Author Interview with Sandra Byrd + GIVEAWAY for The Secret Keeper

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm very excited to announce that here on AGP, we have a brand new author interview with Sandra Byrd, the author behind To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, as well as a GIVEAWAY for a copy of The Secret Keeper! Fans of Tudor-era historical fiction should NOT miss out on these engrossing novels. I inhaled and absolutely loved this novel during June and it stands as one of my favorite historical fiction novels. You want to win this giveaway! More details on that at the bottom, but first the interview!

Obviously, a lot of time and research went into creating The Secret Keeper and its cast of real and imagined characters. How long did it take to write and research the novel?

It takes me about a year once I'm in an era, and about 18 months for the first book in a series. For each of the Tudor historicals I wrote a historical outline first, of about 50,000 words, so that and the research takes time. Then I plot (outline) the book, and then begin to write chapters. I'm pretty much satiated with the time when I'm done!

Katherine Parr is usually the most overlooked of King Henry's many wives - was that what most drew you to her as an author?

Yes, it was. I felt like she was a really vibrant, interesting woman who had led an interesting and dramatic life, and yet people knew so little about her. She's so often overlooked as a somewhat mild nursemaid to Henry's oozing leg, a quietly learned woman who "survives." And I think that sometimes people believe that all of the heavy dramatic action died when Henry did - but that's not true. As I said in my Author's Note, I found Parr to be warm, witty, and wonderful. She was a warm and loving wife and stepmother, a generous emotional and financial benefactress, a learned and devout woman whose extraordinary books sold tens of thousands of copies and went back for many printings. She was also a beautiful woman who had a blind spot for a bad boy, and that got her into a heap of trouble. I would have liked as a friend.

Was The Secret Keeper always the planned title for the novel, or did it go through some changes in the process of writing and publishing? (Many thanks to Audra at Unabridged Chick for the question!)

You're the first person to ask me that and yes, it did change! It started out as Knower of Secrets, which is a phrase drawn from the last letter that Parr wrote to Henry, when he was at war. I liked that a little better, the personal nature of being a knower. But my publishers felt that The Secret Keeper sounded a little better, and in the end, I was fine with that.

The mystery of the fate of Mary Seymour has never been sufficiently solved in the hundreds of years since her birth. What do you, as a well-read "Tudorphile" think really happened to Katherine Parr's only child?

I really do believe that she disappeared somewhere. It's plausible, perhaps as plausible, that she simply died. But why would there be absolutely no reference to it anywhere at all, not public nor private? And it would have been to Willoughby's benefit to have made know that Mary had died and therefore she was no longer responsible for her hugely expensive upkeep. None of Parr's friends mentioned the baby's death. Nor the Seymours. It's odd, and I hope she lived on!

What made you decide on an invented character (Juliana) for the narrator, instead of a factual courtier of the time?

Each of the books in my series has a real person that plays an important role. In the first and third books, the narrators were real historical ladies in waiting. But for The Secret Keeper, it was important to me that I continue Kateryn Parr's story after her death, abd the "real person" who continued in this book was Mary Seymour, so I needed a fictional narrator to achieve those goals.

Was there a particular scene that you loved writing? Or one that was particularly difficult?

When Juliana was attacked, that was difficult to write. But it's difficult for women to deal with in real life, so I wasn't going to shy away from it. Anne Askew's death was difficult to write too, but I felt like I wanted to honor her courage by putting it on scene. I loved writing the end to the love story. I'm a Happy Ever After junkie and I will always write books that have HEA, though hopefully in unexpected manners.

What do you want your readers to take away from reading The Secret Keeper?

To be bold, to realize that what happens to you in life does not dictate the course of your life, to realize that you have a role to play that no one but you can play. I love seeing women confidently put to use all of their intellectual and spiritual gifts, no matter what strictures society offers them. And, of course, I want all of my readers to have had a satisfying, enjoyable read!

For the readers who loved your book, what would you recommend reading until your next novel in the series hits the shelves?

I have some interviews with other historical authors on my TBR blog: That would be a great place to start!

Thank you, Sandra, for such a detailed and thought-out interview!

What are you waiting for? Just follow this blog via GFC and you're entered to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Wonderful interview! My wife -- who studied Henry and his wives -- loves Parr so I think I'm going to have to get this for her. You're so sweet to give me a shout out -- much fangirl squee to you! :)

    1. Thank you! Your interviews are always great so that means a lot to me, Audra :)

      I hope your wife likes it! I really enjoyed the fresh perspective -- I'll be on the lookout for more KP-centric books since I loved this one so much.

  2. Brilliant interview and thanks for the giveaway!

  3. Thank you very much for inviting me to your blog, Jessie, and introducing my book to your readers!

    Audra, if you buy the book email me and I'll sign a book plate for your wife!

    1. Thank you so much for doing this, Sandra. It has been a pleasure to get this organized. :)

  4. I can't seem to find you're GFC box. :/

    1. Oh no! Sometimes it doesn't load. It should be on the right underneath all the label tags!

  5. Can't wait to read this book! :D Thanks for the giveaway - new follower!

    Sierra @ Yearning to Read

    1. Thanks for stopping by and the follow! Good luck :)

  6. I found your book blog link to enter this contest to win a copy. Cool.

    1. That's a great place to find blogs and giveaways. Glad you made it and good luck!

  7. Good review. Thanks for the give-away.

  8. What a delicious cover! Just followed through GFC :)



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