Entrevista a Helen R. Davis, autora de Isabella Unashamed. An alternative history
How much time have you been writing? Why did you start writing?
I began writing stories based off TV shows and video games I liked when I was a young girl, and also for assignments in junior high. I continued writing for fun and for my literature classes, but what sparked my interest in a career in writing was a senior paper I did on Cleopatra VII, the last pharaoh of Egypt, that explored her life and the real woman behind the myth created by Augustus Caesar to demonize her. After receiving great praise from my senior high English teacher, I decided to create my stories and give women such as Cleopatra and Anne Boleyn a chance to shine.
Why are all your novels based on a female character?
Because I feel too often women have not been allowed to speak for themselves. Often they are reduced to whose wife or mother or sister or daughter they were and how the powers that be chose to shape them for their own political agendas. Anne Boleyn was the most famous of Henry VIII’s wives, but she was much more than that as well. In today’s world, women are often painted as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by the media, and the narrative is spun before certain women are even allowed to speak. To be fair, this is also true for many men that the media also don’t like. My writing is a response to that. Were Cleopatra and Anne Boleyn really evil—or were they just made that way by people such as Augustus and Henry VIII?
Who was your favourite writer when you were younger?
Why did you choose these women in particular?
Cleopatra has inspired many authors, from Shakespeare to Bernard Shaw. Queen Isabella was very important to the modern world, yet I was shocked at how few people knew who she was. Anne Boleyn is one of those names most people know. Eva Peron it was that she was far enough back in the past to be historical, but recent enough that I could still go down to Argentina and meet with people who had known her.
Do you feel identified with them and with their stories?
Yes, I can and do. The one I identify with most with Cleopatra VII. I sensed a kindred spirit in her. Like Cleopatra, I am also a polyglot and am fascinated with politics and keeping updated on what is going on in the world. With Anne Boleyn I found to be fascinating more than that I could relate to her, but her love for France is very dear to my heart. She was also very courageous, especially to tell a man like Henry VIII that you would not be his mistress. That took principles and courage. Isabella was a hard subject to tackle. In Spain she is iconic, but outside of her home country, she is at best unknown and at worst seen very negatively. To take her on in a world such as this one was a task I wanted to take on with my co-author. Evita was my hardest project, as I could not relate to her at all, except for her desire to be an actress. Though I loved researching the book, I hated writing it—except for the chapter where she was in Paris. I loved that chapter, but Evita is known to have hated her time in France. Likewise, Evita loved her time in Spain, and while I liked Spain, it did not capture my heart the way it did hers
What is the most important thing for you in a book?
For me, it’s that it hooks the reader and the reader can escape and get lost in it. I also like to educate but also entertain my readers, which is why I try to learn as much about these wo
men as I can.
Why should we read Isabella Unashamed?
Isabella of Castile is an important figure in history. Without her, the USA would likely not exist, nor would Latin America. She is the mother of modern-day Spain and the first Re
naissance queen. While this is a work of alternate history, this is still a work that illuminates how far-reaching actions and consequences of certain leaders can be, and imagining a power balance where Spain retains its glory long past Isabella would have been an interesting scenario. What would Europe have looked like had the Spanish Empire been longer lasting, more stable, and m
Why have you chosen an alternative history of Anne Boleyn?
Anne Boleyn is one of history’s most famous women, yet she is often reduced to a caricature of either a homewrecker or a tragic victim. There was so much more to her than merely either of those images but I felt that a retelling of her story about the way it happened had been done so many times that I wasn’t certain what I could offer to the table that hadn’t been done before. After receiving reviews on the first of my series about Cleopatra VII, I had requests from fans to do a book on if Anne Boleyn had not been beheaded. At first I was reluctant, but the m
ore I thought about it, the words and story just seemed to come to me. I also feel Anne Boleyn has been treated very unfairly by fiction, especially in the last decade. Though this is a work of alternate history, I have tried to stay as close to what is truly known about Anne’s character in the history books as possible. And the real Anne Boleyn was much more fascinating than any caricature of her. This is a novel that portrays her as a woman of her times, not ahead of them, yet does not shy away from her independent, fiery spirit that was somewhat of an anomaly in the era, nor her religiosity. Anne’s faith is often lost in the portrayals of her and I hoped to illuminate that in this ‘what if’ scenario.
Do you have any new Projects?
I am studying acting. I am also continuing to work on my Cleopatra series. The sequel to my first novel, CLEOPATRA UNCONQUERED, should be released late this year or early 2018. It will be entitled CLEOPATRA VICTORIOUS. My co-author, Carolina Casas, and I are also planning sequels to ISABELLA UNASAHMED and THE MOST HAPPY which will focus on Katharine of Aragon and Elizabeth I, respectively. We are also exploring the life of Elizabeth of York.
Who would be your next protagonist? And why?
I am going to continue for now with my alternate series set in ancient Egypt in imagining a world where Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII won. Though I have enjoyed Isabella and Anne Boleyn’s stories, ancient Egypt is my passion. I also plan to do something set in France, but I want to keep the lady whom I have chosen secret- for now. Maybe I will play her and Cleopatra on screen someday?
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