I’d like to warmly welcome author and professor Livi Michael to the blog today. Ms. Michael is the author of the newly published “Succession”, a story of Margaret Beaufort and Margaret of Anjou from a distinctly unique perspective. You can find the Amazon link for the book at the bottom of this post. If you would like to ask Ms. Michael any questions, please do so in the comments section below.
1) As a fellow admirer of Margaret Beaufort, I wonder what inspired you to write about her and Margaret of Anjou. What attracted you to their stories?
I became interested in Margaret Beaufort because of the many links between her and Manchester Cathedral – she donated the carved angels in the ceiling for instance, and there is a beautiful chair in the nearby library that was a gift from her to her son, Henry VII on the occasion of his marriage to Elizabeth of York in 1486. When I began researching her out of curiosity I found the details of her life amazing – married three times before she was fifteen, had her only son at 13, who on a complete outsider’s chance, became King of England. But the more I researched her the more it became clear that the period she lived through was also very dramatic and crucial to her story. Essentially it is the shift from medieval feudalism to early capitalism and a recognizably modern society. Margaret of Anjou as a warrior queen, seems to me to represent the earlier society which was on its way out. But in other respects the two Margarets had things in common – both essentially on their own in a man’s world, both fighting for their sons.
2) Both Margarets have been portrayed alternatively as saints or witches. In Succession, the women are neither. Their stories are more nuanced – and more realistic! Why do you feel it’s important to tell their stories differently?
Historically their stories have been told by men – including the chronicle writers, who have an inevitable bias against women wielding power. What the contemporary novel allows me to do is to look at both in the context of their time and this makes it possible to comprehend their actions.
3) I read that you are a single mother of two children. Did that in any way impact your perspective when you wrote the story of the two Margarets, both mothers who travelled difficult roads on behalf of their children?
Yes – I could relate to the powerful bond between both mothers and their sons, their fears for them and determination to fight for their interests. At that time the women would not have promoted their own interests directly, they invested everything in their sons. And what an uphill struggle it was!
4) In Succession, you wrote from the women’s perspective but also from many of the men’s. Was it challenging to jump between so many personalities?
It was a major challenge to deal with a cast of thousands in which almost everyone is called Margaret or Henry! So I hoped to make the characters stand out to the reader by drawing them into several different perspectives. It seemed to me essential to work with many different characters because of creating a sense of context and the way in which the actions of a few people in power impact on everyone else.
5) I loved the more personal insights you provided for many of your characters, for instance the funny family stories shared by Cecily, Duchess of York and Anne, Duchess of Buckingham at dinner. I think they emphasize how truly bizarre the family dynamics were during the “Cousins’ Wars”. Which family dynamic was your favorite to write and research?
That’s a really interesting question and in a way I think that the one you’ve mentioned was my favourite. The two sisters were close in age (different ages are offered by different sources) and might have once been close in affection, but both married very early and ended up on different sides of the Cousins’ Wars.
Please join us on Wednesday for Part II of my interview with Livi Michael.
Livi Michael is the author of 11 novels for children and 5 for adults. Many of her novels are set in the past since she finds it difficult to believe in the present. She teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Amazon link for the book is here.