Thanks for inviting me onto your blog today, to talk about the themes within the Kindred Spirits series. I am thrilled you were willing to take time to share your knowledge and experience, jennifer. How do you deal with themes in your work?
I struggled for a long time when somebody first asked me what the themes were in the Kindred Spirits books, but then I sat down and thought about it, and realised that what my ghostly characters are looking for isn’t so far away from what any of us probably want – to be remembered, and well thought of amongst our friends, family, or wider circle. There are also themes of friendship and loyalty within the stories, for example the strong friendship I wrote about in Kindred Spirits: Tower of London between Anne Boleyn and Richard III, and which I really want to revisit one day, having briefly dipped back into it in Kindred Spirits: Ephemera.
In Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, Richard III is still struggling with the way he has been presented down the centuries, and still is, in some quarters, as the murderous uncle, and the ultimate Shakespearean baddie. Likewise, Anne is angry that some people still see her as a temptress, stealing away the husband of a good woman. As with so many historical representations, there’s never going to be just one side of the story, but I quite liked working with the idea of how historical people would want to be remembered.
There’s a bit of a running theme for my two leading ladies in the books – Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots – as to whether they would be remembered so well in history if they had done what was expected of them, and it always makes me think of that slogan on t-shirts, badges etc: Well-behaved women seldom make history. And it’s true – poor Jane Seymour often gets labelled the ‘boring’ wife, because she just did exactly what she was supposed to. She got married where her family directed, then gave birth to a son. Who knows what would have happened if she hadn’t died so soon after Prince Edward was born, but because she did die, she never had the opportunity to fall from grace. Whereas, we all know the story of Anne Boleyn, exactly because she did what she WASN’T meant to do – ended up being the first Queen of England to be executed (although not the last!). Mary herself though, points out that no single opinion of anyone is entirely accurate. She is presented as both a great queen, stuck dealing with impossible circumstances, mostly caused by the men she had to contend with, and a foolish woman who made terrible choices when it came to the men in her life. The truth, like with almost everyone, famous or otherwise, is somewhere in the middle.
There’s one character I’m particularly keen on exploring when it comes to his legacy, and what people think of him, centuries after his death. Despite having always declared I’ll never write about him, Henry VIII is drawing me further and further in, to the extent I’ve even drafted the opening to what could become his story one day. I’m curious what the ghost of probably England’s most famous king would make of the fact that he is now being seen as the enemy of his reign, rather than the hero, with sympathy predominantly now with his wives. Given the nature of his personality in life, I can’t imagine him being too happy with the way things have turned out…
The interesting thing for me with the Kindred Spirits ‘cast’ is also that things can change so easily. I wrote the first draft of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London when the discovery had been confirmed of Richard III’s skeleton in Leicester, but before a lot of the scientific analysis on the bones had been completed / reported on. Such analysis, or the discovery of previously-unknown documents, can change the way historical people are seen, revealing new facts, or enabling better interpretation of what we thought we knew. I love the idea of the ghosts sitting around, watching new historical documentaries, almost giving a “director’s cut” commentary on things, stating what was or wasn’t true, and being furious when they are misrepresented. It’s a world of endless opportunities!
Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page.
After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020.
Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea.
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