I was intrigued to hear about Anne O'Brien's next venture, to write the story of a woman who has already been immortalized in a very popular historical novel. O'Brien goes into the project fully aware of the enormity of the challenge. In a recent post, she writes:
I have decided to write the story of Katherine Swynford and John of Lancaster, to be released in Spring 2014. Am I mad to do so? What is it that has made me take on such a sacred subject, to step onto such hallowed ground?
Katherine, that beautiful love story written by Anya Seton, was first published in 1954. It is considered to be a classic novel of its kind, read and adored by all aficionados of historical fiction. I read it in the 1970s and was entranced, carried away by the vivid depth of accurate historical detail and the sheer romance of the relationship. I could not envisage a better historical novel.This praise of Seton's novel is something with which I can agree wholeheartedly. Katherine is one of my top five favorite historical novels, and if I can ever write something half as good, I will consider my authorial career a success.
With Seton's book being universally acknowledged as a triumph, is there room for another work on Katherine Swynford? Or is the canon closed on John of Gaunt's famous mistress?
So what made me decide to place my head on the block and write about these most famous of 14th century lovers? Certainly not a desire to do a better job than Ms Seton. I would not presume. But perhaps to write something different.... [I]t seems to me that the relationship between John and Katherine was far more than just a simple love affair. How could a simple falling in love cause this unlikely couple to cast aside all they knew, accepted, and believed to be morally right....
...I consider it to be a tale of compulsive desire and need, sweeping all before it with the force of a tsunami, and so much stronger than love. I have to write it.And in the end, isn't that the most important consideration for what subject you choose for your novel? Even if someone else has already told the story, if it speaks to you in such a way that you "have to write it", I think there's room for one more version of the tale.
Mary, Queen of Scots, is one oft-depicted character whom I would like to explore in a future novel. I may not do a better job of those that have gone before me, but I would certainly do something different. I have not gotten to the point yet where I "have to write" her story, but the desire has been growing incrementally over the years.
Are there any stories already told that you would like to tell again in a different way?