Thank you to author and historian Toni Mount for stopping by the Tudor Society on the book/blog tour for her new book, The Colour of Bone, the eleventh novel in the Seb Foxley medieval murder mystery series.
Toni has answered some interview questions...
How do you manage to keep the excitement going in your murder mystery series?
History is full of exciting true stories which I can adapt to suit the tale I’m telling. For an example, what happens to Adam in ‘Bone’ really happened to a man in Tudor times. Ralph Sadleir was secretary to Thomas Cromwell and, much later, was one of the judges who tried Mary Queen of Scots. As a young man, he married Cromwell’s cousin, a young widow with two children. Eleven years of wedded bliss and more children followed, then Ralph received a bombshell when his wife’s ‘dead’ husband came home, expecting to take up life where they’d left off. In the eyes of the law as it then stood, he was still her husband, making respectable Ralph an adulterer for more than a decade and a father to a brood of illegitimate children. I admit, I was rather cruel to do the same to poor Adam.
Were there any specific challenges when writing The Colour of Bone?
I wanted to heap even more trouble onto Seb’s shoulders in this adventure – the way authors are supposed to make things difficult for the hero – and I realised Seb’s work overlapped that of the Stationers’ Guild with the prerogatives of the Limners’ and Painters’ Company. Here was a chance to add to his problems but I couldn’t find any relevant examples of how such a case would be tried in the Guildhall Court. I knew such prosecutions had happened in Italy and that the Van Eyck family in the Netherlands belonged to two guilds in order that this problem shouldn’t arise, whether they were painting altarpieces, portraits or decorating books. However, the court proceedings are – I admit – pretty much down to how I imagine they might have been conducted and there is no gavel-banging as I discovered that’s only done in US courts. I apologise to any experts in medieval jurisprudence but, after all, it’s only a novel.
Do you prefer writing or researching the history behind your novels?
I love creating the stories and researching the history is all part of the fun, though it can be frustrating at times when the information I want is either partial or non-existent, like Guildhall Court proceedings above. However, this is when I have to invent stuff. I always try to keep the medieval flavour in everything I write. [Recently, in the BBC series about Marie Antoinette, the heroine asks her husband, ‘Are you OK?’ Fiction can be stretched but to have an 18th century Austrian princess use a mid-20th century US colloquialism is going too far, in my opinion.] So howlers apart, mixing fact and fiction is what I love, so both play a huge part in my novels.
Have any characters in your book stolen your heart, or is Sebastian Foxley still your favourite?
Of course Seb is still my favourite. It would be difficult to continue ‘The Colour of…’ series, if I went off my hero. I know Conan Doyle became fed up with Sherlock Holmes and killed him off, only to have public demand force him to resurrect his hero in a number of ‘prequels’, including ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. But Seb’s story really began in ‘The Colour of Poison’ – recently re-released as a hardback Collector’s Edition – so a prequel would be difficult. As for other characters, grouchy Jude is great to write, especially if I’m not in the most lovable mood. If he throws something to vent his temper, my crockery is no longer in such danger. It’s great therapy. But me and Seb… he’s like a third son to me.
Is it hard work, writing a series of novels, using the same characters?
It does take a degree of determination, even stubbornness, to get any book written and ready for publication but writing a series about the same characters has both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, the main characters are as familiar to me as my family. I have a pretty good idea how they will react to a particular situation, even so, people you think you know well can always surprise you. I follow Stephen King’s advice, to put my character/s in a situation, wind them up and let them go. King has his characters write the story, telling him what happens next. This is more my way of writing. I’m not big on planning ahead: Seb and co do that for me.
On the minus side, finding new elements becomes more difficult as the series continues. Readers who have enjoyed a number of Seb’s adventures will have certain expectations of his character. If I suddenly had him beat Rose, whack the children, kick the dog or curse a beggar, that wouldn’t be at all in keeping and readers would give up in disgust. However, he’s older now, a family man, a respectable citizen rising in status and prosperity. He’s bound to have changed in certain ways but how? Having extra responsibilities may make him more cautious – boring, in fact. Is money becoming too important to him? Is he always thinking of his reputation; how others regard him? All these aspects were part of life for medieval Londoners but Seb has to retain a certain innocence and naivety, otherwise we wouldn’t love him. Yet change is vital to keep him interesting and fresh. Fortunately, he’s less of wimp these days and more confident, thanks to Rose. Occasionally, you might find him being – or attempting to be – quite assertive. Doesn’t usually work though.
Book blurb - The Colour of Bone
It’s May 1480 in the City of London.
When workmen discover the body of a nun in a newly-opened tomb, Seb Foxley, a talented artist and bookseller is persuaded to assist in solving the mystery of her death when a member of the Duke of Gloucester’s household meets an untimely end. Evil is again abroad the crowded, grimy streets of medieval London and even in the grandest of royal mansions.
Some wicked rogue is setting fires in the city and no house is safe from the hungry flames. Will Seb and his loved ones come to grief when a man returns from the dead and Seb has to appear before the Lord Mayor?
Join our hero as he feasts with royalty yet struggles to save his own business and attempts to unravel this latest series of medieval mysteries.
Find the book on Amazon now - https://mybook.to/colour_of_bone
Toni Mount is a best-selling author of medieval non-fiction books. She is the creator of the Sebastian Foxley series of medieval murder mysteries and her work focuses on the ordinary lives of fascinating characters from history. She has a first class honours degree from the Open University and a Master degree by research from the University of Kent, however her first career was as a scientist which brings an added dimension to her writing. Her detailed knowledge of the medieval period helps her create believable characters and realistic settings based on years of detailed study.
Look out for Toni Mount's other guest articles on her blog tour: