard the rumours. In the secret employ of the Spanish, he hopes to find the treasure himself – and he will stop at nothing to get his hands on it.
Racing their Spanish-backed enemy and his dangerous associates, Lewgar and Marlowe must discover the strange history of the ghostly wreck. Their journey will lead them into the rotting carcass of the Sparrowhawk, into the presence of sea-dogs Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, and through the ravaged home of spiritualist Dr John Dee.
Betrayal, falsehood, and deceit lie in wait.
Can they discover the lost treasure and unravel the mystery of El Sol Dorada before the Spanish?
Praise for Steven Veerapen:
A Dangerous Trade
‘A slow-burn character driven spy story that grips like a thumbscrew tightened by twist after twist towards the end – Le Carre transported to the 1560’s. Brilliant work, based in impressively wide research and the kind of competition that I and a good number of others could well do without!’ Peter Tonkin, author of The Ides
The Abbey Close (Book One of the Simon Danforth Mysteries)
‘The author balances gimlet-eyed research with narrative drive and clever reveals… Danforth is a strong yet torn central character… I look forward to reading the second book in the series.’ Richard Foreman, author of The First Crusade series
Blood Feud: Mary Queen of Scots and The Earl of Moray
‘Much-needed analysis of a sinister sibling rivalry.’ Marie Macpherson
Elizabeth and Essex: Power, Passion and Politics
‘A sensitive and lively account of one of the most politically significant relationships of the Elizabethan age.’ Lisa Hopkins
‘Both a crime and spy thriller.’ Richard Foreman, author of The First Crusade series
‘From its tense beginning to satisfying end, Steven Veerapen skilfully weaves historical fact into a gripping tale, making a superb contribution to 17th century fiction.’ John Pilkington, author of The Ruffler’s Child