As you all know, I’ve dipped my toe into the water of Historical Fantasy with the start of the Deathspell Series. Because of this, I’ve been able to talk to other authors who have their own, supernatural spin on the past, and get a feel for how they approach the genre. If you follow Peter’s blog on the Vampire Flynn website, you’ve already been introduced to the very talented S. Joy P., but if not, it brings me great pleasure to introduce you to Silvie. She’s visiting today to talk about her new book, We, King Henry VIII.
Without further ado, I’ll let her take it from here…
Henry VIII of England seeks his way home in a new fictional autobiography
Book Blurb: Henry VIII is dying alone. On his deathbed, he relives a lifetime of passion and glory, defeat and triumph. And yet, the only victory that matters to him now seems to stay out of his reach. How could he once again embrace and kiss his true love when he and his Adhamh live in worlds apart?
So far it sounds quite innocuous, so why the tag line on the cover speaks about extreme controversy? It’s because Henry is far too often portrayed as a tyrant, and most people nowadays see him as a monster who ruined the lives of six wives. A Bluebeard of the history. Yet, it’s not what his subjects thought of him during his lifetime. Henry was a most beloved monarch, a king in whom the English took true pride. And that’s the portrayal you’ll find in We, King Henry VIII. Here, Henry is the hero. The novel invariably sides with him from the start to the end. It is his tale, told in his own words.
One night in December 2013 I stayed up late as many a time before. But unlike around other midnights, I didn’t write. Savoring a glass of wine, I thought about Henry VIII.
It didn’t surprise me much. His Majesty and I have had more than a twenty-year-long history together, with periods of waxing and waning interest from both sides.
Yet, this time it wasn’t a fleeting encounter in the halls of eternity. I was captivated by him, but also greatly disturbed by his image ingrained in the popular culture. I had just finished watching a documentary about him, and couldn’t get a bitter aftertaste out of my mouth. How could the historians reduce a great man to a large, festering mound of lard, poke and examine him from head to toe regardless his feelings, and worse still, how could they present only findings that supported the common, simplistic view on who Henry was? I did not like him to be portrayed as a hulk who was not in control of his eating habits, or as a vessel of illnesses and infirmities of all kinds.
Even less I enjoyed reading over and over again that he was a tyrant who only pursued his shallow interests, and in the process ruined lives of six wives.
That image was not Henry as I knew him, and it bothered me more and more. For me, Henry was and is the king who healed England after the War of Roses and who truly united the whole land. He was the one who greatly elevated the image of England in the eyes of the contemporary monarchs. His court was the center of learning and culture. He broke with the corrupt Papacy, and, let’s face it, he was the one who kept wars out of England (with the exception of a short Scottish invasion which was fast crushed). His people loved him, and for all the good reasons. In fact, they loved him so much that not even the Excommunication broke his neck. It shows clearly how great loyalty he enjoyed. A tyrant or a monster never commands such feelings, such undiluted fealty.
I thought it would serve us well to remember that better, and to show him much more respect than he is getting these days.
“You shall write my story, dearest,” a tired tenor voice interrupted my silent seething.
I glanced up from my glass, already knowing whom I would see.
I would love to say I was bedazzled by a man exuding an aura of masculinity, pulsing energy, and power. But the man who carefully sank in the armchair I keep by my writing desk for my benefactors was old and jaded. Yet, clad in red velvet and ermine, he still looked royalty. Just as an abandoned shrine is still a shrine, an old king is still a king. It’s enough for me to just narrow my eyes to see him in all his young glory (as you will see him while reading We, King Henry VIII Part 1). That night I had no time for that though. A stifled groan leaked out of his tightly clamped lips, forcing me to promptly offer a footstool to ease his discomfort. I was determined to make him feel better, and I could do my gazing later.
His stiff body posture relaxed a little only when I poured him a glass of wine too. He took it from my hand as a wordless invitation to stay and tell me more. We understood each other perfectly.
“You shall write my story,” he repeated after taking a draught of his drink.
“Why me, Your Majesty?”
“For you see me as I am, and yet you always recognize the virtuous prince in me. It matters not to you whether I am young or old.”
“You see through my masks and mistakes. You know who I am inside.”
“I do see your soul, yes. But I don’t write scholarly biographies, and I would do you disservice if I tried.”
“Nay, write about the man whom you know, not about the King.”
“Your Majesty, you are both.”
“Aye, but now I would I were just me.”
“I know. But there is another obstacle. I don’t write about love a man feels for a woman either. How would we handle the fact that you had six wives?”
“You shall write my story, including all of my wives.”
Let’s just say that Henry is as stubborn today as he was more than half a millennium ago.
That night we let the topic go. I’m not his subject, so he couldn’t order me to write for him. Nor did he try to. But we talked for hours about his world and above all – about him. Long story short: hours turned into days and Henry stayed. Since then he has made a remarkable recovery, so now I’m blessed with the company of a young king who exudes an aura of masculinity, pulsing energy, and power just as he did in his life.
He was right that first night. I have written his story for him. But I was right too. It isn’t a scholarly biography and it isn’t a heterosexual romance. It’s a tale of intense love between two men.
And here is an excerpt for you:
He yipped a quiet greeting but did not come to me. Not yet. I knew what had to take place first under the pale light of the moon, and watched him as he bounced across the glade toward the log that we had dragged here four days before. Faster and faster he raced until his silhouette seemed to glide above the grass without ever touching it. The murmurs of the brook drowned out any rustle that his paws might have invoked otherwise, and so he resembled a ghost pursuing an innocent soul. Many might fear him, not so I.
He sprang into the final mighty leap, so full of vigor and life that my belly tightened in need. A part of me was right there, by his side, in the moment of the glorious pain of his transformation. And a part of me just stared at the act in awe.
He landed. Naked as always. And as always I smothered my desire. Merciful shadows of the night made it easier for me. Or… harder. For now I could actually see him in all his beauty. Aye, his mere silhouette. But my longing painted the details where my eyes could not recognize them. And I did not have to hold my gaze locked with his, or averted in a doomed effort not to intrude on his privacy. In the darkness I could blush without fear that he would notice the all-revealing redness.
Why was I never able to repress this reaction to his naked body? It was a sin to want him, and yet, no matter how hard I tried to mold my feelings for him into the pure brotherly affection, I yearned for him all the same, and the pained amorousness consumed both my flesh and my mind. He knew it not, and it had to stay so.
Steeling myself for the inevitable lash of need, I strode over to him. To hand him his clothes and thus end the moments of my greatest pleasure and the greatest torments.
“I must wash first, My King.” His voice in the shadows smiled at my impatience, and the next moment he headed toward the brook.
I followed. He honored, loved, and served me. But it was me who followed him. Always. And I suspected that it would stay so until the end of my days.
Thinking that he would just wash the blood off his face, hands, and chest, I almost stepped in the stream. For he did not stop on its bank. He just walked on, and I was catching my balance in the last possible heartbeat that remained between staying dry and landing in the water.
When my gaze found him again, a half-stifled groan escaped from my mouth. The night clearly made it all more difficult. Or Adhamh did. For he lay in the middle of the shallow brook, letting the ripples touch him just everywhere, and the nefarious light of the moon did not leave me in doubts as to where exactly the water caressed his skin.
I wanted to be water.
But I could not.
And the hopelessness of my desires spilled out of me. “She shall never retreat to a nunnery,” I all but wailed. It was not the true reason of my tension, but how could I possibly tell him the truth?
“She is on the verge of that decision,” he said, his voice joining the bewitching lullaby sung to him by the stream. “Her piety and her pain war with her pride and tenacity. Have patience, Henry.”
“I cannot bear this!” I blurted. And my gaze never left the tantalizing curves of his body. Moonlight tenderly caressed his broad chest, the alluring firmness of his slightly recessed belly, the hard and yet so elegant muscles of his thighs. And the dark nest of pubic hair in his crotch. It revealed his manhood to me, and I suddenly could not even swallow. Only stare I could… and did.
“What is it that you cannot abide?” he asked, lacing his hands behind his head.
“The waiting,” I groaned, clenching my fists to somehow hold myself back from plunging into the stream and plundering the temptation laid before me. “The irony of a wedlock that is not a wedlock at all. The lack of pleasure.”
“Fidelity is not a virtue required of great Kings.” He sat up. “Take any woman you like, discreetly.”
“I cannot just take any woman!”
“Why?” he asked, washing his face.
“Adultery is a sin.” What else could I possibly say? That I could see the droplets of water kissing his cheeks, chin, lips… In my mind I saw them and needed to take their place.
“You shall say more of your prayers,” he predicted, launching back to his feet. “You are but a mortal man, and have your needs like any other.”
Riveted on the spot, I gaped at him as he came close and closer to me. The reflection of the moonlight in the water and the light raining on him from above… I did not need much imagination to spur my want into a painful engorgement. “I am the King,” I grunted.
“Indeed,” he agreed. “And you also are a man. Which of them cannot bear the lack of pleasure?” he asked, reaching for his shirt.
“Both,” I admitted, handing him the saving piece of cloth that would soon cover his nakedness. “But I desire love, Adhamh. And I do not love any woman,” I said more than I had wanted. More than I should have. The soft sigh coming out of his nose told me so before my own mind did.
If you love Henry VIII and enjoy more than a light touch of supernatural fantasy in your fiction, avail yourself of this book. For through his memories, you can now witness the power of a bond that changed him, and through his deeds the all of England, forever.