Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Novels of three legendary queens

I'm gearing up for a longer post one of these days. Problem is, I'm swamped with my real job (which at the moment involves communicating with publishers and vendors about my library's access to electronic journals) and proofing the August issue of the HNR, which will be four pages longer than last time... lots and lots of reviews.

In the meantime, I heard via the gals at HistoricalFiction.org (where I lurk on occasion) that Margaret George's next novel will be on Elizabeth I; on her website, she says she'll be heading to England to do research on the later years of Elizabeth's reign. Hmm, popular subject, Queen Elizabeth. On one hand, I've been very impressed by most of George's novels (except for Mary, Called Magdalene, which started off well but which I ultimately didn't care for), and I'll read anything she writes. On the other hand, Elizabeth I is the most common historical fiction subject by far, and I'm wondering whether there's anything new to be said. I'll be interested to see George's take on her, in any case.

(Notes for the curious: in WorldCat, an electronic catalog of worldwide library holdings, no less than 316 English-language novels are listed with "Elizabeth I-Queen of England, 1533-1603" as a subject heading. Including some duplicates to account for multiple editions of the same title, no doubt. The most popular is the hardcover US edition of Victoria Holt's My Enemy the Queen, with a whopping 1,635 owning libraries.)

My review of her upcoming novel Helen of Troy was finally posted on Amazon, if anyone's real curious about that. It's interesting. Some reviews that I've read talk about the Trojan War lasting 10 years, which is traditional; but in the review, I gave the length as 20 years, which is the length of time Helen remained in Troy, as the Spartans et al declared war on Troy not long after Helen and Paris fled. It's all in the author's afterword.

Lastly, a deal from Publishers' Marketplace:

Michelle Moran's historical novel NEFERTITI, to Allison McCabe at Crown, in a pre-empt, by Anna Ghosh at Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency (NA).

To quote, it's "the story of Nefertiti's life told by her younger sister Mutnodjmet." A most refreshing subject, as there have been comparatively few novels written about Nefertiti, and none of them recent. Read more about this upcoming novel here (the author's Publishers Marketplace page) and here (her website, which looks like it's partly under construction, but the PM page links to it). We should be able to read Nefertiti in print a year from now.


  1. While I will probably read the Margaret George book about Elizabeth I, I also wonder what new things there are to say about her!

    Marg (from HFF)

  2. I guess I should add, familiarity with the subject didn't stop me from picking up Philippa Gregory's The Virgin's Lover - although I enjoyed that more for the portrayal of Amy Dudley than that of Elizabeth.

    I do wonder, why historical novel readers (and, consequently, authors) regularly return to the same biographical subjects, when so much of history has yet to be mined in fiction. Clearly some topics are more marketable than others, and the Tudors are hot right now. But with major novels about Elizabeth by Gregory, Miles, Plaidy, and Maxwell still in print, does a new novel about her still attract as much interest? I suppose it'll be another few years until George's novel appears, so maybe at that point it'll be time for another interpretation.

  3. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? I read novels about the Tudors because they're there, even though I have more interest in other settings that aren't used. Maybe a novel about the later Tudors is 'high concept' because everybody has heard of them and therefore it's easily marketable. There used to be a saying in the IT industry, "Nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM", and I wonder if there's effectively a publishing equivalent, "Nobody ever got sacked for acquiring a novel about Elizabeth I" ?

    That said, because character and motivation aren't usually known, the variations are probably near limitless even with a very well-known character. Jean Plaidy's Elizabeth is quite different from Philippa Gregory's, and I imagine Margaret George's will be different again.

  4. Carla - well said. I do imagine George's Elizabeth will be far different from Gregory's - although they're focusing on different parts of her reign. And her later life hasn't been fictionalized nearly as often as her youth, I don't think.

  5. Sarah:

    Just found your site, and am enjoying it!

    [my real job (which at the moment involves communicating with publishers and vendors about my library's access to electronic journals)]

    Aha! Did you ever use IDEAL, by Academic Press? I designed the interface for that, once upon a time...

  6. Hi Susan! I just found your blog via your profile, and will be linking to it.

    Yes, I used IDEAL all the time! That's neat that you designed the interface. The library community as a whole was really disappointed when it went away... I remember having many, many meetings about what to do, a few years back.

  7. Thanks for the link, Sarah! You're already on my Google Reader list, but I'm going to add a real link to your site as well. Us historical fiction types have to stick together. {s}

    And I'm so pleased to hear that you liked IDEAL! I was very proud of it, and the resource it was for librarians. Not so happy with ScienceDirect, but then I wouldn't be, would I?

  8. Thanks! Yes, I agree on that.

    We decided not to subscribe to ScienceDirect... too bad it wasn't priced more reasonably, it was a shame to lose all those resources.

  9. Just found your web site, Sarah, and find it most interesting. I am writing a proposal for a fictionalized biography of an obscure -- very obscure! -- 18th century courtesan at this very moment. Although she had a colorful youth and middle age, nothing is known of the end of her life, so I hesitated to do the extensive research I would have to undertake to write a proper biography. I did this with My Lady Scandalous, the biography I wrote of the courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, but it took me over 3 years and I am not getting any younger.

    I have loved fictionalized biographies, though, since I was a young girl -- adored Anya Seton, Annemarie Selinko, Jean Plaidy, et al. (As to historical novels, I am still a fan of the incomparable Daphne Du Maurier.)

    Oh, I am a retired librarian; I left 3 years ago. I worked in university and corporate libraries.
    Jo Manning

  10. readalot1:21 AM

    Interesting post about NEFERTITI. I read somewhere that Michelle Moran's book might also be getting turned into a movie.

    And I agree. The market is saturated with Elizabeth I novels. A novel on ancient Egypt - and especially Nefertiti - should be fascinating.